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2020

SERVING UP 52 pages of expert advice on growing crops and forages

$12.00 incl gst

SEPTEMBER 2020

Livestock

Helicropping

Hill country

Akitio station has had a massive shot in the arm

A nationwide hill country winter cropping project

Managing sub clovers


Exceptional disease control in wheat & barley

B s a

Both VIMOY iblon and CALEY iblon are registered for use on wheat between GS30 and GS69 for the control of the key diseases: speckled leaf blotch, stripe rust and leaf rust. Speckled leaf blotch (SLB)

SPECKLED LEAF BLOTCH (SLB)

This is the most challenging disease attacking wheat in New Zealand. When conditions are right for disease development, massive yield losses can result if left uncontrolled. Even when disease pressure is low, yield losses between 1-2 t/ha are regularly recorded.

STRIPE RUST

This disease, which enjoys the cool, moist conditions of spring, can develop very rapidly if left uncontrolled. On susceptible cultivars, stripe rust can cause very rapid and extensive leaf loss, leading to significant yield losses.

Stripe rust

LEAF RUST Leaf rust can be found in crops at any time of the year but usually becomes a problem in early summer, as it is favoured by warmer, drier conditions. Again, if not controlled, leaf rust can devastate yield. Leaf rust

WHEAT SPRAY PROGRAMME

Prosaro 1.0 L/ha

0-7 GS0

9 10-13 21 25

29

30

GS29-30

31

32

GS31-32

Prosaro 1.0 L/ha + strobilurin fungicide

CALEY iblon 1.5 L/ha

37

39 GS37-41

49

51

59

61

69 GS60-69

The top 2 leaves and the ear are key for yield production in wheat and so it is vital to protect them from disease infection. This makes flag leaf fully emerged (GS39) the time to apply CALEY iblon. For high potential crops, replace Prosaro + strobilurin fungicide with VIMOY iblon + Prosaro or Aviator ÂŽ Xpro at GS65. 2

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F c d September 2020


Increase your yield & profit VIMOY iblon and CALEY iblon fungicides contain isoflucypram (ISY), a recently registered SDHI fungicide active ingredient that delivers outstanding disease control, exceptional plant health, consistently higher yields and greater profit. Choose CALEY iblon if you would like the convenience of applying a complete, top performing fungicide that delivers the right balance of isoflucypram and prothioconazole (available in Proline® and Prosaro®). But if you prefer to create your own fungicide mixtures then VIMOY iblon, a standalone formulation of isoflucypram, allows you to choose the partner DMI fungicide. By applying either CALEY iblon or VIMOY iblon + Prosaro you will achieve outstanding results.

BENEFITS OF FUNGICIDES CONTAINING IBLON TECHNOLOGY

HIGH YIELDS AND PROFIT

OUTSTANDING DISEASE CONTROL

EXCEPTIONAL PLANT HEALTH

SUITED TO NZ CONDITIONS

In trials carried out in New Zealand in both wheat and barley the exceptional disease control demonstrated by iblon fungicides has delivered higher yields than comparable fungicides.

Both VIMOY iblon and CALEY iblon provide exceptional control of all key, yieldreducing diseases of wheat, barley, triticale, and ryegrass seed crops.

Trials carried out in New Zealand and Europe have shown that the outstanding disease control given by CALEY iblon delays senescence which leads to higher yields.

Developed and supported in New Zealand by the Bayer field team, you can be sure you’re getting a fungicide suited to New Zealand conditions and backed by a team passionate about helping you increase your profit.

Regional Territory Managers

Weʼre with you in the field

Upper North Island Phil Bertram 021 426 825

North and Mid Canterbury David Parker 021 760 794

VIMOY iblon, CALEY iblon, Aviator Xpro, Delaro, Proline, Prosaro and Raxil Star are registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997 Nos. P9617, P9637, P8930, P8953, P7250, P7662 and P9246 are approved pursuant to the HSNO Act 1996, Nos. HSR101374, HSR101413, HSR100864, HSR100886, HSR001661, HSR007871 and HSR 101132 respectively.

Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay Marc Fox 021 426 823

Mid and South Canterbury David Weith 021 426 096

Vimoy®, Iblon®, Caley®, Aviator®, Delaro®, Proline®, Prosaro® and Raxil® are registered trademarks of the Bayer Group.

Lower North Island / Nelson / Marlborough Marc Fox 021 426 823 Country-Wide

September 2020

Otago and Southland Daniel Suddaby 021 426 822

© Bayer Crop Science 2020. Disclaimers: Before using the products read and carefully observe directions, cautionary statements and other information appearing on the product label. Our technical information, whether given verbally or in writing, is based on extensive testing. It is, to the best of our current knowledge, true and accurate, but given without warning in as much as the conditions of use and storage are beyond our control. Descriptions and property data of the product do not contain any statement as to the liability for possible damage. In other respects our conditions of sale apply.

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Living the dream James Bruce, near Martinborough, feeding baleage to Wairere Romney ewes which tailed 162% in 2019. Mid March, 2020.

James and Janeen Bruce: “We were managing a farm in the north Wairarapa when the chance came up in 2009 to buy a farm in equity partnership. Over the past eleven years we’ve bought out the equity partner, done extensive fencing, fertiliser and lucerne development on the 410 effective hectares, and lifted sheep performance to a high level. Extra income from handling horses, Janeen’s co-ownership of three child care centres, and lease blocks have enabled us to survive, then thrive. I can solo farm 6,300 to 7,500 stock units on the home block plus 330 effective hectares leased, but often leave big drafting jobs to weekends when my two older daughters can help.”

“Wairere genetics have played an important part in our success. We run an FE resilient flock for Wairere, tested at .55 sporidesmin this year, and a straight Romney flock. The Waireres cope well with the seasonal variability in this 770mm average rainfall climate. They bounce back, and are easycare. We also appreciate Wairere sponsoring the annual Martinborough bull ride that I organise. Coaching the Martinborough rugby team to win the Wairarapa championship was a thrill in 2019. We farm in a great community here, pulling together, succeeding together.”

Making your sheepfarming easier and more profitable www.wairererams.co.nz | 0800 WAIRERE (0800 924 7373)) 4

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September 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE

The war is not over

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s I have said before, the Editor’s note is my opinion, not the editorial position of the magazine. Everyone has an opinion based on their wisdom, the sum total of their life experiences and lessons. Wisdom varies from person to person depending on their life experiences. I’ve been a journalist for 30 years, and just because someone has been doing something a long time doesn’t mean they were good at it. You must also remember journalists, with a few exceptions, don’t know a lot. However, good journalists know a lot of people who do. In my first 10 years of journalism I met a lot of politicians, MPs, ministers and Prime Ministers. Many I interviewed. Few impressed me. By the nature of the job many start out with good intentions but allow their morals and values to be corrupted. That’s why I spent the next 20 years avoiding them. Taking over as editor of Country-Wide in late 2000 was perfect. I could stay behind the farmgate and focus on farming not politics. Then in 2017 politicians and anti-farming activists came in through the frontgate. We couldn’t ignore them. In the April issue I wrote about how the nation was at war and Covid-19 the enemy. I suggested a war cabinet between the political parties. I bet the coalition Government wished it had done so to share the blame of the border testing fiasco. In July I covered courage where political leaders had to do the right thing for the country not their party, constituents or ideology. By August Judith Collins was the new leader of the National Party. I haven’t voted for National for at least the past two elections. National has a tendency to do anything to stay in power including sacrificing groups of its voters and not the right thing for the country. I have never met Jacinda Ardern or Judith Collins. However, I have asked around my contacts about the pair and read Collins book. I will read Ardern’s book when she writes one, not one written about her. In Collins book she devotes most of the first 70 pages talking about how important growing up on Waikato

