Testimonial – Craig Vanner, Mangakino
Farming on the tough volcanic country around Mangakino means Craig Vanner has learned to tailor his expectations to the limitations of the land. This includes dealing with some tough winters with low growth days and a tendency for the lighter soils to turn dry easily from early summertime.
But for Craig his two biggest issues that had added to the farm’s challenges have been high incidence of milk fever in his 500 head herd over spring-time, and problems getting them back in calf.
“When it came to milk fever problems, we had been doing the usual magnesium dusting. It’s always been something I really do not enjoy. The quality can be quite variable, and the amount cows actually ingest, that can be smaller than it needs to be. It was not proving effective, despite the effort.”
When he decided to discuss his issues with Sollus, Craig admits it took a while to get his head around the concept that adding minerals was only part of a solution that also involved lowering the portion of grass in the herd’s diet.
“It was quite a challenge to learn you can actually be giving them too much grass when you have so much of it, and that that can be a detriment to them.”
Working with Sollus, Craig started out using Tranzsol in the diet of his springer mob 10 days out from calving.
“We would add it to their PKE mix, along with plenty of hay, silage and a smaller portion of grass.”
Once in the milking herd the cows were getting an allowance of Lactisol added to their PKE ration.
“Our focus once through calving was primarily on getting the herd in calf and achieving an improvement in the in-calf rate. We achieved this in the first year using Sollus, with a 9% empty rate down from 18%, a big improvement.”
This season that rate has bounced up again, mainly reflecting Craig’s efforts to tighten up the calving pattern from 12 weeks to 10 weeks.
“So, we will hopefully see it back at 9% this year, now we have worked on that.”
Overall, he believes after two years the herd’s health has improved immeasurably, and better energy levels have been vital given the lengthy walk to and from the farm dairy they often undergo.
While Tranzsol and Lactisol have played a role, Craig says it is also due to a better understanding of the feed input rations best suited to the herd’s energy needs.
“We have hardly had a case of milk fever over the time we have used Tranzsol and Lactisol, it’s just not the problem it used to be.”
Craig admits he can’t target sky high production levels, and will be happy to achieve 425kgMS a cow, up from his 380-400kgMS average range.
“I want to get to that point where every dollar that is spent on farm is making me well over an extra dollar in the vat.”
He admits adapting to the changes in grass input can be quite a challenge for any farmer used to maximising grass inputs to get their head around.
“But I would definitely keep doing things the way we have been. They are valuable tools and I am on a particularly difficult piece of dirt. I don’t think the herd had been getting enough energy before. We have been learning all the time and tuning this up.”
He was also pleased with the level of understanding the Sollus team bought to his operation, rather than simply selling him a collection of nutrient inputs.
“There are a lot of different companies out there, these guys understand them and come back for regular consultations. “I feel I have always had a great mob of cows that have never really got up to full pace – I just want them to be as healthy and happy as they can be for what this farm is.”