Damian & Candida Johnson 2016-17
By Phil Keegan
Dairy Farming is a complex business. Many factors have either a positive or negative effect on profit, and many of these factors are beyond the control of the operator like price received for milk sold among others. Pasture production, herd health management, machinery maintenance and heifer management are just a few areas that an operator can influence to achieve positive results.
Warrnambool Veterinary has partnered with a number of farms to achieve improved results with our Correct Weight heifer management programs. Correct Weight is a program which monitors the growth and health of heifers, providing periodic reports and nutritional advice. This is complimented by developing and administering a strategic drench and vaccination program to best suit that operator’s situation with a long term goal to have improved outcomes for the heifer development and longevity in the milking herd when they calve.
Damian & Candida Johnson of Minhamite signed up to the Correct Weight Premium program for their 73 heifers born in 2016. They are a seasonal calving 1st of April herd of about 220 cows aiming to improve fertility by introducing more heifers to the herd. Their previous year’s heifers were well below target weights at joining and this had been a significant influence on their decision to join Correct Weight in 2016. In our initial discussion we recognised they had been carrying over heifers each year that failed to grow out so the first goal was to ensure no carry over heifers for this group.
At their first weigh day in late September 2016, our target average weight was 152kg, the Johnson heifer’s average weight was 115kg. Only 10 out of 73 heifers were above target weight. We drafted them into two groups and recommended a diet specific to each group. During the weigh event we gave them all Dectomax Injectable worm drench, Ultravac 7-in-1 vaccination along with a Piliguard vaccination for Pink eye.
At their second weigh event 25 heifers were now above target weight and weight gains averaged 1.01kg/head/day since first weigh date. Regrowth from cut silage paddocks and pasture silage were the main components of the diet along with some pellets to continue with elevated growth rates. At their third weigh event in mid-February 2017 weight gains were again at 1kg/head/day, average weight of the group was 255kg with 46 heifers now above target out of 73 head.
At their fourth weigh event the Johnson’s discussed moving the joining date forward to take advantage of the excellent growth rates the heifers had achieved to date. With a new joining date this changes the target weight with just 62 days until joining now. As experience has shown us at Warrnambool Veterinary, the late summer and early Autumn period showed a reduction in daily weight gains dipped below targeted gains. This typically happens due to lower quality feed offered as silage and hay reserves begin to deplete. The Johnson’s still had plenty of silage available, but like most farmers during spring of 2016, feed tests indicated that the silage had a very low protein component that was not sufficient to maintain significant weight gains during this period. Average weight for the group was 294kg, 2kg below the target weight of 296kg. Weight gains had dropped to average 0.53kg/head/day.
Their final weigh occurred during CIDR insert, 3 weeks ahead of what was originally planned. The Johnson’s heifers average weight was 320kg - our target was 322kg. This was an average 62kg/head above the heifers presented to CIDR the previous year. All heifers were put up to be joined with no carry over heifers.
Recently I asked Damian & Candida what they liked about the Correct Weight program. They said it was straight forward with no hassles, easy on the heifers and themselves.
Damian said “It was good to know the target weight before the weighing commenced and with the weight gain being called out as each heifer was weighed kept them motivated to keep up with the diet recommendations”.
According to Candida, they “have a greater awareness of what is required to achieve well grown heifers now, more focussed on achieving this objective”.
Damian elaborated on this, saying, “We no longer send them off to the back paddock and check on them periodically. They are close by now and are a much more even line of heifers ready to be joined”.
When asked if they were interested in being involved with Correct Weight again this year they both responded together “Yes, absolutely, we would recommend this program to other farmers wanting to achieve big strong heifers”
Well done guys on your success last year and we look forward to helping you achieve similar results this year.