It must be a lonely life being the editor of a modest web site, closeted in a private office, writing words of wisdom and then pressing a button and having them disappear into to an electronic void. Those words will be sought by some and stumbled on by others. It certainly lacks the glamour and pace of editing a Fleet Street or New York high circulation paper.
It is, therefore, essential to encourage and support our editor when he writes words that should be heeded well. I am referring to two recent editorials on the plight of those New Zealand dairy farmers who are suffering the ravages of a drought that has turned a potentially good season into an average one.
He firstly warned of the need to balance the payout with the feed costs and then later went on to say that drying off was usually the most sensible economic option. I, therefore, fired these points past a neighbour who farms Manawatu clay soils and who seems to have worked these thing out before most.
His current production is up 5% on last year, but already he knows he will not make the previous year’s final tally. That means there is no easy money to be made from extra shares when the Global Dairy Company makes its allocations. His pay out will be $4.80 or thereabouts.
He is feeding his Friesian cows 5 Kgs of dry matter in supplement form and the rest of their feed is (dry) grass. The condition of the cows is now holding and the daily production is .9Kgs Milk Solids per cow per day. The cows must therefore be getting 6.5 Kgs of grass each and that equates, in his case, to pasture growth of 25Kgs per hectare per day.
He has done his culling.
The cows have been assessed by the local farmers as being in condition score 3.9, which is above the local average. They are due to calve from mid July on. To achieve a 5+ condition score by then his cows will have to gain 1.1 in condition score, which means eating 220Kgs of dry matter over and above maintenance. For a July calving cow that extra intake will have to happen before 1st June because the size of the calf will prevent the cow ingesting much more than maintenance from then on.
Putting it simply he said that by drying off on 10th April he will have to feed his early calving cows at 11.4 Kgs dry matter per day. If he waits till 20th that daily requirement rises to 12.5 Kgs and on 30th he would need 14.3Kgs per cow per day.
Drying off on the 10th April will mean keeping his early calving cows at the same level of feed as they were requiring for milking .
Drying off later will mean raising the feed levels.
Who, on drought stricken pasture can go on feeding at those levels?
Where will the feed for next season come from?
Even if $4.80 per Kg Milk Solids does equate to the cost of extra feed, will that feed be available to buy if needed?
I used this particular neighbour because he has run off land with good supplies of silage and plenty of hay. He has irrigators working on the run off and has maize silage on hand. He will use some nitrogen with the irrigation, but will still only just meet his target of 11.4 Kgs dry matter per cow. Few other farmers have so many options.
Our editor’s words were timely. The season has ended on the drought country and next season must be thought of. Those in the more favoured areas that have had the rain should be able to push on to reach high production levels. I wish them well and hope we all get the rain next season