Forecast payout a ray of sunshine

Forecast payout a ray of sunshine
An intensive re-grassing programme and a low stocking rate has resulted in positive gains in herd production at Riverstone, near Ashburton. The farm operates on system three to four for supplementary feed input which includes fodder beet and kale grown on a nearby lease block used for winter grazing.

Despite farming in one of New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis epi-centres, Sam and Sophie Shearer have had a good season and are looking forward to the possibilities the next season may bring on the back of a forecast $7kg/ MS payout.
Sam, who manages his parents Harley and Marie Shearer’s dairy unit near Ashburton, says their farm has not been directly or indirectly affected by Mycoplasma, but the outbreak has had a big impact on some in the area where the Shearer’s farm.
“It’s a worry. It’s a relief that we haven’t been affected, but it’s an ongoing concern. It’s not over yet.” He disagrees on the culling of healthy cows in an affected herd.
“I think they need to get a better testing system. I can see where they’re coming from, but I think come spring time they’re probably going to find more (infected cattle) than they initially thought.”
There is not an adequate test available for bull calves, of which many had been sent to different farms, he says.
“It’s going to take a long time to track everything down. It’s just going to keep popping up. I think the horse has bolted.”
The Shearer farm, Riverstone Dairy Unit bought by the family three years ago, supplies A2 milk to Synlait, covers 105 hectares and peak milks 370 cows through a 20 a-side herringbone shed. The cows are a friesian/jersey cross comprising about 75% friesian.
The farm operates on system three to four for supplementary feed input which includes fodder beet and kale grown on a nearby lease block used for winter grazing.
Synlait pay a 20c per kg/MS premium on the supply of A2 milk, which will help the farm’s bottom line from last season’s production of 186,500kgMS, an amount which has been trending upwards since the farm was purchased.
During the first season production was 173,000 kgMS. Sam attributes the herd’s production, close to 100% of it’s live weight in milk solids, to paying close attention to the cows’ feed regime and a “reasonably low” stocking rate of 3.4 cows per hectare.
An intensive re-grassing programme during the past three years in which 17% to 20% of pastures are renewed each year, has boosted grass production from 14,500 kgDM/ha in old pastures to 18,000kgDM/ha.
A good supply of feed is always available; this included increasing palm kernel extract during the summer drought. “We managed to get through the dry relatively well because we had that low stocking rate.”
Sam checks there is a good supply of feed each evening and if necessary will shift the cows to ensure they are fully fed before each milking. The farm has a team of permanent staff comprising a second-in-charge and a farm assistant, who contribute to its success.
The farm assistants are seasonal staff from Ireland on work experience which creates an opportunity for the exchange of ideas. “I want to learn from them as much as they want to learn from me.”
The past season’s farm gate payout of $6.65 plus the 20c premium, together with record production, is a great end to the season, creating optimism looking ahead assuming the forecast $7 payout materialises.
Despite the threat of Mycoplasma bovis, Sam says it’s great to see some positivity back in the dairy industry. His priority will be to catch up on some repairs and maintenance, particularly on cow lanes, and to reduce debt.
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