Waikato dairy farmers may face challenges from pasture with low nutritional value as they head into spring and balance date approaches.
However, GrainCorp Feeds' new territory manager in Southland, Annie Leadbeater, claims there is still time to do something about it, but sorting summer feed must be a priority.
Leadbeater is a farm girl from the Waikato/Bay of Plenty, but has made her way down south to be closer to family. Now in Southland, her job is all about helping farmers maximise the productivity of their herd and profitability of their farm business. And from what Leadbeater has seen this year, they could use the help.
For Southland dairy farmers, 2021 has been a struggle. They’ve endured a terribly wet winter, with paddocks constantly under water and looking after stock in atrocious conditions, noted Leadbeater.
“Little wonder many farmers went into survival mode during those months. Their cows did likewise,” she says.
“Waterlogged grass is difficult for cows to harvest, and this winter’s pasture was low in energy and protein. That puts huge pressure on an animal’s metabolic system. She has to eat more just to maintain standard functions, which is why many animals have struggled to gain optimal conditioning this winter.
“You can see the effect when it comes to mating. The gap in pasture nutrition has meant that some of the girls haven’t had the energy to keep cycling. When this happens, there will be noticeable gaps in calving spreads next year. The challenge now is to get your summer feeding regime sorted to keep cows in milk for longer and improve their body condition.”
While Leadbeater’s job is to give farmers advice on feed, she says her first priority is understanding what’s happening on the farm.
She’s working with farmers now to identify any feed and nutrition gaps and help farmers bridge them with the right supplementary feed and custom blends. Accuracy is key. The more precisely she can define a herd’s feed issues, the higher the nutritional response she can help a herd achieve.
To understand the feed gaps, she needs to get on farm.
“Farmers are up to their necks in work right now. They aren’t happy when a product rep shows up unannounced, so I always call ahead to make sure it’s okay to come over. I had a farmer on the line the other day who said, ‘Are you happy talking to me while I go round in circles on the tractor?’ So, we were able to chat while he worked.”