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Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:01

Feed budgeting pays

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DairyNZ’s Rob Brazendale is calling farmers to manage pasture better in the current downturn. DairyNZ’s Rob Brazendale is calling farmers to manage pasture better in the current downturn.

Smart pasture management can give the average dairy farmer an extra $40,000 of feed, according DairyNZ’s team leader for productivity, Rob Brazendale.

He says it’s realistic for farmers to harvest an extra 1tDM/ha between now and Christmas, possibly worth $300-400/ha, which translates to the $40,000 saving.

Brazendale runs DairyNZ’s feed review visit campaign whereby dairy farmers register for a DairyNZ representative to visit their farm to review their feed situation. At least 700 farmers have now asked for this, the focus being on how they will manage their feed from calving to balance date. The visit lasts 90 minutes, yielding a second opinion on the farmer’s feed situation to help reduce costs.

“We started in Northland in late July, have gone through the North Island and we’re now starting in the South Island. We have visited 400 farms and made appointments with the rest. 

“We come up with three assessments. First, they are doing fine and should stay with their plan. Second, they are a little bit off the mark and their system needs tweaking such as a reduction in the feed allowance to cows or reducing supplements. Third, they are really off track and we recommend they get someone in to help them do a full assessment and prepare a feed management plan for them, ie a referral to a farm  consultant.”

Brazendale says the farmers way off track number 5-10%. Most need some small tweaks and 30% are spot on. 

The weather’s part has caused significant regional variances, he says. Northland has had a benign winter and farmers there are comfortable. Waikato is tight for feed with frosts not helping; Manawatu is suffering a very cold, wet winter. Farmers there probably have less feed than they realise.

“If we look at the rainfall stats for that region from April through to now we have had very high rainfall -- 240ml for April, 180ml for May, 280ml for June and about average for July. In August we have already reached the monthly average. The temperatures have been low as well so pugging is a problem and it’s very hard to get good utilisation of pasture in wet conditions. Consequently that means most farmers are shifting stock earlier than they would like and therefore getting through more feed than they would like. Not only are we not growing as much as we’d like, we are probably wasting more than we would like as well,” he says.

Brazendale says while it’s been wet in Taranaki, farmers there can cope because the soils are a bit more forgiving. 

The take-home message to farmers is to grow the extra dry matter and use nitrogen providing conditions are right for this.

“It is definitely the cheapest form of feed and one we’d recommend,” he says.

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