John Anderson farms 400Ha with his wife Nicola in the South Waikato. His parents have farmed here for 40 years and John began managing the family dairy farm 10 years ago after first gaining farming experience on farms in the Waikato area. Two years ago John, and his father Jeremy, started to make some significant changes to their farming practices that are now showing positive results.
They cut their milking herd from 700 to 500 cows. John says there was always that struggle to get through winter and summer with enough feed. Instead, they now raise 100 Wagyu (with First Light, grass-fed meat producers) and 130 Angus beef cattle. This has made a real difference to the difficulties that can be experienced over the winter months with the 18 month steers being taken off the property just before winter rolls in, and the resulting income supplementing that lost in milk production.
Nicola has started using OptiGuard when rearing the calves. She places OptiGuard in troughs in the pens where the calves can access it ad-lib and tops up as needed. The calves love it and have grown really well. Using 1 tonne bags John adds Optimate to a mineral mix using an auger bucket on the tractor. This is then fed to the cows with a maize blend in trailers on the feed pad. These make it easy to load and transport the mixed meal/mineral to the cows and they don’t need a static feed pad. John says it works a treat and they save money by making the mix up themselves. “I love that it’s a natural product” says John, “and I can see benefits in the overall health of the animals. We were having issues with cows getting acidosis and it appears to have solved this problem”. John had been having a few down cows and was seeing symptoms of clinical and non clinical acidosis in some of his herd. After introducing Optimate at 200g per cow per day, he said he never had any further problems.
Another change that has been made on farm is the introduction of Abron fertiliser systems, starting with soil tests to determine the quantity or relative concentrations of nutrients. This information is then used to correct nutrient deficiencies to maintain soil fertility for optimum production. Using the BioGro certified organic input Optimate with the natural biological farming methods employed by the Abron Fertiliser programme has been a winning combination. This season John has seen is an increase in milk solids from 2.4 to 2.6 per cow over the spring period. The cows have held condition and cycled well, with a 10% empty rate for the 2018/2019 season. John feels this is a great result given the high production seen over the mating period.
So far, John is really happy with the results he is getting from Optimate which he describes as “multi-beneficial”. “It appears to be working and it’s half the price of the competing product. We needed to control acidosis and it has stopped it dead. We have made a number of changes so we’re not sure which has made the most difference, but we will keep on this programme.”