Grass into Gold - Seasonal update: Aaron Price, Morrinsville

Morrinsville 30 March: ‘Fantastic’ autumn growth after good rain has seen recent pasture covers hit a surprise high of 2520 kg DM/ha on the 80 ha Aaron sharemilks with his wife Sarah at Tahuna.


That’s up from as low as 1900 kg DM/ha during the driest part of summer, and is well ahead of the dry off target of 2300 kg DM/ha.


Daily growth during late March was up to 82 kg DM/ha, which was a record for this time of year and as high as anything recorded during spring, he says.


Pasture quality was just starting to decline last week, and the round was tightened up to 30 days accordingly, after being 38 days since January to help keep covers up during the dry summer.


“It’s a great turn around for us,” Aaron says. “All of a sudden supplements we have contracted we don’t actually need. If conditions continue we’ll probably cut the maize and go all grass feeding.”


The Prices culled and sent empty cows away a month earlier than normal this year, in preparation for a tight summer, but were still milking 218 head twice a day in late March, down from a peak of 249.


Daily production of 1.3-1.4 kg MS/cow was on target and overall production remains 10% ahead, a gain that has held since the start of the season, and which reflects increased cow numbers this year.


Last week the cows were on a diet of 3 kg DM maize silage and 13 kg pasture; up until then they had also been receiving 4 kg PK but after 112 mm of rain in three weeks, this was no longer required.


Dry off remains planned for the end of May, with the planned start of calving 15 July. All cows winter on the farm on pasture and maize silage as required. Aaron says the herd scanned 8.6% empty this season, with a 6WIC rate of 76% and average BCS of 4.5, up from 3.9 at the start of January.


A total of 11 ha of new pasture planted two weeks ago is also expected to benefit from the kind autumn. This was sown post 8 ha chicory and 3 ha of maize, and comprises Trojan ryegrass with Weka and Kotare white clovers, Tuscan red clover and fine leaved Safin cocksfoot to help during what can be dry summers.


There’s no shortage of supplement for the coming months – with 250 t PK plus 100 t maize silage contracted, the Prices have managed to reduce the maize commitment to 80 t plus the 70 t DM that was grown on the farm. “That 80 t will be our carry over, plus we’ve still got a bit left from the season before.”


Topping off the good news for autumn, Aaron was also judged Waikato Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year in the Dairy Industry Awards.