The Lincoln University Dairy Farm is focusing on reducing costs.

Speaking at last Thursday's summer focus day, South Island Dairying Development Centre (SIDDC) co-ordinator Jeremy Savage said he believed the farm could get its production costs down to $3.80 per kilogram of milk solids, which would make it more sustainable long term.

''We have been working to get the expenses down below $4 kg/ms. This season we are tracking at $4.40-plus [per kg/ms], but our cost structures are not in a good place and we need to do better if we want to be resilient.''

Savage said the farm planned to do its annual financial comparisons with other top-performing Canterbury farmers at the end of April, ahead of the autumn focus day in May, rather than in the winter as in previous years, to be of more benefit to farmers.


He said the farm's management was facing an added challenge this year, as the university had taken over the recording of the farm's finances and was using the calendar year as its financial year, which did not work in well with the farming calendar.

Farm manager Peter Hancox said the farm was tracking well this season and was on target to produce around 500 kg/ms per cow for the season, with 556 cows milking at peak, and the irrigator had been turned on for only 35 days so far, compared with 60 days at the same time last year.

He said the farm's management had opted to go through mating without using bulls, with mixed success.

''It was quite a challenge with the yearling heifers, which were in Ashburton, so going down each day wasn't an option.

''There was a lot of rain before Christmas so it was quite a challenge and the days we went down it was raining, so it didn't go well.''

After four rounds of intensive artificial insemination there was a ''28 per cent empty rate'' among the heifers.

He said they began artificially inseminating the main herd a week earlier than usual, producing a six-week in-calf rate of 71 per cent, a significant improvement on the 63 per cent it achieved three years ago.

After 10 weeks there was still a 16 per cent empty rate, which was ''not too bad considering the results we have been hearing from other farmers, but we would have liked to get it better than that''.

- Jeremy Savage, a farm consultant with Macfarlane Rural Business, has been appointed SIDDC co-ordinator on an interim basis while the organisation reviews its structure, following the departure of executive director Ron Pellow last year.