Tips for best wintering methods
Southern farmers will soon have access to useful tips about different wintering systems, as DairyNZ collates information from its four-year project.
DairyNZ is in the final stages of its Southern Wintering Systems project, which looks at the pros and cons of different Southland systems.
Six monitor farms, representing the different types of winter systems across Southland, are being studied to get a clear understanding of the benefits and challenges of each system.
The study compares the impacts of each system on the environment, finances, feed supply, staff and cows.
DairyNZ regional scientist Dr Dawn Dalley said the organisation was midway through its final monitoring, with the project expected to finish in May next year.
DairyNZ was monitoring cow-body condition score (BCS) and looking at laying behaviours in barns and wintering pads as well as crop consumption in relation to BCS, she said.
The research is aimed at farmers who want to fine-tune their systems or change their wintering system.
In the meantime, farmers would have access to some resource material to help them choose the best wintering system for their farm in the next two months, Dr Dalley said.
Last week, the information was presented at the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management conference at Lincoln.
The information worked like a flow chart, leading farmers to a particular wintering system best suited to their farms, she said.
There would also be information packs with "tips and tricks" on each system.
During the past six weeks, the monitor group has expanded to include four more systems, including off-paddock, free-stall barns, loose-housed barns and wintering pads. It was a chance to expand the network, get more feedback on the different systems and to validate the results on the monitor farms, Dr Dalley said.
The Southland Demonstration Farm is a 295-hectare property wintering all-mixed-age cows and in-calf heifers on the milking platform.
Farm manager Barry Bethune said being part of the wintering project made him look closer at his farming operation and whether it was run sustainably.
About 780 cows were wintered this year, and the system includes a winter cropping area on milking platform with fodder beet, kale and swedes. Baleage is fed as a winter supplement at a ratio of 30 per cent to crop.
"A lot of what we do is monitor and make sure the cows are fed," he said.
Since participating in the project, the focus was to look after paddocks and target low- condition cows, he said.
The whole herd is being measured for BSC up to five times a year.
Poor crop conditions this winter forced Mr Bethune to buy in extra baleage of lower quality.
"This year we've contracted higher-quality baleage and earlier. It's about people doing good feed budgets early," he said.
AT A GLANCE
All wintering systems can achieve BSC targets through efficient planning and a proactive approach.
Barns and wintering pads can achieve BSC targets with less feed Farmers need to do their homework on effluent and manure systems, with regulations likely to tighten.
All systems require plans for good-quality feed supply.
While off-paddock systems are easier on staff they are often tied to the farm all day.
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