New Zealand dairies?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Up North, Dec 16, 2005.

  1. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    I'm new to Homesteading Today. I was just wondering if anybody here is a dairy farmer from New Zealand. My husband and I have been studying how they farm over there and are very interested. We currently are milking in an old outdated stancion barn. We are actively switching over to a grazing system. We want to build a parlor ASAP. As soon as a parlor is built we are going to go seasonal. I'd like to hear from anybody who has something to say on the subject.
     
  2. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Welcome to HT. I'm sure that somebody is going to jump in from NZ in here. But I'm also going to suggest that you visit the forums at http://familycow.proboards32.com/ There is a gal in there that is from NZ and she is a wealth of information. I think she can help you find some of the information your looking for. Just post your question and she'll jump in... very nice and happy to assist if she can.

    Good luck
    Jan
     

  3. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi there,
    What is it you would like to know? Although I no longer dairy in the commercial sense, I still milk cows (6 at present with a maximum of 10) and do it 12 months of the year with spring and autumn calvers. Feel free to ask away.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  4. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    In all of my reading on New Zealand dairies it seems to be very common for one person to be able to milk in a double ten or larger. I've talked to a lot of people in my area who say a double 8 is way to big to milk alone. One guy even said a double 4 is too big to milk alone. My biggest question is why can one person in New Zealand handle so many more cows than a person in Northern WI.
     
  5. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    Up North,



    Could be the work ethic too. Funny how you can get two different results, depending who is doing what because of their work ethic. I know of people who milk 4 at once by themselves, he is an older gentleman. He doesn't have a parlor, milks with a tie stall. He puts two on one side, two on the other and works his way down. But a double 4 is big. How many do you milk? A parlor with 2 on each side with a pit would be perfect for one person, and you would get the job done nicely. Personally I plan on eventually building a new barn someday, with a 4 cow parlor, with a pit. Setup so they come in, and go into the barn to their stall. Plan on building a 2 cow side by side parlor, no pit at this current barn. Would be right next to the milk house, door for each animal, with one exit. Head gate type thing so they can't move back and forth much, grain them while milking, and safe for me (rail to keep their legs from getting you). Tons of different ideas, but toooo big of a parlor also can involve more maintainence, and help.


    Jeff
     
  6. Jennifer L.

    Jennifer L. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A double four herringbone parlour is not too big for one person. I've milked in one for years by myself (8 units), and I don't have automatic take offs, either. When I was at Cornell lo these many years ago I remember hearing that if you were a good milker, they figured one person could handle a double five. There have been a lot of times I wished my parlour were a double five.

    Up North, you didn't say where you are from, but I caution you before you try seasonal milking that you get a promise, preferably in writing, that you can get back into your milk market when the cows start to freshen again. I was going to do this about five years ago. My milk inspector said, "no problem" and I went ahead and started grouping the cows up with their breedings so the majority of them would be coming in all at once in the spring. Well, there I was ready to start this and my milk inspector informed me that "he couldn't guarantee I'd get back into the milk plant" if I quit shipping milk. :flame: To this day I still have the cows grouped too close together and from this time of year until April or so I'm way down on milk. Be really careful before you commit to seasonal milking to get a firm commitment on the availability of your plant to take you back in in the spring.

    Good luck. I'd love to be able to dairy that way.

    Jennifer
     
  7. evermoor

    evermoor Well-Known Member

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    There are a ton of resources on the internet. http://grassfarmer.com has some inexpesive parlor pix. The Wisconsin center for dairy profitability has many articles too. Another great forum is at http://www.jersey.com.au/ There are many other grazing forums around. I used to milk in double 9, single 8, double 8, double 11, could keep up except for the d-11 (it lacked any ato's). Most of the parlors in NZ and Au are swing parlors so while one side is milking the other side is leaving or getting prepped, then the milkers "swing" to the other side. Also they do not get as much production per cow. In New Zealand some even are going once a day.Wisconsin has several graziers group to get practical info from too.
     
  8. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi Up North,
    I'm assuming that a double is what we call a herringbone - a central pit with the cows down either side standing on an angle. The number of cows down either side can be anything from 8 to 16, depending on the size of the shed. If each row held 8 cows we would call it an 8-aside herringbone. Is this correct?

