Calving at the Kennedy's farm

Published date14 September 2022
Publication titleWest Coast Farming Times, The
"Calving lasts about six weeks, starting mid-August it is usually finished by October," says the laid-back Daryl Kennedy

"We are busy but we've seen a lot of this so we don't stress," he said.

"The bigger your herd, the better your systems have to be."

The farm has been in the family for several generations now, and the present lush pastures are a far cry from the earlier stands of kanuka and blocks of sheep paddocks "We farm about 400ha plus a leased block at Totara Flat, another 150ha.

"We converted in 1996 from sheep and beef. Our neighbour was clever - he got in the year before us when the milk factory was a $1 buy-in.

"There was us and a couple of others, the Beggs and Liddells, when we joined and it was the first year the milk factory charged to join."

Since then the farm has steadily grown and developed.

A section below the milking platform is a dedicated calving paddock, with a line of parallel posts on solid gravelled ground marking the designated feedout area - to avoid the ground becoming pugged by the weight of feeding cows.

"Most of the calving is done in the paddock. There is no set plan around calving, you see the udders swell and the cows get drafted out, put in the yard, and we check them four or five times during daylight and again later at night. It's funny though, the calves mostly come out in the daylight.

"An old theory says that you give the cows a good feed in the morning and by the evening, you should have a calf."

Dairy cows average around seven to eight years of production from when they begin milking. Calves become yearlings, at which point they are mated, and calve the following season aged two.

Once calved, the heifer commences her milking career, and should produce a calf each successive year. These calves form the replacement herd and a high birth ratio of females is desired.

In dairying, mating is mostly achieved through artificial insemination (AI) - carried out by specialised technicians. The technicians work seven days a week for around six weeks or more, visiting herds daily to inseminate cows as they come on heat. Technicians can inseminate several hundred cows in one day. Bulls are let in once AI is over to clean up any that weren't impregnated by technicians. And there are other methods for any animals that slip through that as well

"We can use short gestation semen to finish up, it's brilliant, if the bull comes back and hasn't sorted the cow out, for the cow concerned it brings the calving forward by about ten...

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