Friday, July 8, 2022

Cows asked to work harder

Parengarenga Incorporation is developing its land in the Far North but expects a downturn in forestry revenue so is making adjustments to its farming operations to bring in more money. Hugh Stringleman visited to find out what they are doing. Paua Station Owner: Parengarenga Incorporation Where: Far North Area: 2754ha (2430ha effective) Cows: 832 Calving: 590 cows late winter-early spring Calving: 242 cows and heifers autumn Bulls: 600-950 finished annually Breed: Angus Angus cows form the foundation of Paua Station’s breeding cattle on a 2754ha (2430ha effective) Far North property. The Angus foundation is to be retained but asked to work harder to contribute to farm revenues. Parengarenga Incorporation, based at nearby Te Kao, owns Paua and neighbouring Te Rangi stations and has decided to tighten up the calving spread. A third of the Angus cows calve in autumn and the rest in spring.    

It will get most of the heifers to calve at two years old then rotationally graze mobs of cows and calves based on the sex of the calves.

In addition, Paua finishes 600 to 950 bulls annually to a target 310kg CW using summer-safe country on the flats alongside Parengarenga harbour and some summer cropping, this year sorghum.

That side of the Paua farm business is moving toward intensification as wetlands are fenced off, water systems built and fences erected.

Parengarenga Incorporation has three enterprises totalling more than 15,000ha, incorporating a lot of forestry.

Paua Station manager Josh Williamson addressing the recent field day on the Far North Maori incorporation property.

Cows calve over 12 weeks or four cycles from the end of July. They are set-stocked at one to 1.5 cows/ha for calving because of the extended calving, limited labour, cow temperament and big paddocks.

But while speaking at a field day tour stop on the very dry, sandy country west of SH1, Josh said set-stocked cows and calves could get “trapped” on such 40ha paddocks when summer pastures dried out early.

Historically, about 590 cows calve in the late winter, early spring and 242 cows and heifers calve in the autumn. The autumn calvers provide a clean-up mob during the summer and early autumn before calving starts towards the end of March.

Autumn-born calves are also significantly heavier at weaning in late December, about 260-270kg LW. Spring-born calves are weaned at about 180 days in mid-February and this year weights were 244kg LW average for the heifer calves and 251kg for the bull calves.

The cows weighed 568kg LW at weaning so their efficiency measure was calves weaning 44% of their cow liveweight.

The focus in future is on tightening up the calving spread with Josh moving to two cycles of mating for the spring calvers.

The empty rate was 16% this year, a good result considering the halving of the mating period. Last season the empty rate was 7% from three cycles.

Empty cows have the option of being run through and mated to calve in the autumn.

The goal is to mate the heaviest of the heifers to calve in the spring at two years of age and to eventually shift most of the heifers into this group.

“With a shorter mating period the intention is to calve a portion of the herd behind a wire and group into mobs based on the sex of the calves and then rotationally graze cows and calves,” Josh said.

He intends to begin with the first calvers then proceed to the other age groups.

Replacement heifers are selected and the bottom cut is marketed at the Houhora weaner fair.

Bulls are set-stocked from weaning and after the first winter they are drafted into groups of similar weights and set-stocked again at one to 1.5/ha and weighed every six weeks.

The male progeny from the breeding cows are retained for bull finishing and about 300 additional bull calves are bought from Te Rangi and other farms as required.

This year rising two-year Friesian bulls were bought in the spring and finished on crop to be marketed in the autumn.

On 17.3ha of sorghum 96 bulls at 15 months set-stocked at 5.5/ha grew at 1.9kg/head/day LW but they couldn’t keep on top of the growth so cows were used to clean up the crop.

On 42ha of pasja bulls were grazed and achieved 2.2 to 2.4kg/day LW gain while ewes and ewe lambs shared the paddock.

Summer flats

These cropping paddocks are down on the Paua Rd flats on a peninsula extending into the Parengarenga harbour.

The summer finishing land is described as peaty flats and until widespread drainage occurs the flats are too wet for extended periods of winter grazing.

The extensive bull finishing area on the hills to the north of Paua Rd and east of SH1 remains in 40ha average paddocks.

“This is potentially our most profitable country with the biggest scope for improvement,” Josh said.

Paua has fenced off 9ha of wetlands with Northland Regional Council help but lost access to natural cattle water except in emergencies.

Parengarenga Incorporation has approved further subdivision and water reticulation so bulls can be rotated round an intensive bull unit.

“If we get the simple things right it will show big rewards,” Josh said.

“When we intensify, this area will carry another 70 to 100 bulls and they can be all gone by Christmas.”

One or two of the trustees at the field day hastened to assure everyone that intensification didn’t mean pollution of the harbour, which is a sacred kaimoana ground.

Beef + Lamb NZ monitor farm facilitator Gareth Baynham also added his reassurance, saying that in his experience well-managed, well subdivided, intensive cattle farming is environmentally kinder than set-stocking.

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