Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The critical ingredient

Their business is growing good-quality grass for other farmers’ stock. Sandra Taylor reports. The only thing missing on Barry and Brendon Daly’s farm is the milking shed. The fences, farm layout, infrastructure and pastures look like those of a dairy farm but rather than milking cows, Barry and his family grow out calves and heifers for six local dairy farmers. They run 1500 dairy heifers on a May-to-May contract and take on 600 weaned calves from November to the beginning of January (when they have reached 100kg). This makes for a stocking rate of 5.5/ha.

Barry Daly says dairy support has been good for their business but everything needs to be done properly.

The Dalys have some form of contract with the six dairy farmers they graze for and Barry says they have a good working relationship with all their farmers.

Some farmers will weigh their stock every six weeks; others they see only around stock mating time and at weighing when they leave. It comes back to personal preference.

One dairy farmer has a strong focus on calves and sends the calves to the Daleys at 80kg. Barry continues to feed the calves supplied meal until they are 120kg.

This same farmer pays the Dalys a bonus on reaching the weight of the average liveweight breeding value (BV) for the herd at both mating and at calving.

Last October these heifers were an average 50kg over the average liveweight BV, which meant a significant bonus for the Dalys and more productive heifers for the dairy farmer.

“It condenses his calving pattern, he has fewer dry animals, they milk better, and they get back in-calf quickly.”

Barry does point out that while they do their best as graziers to grow out stock, the dairy farmers need to be doing their bit by sending good calves and by keeping up with animal health treatments. In recent years he has noted a marked improvement in the quality of the calves being received.

“Dairy farmers are putting more emphasis on doing the calves well and bringing them to the grazier in forward condition.

“It’s very noticeable.”

Similarly the bar has been raised as to what dairy farmers require from their graziers. A few years ago all the heifers needed was kale and grass-seed straw. Now, says Barry, farmers are calving earlier and milking later so there is more pressure on the grazier to grow better animals that are able to perform in these systems.

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