Cows are being milked and research is ongoing at the Southern Dairy Hub, writes Nicole Sharp.

Five and a-half months since it was opened in June, farm life is in full swing on the 349ha, 700 cow research farm.

At the hub's first field day, held earlier this month, business manager Guy Michaels said life had been busy for everyone on farm since it was opened.

"It's been a hell of a start (and) full on for the first five and a-half months," Mr Michaels said.


Research had begun on day one, June 1, with blood tests being taken, along with numerous other things, he said.

There had been many challenges the farm team had to deal with in the initial months, which included 80% of the farm being in new grass.

"We were very concerned we were going to do some damage."

But the farm team had done well in managing the pasture, Mr Michaels said.

As for the cows at the Southern Dairy Hub, two thirds of the herd had come from the North Island and had never been on winter crop before.

As soon as they had arrived at the dairy hub they were off the truck and the transition on to winter feed started, Mr Michaels said.

"There was a few transition pressures there. (We) managed to get through without many hiccups."

On top of most of the cows coming from the North Island, 54% of the herd were second or third-year calvers, which has had a bit of impact on production, Mr Michaels said.


The mid-July calving was also another challenge the team had faced, with Mr Michaels not recommending it to others.

"We got through it."

Despite the good spring the hub and wider Southland region experienced, the farm team learnt the bottom terrace of the hub was very wet and most of the cows down there developed "webbed feet", Mr Michaels said.

Looking to the future, aeration was going to be an important tool used on the Southern Dairy Hub.

At present, the farm was on track to produce 151,000kg of milk solids by the end of December, with about 300,000kg being the target for the season, Mr Michaels said.

"As to how the farm is travelling ... this is a base line year for the dairy hub."

At present the cows were split into four mobs, with each herd being the same as the other in relation to age, breeding worth (BW), production and others, as well as grazing on the same soil types, with similar walking distances to the milking shed and all four mobs treated like as individual farmlets.

The hub was trying to treat every individual cow the same, he said.

The key at present had been working out the balance between normal farming practices and research, and the entire team was looking forward to seeing the progressions, Mr Michaels said.

At the moment, the hub was in the process of planning future field days and was interested in finding out what farmers wanted to learn about at field days.

Farmers could offer their feedback by contacting the hub via the website.