    Smaller sheds (8-12) are rarer now with increasing heard sizes with 16 or 20 being the average and in the many cases, farmers have gone to rotorary sheds.
    However, it is quite possible for one person to operate a 16 aside cowshed and I used to milk 150 cows through a 12-aside on my own without the benefit of cup removers.

    The secret is rhythm and routine and to allow the cows to get into their own routine as well - nearly every cow in the herd would have her own particular place in a particular row. As Evermoor has said, we practice a "swing" routine - while one row is milking, the next row is being washed and as the milking row finishes the cups are transferred to the other side, the milked row is let out, new cows come in and the process is repeated.

    I'm not too sure about not getting as much production per cow and it is something I'm going to have to research (when I have time :( ) It is quite possible though as we don't tend to breed such large cows and are therefore able to run more per acre. So while the production per cow may be down, the production per acre is probably on a par or even higher. Also we don't house the cows over the winter months so a large cow using precious resources to keep herself going is not desirable. It has little bearing on the ability of one person to run a shed and in fact cows producing more would give that person a little more time to prepare the next row as they would presumeably be taking longer to milk out.

    Evermoor, while I wouldn't personally do it, trials and studies have proven that over the course of a season, once a day milking will produce the same amount of milk as twice a day. It should also be noted that once a day milking doesn't come in until after the herd has peaked for the season some three to four months after calving. Up until that time they are milked twice a day. With the costs incurred in running a shed twice a day, it would make economic sense to revert to once a day if the overall production was to remain the same.

    Does that help answer your question Up North.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  9. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    About a year or so ago I was at dairy in Western TN which had closed about a year earlier - not because of milk prices, but mostly the problem in trying to keep dependable labor. Owner was just work out having to do it mostly by himself most of the time.

    It was a fairly small bulding with a milk tank room in front, separated by a door to two sided elevated ramps with the walkway in between. Held four cows at one time. Somewhat vague on details now. As I recall, guy said he tried to alternate each side with a light milker followed by a heavy milker. Grain was in an attic overhead with manually operated chutes to drop feed into a trough. If I have this right, to start two cows would come in at once, light milker first. Each would be given an eyeball amount of feed. The light milkers would finish first and be turned out. The partition between them would be pulled back and the heavy milker let foreward for additional feed (perhaps still attached to the cups). Then a light milker would follow. When they were done, both were let out and the process started again. Basically a cycle of two light milkers with one heavy one. If two light milkers, or two heavy milkers came in at once, he would just keep them in the same place and adjust feed dropping accordingly.

    If they recorded the amount of milk per cow per milking I don't remember him mentioning it.

    Each cow was named and had a separate tag in the milk tank room which was turned over when she had been milked. That way they could ensure all the herd had been milked.

    They ran 50% Jersey (for the butter fat) and 50% Holstein (for volume). Heifers were AI bred to an Angus bull. Next AI was to a bull producing high milking cows. Crossed calves went somewhere. Purebred heifers were raised by nurse cow, perhaps one with a bad quarter and often several calves on her at once. The purebred bull calves went somewhere.

    One of his biggest compliants was having to milk to the milk truck schedule, which was something like 0600, meaning milking had to start at about 0400. He said it would have almost been worth his time to haul the milk himself to allow something like 7AM and 7PM milkings.

    Fairly typical story of a dairy farm only lasting three generations. Started by grandfather, developed by father and eventually closed by grandchild.

    We were on two dairy farms in SE WI in the early 50s. I remember the cows being in stancions on each side of the center aisleway. Mom would milk one side and Dad the other. With about an equal number of cows Mom would finish way ahead of Dad. Asked about this years later she said when she went up to a cow, before milking, she would talk to it, scratch the shoulders a bit and then start milking. Dad just wanted to plug in and get it over with. Apparently the cows willingly let down their milk for Mom.
     
  10. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Jennifer L. we have kept it in mind about our milk processor. We haven't made any steps tword getting any commitments though. First thing we need to do is get a parlor built. I know our milk hauler would be tickled pink not to have to haul milk in the dead of winter. We get LOTS of snow and our driveway is always blowing in with snow. I'm on the south shore of Lake Superior.

