Darfield 2 July: The first in-calf heifers are due to arrive this week on Dougal and Alana King’s 365 ha conversion in central Canterbury, and in one key respect they won’t be a day too soon.
About the only thing that hasn’t yet gone to plan on this big project was getting all the new pastures nipped off in late autumn, so Dougal says there is almost too much grass on some parts of the farm at the moment.
“I haven’t plated them but some paddocks are probably getting up to 2.5 to 3 t DM/ha. They are the first ones we’ll graze. It would have been nice to nip them with something earlier on but it just hasn’t worked out.”
The best pastures are the autumn-sown Bealey/Trojan ryegrass mix, which he sowed as a result of being involved with Grass into Gold, and which are looking very good. In total 190 ha of pasture was sown in autumn, following 100 ha sown in spring.
The Kings planned to bring their 365 heifers home from winter grazing early, in mid June, to start getting on top of the growth, but 130 mm of snow put paid to that so now Dougal is focussing on finishing the last of the fencing and making sure all systems are go for cups on around mid July.
All their cows and some of their heifers have been sourced from the North Island, and thus their planned start of calving is probably a bit early for Canterbury in this first year – going forward it will be around 1 August instead of 25 July. Given the amount of feed currently available however this is not expected to be an issue.
The new manager and three staff arrived on the farm 1 June; the 80 bale rotary is all finished and the huge headrace for the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme headrace has reached the testing phase.
Dougal says no major changes have been made for coming seasons in the light of the reduced dairy payout. “It’s full steam ahead. We’re still aiming to produce as much as we can, and keep an eye on costs, as you do anyway. Because it’s our first year, we can’t say we’ll do something different next year because we haven’t done it yet!”
They are set up to feed grain through the dairy, and he has signed up some locally grown barley for this year. The farm will be System 3-4 with a strong emphasis on pasture.
New dairy shed