Time to weigh and feed

Darren Sutton Waikato FarmWise Consultant





The Country

How is your development team performing? At this time of year, I often see varying lines of heifers returning home. Just as the home dairy farm is affected by dry seasons, so can heifers out at grazing. Just because heifers are out of sight, they should not be out of mind. These are the future of your team — they are worth investing in. Monitoring: The best arrangements for helping ensure your valuable replacements come home at target weight is to have them on a weight gain contract, or at least being weighed every two months. This ensures that weights are tracked and when animals start to drop, action can be taken immediately. If they are not being weighed, then you (as the owner of the stock) should help do the animal health treatments at least four times each year. This allows you to sight them and gauge how they are tracking. Targets: This table outlines the key targets for different breeds. The key date right now will be the 40 per cent of mature liveweight for your R1s at May 1. This date is always a key date for weighing both R1s and R2s. The R2s should be at 90 per cent of mature (a 7-year-old cow) by about June 1 as this assumes a calf birthdate of August 1. Knowing what your actual herd weight is for your mature animals is important. The targets set in MINDA are accurate but your recording of the herd has to be accurate as well. Pricing: The two main ways for payment on heifer grazing is either a per head per week set rate from December 1 to April 30 for calves, and then rising to a higher rate from May 1 to April 30. The other is a weight gain payment system. The weight gain system is better as this encourages graziers to run fewer animals but do them better. This destresses the system when droughts do arrive. More silage has been made and can be fed into the heifers. I generally always see better heifers at or above target coming home from such graziers. No one minds paying more for a better product! Talk to your grazier and see if they can move to a weighing and weight gain system. Both parties can benefit from this arrangement. But having a good, detailed contract in place is important to cover all variables. Current dry situation: This is resulting in some R2s coming home with many undergrown and average in BCS. These animals still have some time to catch up, but will take supplements to do so. If you can, provide high-energy feeds to pack the weight on fast and reduce the pasture demand pressure for the rest of the farm. A combination of 3 kgs of PK, 3kg of Mz and 3kg of pasture is a good ration. Getting R2s used to maize and used to eating on a feed pad is also good. If you do not have the maize silage to spare, then PKE at 4-5 kgs/c/day for the next one to two months is what might be required to get these up to target BCS. Check with your grazier how the R1s are doing now and do they need any feed put into them? They grow a lot of frame through winter and need to gain around 100 kgs from now to October 1. Is there enough quality feed to achieve this? As the saying goes, expecting something different from doing the same is insanity. If you want a better result in your development team, then it’s time for a change of action.