Once a day milking pays dividends

Jarrad Drysdale says “everything has fallen into place” since he started once-a-day milking on one of his two dairy units.

“There have been so many benefits since we changed the regime three seasons ago. We’re doing record farm production, our in-calf rate has improved, and I get to spend less time in the cowshed and more time with my young family.”

In the last five years Jarrad has grown a sizeable dairy business in Eketahuna, northern Wairarapa, where his family has farmed for five generations.

Last July, he purchased the 100 ha effective family farm where he had worked on and off with his parents Ewen and Marilyn all his life.

Five years earlier he had acquired a similar-sized dairy unit next door, which is still run alongside the home farm.

“This was originally quite a big dairy farm that myself, and three of my other neighbours each bought a slice of. My block had the cowshed on it and I’ve since done a lot of development work in terms of fencing, water and fertiliser to bring it up to par with other dairy farms in the district.”

For the first three seasons following this acquisition, Jarrad and his father milked their entire herd on the home farm. However this proved problematic for a number of reasons.

“The staff was spending far too many hours in the cowshed and there was constant walking pressure on the cows. Dad kept saying we should give once-a-day milking a try at home but I wasn’t that keen to start with.”

Jarrad says he changed his mind after a particularly wet season resulted in several lame cows.

“We decided to get the cowshed going on the neighbouring unit, put a meal system in and start milking our Friesians over there twice a day. The remainder of the mainly crossbred herd stayed on the home farm and went onto once-a-day milking.”

In December last year, cow numbers were around 275 on the twice-a-day farm which is managed by a married couple Steve and Karen, who have been there since the new regime started.

The 285 cow home farm is managed by Jarrad and his 2IC Cameron, who also manages the farm run-off and beef operation.

“They are a great team and the system works well as we can shift cows between the properties if need be.”

Jarrad says feeding meal inside the twice-a-day shed has helped the cows hold condition and has brought empty rates down.

“Our vet told us recently that we have one of the top in-calf rates in the district, with 78 percent of cows due to calve in the first six weeks. We’re rapt because it adds up to more profitability.”

Production is on target to reach 90,000 kg MS (900 kg/ha) on the once-a-day farm and around 105,000 kg MS (1050 kg/ha) on the twice-a-day.

“The dry spell in February might take a bit of the cream off but otherwise we’re really happy with the season.”

He tries to maintain a low input system on both properties, with a small amount of maize and silage fed on the once-a-day farm; with bale-age, silage, palm kernel and Dairy Mix on the twice-a-day farm.

Ewen and Marilyn Drysdale still live in the original homestead on the home property that was built in around 1900.

Jarrad’s two brothers are 50/50 sharemilkers off-farm and one of his three sisters, Lucy has just started in the dairy industry as a farm worker.

“Although Dad retired recently he is still actively involved and works with me most days. My grandfather was around when Dad was in my position and continued milking cows until into his seventies, so it’s great we can continue the family legacy.”