"For the past three weeks or so the cows have been receiving some baled silage with the aim of increasing the round length and maximising cover in the paddocks. Also this week the feeding of fodder beet has start and the cows are getting 1.5kg (20pc DM) in the paddock.
The cows are milking well at the moment producing 1.7kg ms/day, according to Jamie, which is just over the target of 1.65kg ms/day for the month of March.
"At peak production in October the cows produced 2.1kg ms/day. The aim for this season was to produce 485kg/ms/cow but the extreme hot weather in November meant that the cows dropped off peak a lot faster than normal and decreased that aim to 475kg/ms/cow which would be 100pc of their live weight!"
Key farm stats
- Farm size: 235ha
- Cow numbers: 770
- Milking parlour: 50-unit rotary parlour
- Peak production: 2.1kg ms/day
The soil here is a stony silt loam type soil, according to Jamie, but it is very fertile and free draining with a water holding capacity of 99, according to Brad and Viana Fallaver - the managers on the farm.
"Pencarrow is fully irrigated using a mixture of set sprinklers, k-lines, a rotorainer, 3 pivots and a lateral. These are typically all the types of irrigation that would be used in the Canterbury region. There are a number of soil moisture probes throughout the farm allowing us to constantly monitor soil moisture levels, indicating when to irrigate and how much water to apply to the pastures."
In 2008 a 3ha storage pond was developed at the top end of the farm to hold water from the Lyndhurst irrigation scheme. The water is diverted from a main alpine river, gravity fed and naturally pressurised with 8 bar of pressure to irrigation points on the farm.
This type of irrigation is very efficient comparing to its predecessor, the border-dyke system where the land would be flooded, washing valuable nutrients through the soil and furthermore polluting ground waters, Jamie says.
"The weather has very good since I came over in mid-January. When we landed in Christchurch it was 34°C – something I had never experienced before! The highest temperature was recorded just a couple of weeks ago when it reached 36°C in south Canterbury.
"The drought back in December saw a huge increase in soil temperature (over 20 °C) and grass growth declined as a result along with dry matter levels. The irrigation couldn’t keep up with the blistering heat and 7-8 mm of water was lost due to evaporation each day during the drought.
"The rain in early January meant that there was a sudden burst in growth, grass grew too quickly and went to seed early meaning that quality was reduced having a direct effect on milk production. This, along with sub-tropical air coming down from the north in recent times was something that the cows didn’t like and as a result they spent a lot of time in the shade which meant that intakes were down."
A cyclone in February saw 45mm of constant rain fall by 9am, which was almost the expected average monthly rainfall for February, and by 9pm a staggering 110mm of rain had fallen.
The cows will be dried off at the end of May and wintered off-farm where they will be receiving up to 10kg fodder beet, 2kg silage and 2kg of straw per day. From there they will be brought back in calving groups and calved on the farm with a 68pc six-week calving rate.
The Canterbury region has mainly dairy and tillage enterprises with a few sheep farms in between and typical yields for wheat and barley, coming from irrigated land would be 10t/ha, maize -30t/ha, fodder beet 25-30t/ha, kale – 12t/ha.