University's milk production comes at a cost

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 06:57 21/02/2014

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Dairy

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Lincoln University Dairy Farm managers have caught up on below average milks flows by feeding more silage to cows benefiting from better grass growth this month after a sluggish January.

A challenging season culminating last month in cool air and ground temperatures has tested managers in maintaining the high performance set for the farm.

Milk production has matched the past two years for this stage of the season, but has come at some expense as grass silage has been brought in to maintain cow diets.

South Island Dairying Development Centre executive director Ron Pellow said a lot of silage had been fed out to the herd to get through stages of the season, particularly January.

He said the warmer February had helped improve milk productivity.

"Growing conditions have been less than favourable, particularly through January when we noticed minimum air temperatures were less than the long term average for January. So we saw soil temperatures correspondingly down and growth rates were only at three-quarters of cow demand through the month whereas we normally exceed demand for January."

Good rain during December assisted pasture growth at the irrigated farm, but cooler air and soil temperatures limited its performance.

Bringing in unbudgeted extra silage from outside the farm to feed the cows has also come at a cost and is expected to drain thousands of dollars from its bottom line.

However, the herd has bounced back through February, resulting in lifting milk production and the herd's average cow liveweight and conditions scores have increased.

The average liveweight is 480 kilograms a cow in the 620-cow herd, which is slightly back from this time last year, but up from a low of 470kg at the end of December. Likewise, 7 per cent of the cows are below a condition score of four compared with 3 per cent this time last year.

The condition score was expected to continue to increase to the target of five by calving for all mixed age cows, and liveweights would also rise.

Milk production is so far at 1.8kg a day per cow which is on par with the same period last season and a reflection of hard work, extra feeding costs and better weather. Last month it dipped to 1.74kg.

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