Community group day - 10 November 2010

A lovely spring day for a tour around the Wishnowsky farm promoted much discussion about the season, the stock and the effect of the sun.

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand Monitor Farms are funded by your farmer levies and they are only of value if you go home better equipped than when you arrived. The Wishnowsky farm is the tool to demonstrate what can be done and how it is done.

Local farm round up

pdf Local farm round up (0.31MB) 

Emma Cooper  the committee chair, discussed her findings from local farmers around the region.

  • Pasture covers have been low this season especially at set-stocking but are beginning to recover
  • The condition score of ewes at mating was reasonable but ewe condition was suffering by set-stocking. Older ewes were coping the worst
  • More ewes died than usual, probably reflecting their poor condition
  • Very few bearings this year
  • Hogget lambing performance remarkable, likely due to later lambing that missed the terrible weather
  • Cattle scanning was on par with normal with cow and calf losses around 1-2.5%
  • Easiest calving experience that most have had'
  • Concern about the condition of the younger cows and how to get weight on them prior to mating
  • Contingency plans included: docking drench to some ewes; fertiliser application'; wet-dry ewes sold and plans to sell dry stock (ewes and cows) at scanning

One farmer suggested that Mother Nature should be replaced with a bloke for a while, to see if he can do a better job.

Pasture growth rate monitoring - Ginny Dodunski

It is mainly finishing farms that are monitored but the following points have been identified for boosting grass performance:

  • Grass grows grass
  • There is value in newer cultivars if managed correctly
  • Strategic nitrogen application pre-winter has positive effects
  • Pasture pests are less of a stress if the plant is healthy

The monitoring data is emailed monthly to our mailing list. Contact if you would like to be added to this list. It is also available on our website

Farm update - Simon Wishnowsky

pdf Wishnowsky farm handout 10 Nov 10 (0.53MB) 

Climate & feed situation

The significant rain of 380mL in seven weeks caused slips, pugging and lamb deaths on the Wishnowsky property. The September pasture growth rates were okay but the utilisation was poor due to the bad weather. October has brought a lot of wind and growth rates are slow.

Average covers are estimated to be 1550kg DM/ha but this seems to be a bit high. Pasture cage cuts were 22kg DM/ha/d for both September and October, recognising that these overestimate farm growth by about 20%.

The winter kale crop was fed to the R2 Limousin heifers along with hay from August to October giving growth rates of 1.5kg/d.


Most of the calving occurred in the worst two weeks of September. There were significant cow deaths, the underlying cause being poor condition coming back from grazing and despite adequate amounts the supplement fed during calving was of low quality. Calving reached 85%, 10% lower than last year. Some of the calf losses occurred when they were 3-4 days old, despite receiving adequate, timely colostrum. This could be due to increased exposure to bugs at birth in the wet environment which can cause navel ill leading to other diseases such as arthritis, meningitis, etc.

This season, paddocks have already been shut for silage. They may be cut slightly early to maximise quality whilst sacrificing some quantity. To manage the pre-calving/calving period, it was suggested that break feeding would be an alternative. This would not work in this system due to the pugging damage that would be sustained and the fact that Simon still has an off-farm job. 

Cow numbers will be reduced from 200 to 170 this year and the bull date is being moved from the 20th November to the 1st December to: help the second calvers gain weight before mating; tighten up the calving pattern; and improve the feed supply/demand for next year. All bulls have been fertility tested and passed for both performance and semen quality.

All weaner heifers will be retained as a flexible finishing class. All male calves will be sold as weaners as steers and R1 Friesian bull weaners will by bought in April/May. These will be finished by the following April. This bull finishing system will be driven by date rather than slaughter weight. This system will add $30/ha to the Gross Margin assuming steers are sold for $2.40/kg and bulls bought at $2.50. Even if the purchase price is larger, there is still an improvement in gross margin and no increase in farm costs.


The concept of rotating ewes as long as possible before set-stocking was implemented with great results. As with most farms, ewe condition dropped from a mean of 3 at mating to 2.6 pre-lamb with a distinct tail end that were treated with a long-acting moxidectin injection in August. The drenched ewes were identified and will receive an ‘exit' drench at weaning.

Ewe docking performance


To ram





@ dock
























Creep grazing was discussed. This system has gates with slots that lambs can get through but the ewes cannot. To entice the mob to the gate, a salt block, road cone or something for them to investigate is placed nearby. The inquisitive lambs pop through the gate and graze the paddock ahead. When this is successfully, it can give a 3-4kg weaning weight advantage to lambs. It is more effective when doing a rotation rather than set stocking as ewes are more likely to wait by gates. 

