Young Dairy Network NZ Tour

cow grazing

Sam Flight, TIA Dairy Centre

I recently travelled to New Zealand as part of the Young Dairy Network (YDN) tour, along with 27 young Australian dairy farmers and the YDN co-ordinators from Tasmania and New South Wales. The trip visited eight farming enterprises across f New Zealand as well as to research institutes and other dairy hubs, such as, Massey University and the Owl Farm (an initiative between St Peter’s Cambridge and Lincoln University).

To me, the stand-out characteristics that were evident across all the farms visited was

  1. Each manager had a good understanding of their business and the key profit drivers of that particular business as well as a good understanding of the system they operated.
  2. Regardless of the type of system used on each farm, each manager understood the importance of pasture consumption and all farmers visited had a strong focus on grazing management.

Grazing management is recognised as one of the key drivers of profitability. Below are some of the observations, made by the farmers we visited, regarding what they do to achieve high pasture consumption:

  • Have a plan, measure, monitor and forecast ahead.
  • Pasture growth rates and pasture covers continually change and that’s why we need to monitor and react.
  • Spring rotation planners can help with planning and ensure you don’t speed up your rotation too quickly ahead of breakeven day. The planner allows you to plan your feed requirements during a time when herd numbers are constantly changing.
  • The rotation planner gives the grazing area required on a daily basis and keeps the area allocated in line with the rotation length. This is a very useful tool for allocating the correct amount of feed from both pasture and supplements.
  • Maintain a strong focus on pasture management. Use it or lose it! High pasture utilisation and production all pivots around a well selected calving date and  setting up cows for peak production at calving by feeding cows well to produce once calved.
  • Good cow reproductive performance and animal health KPI’s are key, keep records.
  • Achieving high pasture utilisation is key to driving profitability, so work out what you are growing and utilising on your own farm, work to improve this. A pasture consumption calculator is available on the TIA Dairy Centre website.
  • Good pasture management = getting the principles right. Eating to residuals of 1400-1500 kg DM/ha and grazing at the 3 leaf stage (or canopy closure if this is occurring earlier).

Like Tasmania, New Zealand has a range of farming systems. We visited a number of differing systems, all of which were profitable and this highlighted that it is management ability that is most important for profitability, rather than the type of system being managed. The key points made by farmers we visited relating to farm profitability were:

  • Any system can work with good management. Develop a system that works for you and do it well. To minimise missed opportunities, know your business and who you are as a farmer.
  • Have a profit not production mentality. Focus on achieving high Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) per hectare.
  • Know the KPI’s for your system and individual farm and focus on these.
  • Financial literacy is the first skill all farmers should have. Knowing your financial situation can help you make better decisions around costs and allows forward planning such as locking in contracts for grain, as an example.
  • Set goals, plan, measure, review and repeat – setting goals on paper will help hold yourself accountable and if you don’t achieve the goals you’ll be able to go back and work out reasons why and from this set new goals.
  • Utilise best practice, adopt practice change which is successfully based on research and science – a lot of work is being conducted in the research and extension space, embrace this and use it to your advantage. There is always something else to learn.
  • Involve good people in your system. Using a good adviser or having someone you can bounce ideas off will create a healthy business and a better managed system.

Thank you to DairyTas for organising this tour. If you would like to know more about Young Dairy Network – Tasmania, contact Jacki Hine on jhine@dairyaustralia.com.au or 0429 698 168.

Published on: 21 Aug 2017 4:28pm