Barn makes ‘huge difference’ on high-input farm

Barn makes ‘huge difference’ on high-input farm
Family affair: Sharemilkers Alistair and Brenda McGregor with, Latika, Serafi na and farm owners Linda and Dennis Morgan.

Alistair and Brenda McGregor sharemilk on a 145 hectare dairy farm owned by Dennis and Linda Morgan. With an effective milking platform of 115 hectares the farm, located 8km from Pahiatua, in the Manawatu carries a herd of 300 cows.
In recent years, the genetics has swung away from Jersey, and more toward a kiwi cross cow, better suited to the new farming system.
“Our soil is good and predominantly heavy silt loam and inclined to get a wet under foot if there’s been a lot of rain, hence our desire to carry a smaller cow, to mitigate as much as possible damage to pasture,” Alistair says. He is pleased with the productivity of the herd which averages between 480kg to 500kg milk solids/cow.
“This is a high input farm and the most significant change on the farm in recent years has been in building a cow-barn. It’s going to make a huge difference and come into its own when we’re faced with challenging weather conditions.”
Before settling on the barn, built by Foxton-based concreting specialists Roaches Concrete, Dennis and Linda visited several cow-barns in the South Island and Wairarapa and eventually settled on a Roaches’ barn plan with Delaval interior.
This is also the first year the farm has shifted to all winter milking and with the winter payment Fonterra provides, the additional income has essentially paid for the cost of keeping the herd inside.
Alistair says the herd adapted very well to the new regime given that a feed-pad already existed on the farm.
“As grass growth slows and the wetter weather arrives we can use the barn to extend round length by keeping the cows in at night and grazing out during the day. July and August can be our wettest months and the cows are housed 24 hours. We have the flexibility to extend that into September if conditions don’t improve. By November we plan to have the cows fully outside again and dry by the 14 December.”
Before stepping on to the farm 10 years ago Alistair and Brenda had worked for two years on the west coast of the South Island, managing another farm owned by Dennis and Linda and spent a year managing a farm at Himatangi.
“We are settled here at least for the medium term. Our children are settled here and we don’t like to uproot them at this stage in their education.”
The 30 aside Herringbone shed, built a decade ago when the original large farm was split in half, operates well.
While the cow-barn offers respite from the weather for the herd and a place for cows to maintain their condition through Winter and Spring when it can be wet, the main gain Alistair says is in the ability to harvest more grass.

Barn makes ‘huge difference’ on high-input farm
Latika McGregor keeps the cows occupied in the cow barn. Maize harvest on the 145ha farm owned by Dennis and Linda Morgan.

“We’ve gone away from relying so much on PK to feeding DDG (dried distillers grain) and Canola meal, as they are both an excellent source of protein and energy.”
Each year 30 hectares of maize is produced on the farm which normally yields 18 tonne per hectare, and the aim is to harvest as much as 400 tonne of grass silage from the farm each year.
The farm is a family operation with Alistair , Brenda, Dennis and Linda all involved. A part time labour unit is employed to assist with milking and cover time off.
Mating starts at the end of April for 12 weeks, no bulls will be used this season and short gestation semen will be used for the last four weeks.
Dennis and Linda have chosen to use A2 kiwi cross bulls with an minimum of F12 with the aim of increasing the size of their cows.
“The herd is an average of 450 kilos and we would like to increase that to 550 over time. The larger cows have the capacity to eat and produce more.”
Off the farm Brenda and Alistair are involved in social sport and enjoy entering the odd running event.
“The last five years we have entered a team in the annual Length of the Lake Relay in Taupo with other farming friends which is always a bit of fun and good to off farm once and a while.”
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