    Once we get a parlor built I plan on switching to seasonal ASAP. Our grass starts growing good May 1st. So we will plan our breeding around that. I'd say we are already close to be seasonal without trying to much. Out of necessity we had to quit breeding heifers to freshen in the winter. Too hard to keep them alive in our barn. The Holsteins have to hard of a time learning how to get up and down and ruin themselves. With the heifers getting alot more edema than an old cow we have to watch for frozen teats too. We try and let our cows outside as much as possible-weather permitting. Winters have always been very lean for us.

    I'd like to add my two cents worth on production per cow. I quit ranking cows by that criteria. I like to look at the overall picture. Do they breed back quickly, longevity, are they aggressive grazers, do they stay healthy with little intervention, temperment. An average cow that stays around for at least 10 years is going to make me alot more than a record breaker only around for a couple of years. Probably with a lot less grief and worry too.
     
  11. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    The leading advocate of New Zealand style dairying has been Allan Nation at Stockman Grass Farmer magazine. They have had had quite a few articles on it over the past 15 or so years, and sometimes have a national conference just on grass-based dairying. Check out their book store for titles which may be of interest to you.

    Also see the thread on the apprenticeship opportunity in NJ. They turn 100 pounds of milk into a gross of some $250 by making cheese (and using byproducts).

    Run the numbers. Say you milked 20 cows nine months and got say 6,000 pounds of milk from them (as the people in NJ do). 600 x $15 (whatever raw milk is selling for) equals a gross of $9,000. 600 x $250 is a gross of $150,000. They use natural dual purpose cows (no Holsteins) and only milk once a day. Making cheese sort of takes the place of a second milking.

    From what I gathered from the Stockman Grass Farmer article, they have had zero success in converting traditional dairy farmers into seasonal, grass-based dairy farmers. Once they see how much more money they are netting out they immediately want to up production by using supplemental feeding again. Thus, what they real want to someone with virtually no experience in conventional dairying with an open mind. They might not even accept a conventional dairy farmer as an apprentice based on their past experiences with them.

    To emphasize a point, they feed ZERO grains and such. Cows calve out in a thicket. Only time they are under shelter is in the milking parlor. Thus, no real amount of manure to haul and spread - cows do it mostly on their own.

    The have basically taught themselves how to make grass-based cheese. They noted garlic in milk in objectional. When in cheese, after aging, it gives it almost a chocolate flavor.

    Their real business is their grass-based cheese. Dairy is more or less a supporting element of it.

    They milk from sometime in March to before Thanksgiving. After that, no milking, no cheese making. Only care of cows is to provide hay.

    PM me your snail mail address and I'll send you a copy of the article.

    Ken Scharabok
     
  12. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Thanks Ken, I have already read the article and checked out their website. The Stockman Grassfarmer is what got me started down this path. This publication has totally validated some of my ideas on farming. I was always open to new and different ways of approaching farming but would always get shot down by peoples conventional views. I bought my first herd of cows when I was 19 and went into a partnership with my dad. Like I was going to tell him how to farm! I dropped out of a partnership with my dad when I got married. My husband had these same conventional views. We tried farming like everone said we should. High input everything! We finally figured out it just doesn't fit our style. Somehow we got a sample copy of the SGF and it was like a lightbulb went off when we read it. We have been reading like crazy ever since. Bought a bunch of their books. Have been working on developing a paddock system and extending the grazing season (planted turnips and oats for our cows to graze in Nov.). Sold all of our silage equipment (too expensive to maintain). What little we have done we have seen huge results and we can see how much more is possible. Let me add too we are selling our entire Holstein herd this spring. THEY ARE NOT MADE FOR GRAZING! The Aryshires and Holstein crosses work great but the purebred HUGE holstiens just don't work.
    My husband and I are open to the possibility of starting our own farmstead cheese business. The people in my area are very accustomed to buying fresh food from the farm. There are a lot of fruit orchards and organic vegtable growers. Nobody selling high quality milk products though. I don't want to put the horse in front of the cart though. There are other things to get in place first.
    Sorry I get carried away when I write. Not to many people around to bounce ideas off of that have a clue what I am talking about.
     
