By Ian Wickham Part 2 – November 2022

How much bang for your buck?

In Part 1 of this topic I stated “It all depends on how you measure the cost ” and discussed how the historical relative price of grazing (based on weekly rates) and the price of milksolid payout indicated that if anything, the price of grazing had declined compared with the price of milksolid.

I then noted the difference from when poorly grown replacements were the norm to now with an industry wide focus on monitoring liveweights, better grown heifers are expected.

 However, the big question is; Are better grown heifers being achieved across the industry?

 I believe the simple answer is still “NO”!

When LIC introduced MINDA Weights and DairyNZ did a focussed messaging on heifer development about year 2012 there followed an improvement, heifers on average went from 8% below weight to 4% below weight, Since then I believe that performance measure has stayed static at best.

The other indication I have is my checking of the LIC / DairyNZ New Zealand Dairy Statistics for the season 2011-12 and comparing with the latest published 2020-21.

 In particular I look at the breed production by age group, and my particular interest is how the 1st lactation 2 year old group milksolid production compares with the production of their mature (5 year old) herd mates.

 I am disappointed to report that with the 1st lactation group producing 75% of their mature herd mates milksolid production, that ratio has shown no significant change during the past 10 years.

 At NZ Grazing Company, we routinely have our clients report to us that “the heifers are milking like mature cows

 If mature cows average milksolid production is 400 kg per lactation, then the 1st lactation heifers are currently producing 300 kg. That’s a difference of 100 kg per heifer on the group that is not only the most genetically improved, it is also the largest age group by volume. Can you work out the dollars increase available at a $9.50 payout by lessening that difference?

With NZ herd size growing larger in numbers by the year, it is now more common for herds to be split into management groups, and a reason I often hear for this is so that the young cows can get a fair share of the feed.

 This suggests a couple of things to me. Firstly, the herd manager recognises that the young cows have not been adequately developed before herd entry; and secondly, differential feeding and other treatment (distance travelled etc) will make herd mate comparisons less valid.

 It is true that most NZ dairy farmers do not see a need to employ a professional manager such as NZ Grazing Company to act on their behalf for developing the herd replacements and their focus is no doubt on how much they are going to spend.

 It is also true that a few NZ dairy farmers have entrusted their herd replacements with NZ Grazing for several decades past and have proven that the small extra investment made has gained them much more profit.

 In other words “More bang for the buck!”

 If you want to know more, go to and contact your nearest North Island Service Manager