A ‘discard’ season in future years

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

 We are now in the peak of the season with calving almost done and lambing well underway. In a normal year, this demand would be offset with good grass production, but not so this year.
In future years, I think we will all look back on the 2022/2023 season as a ‘discard’ season; one which threw up extraordinary amounts of rain and reduced sunshine.
Of late, the rain has thankfully diminished but the ground remains wet thanks to high water tables following the deluges most of the country has experienced.
This is evident in lower-than-normal soil temperatures with recent frosts which negatively affects grass growth.
In effect, farmers aren’t seeing the grass growth they would normally (hope to) see at this time of year. Rotations are being slowed in the hope that the weather will come to the party and there will be the upsurge in grass growth that farmers need to maintain cow and ewe condition and achieve production targets.
Some of the farmers I talk to are holding their own, growing just enough grass to keep ahead of the cows and feeding more supplements than they normally would in early spring. A number of farmers are going to need additional supplement to get through but are holding back wanting to minimise cost and hoping pasture growth will surge.
My advice is to keep a focus on cow condition, and to feed whatever is required to maintain body condition, production and fertility for the upcoming mating season.
Now is the time to review and revise feed budgets and buy in good quality silage if that is what’s needed to meet production targets.
We will have a good supply of high quality grass silage available for purchase but I urge farmers to get in early.
Remember, from the outside every bale of silage looks the same, but the quality of what’s inside varies dramatically. In these challenging times it’s more important than ever to ensure that every dollar spent on buying in supplements is spent on the best quality available.
The recent announcements of reduced payout will be of concern to all dairy farmers. But it is worth noting that historically the payout has rebounded later in the season as other providers reach the end of their supply period. Hopefully that happens again and that the condition on our cows is such that maximum production can still be achieved to take advantage of any increases.
The time for shutting up paddocks for grass silage and/or for maize crops is also approaching and it is worth bearing in mind that grass silage should only be made from a genuine surplus of grass on the dairy platform. Your feed budget will clarify this for you, enabling you – if necessary – to purchase high quality grass silage while there are still good supplies available.
The latest official forecast is out, and NIWA is predicting a warm summer ahead.
For most of the North Island and the upper South Island, NIWA says to expect “unseasonable warmth and humidity”. 
If correct, these El Nino conditions could spell an end to what is already shaping up to being a short growing season, reinforcing how vital it is to sit down now and plan your feed budget.
The end result of good planning is improved welfare – of you, your family and farm team, and your animals. We can’t directly influence the weather or what we are paid for what we produce, but we can exercise a significant degree of control to the welfare of all the elements which are critical to our lives and livelihood. 


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