Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Portable machines milk cows

Dushan’s dairy unit has 180 cows in milk at any one time but with considerable new pasture development, the number will rise.

Six simple open sheds are spread around the farm, using portable machines to milk the cows. Each shed has about 30 cows managed by a herd manager and an assistant.

During the visit Tim and the others were embroiled in discussions about where to site a new dairy shed for the farm. Staff wanted it next to the methane plant, but it wasn’t a central location. The efficiency of the plant was also questionable.

The best spot for the proposed 26-bay Herringbone shed was next to the silage pit which was in the centre of most of the developed land. The idea was that such a shed could milk 250-300 cows. A couple of smaller satellite sheds could be built capable of milking 30 cows for the land further away. These would be a good model for the smaller landowners.

The laneway through the farm has hard rocks because it is used as a road by locals. Lame cows are a problem and Tim Harvey suggested using crusher or coal dust to improve the surface.

Typical pasture development on Dushan involves using big heavy discs followed by power harrows, then the paddock is rolled and drilled. The soils are heavy clay with a considerable pan underneath, making development difficult. A lot of dynamite was used in the early days to remove the rock.

Some soils were low in pH, low in P and K, and high in aluminium. Soil tests are not well targeted and many services NZ farmers take for granted, such as soil tests, fertiliser advice, and basic veterinary services, are lacking in Guizhou.

Large-scale development for dairy lies at the top of the farm (900m asl). The farm has about 287ha of improved land, 180ha natural pasture, 200ha in trees and 300ha too steep or wasteland. The forestry is controlled by a ministry and cannot be cut down. The farm can only graze around the trees.

Dushan has 80 heifer replacements which are reared on the farm and by local farmers by contract. There is electric fencing but a lot of barbed wire is still used.

“The farm needs some good TLC and maintenance to bring it back to a good NZ model farm,” Tim says.

When the NZ farming systems were set up it was somewhat naively believed the rotational grazing system using electric fences would work. It didn’t really take off until 2009.

Sheep farming has been more difficult as in many parts of Guizhou, including Dushan, the hot sub-tropical weather does not suit the animals.

Bad hat

Farm plots can be quite small in Guizhou.

To emphasis this point, Professor He Sheng Jiang told a folk story about a farmer who had 17 pieces of land. Each morning he would count them – and one day he counted only 16. He tried several times and was dumbfounded until he lifted up his hat and there was the lost piece of land.

Stats and facts

15mu = ha

1 jin = 1/2 kg

Guizhou rainfall is about 1300mm

The province covers 170,000sq km (NZ is about 270,000sq km).

The climate is similar to that of Kerikeri in the summer and Hunterville in the winter. The average high is 26.4degC in July/August, the low  3.4degC in January.

Is this OSH approved? Forage chopping in a dairy shed.

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