Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Lucerne romps home

The establishment of lucerne on Kanuka Downs, the Zino family’s 314ha hill block, has been a great success. They have been growing the forage to provide high-quality feed for early fawning hinds, but the quantity of feed they are producing on the lucerne blocks has enabled them to stock these paddocks at 9-15/ha. On grass the stocking rate was just 2-3/ha. David Stevens, from AgResearch, says the more you have and the more you feed it, the better the system becomes: “It gives you a lot of power.”

As well as providing feed for hinds and calves, the lucerne is used for making silage for the self-feeding silage pits upon which the hinds winter.

Instead of sowing entire paddocks with lucerne, the Zinos have left grass in gullies to provide valuable roughage in the diet of the breeding hinds. “It doesn’t need to be wall-to-wall lucerne.”

The Zinos will also over-sow grass into wet patches where the lucerne has died off in its first year after establishment.

After wintering on two silage pits, the hinds are run on to grass in spring and set-stocked for calving. This year foetal aging enabled Sam to identify the early fawning hinds, allowing these animals to start on their 40 lucerne rotation on December 10 – a month ahead of normal.

Before being grazed the lucerne is cut and made into silage early in November. Sam says they are able to graze the lucerne right through until May or early in June, after which it is spelled for the winter.

Fawn growth rates between birth and mid-February have been pleasing at 450-500g/day, so they are on track to be at the target weight of 60kg at weaning on March 1.

Feed budget indicates surplus

The self-feeding silage stacks are ideal for wintering hinds as the farm’s clay downs are unsuitable for wintering stock, particularly when trying to feed out with silage wagons.

By early in February Sam had two silage pits ready to go. One has around 300t of lucerne and pasture mixed and will be used to winter 300 hinds. The second pit of 200t of lucerne will winter 200 hinds.

Taking into account this silage and pasture on the run-off blocks, the feed budget on Kanuka Downs indicates a surplus. This can be carried through to the following year.

Sam admits it does cost them to make so much supplementary feed, but its costs more to renew pastures damaged by stock and machinery running over wet paddocks.

“There are huge benefits in taking stock off pasture over winter as the pasture bolts out of the ground in spring.”

With plenty of feed on hand, Sam is going into winter slightly under-stocked.

Feeling the heat?

Early in February the calves were growing at 450g/day, although this was taking its toll on one mob of hinds and around 20% were at a BCS of around 2.

Extremely hot weather was thought to be a factor in the loss of condition in the hinds, as at the time of weighing the farm had been enduring successive days of 37deg C heat. These hinds had been on lucerne for 45 days and it was also suggested that there might not have been sufficient fibre in the feed.

Facilitator and farm consultant Wayne Allan aid he was surprised at how quickly well-fed hinds could lose condition at that time of the year.

While visually the Zino hinds look to be in good condition, David Stevens says if hind body condition can’t be maintained, the calves need to be weaned early.

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