Friday, 26 September 2014

Farm boundaries

Before we blundered into dairying 5 years ago, I had the idea it was basically about growing grass and selling milk, but right from the start we've been paying for grazing and extra feed.

Which is really a pain in the arse. Hay and baleage sellers don't want to contract ahead because they're always hoping the market will be tight. Graziers aim for high prices and modest feed regimes. Palm kernel (which we never use) looks like a horrible market for buyers. Large feed bills are bad enough but these extra hassle costs just suck all the fun out of it. 

We ended up taking on debt to buy our own support block in response. This pushes out the farm boundaries so we grow our own silage, hay and replacement grazing. On the Dairy NZ scale, we are transitioning from system 4 to system 1.

Now we're considering a similar move with replacement calves, using a modified version of the Madre method. The basic idea is to leave the selected calves with their mothers - they say for 10 months, but that seems a bit excessive to me. The Madre method avoids a lot of work and supplement costs (moozli etc), but more importantly it must give you better quality heifer calves. Over time, that improves the herd quality. 

These low-revenue seasons are a reminder that d-i-y has real value. At times like these, we all need to think carefully about the scope of operations. It might well be better to exit some markets entirely.

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