in the face of extreme weather variability, grass has been mostly low in sugar

A very variable and wild at times September has seen the North Island at least falter in the achievement of what looked to be a super – flush in the making.

Grass availability is generally still OK, but in the face of extreme weather variability, grass has been mostly low in sugars, high soluble N and increasing fibre but still low DM% – far from ideal for modern cows at peak and presents increased risk of all metabolic disease, including sudden death from hypocalcaemia / ketosis.

One of the peripheral issues from this type of feed is high milk (and blood) urea levels, which in some cases has got over 40 units, up to 60 plus.

We hope the e bulletin on protein digestion has helped you to understand this complex issue. It appears that 30 units might be the magical figure which might reflect blood and urine levels of urea which has regional councils concerned.

For the cow, levels above this also indicate an added demand on glucose energy required to form this urea from the soluble N products in grass. This might add to the difficulty cow’s face in achieving energy balance as the ideal coming up to mating. The use of glucose in this way means less for milk complicating decreasing total DMI – hence the drop seen in the vat.

DPS consultants should be your first port of call in establishing the best way of handling these myriad issues both cows and management face in dealing to this situation from within your individual farm system.

With inductions down to 2% of herd numbers next year, it is vital that you achieve good 6 week in calf rates this year. We need to improve on first and second round conception rates to reduce induction rates without increasing empties. Have a good plan for achieving this and resource the plan properly so every stakeholder ensures they are not the limiting factor.  Feed remains the number one driver of successful reproduction.

Short gestation sires are worth looking at for matings after the first 4 weeks, as are short gestation tail-up bulls. Ensure bulls are kept fit and healthy and tested clear of BVD and TB, and where relevant Theleria.  Treatment for all parasites is good biosecurity management.

 Apart from improving nutrition, attending to late cows with possible uterine infection is priority for this month. Remember, it is the treatment that makes the difference, not the “scooping”. Even slight cloudiness or flecks of pus can result in a reduced first service conception rate.

Attending to lame cows before they lose excessive condition is another area to focus on. With the weather and pasture conditions as they have been, lame cows numbers are often up. Lame numbers over 10% of the herd on an annual basis may constitute a welfare problem, and should institute a review before the summer – when races etc may be upgraded. Like mastitis and reproduction, lameness prevention involves a multi-faceted approach, and involves stockmanship, race design, shed design, as well as nutrition and minerals.


 The final result from last season was up 4 cents to $5.84 BMP plus 32 cents/share dividend. Prospects for this season look exceptional at $8.30.

The hoo-ha over the recall of the WPC80 has died down, and the reviews are starting to come out – as expected it was caused by a one-off incident, which was badly handled.

Fonterra has shown itself to be responsible, and is beginning to introduce changes to avoid such a response in future.

The impact on other exporters, both directly and indirectly is yet to play out in full.

The government chipped in a little to help the smaller players out – the role of Agresearch in the fiasco was not abrogated with this gesture.

For farmer shareholders, the extra payout increments have kept a lid on any discontent from within, and for outside shareholders, the share price has bounced back but who knows where it would have been without it. The company has stated it is prepared to back dividend returns from its strong balance sheet for this year partly due to the high cost of raw ingredients this year, but also the unknown ultimate cost of the WPC recall.

Yashvili the Chinese company is still happy to invest $200M in its infant formula plant at Pokeno, and now has the green consent light, so at least Yashvili doesn’t believe that the NZ inc reputation has been damaged long term.

The dairy goat industry has its growth target under the welfare spotlight with housing being the norm now in the industry. Interesting that their move indoors was to combat an even bigger welfare risk from uncontrollable internal parasitism. This highlights how welfare is such a contorted issue to control within moving societal and market demands.

 Another biosecurity fiasco has come to light, with seeds from yet another pasture weed pest introduced from “falling off the back of a truck”. Dairy farmers and cropping farmers around Ashburton will have to be on the lookout for the “black grass” around their grass verges – a particularly hard to kill grass weed. Whatever next…

 Have a good mating!    

 We acknowledge the support of Alltech NZ in the preparation of this update.