  13. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Ronney, I would like to hear more on how things are done in New Zealand. Are most farms seasonal? What kind of crops are fed to the cows or planted? Where is your milk shipped? What do you do with your 10 cows that you have now? What's the weather like? I know the weather is totally different from where I live but it's still interesting to hear about. Thanks.
     
  14. Valmai

    Valmai Well-Known Member

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    Up North Hi, Im not Ronney but Ive worked on dairy farms for many years. One important thing you need to keep in mind is that we do not have subsidies in NZ, so for us the emphasis is on being cost effective eg. production vs costs. For farmers in the States and UE it appears to be important to produce volume to reap the rewards of subsidies etc.
    Currently dairy farms are divided into two groups, country supply and town supply. Country supply farms are seasonal. Calving starts usually 1st August, begining of spring, the majority of calves arriving by end of September. Cows are mated around November. They are milked for 10 months, depending on weather, body condition etc, then dried off. Some farms have their own runoff blocks, others send their cows for off farm grazing for 2 months ( around the 1st June you have to be alert when driving on country roads over here, thats when the cows pack their bags and head off for their winter holidays) they come back just before calving. Country supply milk is used to make value added products eg. cheese, and/or exported.
    Town supply is what it sounds like, the milk is put into those enviromentally UNfriendly plastic cartons and popped on the supermarket shelves for us. They have split calving usually August and Feb/March. They milk all year round, the people that is not the cows. ;)

    Weather??? :shrug: Gosh..... how do I answer that one? :shrug: Im pretty sure Ronney is in the North Island so I'll let her tell you about that. Im in Canterbury (middle of the South Island) which is, with apologies to the Waikato, the major dairy area of NZ. We have a maritime climate. Climate change is very obvious over here, but generally speaking.....Winter is when we get most of our rain and snow, where I am we have snow on the ground for one day in winter about every 3 or 4 years (although the alps and ski fields are about 40 mins drive west from me, 20 mins east is the beach) . Minus 10 deg frost is extreme for us. Average winter mid day temp would be 9 to 15 deg. This is all celcius not farenhiet. Average summer mid day temp would be from 26 to 32 deg with 40 deg not unusual.

    BTW Im currently milking 1280 cows (not my own of course) twice a day. We have three people, one to do cups on, one to do cups off and one to bring the cows in. At peak season it takes about 4 hours in the am and 3hrs in the pm, including washing up. So you can appreciate my amazement when people here say a four a side palour is too much for one person!!
     
  15. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi UN,
    Valmai has answered some of your questions and I shall add to it and no doubt confuse you totally :)

    As to my own venture, I have a love of cows and a love of pigs. I'm in the very happy position of not having to rely on the farm for an income (in fact it is used as a tax write-off against my husbands business) and can therefore putter around and do what I want. Basically I milk the cows to feed the pigs. As mentioned earlier, I calve twice a year in the spring and again in the autumn which guarantees me year round feed for the pigs. I live in an area of the country called the Far North - high rainfall, warm and humid, maybe 6 mild frosts during the winter and the grass never stops growing although it does slow down over the winter months and hay is supplementary fed. We are also surrounded by sea and have excellent fishing :)

    All beef, dairy and sheep are grasslands - i.e no barning of animals over the winter months. While areas of the country do suffer freezing temperatures, it is of short duration. Grain feeding or feed lots are pretty much unheard of.

    Anything I can tell you about dairying will be general rather than specific as each farmer has his/her way of doing things i.e. some buy in hay, others make it off their own farm.

    We are basically seasonal with farms close to town and cities being town supply. This means that they milk 365 days of the year with autumn and spring calvers to supply the milk for the domestic market. The milk from seasonal farmers is destined for the overseas market in the shape of milk powder, cheese, butter, casien etc.

    The official start to the new season is the 1st June and at that time of the year the main roads are cluttered with stock trucks moving sharemilkers and their herds to new locations. Calving however doesn't get underway until the beginning of August and with a view to being finished by the end of September. AI will begin in October and the bull will be put out at the end of November to clean up anything that was missed. Which brings me to another point that has become a big bone of contention in this country and that is the inducement of calves. Because of economic constraints empty cows that would have once been carried over are now left with the bull past the optimum time for calving. To keep them within the time frame the vet is called out to induce them. This produces a calf that will often not live but brings the cow into milk. The vets hate it and I've yet to meet one that agrees with the practice; some refuse to do it. However, the greedy farmer is sometimes hoist by his own petard as the cow will often not come back into season when she should and will be empty the following year. There are strong moves afoot to make the practice illegal.

