DAIRY PEOPLE » Barney Wright
High input system gets high five Kelly Deeks With 32 years of dairy farming experience, Barney Wright of South Taranaki is finding the high input system he has run since 2008 so much more enjoyable, he would hate to go back to low input farming. Wright has owned his farm near Hawera since 2004, originally a 46ha block with 130 cows it was run by a manager while Wright finished a 50/50 sharemilking job at Hawera until 2006. By then he had grown the farm to 80ha and started milking 250 cows through a 12 a side herringbone dairy shed. “By the time we cleaned up, milking was a four hour job,” he says. “In 2007 we built a 44 bale rotary shed which we got into in October, then by late February early March we were dry.” Looking for an option to give him more control over the effects of the weather, Wright looked into in-shed feeding systems, deciding to combine that with the advice of a nutritionist, and took on Best Feed, now known as Allfarm NZ, moved to an input system 5, and has since made production gains from 82,000kg milksolids in 2006, to 156,000kg milksolids this season. “It’s not any more intensive, we haven’t upped the stocking rate, and for the past two seasons we’ve had a summer dry with drought type conditions, and record seasons,” he says. Wright is now milking 270 cows and was sitting 17,000kg milksolids ahead of last season at the
beginning of May, and will milk through until May 28. “On a low input system I would have dried off May 1 to build up feed for the winter,” he says. He has also tried to grow more on farm since switching to a high input system, this year replacing turnips with 11ha of chicory, which we will grow again next season, and 8ha of oats which will be ready to graze in July and will be used to calve on. He is using a transition feed which has lowered the average pH level of the herd’s urine from 8-8.5 to 6-6.5. Wright says when the cows calve now they pretty much spit their calves out while his back is turned. This season he had a 73% six-week in-calf rate, with 94% of the herd calved in six weeks, and 100% calved in nine weeks. This season Wright and his wife Janine purchased a run off block 7kms away from the farm, which they have split into 11 paddocks of 1.5ha. He has made silage then hay on the run off, then got the weaner calves off the farm, which he will do a bit earlier next season. “It makes a huge difference to the summer dry,” he says. He will also bring the weaners down from his other dairy farm, a 58ha effective 185 cow farm at Rahotu, which is run by lower order sharemilker John Gilligan. On the home farm Wright is assisted by Angela Booker and Connor Vincent, who have helped him to take a step back and be able to concentrate on the new run off block this season.
It’s not any more intensive, we haven’t upped the stocking rate, and for the past two seasons we’ve had a summer dry with drought type conditions, and record seasons. PHOTOS: Silage making at Llew and Tania Gray’s mixed dairy and dry stock farm near Whakatane (top). Part of the 220ha dairy platform, about 25ha of which Llew says he can drive a tractor over, the rest being too steep.
Dry stock `propping up dairy’ • From page 14 “It allows for more freedom for everyone involved.” Empty rates have dropped from up to 17% to 8.5% with no interventions and a 10 week mating, cow condition has improved with the average somatic cell count dropping by 100,000 cells/ mL, and production is up by 9% with 40 more cows being milked than last season. And to top it off, there has been no vet on the property with the Grays using homeopathic remedies as their preferred method of health treatment for all stock. The Grays are now getting prepared for a whole new team of staff starting next season, with their previous two employees moving on to other positions. Gray says one of his new employees is a `gun’ pasture manager, which is exactly what he needs with the hilly contour of his farm. “If you’re two days going the wrong way you’ve lost it,” he says. “We can’t top the paddocks and we can’t shut a paddock up for silage. We’ve got to be right up and stay on top of it.” The Grays’ new staff may be milking a smaller herd next season if the couple decide to drop dairy cow numbers due to the low payout. “The dry stock is propping up the dairy at
We can’t top the
paddocks and we can’t shut a paddock up for silage. We’ve got to be
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right up and stay on top of it. the moment, so we’re running the numbers and thinking about decreasing the milking herd.” The Grays also employ a full time driver to operate their truck and trailer unit, which is used to work in conjunction with local maize silage contractors, as well as carting all resources to the farm without being reliant on cartage firms. “This gives us more freedom with when, where, and what is coming on farm, and we also enjoy the partnerships with the contractors we work with,” Gray says.
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