Pioneering farmers pleased with approach

West Otago dairy farmers Alistair and Josanne Megaw are proud of their wintering system.

The couple are pioneers of the dairy industry in the West Otago area, having moved from the Waikato in 1993.

Over the years, the system has changed from all grass farming to a high input system using a 570-stall cow barn and rotary cowshed incorporating the latest technology.

Speaking at the New Zealand Grassland Association conference, Dawn Dalley, from DairyNZ, said more farmers were considering changes to their wintering systems.

Mr and Mrs Megaw have 540 cows producing 320,000kg ms (592kg ms per cow) on an intensive feeding regime.

Mr Megaw said they used a nutritionist, and at different times of the year the cows were fed different types of feed. Diet mixes were very important.

One of the biggest challenges in a high input system was feed costs.

However, the specialised feeding had also increased production per cow per hectare and decreased the empty rate, which had previously been very high on the all-grass system, he said.

There were also challenges for staff, with different ways of handling the cows required within the shed and an "eye for more detail" was needed.

There were many benefits from the wintering system, including reduction of pasture pugging and an ability to contain and utilise effluent nutrients.

Soils were cared for and feed wastage was minimal.

The cows were also very content.

He believed the biggest challenge the dairy industry faced was compliance. Rules and regulations were changing and hopefully they were "one step ahead", with their wintering barn.

Having farmed at all levels of the dairy industry and used the different farming systems to best suit them at the time, Mr Megaw said no one system was the optimum.

Rather, farmers needed to pick the system that best suited their requirements.