Case Study 8: Hans van Wees, Tinamba, MID, Victoria
When I last spoke with Hans van Wees back in early December 2017, he indicated that spring fodder harvest was 40% down on the previous year. Facial Eczema, he saw as one of his key risks heading into that summer.
The information gained from being in a group of eight who have regular pasture growth and temperature information recorded, Hans highlighted was invaluable in determining key trigger points year round for his own situation, in regard to irrigation timing, determining effects of hot and cold weather conditions and nitrogen application.
Chatting with Hans recently in this second interview, he said the following:
"Summer was very dry, there were no substantial rain events. We watered right through at our usual rate. Towards the end of summer, we ran into potential irrigation Annual Use Limit issues, but we overcame those.
"As far as our last summer went, regarding my concern that Facial Eczema was likely to be our biggest risk - we used zinc treatment for a couple of days at the right time (as we were keeping a vigilant watch on spore counts) and it paid off. We had neither clinical nor sub clinical cases.
"During autumn, in early March, we took preventative action regarding our fodder reserves. When it looked like staying dry - we entered the fodder market for the first time in a very long time. We started buying in fodder rather than using our home-grown silage as our figures of cost per mega joule of energy stacked up in favour of concentrates. This purchasing of fodder has been going on until now (early June)."
"When looking for the right source of fodder, we focused more on quality rather than price to start with. Once we found who could supply the quality we were after, we concentrated on the quantity. It took a while to find the right stuff, but we got there in the end. If we'd left that step until now we would probably have had to pay a lot more for poorer quality feed. So it definitely paid to source the required quality of feed early on".
"Autumn was very good for production but very poor for moisture and rainfall, so we irrigated lots. We moved water around between properties, to focus on growing the best quality milker feed. For us a dry summer and autumn has been really good as we had 100% high reliability water share (HRWS) seasonal irrigation allocation".
"We are still dealing with lower silage production effects from the previous dry spring, so we are still buying in a bit of hay of a lower grade for dry cows".
"The winter won't be as bad, as I believe we have enough soil moisture currently to get us through a drier winter, until the irrigation season starts up again on 15 Aug. So our biggest risk in the coming spring is if we can't get water from the weir and it stays dry, then we won't have a spring. After not having a decent spring last year, a poor spring back to back will be bad for us. Essentially, we are covered until the end of September, which is well after the irrigation season start date of 15 Aug. However, that is dependent on whether we get any or enough irrigation HRWS allocation to start with".
"The strategic actions we took over autumn, that I believe have paid off already and will continue to pay off include; keeping good quality silage and buying in lower grade fodder for calving cows, locking in concentrates ready for Spring calving (before prices went really silly). Also doing budgeting to determine Margin over Feed Costs along the way was highly beneficial in making the right decision".
"As we move into winter, we won't be de stocking too much until September, when all the potential milkers are in. In our situation it's very hard to get your numbers back if stocking rate is dropped back too much as we have a closed herd policy; we don't buy any stock in. It pays for us to feed 50 more cows the extra feed rather than having to wait a year until we can make up those milker numbers".