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Friday, 26 April 2019 01:35 am

Drought over but dairy farmers will feel flow-on effects

May 1st, 2013 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

One of the very few green paddocks on Lois Smith’s farm.

THIS YEAR’S drought, although declared over, is still causing headaches for dairy farmers.

Lois Smith, a herd manager from Turakina, says: “We had to dry our cows off early, even though it was only March.”

Drying off cows means that they stop producing milk and are fed less.

The usual time for dairy farmers to dry their stock off is anywhere between April and May.

Dairy farmers must dry their cows off for two main reasons, cow condition and pasture cover.

The cows need to be fed according to the farm’s feed budget, which is different depending on the size of the farm and the number of cows.

Jersey cows are among the 150-strong herd being milked on Lois Smith’s farm.

The feed budget ensures there is enough food to last winter, but without starving cows and reducing their condition.“Drying off early has meant we are sending less milk to Fonterra, so our pay-outs are not as much.”

Lois has dried off one of her two herds and is now only milking around 150 cows.

“It’s hard because we have employees to pay and a family to feed.”

“We’ve had to change our feed budget, which we’ve done a few times, but nothing as major as this.”

Nathan Brisco, a farm manager in the Manawatu, has had the same problem.  “I’m expecting a loss this year. The total litres of milk went down and the cell count went up.”

The cell count is a measurement taken by Fonterra to determine the amount of white blood cells in the milk.

Farmers aim for around 100,000 cells/millilitres and try to stay under 300,000cells/ml.

Fonterra has a penalty system where they fine farmers for having a high cell count, as it affects milk quality.

“If I want enough grass to last us over the winter, then I need to dry off now,” Nathan says.

Fonterra has increased how much it pays out to farmers, which is a positive sign for the next season.

Nathan Brisco and his son keep a watchful eye on the family’s dairy herd.




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