The results of a forced early transition to once a day milking have surprised a Bay of Plenty farm owner and his sharemilker. Bill Young’s family-owned Horohoro farm, 16 kilometres south of Rotorua, went to once a day in October instead of the usual mid-December following the region’s extremely wet spring.
“With the amount of rain we had, twice a day was hammering the cows, the races and the pasture, so going once a day helped the cows and evened things out a bit,” Bill says.
While production for the full year is expected to be lower, February production was up by 12% and by late March 18% ahead of the same time last season, helped by good grass growth during summer. “Even though it’s gone to once a day, summer’s gone so well we are actually producing quite a bit more than we were last year.”
The farm system is entirely grass based, with no supplementary feed used other than home grown silage.
In addition to having plenty of grass, the cow’s condition improved following the transition once the pastures had recovered from the spring.
Sharemilker Kevin Rooney was not entirely sure about changing to once a day when he first suggested it, but has become a supporter after clearly seeing the benefits, Bill says.
“(The cows) are not under the pressure of walking to the shed twice a day and they’re looking a lot more relaxed and comfortable, so it’s helped their production.” Another factor is that the 330 cow herd is milked through a 20 a-side herringbone shed.
Because milking takes about three-and-a-half hours, Bill concedes the results of once a day are probably greater than if the cows were milked through a bigger shed. The call to go to once a day very much depends on the circumstances of an individual farm, he says.
“It’s only something we’ve gotten into in the last three or four years. Previously we were twice a day right through.” The 100ha home farm is supported by two lease blocks of 50ha each.
The three properties are in one contiguous block; one lease block forms part of the milking platform while the other, added twenty years ago, grazes young stock.
Because the home farm is divided by a road, the newest block has made management of the herd a lot easier as there is direct access to the milking shed through adjoining paddocks. “Previously we had to walk cows down the road.”
The addition enabled the herd to be increased by about 90 cows, but one challenge is that the 20 a-side herringbone shed is now marginal for 330 cows.
The coming season will see a big change on the farm as Kevin and his wife Sue retire after an incredible 23 year tenure as sharemilkers.
“They have done a fantastic job, they came along initially for the usual two or three year term, but they ended up liking the place so much that when our neighbour sold his farmlet and house they bought that.”
“They’ve just become part of the family really and they have been pillars, keeping the farm rolling.”
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