Been a busy couple of weeks here at the Drum.

We got our first cut silage lifted just over a fortnight ago. Having been caught out by a change in the weather last year just as we finished cutting the grass, this year we were a bit more hesitant than normal, so much so that we were starting to get a bit worried we’d missed our chance.

In the end, I think we timed it pretty well as it wasn’t too hot while the grass was lying wilting for 24 hours and then the rain came just in time to wash in the post silage fertiliser.

In fact, I think the biggest headache we had was that it was maybe slightly windy while we were trying to sheet the pit.

The yields seemed reasonable on the whole, although one of the fields in particular seemed to suffer from a combination of the dry spring and the fact that it hadn’t had the slurry application that the rest of the fields had in the spring.

Consequently, it only had about a quarter of a trailer of grass per acre! On the plus side this was also the furthest away field, so it saved on haulage!

With the first cut now out of the way, some of the aftermath is used for grazing, with around a quarter of the cows now out through the day. Despite the lovely weather, they didn’t seem overly keen to start – we pretty much had to chase them up the hill to the field – but they seem happy enough now.

We keep this group in at night, though, to make sure they had plenty of time to eat buffer and also because they are the first group milked in the morning, so having them on hand saves time.

Interestingly, despite the fact that milk cow rations have been essentially unchanged for the few months leading up to the start of May, we are seeing our regular seasonal change, with volumes increasing while components slip back a bit.

In February, the cows were doing about 39 litres at 4.2% BF and 3.35% P, versus the start of May when they were 41 litres at 4.0% BF and 3.2% P.

With the cows at just under 3kg/day of milk solids we’ve finally managed to break through the one-tonne of milk solids/cow/year – which is quite a milestone. It may have been helped a little by us allowing the calving index to slip a touch to 409 which resulted in the cows on average having more productive days each year.

The target we really have in mind is to get to a tonne of milk solids by 305 days in milk but this goal is being somewhat elusive. For the year to September, 2019, according the NMR Annual Production Report, we achieved 955kg which is pretty much on par with our results for the last four or five years.

The one thing that has changed over the last few years is our lifetime daily yield which has risen from around 16.5kg/day-of-life in September, 2015, to 20.7kg last September. This is due to a number of factors – annual yields are up around 16% in that time; age for first calving has come down a little from 25.5 months to 24.1; and the average age of the cows in the herd has increased from 4.7 years to 5.2.

Last spring, when we were looking at ways to improve the herd, we decided to have a look at genomics. So, we took a tissue sample from all the calves from the youngest up to just prior to bulling and sent them off to get tested via Clarifide from Zoetis.

The first of these heifers is due to calf any day now so looking forward to seeing how her actual performance stacks up against her genomic profile.

While we did the testing from interest as much as anything, we’re still to be convinced that there is commercial benefit to be gained when weighed against the cost of testing.

We already looked at parent averages to select the poorer maiden heifers which then get beef rather than B and W semen and the genomic results only altered the rankings slightly. That said, maybe when we see the heifers milking, we’ll change our minds.

At the end of the day though there are 101 ways to spend money and not many to earn it back.