Most dairy cows in New Zealand are calved just prior to spring in order to maximise pasture utilisation. This practice is associated with marked irregularities in the volume and composition of milk supplied to factories, which is a major limitation of seasonally-calving, pasture-based dairying systems. The need to accommodate peak milk flow means that manufacturing plants are underutilised for most of the season. Further, changes to milk composition can make it difficult to manufacture dairy products of high quality during some parts of the season, which necessitates the storage of product to meet out-of-season demand. Such irregularities are caused by a number of factors, including nutritional factors associated with the changing quality and availability of pasture, and physiological and hormonal factors associated with the stage of lactation of the cows (Auldist et al., 1997). One way of manipulating the lactation curve of the cows may, therefore, be to adjust the time of the year at which calving occurs. A previous study in New Zealand showed that autumn calving herds could be as profitable as spring calving herds (Garcia et al., 1998). In that study, nutritional demands were matched with pasture availability by adjusting stocking rate and feeding varying amounts of pasture and maize silage when required. A premium for winter milk was also applied. The current study was designed to investigate the effects of calving at four different times of the year on milk production in farmlet systems which were otherwise similar in stocking rate and other farm management variables.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 62, Palmerston North, 42-43, 2002
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