Dairypoint computer programme

August 2005
David and Jo Drake from are equity shareholders in a large 376ha irrigated dairy farm at Orari, near to Fonterra Clandeboye, South Canterbury.

They have been in the dairy industry for a decade after David graduated with a B.Com in 1990 and spent four years with the Rural Bank before milking 500 cows (including their 120) at Culverden in Canterbury. They moved to Maniototo with over 500 cows of their own, to a 400ha property in a very difficult climate. With additional leased cows nearly 1000 were milked for two seasons. They won the sharemilker of the year award for the Otago region in 2001-02.

The couple took the plunge with 50% equity partnership in a 375ha conversion at Orari, which began milking in 2002-03. The whole farm had to be regrassed and fenced, and the main farm of 370ha subdivided into 37 paddocks of 10ha. Most of it is irrigated by two large centre-pivot systems. One is 970m long including the corner arm, covers 290ha, and travels in a complete circle with the dairy at its centre. The second covers 55ha and moves back and forth in a half circle. The property is now at the beginning of its fourth milking season.

The farm has some of the best production figures in New Zealand, at 1800kg MS/ha and average 470kg MS/cow. The aim is to make the very best use of all pasture grown. By comparison the Lincoln University high-production dairy farm has a production target of 1750kg MS/ha under centre-pivot irrigation.

For three years the Drakes have used Dairypoint farm management software to model the farm, climate and production and to produce variable stocking rates during the season to make the best use of the available feed. David says profit is the main target, achieved by efficient pasture utilisation without waste. The programme helps make predictions about pasture production and stocking rate, used as a tool to see what is coming up and how the farm is performing compared with last year.

David takes estimates of pasture cover each week in every paddock using a rising pasture plate meter, but this does not provide data on pasture quality, only quantity.

Daily rainfall and soil temperatures are also loaded. The result of the Dairypoint programmes use is predictions of what numbers of cows are required to utilise the available pasture. David makes decisions each month of how many to bring on to the farm or to quit.

At present he has 400 in winter milking with supplementary feeding and the lowest number over winter could be 250 cows.. The rest of the herd plus replacements are off the farm. In late August he will build up to a peak of 1650-1700 cows and may reduce numbers to 1400 by Christmas. This is done by selling aged cows. As the summer/autumn progresses he will reduce milking cow numbers further.


Following information supplied by Richard Bentley from COGENT, marketers of Dairypoint, the programme written by Dr Koos Baars, agronomist and software programmer

Dairypoint the What if? Tool for Dairy Farmers

Have you ever asked yourself:

How can I achieve milk production targets on my dairy farm?

Should I start calving on the 20th July or the 20th August, or somewhere in between?

Would putting on nitrogen be worthwhile? If so, when?

Would running another 20 cows be profitable? How much extra fertiliser would it take? Or would I be better off running the same number of cows but feeding them better?

How much supplementary feed will I need? Is it better to make grass silage or maize silage, or to buy it in? At what point will the cost of supplementary feed cancel out the extra return it generates?

Wouldnt it be great if there was a computer program that would allow you to plug in the values for your farm and it would then work out the answers for you?

Well, you are in luck there is!

Dairypoint is COGENTs exclusive new computer program that will model your dairy farm and allow you to test different management strategies without having to go to the expense and risk of trying them out. Dairypoint combines your seasonal production records and your coded financial data from COGENT with soil fertility and pasture composition information to create a model of your farm.

You can then use this model to experiment with different stocking rates, calving dates and types of supplementary feed, and test their effects on protein and fat production. You can also ask what if questions to fine tune any new strategy.

Written for COGENT by consultant agronomist Dr Koos Baars, Dairypoint actually models the way energy from the pasture and supplements eaten by dairy cows is converted into milk. This allows it to calculate the feed intake levels needed per cow for the herd to achieve the milk yield target you have set, and determines the profitability of every megajoule of metabolisable energy that could be fed to the herd.

By knowing the feed values and costs per megajoule of pasture and supplements throughout the year, you will be able to decide which feeds and feeding regimes will be the most profitable.

Dairy farmers using the COGENT Process are finding that Dairypoint is an invaluable tool. Records of rainfall, soil temperature and pasture cover are fed into the program and combined with production data received daily from Fonterra to give an accurate picture of seasonal patterns.

By entering information on the herd structure, grazing on/off, feed conservation, calving and drying off patterns etc., you can use Dairypoint to calculate benchmarks for cover, pre- and post- grazing levels and required pasture growth rates. These can be compared with on-farm estimates of milk yields, weekly cover, pre- and post-grazing levels, and growth rates, and also with the district average.

In other words, Dairypoint shows you whether you are on track for your target, and can put up options for keeping you on track.