Friday, July 8, 2022

Mum’s the word

Looking after the hinds is key in the drive for profitability. Sandra Taylor reports. It’s all about Mum. Putting the focus on the hind in autumn will pay dividends in subsequent seasons. This is according to AgResearch’s David Stevens, who says looking after the hinds will affect the number of calves produced which is a major driver of profitability. Across the industry calf losses range from 2%-15% in mixed-age hinds and 5%-25% in first calving hinds. A 1% change in the number of calves produced equates to $225 of extra revenue for 100 hinds mated (50kg weaner at $4.50/kg LW).

Stevens says there are also indirect costs related to hinds in lighter condition such as later calving which results in a lower weaning weight.

Lighter hinds are also associated with higher calf losses which mean higher replacement rates, a higher proportion of young hinds in the herd, and potentially reduced calf weaning weights.

An R2 hind has a calving date around 17 days later than a mixed-age hind so has a calf that is potentially 5.3kg lighter at weaning.

Stevens points out that in autumn, deer farmers are faced with decisions about when to wean and the impact this decision will have on both the hind and offspring: “It’s a balancing act you have every weaning.”

Sam Zino drenches and tags the calves before weaning so that weaning itself is a relatively stress-free undertaking.

He says one of things he has learned in the Focus farm programme is the value of weaner growth rates over autumn.

“Kilograms in autumn are gold.”

Attaining good weaner growth rates over autumn means they are not so reliant on growth rates in spring to make up lost ground.

The calves are weaned and immediately trucked a few kilometres down the road to Flaxmere, the family’s finishing farm. Here they are run on lucerne or pasture before wintering on fodderbeet and rape.

Sam switches the weaners between crops every 50 days, a strategy he finds works well as it prevents the weaners getting tired of just one feed.

Key facts:

  • Deer Industry New Zealand Canterbury Focus Farm
  • Hawarden, North Canterbury
  • Sam and Mark Zino
  • Kanuka Downs 313ha hill block
  • Fencing nearly completed to make the deer 176ha – up from 90ha
  • Runs 720 breeding hinds and 150 breeding cows
  • Flaxmere 535ha (93ha irrigated) breeding ewes and dairy support includes 67ha deer finishing block. 

Production targets: 

  • Calving percentage in mixed-age hinds: 95% -up from 91%
  • Calving percentage in yearlings: 90% – up from 70%
  • Weaning weight: 63kg – up from 53%
  • Yearling kill weights: 60kg CW – up from 53kg CW.


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