Taranaki's extended spell of sunshine has been described by a South Taranaki dairy farmer as groundhog day.
"The sun just keeps coming back and back," Kaupokonui jersey breeder Tony Landers said.
"It would be nice to see some rain in the forecast, but we just have to do the best we can with what we've got. We're just ticking over and production is steady."
Landers said his production was ahead of last season every month until last month and was still 5 per cent ahead for the season.
At Kapuni, dairy farmer Geoff Butler said he was desperate for rain and was getting rid of empty cows and culling low producing cows to ease feed demand. He was feeding his 500-cow herd turnips, proliq, silage, palm kernel expeller (PKE) and grass.
Production was falling as his cow numbers fell and he no longer expected to reach his season target.
"But there's not much you can do about the weather. We need substantial rain over two or three days so it will soak in."
Farm consultant Michael Joyce said farmers in the coastal strip from Pihama to just south of Hawera and in the Mangatoki- Matapu-Kapuni area were hardest hit by the dry spell. Higher-altitude farms still had good grass cover.
He advised farmers to take a long-term view, making sure they set aside supplement for winter, looked after young stock and monitored cow condition. Those considering moving to 16-hour or once-a day milking should do so soon to conserve cow condition.
While production on most farms was still 5 to 10 per cent ahead of last season, it had declined rapidly in the past two weeks.
He said the level of dry matter in the grass increased hugely at this time of year and farmers should not under-estimate it. "There's more value in the feed that's there than you think."
DairyNZ focus farm host Chris Prankerd, of Tariki, said his cows were each still producing 1.5kg of milksolids a day. Grass growth last week was about 27kg dry matter/ hectare/day and average pasture cover had fallen to 2050kg/DM/ha. Production was 18.5 per cent ahead for the season and about 10 per cent ahead for the month.
DairyNZ Taranaki regional adviser Katrina Knowles said parts of Taranaki were experiencing a green drought because the grass was green but not growing.
She advised farmers feeding only grass to their stock to watch out for ryegrass staggers, caused by eating seedhead. Feeding supplement as well would dilute the seedhead's effect.
Demand on feed supplies could be reduced by culling empty and low-producing cows. Young stock could be fed meal behind a fence while the cows ate the grass.
Cow condition should be measured weekly, ideally with the assistance of a neutral observer.
Feed budgeting was important and farmers should consider their requirements for winter and autumn and work back to their immediate needs.
Cows were still getting dry matter from the pasture although protein levels were falling.
Farmers should resist the temptation to adopt a faster grazing rotation. "Growth is slower, so go slower," she said.
She advised farmers to go to discussion groups, where solutions to problems could be shared. "And don't be afraid of getting advice from rural professionals. Call them for help if you need it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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