Grass into Gold - Seasonal update: Morgan Easton, Waitaki

Waitaki Plains 7 May: Production is going well and pasture growth is also holding up for sharemilkers Morgan and Hayley Easton, with the latest average farm cover at 2650 kg DM/ha.


Equally importantly, Morgan points out, the new maimai was built and ready to go in time for opening weekend. “Because it’s a new farm, we have a new pond, so we have a really good spot set up!”


Last week the Eastons were still milking 1130 cows with all the empties now gone, except for carryovers and 25 culls yet to be decided after the final pregnancy test next week.


Production is 1.5 kg MS/day on pasture plus 3 kg DM/cow PK – earlier in the season the plan was to feed up to 2 kg/cow barley as part of the supplement regime but PK is cheaper in the light of the payout revision, Morgan says.


“This month we were to start feeding silage and we’re going to limit that as much as possible and keep feeding PK because we can get that for 30c/kg DM vs 36c/kg DM for the silage. And it’s a lot easier to feed PK as well.”


The Eastons took the herd to 16 hour milking on 10 April to ease the pressure on both cows and staff.


The herd’s on a 40 day round at present and grass growth has been up and down through autumn, with good daily growth rates during March and early April. When the first southerly came through these dropped from 65 kg DM/ha to 35 kg DM/ha and the Eastons had two or three frosts but then rates lifted to 55 kg DM/ha towards the end of the month.


The new grass paddock of Tabu has been grazed once with a light nip to encourage tillering and it’s still quite a way off re-grazing Morgan says.


“I hope to graze it once more before winter, but it hasn’t grown as much as I thought it would. The lesson learned is that it was sown too late – it probably should have gone in three weeks earlier.”


The herd has scanned at 71% in-calf at six weeks ‘with significant intervention with Cidrs which we would like to try and decrease the use of in the future,’ he adds.


Last season the Easton’s milked 1350 cows, this year they peak milked 1325 cows and dropped back to 1300 by mid December  to get rid of low producers in view of the payout predictions. Production for the season is back 2%.


Next season the Eastons will peak milk 1280 cows and will grow 18 ha of beet on the platform for either late lactation or winter grazing.


At this stage the aim is to dry off as late in May as possible, and the next big decision will be on dry cow therapy – whether to blanket treat with a long-acting product as per normal or treat strategically to save some money.