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Southland dairy farmers urged to assess cow condition to maximise returns and prepare for calving
March 16, 2022

With a record payout forecast, GrainCorp Feeds is encouraging Southland dairy farmers to assess their herd’s condition heading into the end of the season to maximise returns and ensure they are well positioned for calving.

Fonterra has lifted its 2021-22 forecast farmgate milk price range to $8.90 – $9.50/kgMS – the highest ever on record.

GrainCorp Feeds Territory Manager in Southland, Annie Leadbeater, says with most farmers starting to dry off around May, they have about three months left in milk to maximise returns.

“Southland farmers are about one month behind their North Island counterparts, with the dry hot period only just starting to hit here.

“Farmers in our region are now starting to feed out silage and supplement in the lead up to pregnancy scanning,” says Annie.

“At this point in the season it is difficult to lift milk production, so instead farmers should focus on maintaining cow body condition and production levels through until the end of the season.

“A balanced diet gives cows the best chance of converting feed more efficiently, growing a healthy calf and maintaining production and BCS.”

Annie says achieving that balance means farmers need to take a nutritional approach to feed planning to make sure cows get what they need.

“Don’t just pump any feed into your herd. It needs to be the right feed,” says Annie. “If cows lose condition now, it will impact them going into next season. Look at the level at which you want your herd to be performing and then work backwards from there to tailor your feed plan.”

Annie encourages farmers to use GrainCorp Feeds’ Tracker™ tool to assess their current situation and compare it to where it could be.

“If we know the level at which cows could potentially be milking and what production they are actually doing, we can work backwards to see what feed is needed and what it might cost to fill that gap. We can then work out the potential return on investment on that feed,” says Annie.

Annie says Fonterra suppliers using Palm Kernel should also consider feeding supplements like Dried Distillers Grain (DDG) or Canola to help reduce the risk of FEI grades.

“If feed is short and you’re feeding a lot of Palm Kernel, it’s important to dilute it down by feeding other supplements, grass silage or other crops,” says Annie.

Using Tracker™ can be useful for monitoring what is happening with milk daily and allow farmers to make immediate changes if FEI levels are rising.

Annie also reminds Southland farmers to actively manage heat stress in their herds at this time of year by doing the basics well.

This includes making shade available, having a constant supply of good clean water, avoiding milking in the heat of the day, feeding in the cooler parts of the day, and using sprinklers together with fans in the shed.

“With the energy cows need to produce milk, keep condition on and grow a calf, they are effectively running a marathon every day. The heat makes that even more challenging for them,” says Annie. “We need to make sure they have what they need to sustain themselves.”

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