Obsessive compulsive farming drives profits: Grass growth

By Victoria Craig-McFeely

Having spent some of my career in New Zealand on a dairy farm I have had the opportunity to fully understand their concepts and why they do what they do.  Everyone knows they show a huge amount of due diligence towards their grazing management.

They have taken a simple practice and utilised it to its full potential. Like the Sky cycling team they live and breathe the notion of “the aggregation of marginal gains”, it is this obsessive attention to detail that drives success. We can see it working in a low-cost system but the philosophy can be applied everywhere.

Obsessive attention to grass growth, consumption and reserves enables them to deliver the right amount and quality of feed the stock need when they need it.

I spent some of my time out there walking paddocks using a plate meter to measure the grass growth and the DM available. The data generated a grazing wedge, which dictated the rotation of the paddocks for the following week.

Dependant on grass growth, each paddock would be split using electric fencing giving enough grazing for a 12-hour window while aiming for a residual of 1500. If residuals were not achieved, then cows were sent back after milking to hit the target residual. Back fencing and creating walkways within larger paddocks were used to prevent soiling, trampling and to allow for regrowth.

Grazing isn’t the answer for every farm. Neither necessarily is any other system. What does matter is the attention given to delivering feed in the most efficient way possible. On the best New Zealand farms every effort is directed towards the continual supply of highly digestible grass to the grazing animal within an acceptable tolerance of waste. This clarity of focus is the formula of success.

Working with my clients I like to identify the top two or three things to focus on in order to build a successful business. With a client last week we decided the focal point for farm success would be achieving a 24% pregnancy rate, a daily output of 32 litres per day at a maximum feed rate of 0.34Kg/l. The next, really exciting bit of my job, is working closely with my client to build the plan of activity that will deliver these results. Doing this doesn’t guarantee we will hit those goals but it does make it a lot more likely.