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Productive system offers profit and reliability

David van Bysterveldt and his daughter Melanie.

Productive system offers profit and reliability

2004/05 Season

Owners: David van Bysterveldt and Regina Rodewald
Farm location: Morrinsville
Farm size: 128 hectares
Herd size: 770 cows

Increasing farm profitability as well as reducing variation due to the impact of climate has influenced the farming system developed by David van Bysterveldt and Regina Rodewald. When David and Regina purchased their farm on the flat to rolling peat country near Morrinsville at the end of the 2001/02 season it was producing 1,055 kilograms of milksolids per hectare. In just two seasons, they have lifted production by more than 250% producing a staggering 2,656 kilograms of milksolids per hectare in 2003/04. This season (2005/06) they are on track to produce 2,813 kilograms of milksolids per hectare.

A staff of four fulltime employees including farm manager Riemer Loonstra milk 770 Friesian cows from the 15th July through until the last Tatua Dairy Co-operative tanker pick-up on the 31st May. Cows peak at an average of 2.3 kilograms of milksolids per day and produce 468 kilograms of milksolids during the course of the lactation.

To sustain the high stocking rate of six cows per hectare, two tonnes of maize silage drymatter per cow is purchased in each autumn. The hybrid of choice is Pioneer® brand 34K77 which produces top quality maize silage with plenty of grain. "We like maize silage because we can stack 1,600 tonnes of drymatter in just two days. It is easy on people and machinery to feed-out and is of a consistently high quality and provides a good balance with pasture" says David. The stocking rate is also supported with pasture silage and palm kernel which are fed out to provide additional protein especially when pasture protein is low or the cows are receiving large amounts of supplements.

Each day starts at 1:00am when a battery operated automatic gate releases, letting the cows out of their night paddock to wander down to the feed pad. By the time milking starts at 4:00am, the cows have already consumed their morning supplementary feed allowance and are standing near the shed ready to be milked.

Historically an advocate of all-grass farming, David's main reason for changing to his current system was to achieve a higher profit. The new system has paid dividends with an EFS for the 2003/04 season of more than $3,800 per hectare. "A lot of people say there is no money in intensive systems," says David. "Our system is profitable because we ensure that feed is sourced at the right price, used at the right time and we work hard to minimise feed losses." All of the maize silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand 1132 and the large silage stacks are well compacted, covered and sealed.

Maximising pasture quantity and quality is another key to the systems profitability. "When you are all-grass farming, you have to often compromise between what is best for the cow and what is best for the pasture. There is a better way... " says David. With maize silage on-hand year round and a feed pad to feed it on, pasture residuals are kept between 1,800 -1,900 kilograms of drymatter and overgrazing is avoided. The feed-out pad doubles as a stand-off area in wet weather eliminating pasture pugging. The net effect is that the farm grows more grass.

High producing, high genetic merit dairy cows produce milk at the expense of body condition and this can reduce reproductive performance. Maize silage helps to get the cows into good condition pre-calving. It also raises the drymatter percentage of the diet, allowing the cows to eat more, resulting in less pre-mating weight loss. These factors together assist in achieving an empty rate of just 5%. Cull cows are milked until 25th May and sold in good condition for a premium price.

"We like the predictability of this system," says David. "You can sit down at the beginning of the season and work out what you are going to produce without being dependent on the weather and if you do the job properly, higher input systems continue to make money regardless of fluctuations in the milk payout."