Some Basic Questions
Another season is drawing to a close and at this stage it would perhaps be as well to consider in what ways production and monetary returns could have been increased. Farming at the present time is still very rewarding to the efficient farmer who is producing somewhere near the potential of his property and doing so in an economic manner. There are many farms, however, on which production is such that with mortgage repayments and running costs taking a big percentage of the income, it is very difficult to achieve a fair standard of living without taking casual seasonal work. This usually results in further deterioration.
There are certain basic fundamentals which are necessary for farming. The first requisite is the ability and will to work and work consistently. Generally it is a matter of working alone, which some people just do not seem to be able to do over any length of time. It is particularly important to work to a plan and an objective as many have the capacity to work but suffer a sense of frustration when no real results are forthcoming. It is essential to analyse the property carefully and consider its strengths and weaknesses. It is both unwise and foolish not to observe and seek information when necessary from successful neighbours, and, probably more important, to take advantage of trained Government Departmental Field Officers who are employed for the specific purpose of assisting farmers. Farming is a way of life which requires keen interest, consistency and hard work over a long period. If these essentials are lacking, take up another occupation.
Grass Comes First
In this country we are grassland farmers, and our first consideration is to have pastures capable of producing as much palatable feed over as long a period as possible. The quality of the pasture determines the amount of stock a farm will carry and hence your potential income. The dominating factors in pasture growth are climate, soil fertility, drainage and the composition of the sward.
Mr W. Maki of Takahiwai, Whangarei, who won first place in the dairy farm section of the 1962 Ahuwhenua contest. Commenting on Mr Maki's win, the judge said that he was a natural stockman, who had already achieved the high average of 289lbs of butterfat per cow, with the likelihood of even greater returns in the next few years. The winner of the sheep and cattle section was Mr Kingi Grace of Tokaanu, a thoroughly experienced stockman whose work showed many interesting features. Second place in the dairy section was awarded Mr & Mrs C. Rutledge of Te Kopuru, Dargaville, and third place in this section went to Mr J. W. Hedley of Hoe-o-Tainui, near Morrinsville. In the sheep and cattle section second place went to Mr J. J. Reid of Kaikohe, and third place to Mr A. Whata of Rotorua.
Consideration should be given to the suitability of the pasture species in relation to the climate and soil type. Perhaps the most important item in the farming budget is manure and it is essential to apply the correct amount of the best fertiliser for your kind of country. You should seek expert advice on this.
After pasture production, the next logical consideration is stock. Good quality stock are essential, and they must calve at such a time as to allow a
full season's production. Late calvers, ‘slips,’ empty cows and short season producers are uneconomic and cost money. It is useless spending money on the one hand growing grass and losing money on the other hand feeding it to unproductive stock. It essential to be correctly stocked and stock carried should be such that there is sufficient feed for late autumn and winter period. Replacements should be at least 20–25 per cent of effective herd numbers and well grown well bred 2 year heifers are is essential to be correctly stocked and stock carried should be such that there is sufficient feed for late autumn and winter period. Replacements should be at least 20–25 per cent of effective herd numbers and well grown well bred 2 year heifers are is essential to be correctly stocked and stock carried should be such that there is sufficient feed for late autumn and winter period. Replacements should be at least 20–25 per cent of effective herd numbers and well grown well bred 2 year heifers are essential if per cow and per acre production is to be of a high level. It is no good paying high prices for well bred pedigree bulls unless their progeny are well reared. This is essential to avoid a heavy death rate, or undersized yearling and 2 year-old heifers which achieve half the production of which they are inherently capable. On farms where A.B. is used good rearing of young stock is a must, as the outlay is considerable and increased production must more than cover cost.
When you are reviewing the season's production, it is a good idea to plot the total butterfat at the
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end of each month on a simple graph.
By joining up the butterfat levels at the end of each month you will obtain a production curve. This curve will show upward and downward trends during the season and will reflect feed short-ages and seasonal fluctuations due to droughts, floods, etc. In most cases, however, the downward trends particularly common in August and September reflect reduced levels of feeding. An intelligent study of the graph will help in adjusting your management in the following season so that costly season drops, although perhaps only temporary, are eliminated.
Calving dates must be carefully decided upon after taking climatic and district conditions into consideration. In many cases a simple advancing or retarding of commencement of calving can increase production considerably. With time of calving correctly set grazing management should be suitably adapted. Grazing management during the autumn determines the amount of winter and early spring grass available and hence production in the ensuing season. A decision should be made on which paddocks to close for A.S.P. and paddocks should be cleaned up and systematically closed from March onwards. If possible cows should be fed hay and silage on more confined areas in the latter stages of lactation. At least half acre of A.S.P. per cow should be regarded as a minimum requirement.
Research has shown that for top production the most important period for feeding cows is 6 weeks before to 6 weeks after calving. Ruakura has found that a minimum of 10 bales of hay plus 1 ton silage per cow is necessary for the herd and replacement stock. If no silage is available hay should be increased to 17–18 bales per cow. These figures can be increased according to length of district winters.
Where summer droughts or extremely dry conditions prevail summer cropping as part of a pasture renewal programme can be considered, say 4–5 acres of soft turnips.
There are many factors of management to be considered, a most important one being the handling and milking of the herd, which will be discussed in a later edition. At this stage past management should be reviewed and in the light of experience and advice the ensuing season's management can be improved.