In a repeat of comments for the past six months, wet weather has made for quite challenging conditions on the demonstration farm over the past month.
However, despite being ideal conditions for the current trial evaluating the benefits of a covered winter shelter pad we are not seeing much difference in the milk vat so far between the herds although we are in cow weights and condition.
Total rainfall for the past three months has been over 1000mm and are near average yearly total 2050 rainfall with two and a half months still to go. September temperatures and sunshine levels were average as was the 50kg DM/ha/day pasture growth allowing for nitrogen fertiliser use.
However, pasture covers have been relatively low and this continues with current covers equal to the lowest for the past 30 years on the farm for mid October.
Currently the Stratford demonstration farm is operating a wintering pad use trial. This is a two herd trial with both herds equal in stock numbers and having equal feed inputs while one herd has used the covered stand-off feed pad every night over the winter and calving and as milkers during very wet conditions while the control herd has been on standard paddock wintering.
The aim of the trial is to assess the pasture pugging, pasture growth, supplementary feed utilisation, milk production, stock health and calculated environmental effects of the covered pad wintering along with any other issues that may arise along with the economics.
Calving on the farm generally went well with a good general calving rate although the last one has just calved a week before mating starts.
The planned 100kg PKE/cow spring milkers supplement lasted to early October but with pasture covers being 200kg DM/ha behind target and some cows light in condition some extra PKE has been purchased and is still being fed through October rather than the all grass feeding planned.
The milkers are currently on the standard 25 day rotation and will hold to this until hopefully they have some surplus grass to take silage paddocks out.
After starting in June with equal pasture cover along with cow weight and condition, the winter pad herd was significantly better in weight and condition score at calving and this has continued through to late September plus have generally had a better pasture cover than the control herd showing quite a significant benefit to using the covered pad.
However, milk production is only showing a small advantage to the winter pad group with both herds milking reasonably well for the conditions and are currently around 1.7kg ms/cow/day and 5.5kg ms/ha/day with 2kg PKE/cow/day being fed.
The main concerns now are the effect of the wet conditions on mating and getting surplus grass to harvest.