Owl Farm claws back production after tough spring

Owl Farm manager Tom Buckley says they have managed to claw back some of the lost production from early in the season ...
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Owl Farm manager Tom Buckley says they have managed to claw back some of the lost production from early in the season thanks to favorable summer conditions.

It has been a rollercoaster season so far at Owl Farm.

The cold wet spring put the 150 hectare demonstration farm near Cambridge on the back foot, but the kind summer weather allowed a recovery to take place.

The summer up until February was better than average allowing the farm to claw back some of the lost production through the middle of the season, former demonstration manager Doug Dibley said at an on farm focus day.

"It's been one of those seasons where we have had ups and downs."

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Production was 10 per cent behind at the time of the last focus day, and after being 2 per cent behind for the past six weeks, it was milking 80kgMS a day, farm manager Tom Buckley said.

The pastures had good growth throughout December with the quality maintained over the summer thanks to the frequent rain.

Buckley said as soon as the cows started grazing the summer chicory crop, milk production lifted from 1.5-1.7kg per cow, which he managed to hold until the end of January.

"This saw us finish almost 8 per cent ahead for January."

Pasture covers dropped as the temperature warmed and growth slowed, so more supplements were introduced. This combined with some timely nightly rain allowed Buckley to maintain a 40 day round until now.

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While there were struggles earlier in the season in spring, it made up for a lot of the ground lost over January and February, milking 144,928kg of milk solids for the season to date.

Despite the improvement Owl Farm would still be behind in its production forecast.

"Although we are still level with last season's production, we're actually behind 8 per cent budgeted production, a trend typical across the Waikato this season."

Currently the feeding regime is 4kg of maize, 2kg of grass silage and 2-3kg of palm kernel per cow. More palm kernel was also purchased because of a drop in pasture covers which would help maintain cow condition and allow them to further push out the round length to ease the pressure on pastures with areas scheduled to be re-grassed in autumn.

"We're on a journey and we expect in the next four to six weeks up to 30 per cent of the farm will be out of the round following that re-grassing process."

Buckley said mating went well considering the conditions leading up to it with 420 cows mated and their initial pregnancy testing identified 313 cows in calf at six weeks. The 41 cows that were not in calf had largely been culled, plus there were 11 cows not considered for mating, which gave Owl Farm a 12 per cent empty rate.

"While the empty rate is reasonably high, from what we have been hearing around the traps, empty rates have been double what they have been last year."

The farm halved the amount of cows suffering from lameness, with numbers dropping from 65 to 32. Buckley said the drop was due to improvements around the races and better staff handling.

However the wet spring made mastitis "a bit of a nightmare" and saw somatic cell count numbers rise.

Buckley said their goal for the rest of the season was to keep fully feeding the cows, allowing them to improve cow body condition and capitalise on further production.

"Given the issues we had with [facial] eczema last year, we hope to use this feed to our advantage over the last 60 days of the season."

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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