Game-changing new research into how plantain crops can reduce nitrogen (N) loss from dairy farms will see upper Manawatu farmers at the forefront of dairy science.
DairyNZ’s Rob Brazendale, the head of extension for that region, says huge amounts of supplements and pasture are being produced and it’s a great season. Maize crops in particular are doing very well.
“The early sown crops have done fantastically well and are flowering, but the later sown ones have a suffered from being a little too wet and are patchy. But overall we can expect good yields providing we get some heat from now on and that is key,” he says.
Normally at this time of year, the winds are from the north, but this season the winds have been mostly southerly, they have not been cold, he says.
Not only are maize crops doing well, but this season has seengreat crops of turnips, and farmers are having to feed these out earlier than normal.
Brazendale says the sight of extra bailage and silage on farms is really good. But this bumper supply of feeds hasn’t necessarily translated into milk.
“The cows have continued to milk well but just prior to Christmas there was a bit of a drop off in milk production probably due to pasture quality which went off a bit. It has been quite hard to maintain pasture quality and this is a reason for the earlier slight drop in per cow production. But now this has picked up and the cows are holding well,” he says.
While the wet warm weather has produced exceptional pasture growth, there is a bit of a sting in the tail in the form of facial eczema (FE).
Rob Brazendale says he’s been looking at the monitoring sites and while spore counts are low, the suggestion is that FE may arrive earlier than it normally would.
“I think the risks of FE are relatively high now especially with the amount of dead grass in pastures and if we get more moist warm weather we could get a lift in spore counts.
Farmers need to be vigilant about that and put in place their prevention measures to be ready for an outbreak.”
Brazendale says farmers should be monitoring paddocks themselves and watching vet monitoring sites. Any signs of an outbreak should trigger preventative measures.
Farmer morale low
Despite a relatively good milk price and ideal weather, Rob Brazendale says he and his staff are puzzled by low morale among dairy farmers in many regions -- his in particular.
He says given all the positives the low morale comes as something of a surprise.
“Ongoing public pressure on dairying, the impacts of environmental and compliance issues and the sluggish land market all seem to be factors,” he says.
Brazendale says a lot of farms are on the market but there are not many sales. These factors seem to be weighing on farmers’ minds and he and his team are concerned about the wellbeing of dairy farmers.
To that end DairyNZ has organised a meeting of rural professionals to be held in Palmerston North on January 29 to canvas ideas on how to lift farmer morale and create better outcomes for them.