I recently travelled to the Waikato region to look at some off paddock solutions and to discuss these with their owners and farm consultants from Dairy Production Systems Ltd. The following is a round up of my findings from the first farm visit.
Dairy Production Systems Ltd is a farm consultancy business specialising in dairy cow production, nutrition and herd management to optimise both farm performance and profit. They take a holistic approach to cow management to eliminate future problems from arising. They have clients spread throughout New Zealand with operations ranging in both size and level of inputs used. Craig Copland, owner of the Chertsey dairy barn, is a client of theirs and credits their input as a contributor to his success.
Our first stop was at the DPS offices to talk with them about where they see off paddock solutions fitting into the dairy landscape. Their philosophy and way of helping their clients is often through implementing very simple changes to the way the farms are managed. Their clients are achieving some impressive production and several have been finalists in the Dairy Business awards.
Our first farm visit was to a father and son team farming 290 Friesian cows. They can get very wet under foot and decided three years ago to build a compost barn. It features two areas for the cows to live divided by a central feed lane.
Each side of the barn, where the cows live, measures 60m x 18m with feed bins running down both the centre feed lane and outside wall of the barn, doubling the amount of space at the feed rail for the cows.
The two bedding areas in the barn feature a 2m concrete surround; this allows the cow’s easy access to the feed and manure can be scraped off as necessary. It also makes it easier for the cows to walk along each feed rail before selecting their spot to feed.
The farmers feed everything in the barn as no supplements are fed in the paddocks anymore. They have practically zero feed wastage because of this. Their main supplement is homegrown maize silage from which they can achieve 25t/hectare yields. The replaced cow bedding is recycled and spread on the maize paddocks once a year. They also produce 3-400 bales of baleage each year. Their business model does not include winter milking at this stage.
The barn bedding is wood shavings which are sourced locally. They put 500mm into their barn and grub it each day. It composts and felt warm when dug down into.
What the owners have achieved with their barn is impressive. The cows are much healthier and happier since the barn was built. They also use less fertiliser with their paddocks being much healthier with very little pugging or other damage. The per cow production is probably the most impressive, increasing from 380kg milk solids/cow, prior to the barn, to 550kg milk solids after, a staggering 44% increase!