    Crops are grown by many farmers to supplement feed both during summer and winter. Turnips, swede, brassicas, sudacs and feed maize are among the favourites. These are break-fed with electric tape and fed in conjunction with an adjoining paddock of grass. Lucerne is also grown - cut for hay, fed off to the cows, allowed to come away and cut for hay again and fed off to the cows. A good paddock of lucerne will give three cuts of hay in a season and is the best hay available in terms of nutrional value. Unfortunately, it is expensive to sow and has a life span of three years, four years maximum.

    While many farmers winter-over their herd on their own farm there is a growing trend to lease graze blocks of land and winter-over on those leaving their own farms to recover. Those that winter-over on their own farms have a couple of paddocks put aside for the herd and these are called "sacrifice" paddocks. The herd is kept in them and fed out in them until calving at which time they are pulled out and taken to clean pasture, usually close to the milking shed. Those that lease graze over the winter pay in the region of $12-$15 per week per head and for that money the grazier rotationally moves the herd and provides supplementary feed. It's on an all care and no responsibility basis.

    Once the herd is up and milking, they are rotationally grazed with a 10-14 day time span before they come back to paddock no 1. There are usually two sets of paddock - day paddock and night paddocks. Night paddocks are usually those within a close proximaty of the cowshed for ease of bringing in the herd for morning milking, the day paddocks are those furthest away.

    I am aware that I have only covered a small fraction of farming in NZ but I have to be honest and admit that at nearly 12.30am my eyes are hanging out and the brain isn't at it's best. But by all mean feel free to ask questions or clarification on what has already been said and pick the brains on what hasn't been said. I applaud you on wanting to try something new although I feel that you are going to have to compromise a little because of climatic differences but that's ok too.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  16. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    What was it Churchills said about the U.S. and Britian - two countries separately only by a common language? Is Lucerne what we would call alfalfa?

    I have heard of salt being spread on pastures in NZ. Why?
     
  17. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi Ken,
    Yes, Churchill did say something along those lines - a man I would like to do more research on. Clever and incredibly witty.

    I meant to do some research on the alfalfa but forgot :p However, no I don't think they are the same thing but are similar in terms of nutritional value.

    I don't know why we would spread salt on pature either! Unless they do it further south to help melt the snow to allow stock to get at grass but even that seems a bit far fetched. What I have done in the past in spread salt on hay that has been baled before it was ready so is wet. This absorbs the excess moisture and the cows love it when it comes time to feeding out.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  18. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Lucerne is then perhaps what we could call a clover. Haven't been able to find a British English/American English translation though.

    My understanding is in NJ salt is considered a trace element and the belief is pastures need salt for the forages just as humans do in their diet. Vaughn Jones has written somewhat extensively about it in the past in The Stockman Grass Farmer. Essentially you have a soil sample done. One then looks for at the sodium level. Last time I had it done on my fields it was 41 ppm, which was indicated on the soil test as low.

    I somewhat suspect it would make a difference between crops and pasture as animal manure would add sodium to the soil.
     
  19. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    I looked up Lucerne in the dictionary on my computer and it said it was another name for alfalfa.
     
  20. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Cheers Up North. I had the idea they were different plants but apparently not.

    Ken, salt is a trace element and in most cases NZ soils have sufficient occuring naturally to supplement most stock requirements. Which leads on to something else. Up here in the Far North we rely very heavily on a South African grasss called Kykuyu and it's debateable as to whether we could farm without it. It is a twitching type grass, deep rooted, requires little moisture and will grow when everything else has burnt off. It doesn't have the ability to take up sodium from the soil and most farmers provide salt licks for their stock. It's interesting to see that during the cooler weather when the Kykuyu has died back and the clovers, rye etc are coming through, that the stock will hardly touch the salt licks. Once we're into high summer and Kykuyu is the only grass on offer, the stock all but eat the salt licks.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie