Whether you call it climate variability or climate change, one thing’s for sure: we’re dealing with very different weather patterns in our part of Gippsland. The summers are hotter and tougher. The dryness now often begins in November and sometimes stretches into May. On the other hand, winter is warmer and grass grows far better in June and July than ever before.
This has fundamentally changed the farm, right down to the cycle of life. Instead of planning the calving season to begin in mid-July, we’ve decided to begin on April 20 this year. We’ve been surprised to see four premature calves (including twins Ella and Bella) born already – best laid plans often come undone at the hands of mother nature.
The reasoning is that we want to match the cows’ need for grass with the time when it grows best. Naturally, cows need the most energy when they produce the most milk, so we’re hoping to hit peak production in July/August/September, which is the period when the farm’s pastures are most productive under the new conditions.
The cows will have their two-month annual holiday from mid-February until calving begins in April – the time when grass is hardest to grow and when the cows’ energy needs are lessened. It will take time (two or three years) for us to get the whole herd into this pattern but it will be worth it. There will be less pressure on all of us.