A GOOD spring and a milk price with a six in front of it.
If Waaia dairy farmer James Dillon could put in an order for the coming season, that would sum it up perfectly.
He’s pleased the global market has turned from earlier this year, but has just had an “expensive May and June” sourcing additional hay as dry cows and heifers could not go on agistment because of the dry conditions.
Peaking at 270 cows, he intends to hold milk production this season but again, that depends on the spring.
Irrigation water has set up the feed bank for July calving, the second of two calvings for the business.
“Autumn in some ways had been good, but we used up a lot of our water as we didn’t get the showers to save on the water, we had to water the whole way through,” he said.
“We had no help from above.”
Holding a “fairly decent water right” James had to purchase a couple of hundred megalitres of additional irrigation water to get through. Grass has been “coming slower” but the ideal amount of feed should be ready for the cows to calve next month.
Homegrown fodder had been used and hay had been pre-ordered, but then cancelled due to intentions to send the heifers out on agistment. When this didn’t eventuate, James joined the many rushing to secure hay as the season break got later and later.
“I got a B-double of export oaten hay and it cost more than the vetch (purchased earlier) on a per tonne basis,” he said.
Conserving as much homegrown fodder as possible will again be a focus this year. This approach in recent years has reduced his stocking rate from three milking cows to the hectare to 2.2 cows/ha across the irrigated property.
The spring determines profitability for James and he can remember all too well how wet it was two years ago and the impact it had on production.
“We lost 27 per cent of production but caught it all back up this season and we are actually in front,” he said.
“A reasonable spring is rainfall in catchments,” he said. “If there’s rain in catchments and we get the water right it keeps the water prices down.”
James will continue supplying Bega Cheese next season. He said it was “nice” of Bega to come out early this year and say it would hold its price for the first three months of next season, but he’s now hoping it would come out with a higher farmgate price, given the global market had improved.
By: SIMONE SMITH
Source: The Weekly Times