Case study: Craig Dettling
Craig Dettling: Macarthur, south-west Victoria
When I last spoke with Craig back in early June 2018, the herd was grazing on oversown summer crops and he bought in hay early on, locked in at a lower price and was confident they would get through the winter without too much stress, especially given that he had some home-grown fodder. His biggest risk was a wet cold winter (which can come in quickly and unexpected) and the strategies under consideration were destocking, especially given that fodder prices were already increasing.
When I chatted with Craig recently, to find out how he went over winter and spring and the thinking around his management strategies as we progress through this summer, he shared the following:
“Our last winter was drier and warmer. We had a late autumn break, but with the drier winter our pasture utilisation was better, so overall for us winter panned out good. We didn’t have to buy in any more fodder as we got through with what we had”.
“After our reasonably dry winter, spring carried on being quite dry to begin with. With the spring rainfall from September October and November we ended up with 109 mm, when we would normally get up around the 200 mm mark. We were only just getting enough rain each week to keep going”.
“We don’t make any silage or hay on our farm. We strip graze all our pastures and crops. It was a struggle this last spring to get crops going (germinating). Fodder crops were a bit behind and the bugs were getting into them. We started feeding hay early November because the crops weren’t ready at that time so we’re feeding the hay earlier as the crops will still provide us with feed later. So essentially the way the spring worked out, we’re just switching the order of when we use the crops”.
“Just in this last week when the storm went through we got 66 mm. So that rain event will get the crops back growing again and the grass got a refresh as it’s still green. We’ve been keeping up the feritiliser, especially nitrogen on our pasture. We are quite well set up for the rest (bulk) of the summer now regarding the amount of pasture fodder and hay we have currently. The risk for us now is going to be around when the autumn break comes”.
We are an all autumn calving herd and usually we dry of the bulk of the herd over February and March. Normally we milk a few through but how many depends on various factors including, the pasture and fodder situation, milking herd numbers because of how many we may cull and the spread of the calving from our starting date of April 1st regarding the nine-week maximum calving spread we aim for”.
“Trigger points for the rest of summer will essentially revolve around how much fodder we have on hand because of how the crops yield, how the grass is growing depending on the rain fall events (amount and spread) as summer continues to progress”. It will be a similar watch and see approach in determining relevant trigger points as we head closer to autumn”.