A very wet July to mid August has made the second half of winter and start of calving quite difficult on the Demonstration farm and other farms in the district, with quite soggy soil conditions.
Pasture growth has been reasonable and it has been ideal conditions for the current trial evaluating the benefits of a covered winter shelter pad.
After having low rainfall in June there were many days and 341mm of rain in July followed by 170mm for the first 11 days of August and it is continuing.
Temperatures have been average or above, especially minimum and soil temperatures so pasture growth for July was above average at 10kg DM/ha/day. The soils are very wet with lots of pasture pugging and difficulty getting planned nitrogen fertiliser applications done.
For this winter and the next three or four years the Stratford Demonstration farm is operating a wintering pad trial.
This is a two-herd trial with both herds equal in stock numbers and having equal feed inputs while one herd is using the covered stand-off feed pad every night over the winter and calving and will do as milkers during very wet conditions while the control herd has been on standard paddock wintering.
The winter pad herd has been fed the same grass area as the control herd on-off grazing and getting their supplements fed on the pad.
The aim is to assess the pasture pugging, pasture growth, supplementary feed use, milk production, stock health and calculated environmental effects of the covered pad wintering along with any other issues.
Calving is well underway and has reached halfway in just over two weeks. The herd was split and trial started in early June with both farmlets wintering 3.4 Jersey cow/ha on a 130 day rotation.
After eight weeks of wintering at the start of calving the winter pad herd had gained 7kg more liveweight and 0.2 of a condition score on the control herd plus had a 60kg DM/ha better pasture cover after starting off all equal at the start of June which suggest better feed use.
The winter pad herd also only has about 7 per cent of the farmlet needing rolling while the control herd has 22 per cent with more likely to come.
Current mid August average pasture cover is around 2050kg DM/ha, less than desirable but adequate. Cow condition was reasonably good but the cows do not look that well now. Silage and hay levels are sufficient for calving cows and 110kg PKE/cow is on hand for early milkers to late September.
The milkers have started on around 45 to 50m²/cow/day as per the spring rotation plan to achieve the six week first round target.
Urea applications have started with 25 per cent of the farm getting 70kg/ha a little late at the start of August but the planned 100kg/ha from early August onwards on the rest of the farm has been difficult to get applied with the very wet conditions.