The Lincoln University Dairy Farm is sticking with grass this winter, as it looks to prepare its cows for next season's calving.

The farm trialled fodder beet last winter, but farm manager Peter Hancox told farmers at the autumn focus day on May 3 that grass, supplemented by grass silage, was the preferred option.

''We're not saying fodder beet is a bad winter feed option, it's just that we've got other winter feed options,'' he said.

''Many people are doing well with fodder beet and we could do it well with fodder beet and we can do it well with other options. The best thing is to focus on your targets and use what you've got available.''

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The challenging season with periods of high rainfall had led to several cows being culled or dried off into winter grazing earlier than normal. Just 496 cows were still in milk at the end of April, compared to 530 cows at the same time last year.

Mr Hancox said the remaining cows would be dried off by May 24 and trucks had been booked for May 28 to transport the cows to their winter grazing.

The cows would continue to be checked routinely while away grazing, especially during the first few days.

He said the farm planned to winter 555 cows, including first-time calvers, with the intention of having 545 cows available to milk next season.

This was less than the original target of 560 cows in milk and would give the farm a stocking rate of 3.4 cows/ha for next season.

The herd will be wintered in four mobs, including 134 rising 2-year-old heifers being fed 12kg of dry matter per cow/day, 140 light-condition score cows being fed 16kgDM/cow/day, 200 medium condition score cows being fed 14kgDM/cow/day and 80 to 100 high-condition score cows and late calvers being offered 10kgDM/cow/day.

The focus was on ensuring the lighter-condition score cows could improve their condition to meet their target by calving, while ensuring cows did not exceed their target condition score.

He said he planned to finish the season with an average pasture cover of 1900kg of dry matter/ha on the milking platform, lower than last season's.

''This is anticipating similar winter growth as in recent years and acknowledges the amount of growth on the farm in a more active winter. The target average pasture cover at the end of July remains at 2600kgDM/ha and requires an average daily growth rate over the winter of 11.5kgDM/ha.''

-By David Hill

Central Rural Life