The maternal ewe mob now exists, with the first replacement ewe lambs on the ground. These will be bred as hoggets which will mean:

  • More lambs
  • 15% higher two tooth scanning
  • 8% higher four tooth scanning
  • And potentially improved lamb weaning weights.

To do this, the hoggets need to be a minimum weight (arguably 38kg), have their vaccination programme completed by the end of February, have teasers 17d prior to a strong ram team being introduced.

Forage system

pdf Wishnowsky farm handout 10 Nov 10 (0.53MB)

A detailed plan of the forage system is outlined in the hand-out but some of the crops going in include rape with clover; Pasja; plantain with clover and Kale. All paddocks were soil tested so the fertiliser is tailored to the requirements. The cost of the soil testing was far less than the huge savings made by tailoring the fertiliser applications.

Grass Grub and Porina - James Buckley, Nufarm

pdf Grass Grub and Porina (2.67MB)

Grass grub is a native beetle lays eggs 10-25cm deep in the soil where they develop to larvae. The larvae moult through three stages to grow from 5mm to 25mm long. The more mature larvae migrate up through to soil, with the thirds stage in the top 50mm.

Pasture damage is caused by these larvae who feed on the plant roots. High numbers of larvae can destroy entire plants leaving dead patches of grass that can be peeled back. This damage is usually seen from February to May when the larvae are closest to the soil surface. This is also the best time to control them. 

There are some natural diseases and predators that have some control of grass grub and although cultivation can reduce grass grub numbers, it can also disrupt the predators and diseases. To assess grass grub numbers, dig 30cm deep from February to May and count the number of grubs found. If there are more than 5-7 per spade, control is necessary. Insecticidal control is Diazinon on to short well grazed pasture when grubs are in the top 25mm of soil. The drug must be used in moist conditions to ensure it penetrates the soil as this is where the grub is. The spray must not dry on the foliage so should be applied during rain. Other options are also available, see the handout for more information.

Porina is a native moth that broadcasts its eggs whilst flying. The eggs and young larvae are very prone to desiccation so like the humid environment and protection of long, rank grass. After 5-6 weeks, larvae tunnel into the soil to live. They emerge at night to feed on grass so bare patches of ground are visible, which later become covered with flat weeds. Most of the damage is seen in July to September so monitoring via digging should occur from March and control should occur from May to July.

To monitor, dig at least 30cm into the soil and count the number of larvae in the clod. The larvae are dark reddish-brown and up to 30mm long. If there are more than 2-3 per spade, treatment is required. Treatment is Dimilin, an insect growth regulator that stops larvae moulting. Treated when small, the larvae moult more often so are killed earlier with less damage to the pasture.

In contrast to grass grub treatment, the Dimilin needs to be applied to short dry pasture and it must dry on the leaf. This is because the Porina eats the leaf, compared to the Grass Grub which eats the root. When larvae are longer than 25mm, a different product (Caterkill) is required which is significantly more expensive.

Worm management - Ginny Dodunski

pdf Drench testing - know where you are now (0.13MB) 

‘A good plan starts with knowing where you are now.'

 Plans need to be set to ensure good productivity, to minimise the rate of drench resistance and should be based on sound knowledge e.g. knowing how effective each drench chemical is on your farm.

When drenches are not fully effective, there will be a LWG reduction in many, weight loss in most and weight gain in a small number. Knowing which drenches are effective on your property allows you to use those drenches and limit the potential loss of productivity.

Refugia is maintaining some of the farm's worm population unexposed to drench. The amount that can safely be left un-drenched depends on numerous factors including the efficacy of the drench.

The Wishnowsky farm has tested their drenches with fairly good results. This may be due to a limited sheep farming history, limited whole flock ewe drenching, minimal use of long-acting products, variable drench intervals for lambs, and combination drench use.

A Faecal Egg Count Reduction Tests (FECRT) is the best way to test drenches on your property. After an initial FEC to ensure there are enough parasites present, and the right varieties (best done in February), lambs are nominated to different drench groups where they are drenched, marked and faecal sampled for a FEC. Ten days later, the lambs are all faecal sampled again, a FEC performed to see if the drench eliminated all worms and if not, the eggs are cultured to determine which worms are resistant to the drench used. The drenches tested are selected from information on the drench use on the property.  From this, your vet will give you recommendations of which products are best to use on your property.

This property had some issues with Haemonchus (Barber's Pole) last season. Better monitoring for this is required and a new test is available to measure this. Speak to your vet if you are interested in either a FECRT or Haemonchus testing this summer.

The annual seminar will be held on the 23rd February, so keep the date free and your eyes peeled for further information.