Landcorp unit to turn to once-a-day

Landcorp unit to turn to once-a-day

Landcorp’s Somervilles Dairy unit is about to undergo a massive change, which manager Chris van Wyk thinks has the potential to reduce costs while increasing production. From 1 July next year the unit will change to once a day milking.
Chris says the wetness of the farm, which is located between Reefton and Greymouth, poses continual challenges that saw the cows wading in mud nearly up to their knees last season to feed on crop.
This caused huge problems with lameness with around 150 cows being treated from the start of calving until end of January.
Although he acknowledges that subclinical acidosis could have been partly to blame as the farm used fodder beet for the first time this year, it still presented huge challenges he is keen to mitigate in future by changing to once a day.
“Cow condition should improve because we can feed them better on once a day and I am also expecting lameness to reduce due to the long distances to the shed they will now only have to walk once a day. I’m also predicting that costs will reduce and production will increase,” he says.
The staff workload will also reduce which will free them up for other jobs on the farm. Chris says he is already seeing this as the cows are on once a day at the moment due to dry weather conditions and staff has had a lot more time to catch up on farm maintenance jobs they are normally too busy to do.
He says reducing staff numbers was considered but instead the farm will use their skills to do most of the fertilizer spreading, tractor work, spraying etc in-house. He expects this will also result in cost efficiencies.
The 460ha effective/500ha total unit milks a herd of 950 predominantly crossbred cows through a 60 bail rotary shed equipped with automatic cup removers and Milkhub.
Chris, who started on the farm in July 2015 after previously managing Landcorp’s Thompsons Dairy next door for two seasons, has put a real focus on improving pastures. The unit is rolling with most of the land hump and hollow.
Regular pasture walks and plate metering has seen better control of grass by getting round lengths correct and the farm is now producing more than ever before.
Around 40ha of the farm is under irrigation using a pod system. The farm has a one million litre capacity 30 day storage pond. Better grass production has resulted in improved cow condition, now sitting at 4.2.
Landcorp has now eliminated use of palm kernel on its units to preserve the environment so the farm will focus more heavily on grass and will buy in soya supplements.
The farm grows 22ha of rape and 10ha of fodder beet. The farm produced 32 tonnes of fodder beet with its first crop – a good achievement. Chris says he has noticed improvements in milk solids from using fodder beet.
Around 15ha of chicory is grown for a summer crop and around 15% of the farm is being re-grassed this year. Efficiencies in the shed have also been under the spotlight with an in-shed mineralizer installed.
Chris says this has made another big impact on the farm as it was previously challenging in particular to get magnesium into cows due to wet paddocks. This season only six cows suffered from milk fever compared to 30-40 the previous season.
The farm employs four full time staff and Chris credits the staff as being the key lynchpin that has seen the farm go from success to success recently.
Safety is always at the forefront each day and Chris is proud that of the 14 farms in the Landcorp West Coast group Somervilles Dairy is near the top in this area.
The best Somerville Dairy has ever produced was achieved last season: 306,201 kilograms of milk solids. This season the target was 320,000 kilograms.
Depending on weather Chris thinks the farm will get close but drought has been a hindrance. His next main goal is a feed pad, which he thinks will make another big difference to the unit.
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