Calving looks fine with low stocking

Calving is about to get under way and the team at Lincoln is feeling confident.

With calving due to get under way at Lincoln University Dairy Farm over the next week, farm manager Peter Hancox told farmers at a DairyNZ Wintering for Success field day at Oxford earlier this month he was ''quite happy with where things are''.

''Not all the cows are going to calve on August 1 and we are pretty confident that every cow will be 5 BCS [body condition score] at calving.

''Some will be calving in late September, so we are confident they will get there.''

The farm's management has made some changes before this season, as it attempts to meet its goal of maximising a sustainable profit while maintaining (or reducing) the farm's environmental footprint.

The herd has been reduced from 620 cows to 560 and the farm is implementing the pastoral 21 system which has been successfully trialled at the Lincoln University Dairy Research Farm.

South Island Dairy Development Centre executive director Ron Pellow said this season's stocking rate would be three and a-half cows a hectare instead of five cows/ha.

''It is a system which requires low inputs. It is about running the smallest number of cows to get the biggest production we can achieve.

''We want to be able to say that we can replicate this, so you can do it too. At a catchment level, we are wintering fewer cows so the impact is less.

''So if we can have the same productivity and profitability then that is our goal. It's not about a low stocking system, it's about matching the feed to the stock and getting the best out of them.''

Mr Hancox said issues for the farms over the coming weeks included achieving target grazing residuals and managing pasture cover ahead of calving, using back fences on all herds grazing in a paddock more than 36 hours, managing ground conditions to minimise damage, monitoring cows to ensure they met their targets ahead of calving and completing winter maintenance.

- by David Hill