Planning for wintering systems on dairy farms in the South is a 12-month process, and not because winter is a year-round season there, DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley says.
''There's activity associated with managing your wintering that needs to occur year-round, whether it's planting fodder crops or setting paddocks for cultivation to return them back into pasture,'' Dr Dalley said.
She said once the crops were in the ground it was important to monitor them carefully for pests and weeds and to focus on maximising yield.
''You don't want to be investing money in your system and not have the best possible return,'' she said.
This was especially important at a time when there were restrictions being placed on the proportion of land that could be used for cropping.
In terms of managing run-off and water issues, Dr Dalley said it was important for farmers to identify critical source areas on their property ahead of planting.
This was important to do at this time, especially with crops like kale, so measures such as temporary fencing could be put in place.
She said planning and preparation was also ongoing, even for off-paddock systems where effluent and bedding material had to be disposed of in spring/summer after wintering.
Where properties had been impacted by a severe weather event, Dr Dalley said it was important to learn as much as possible from each of these incidents.
''For example, at the Southern Dairy Hub, we marked the areas on the property where the creeks got to during the last major weather event,'' she said.
''This will allow us to plan for future events.''
She said it was important to document information such as on-farm water flows at different times so the information could be captured and made available in the future.
''In situations where this is a high turnover of staff it can be a challenge to preserve and pass on important information.''
Another important area of planning was associated with managing cows through the autumn going into winter, as animals in better condition would need less feed.
''Off-paddock systems can give more control over animal condition because of the increased control with nutrition and this provides more confidence in working with them,'' Dr Dalley said.
She said cows dealt better with wet and cold when they were in better condition, so it was important to address this earlier in the winter.
Improving knowledge about the best approach to wintering for different locations and farm systems was an ongoing challenge.
''The industry has grown at a fast rate, especially in the South and a lot of practices had developed over time and not necessarily been documented,'' Dr Dalley said.
''Labour shortages across the region mean it is important for everyone in the farm team to understand the 'why' behind good wintering practices as many will quickly move into decision-making roles, sometimes without a lot of management experience.''
''Also people have finished their training and moved on to farms without necessarily having a huge amount of practical experience.''
This was another reason to ensure there were plans in place and that experiences had been well documented, she said.
There also needed to be reflection and analysis after each season.
''That's the time when your team can work out what they might do differently in the future and put in place action plans to achieve better outcomes,'' she said.
Central Rural Life