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It would seem that our editor has escaped the reality of a wet farming spring and gone off to the other parts of the world. His sight seeing is probably the view from a petrol pump queue, but what a good way to meet the locals.

Back here we have to live with the reminder that it does rain in spring. The less fortunate farmers in south Canterbury have had to endure days of rain, flooding and a lack of sunshine. They are probably thinking of knocking over a tree or two to start construction on an Ark.

We all know how depressing and stressful heavy rain can be at this time of year, so lets hope it changes soon.

Here in the Manawatu the rain arrived but not in the excesses of other areas. Enough has fallen to show up the holes in the races, pug up the gateways and cause the late calvers to need to be taken off pasture at night. Mastitis has become common and the number of lame cows has risen dramatically. This is frustrating when there are plenty of other things to do.

The point of major interest is the lack of activity in the calving mob. Few bobbies are being picked up, lower numbers are going into the sale yards and generally the cows have slowed down their rate of calving, yet we have only just finished the second cycle.

We have to go back nine months to the mating time. Looking at our production curve it can be seen that the buoyant production of October crashed all through November until it settled at about 1.6Kgs milksolids in early December.

Cows cycled well in October and then shut down their activity in November. Production dropped, the cows were probably loosing weight and therefore not cycling. When the drop in production halted, the cows were then not loosing weight and so started cycling properly again.

Ironically there was plenty of feed around but the consensus of opinion seems to blame a drop in feed quality. The energy levels dropped 10% or more and the cows were unable to harvest enough energy to maintain both the production and the body weight. Something had to give.

Some lessons are to be taken from those events:

Cows loosing weight won’t cycle.

High producing cows need quality feed and plenty of it.

We need to be able to identify a potential drop in both feed quantity and quality.

We need a plan of attack if a feed drop does occur.

This all applies to now, just as much as it applies to November. Currently the paddocks are boggy. The grass is wet and soft and only growing at 30Kgs dry matter per day. Utilization is low and production is high. Morning frosts mean little is going to change in the next few days. Cows are loosing weight and we are fast approaching mating time.

At least a problem has been identified, so some steps have to be taken. We are opting for baled grass silage since it is too wet to feed the maize silage in the paddock.

Now what about that quality problem that usually occurs in November?

The mower for topping and silage making will keep quality up. It could also be argued that some high-energy supplement could be called for too. It would be a brave but forward thinking farmer who fed out maize silage and topped at the same time!

Our thinking has to change along with our demands from the cows. 380Kgs MS per cow is now common, 400Kgs is soon to be the standard.

Letting nature take its course is not good enough any more. Top production is about being proactive.




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