farm was as one of six children. How farming shaped her morals and values. As a minister of various portfolios she has done a lot for many sections of the New Zealand community. She comes across with the experience and wisdom to lead a nation in a crisis. Collins could have easily been head of another party and still impressed me. With an autobiography it can sometimes be what they leave out which is more important than what they write. Her book is based on diaries and notes which she has written down from day one of entering politics because her husband David told her to. The book might not win a prize but it is easy to read and based on fact not fiction. People should read it and make up their own minds. Those who have read about her through political activists posing as investigative journalists should take off their coloured spectacles before reading her book. Otherwise they will go foggy. On that basis, hands up who wants this Coalition Government for another three years? After what it has done to farming and the economy over the past three years it would be a disaster if it was elected again. Collins will attract voters who have had enough of being marginalised for being white. She argues we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. She wants to build a culture of tolerance not discord. The Covid war is far from over but Labour and NZ First are keen to hold an election on October 17. Will that happen if Covid-19 is still a problem? The Electoral Commission could send it into next year which means less likely this Government will be re-elected.

Terry Brosnahan Got any feedback? Contact the editor: terry.brosnahan@nzfarmlife.co.nz or call 03 471 5272 @CountryWideEd

EVERY SHEEP FARMER. THAT’S ALL.

Sheep

OCTOBER 2020

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September 2020

TARGET: 14,000 SERIOUS SHEEP FARMERS DELIVERED: OCTOBER 1 • BOOK BY: SEPTEMBER 4 Contact: David Paterson 027 289 2326 e: david.paterson@nzfarmlife.co.nz

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Country-Wide is published by NZ Farm Life Media PO Box 218, Feilding 4740 General enquiries: Toll free 0800 2AG SUB (0800 224 782) www.nzfarmlife.co.nz

EDITOR: Terry Brosnahan | 03 471 5272 | 027 249 0200 terry.brosnahan@nzfarmlife.co.nz

Rocket fuel drives lamb finishing

MORE p30

PUBLISHER: Tony Leggett | 06 280 3162 | 0274 746 093 tony.leggett@nzfarmlife.co.nz SUB EDITOR: Andy Maciver | 06 280 3166 andy.maciver@nzfarmlife.co.nz DESIGN AND PRODUCTION: Emily Rees | 06 280 3167 emily.rees@nzfarmlife.co.nz Jo Hannam jo.hannam@nzfarmlife.co.nz SOCIAL MEDIA: Charlie Pearson | 06 280 3169 WRITERS: Andrew Swallow 021 745 183 Anne Hardie 03 540 3635 Lynda Gray 03 448 6222 Robert Pattison 027 889 8444 Sandra Taylor 021 151 8685 Cheyenne Nicholson 021 044 1335 James Hoban 027 251 1986 Russell Priest 06 328 9852 Jo Cuttance 03 976 5599 Rebecca Harper 06 376 2884 PARTNERSHIP MANAGERS: Janine Aish | Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty 027 890 0015 | janine.aish@nzfarmlife.co.nz Tony Leggett | Lower North Island 027 474 6093 | tony.leggett@nzfarmlife.co.nz David Paterson | South Island 027 289 2326 | david.paterson@nzfarmlife.co.nz SUBSCRIPTIONS: nzfarmlife.co.nz/shop | 0800 224 782 subs@nzfarmlife.co.nz Printed by Ovato Print NZ Ltd, Riccarton, Christchurch ISSN 2537-8759 (Print) ISSN 2537-8767 (Online)

@CountryWideNZ

Contents BOUNDARIES 10 Off-road with a house 11 Birds in paradise

HOME BLOCK 12 13 14 16 17 18

Paul Burt reckons it’s time to support the do-ers Charlotte Rietveld gets a tea-leaf view on the election result Jane Smith’s bullshite barometer is off the scale Low yields a mark of 2020 for David Walston Covid-19 puts another spanner in the works for Mark Chamberlain Gaye Coates sees harm minimisation put into practice

BUSINESS 20 22 24 27

Can’t see the wood for the trees The economic impact of a pandemic Living with Covid-19 in China Letter to the Editor: It is in the bag

LIVESTOCK 28 30 39 41 42 44

Top ram breeding group starts in a fish shop Rocket fuel drives lamb finishing Commitment needed for BVD eradication Stock Check: Lost opportunity to add value Balancing breeding and feeding US meat industry recovers

COMMUNITY 45 Call for pause on tahr culling plans

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September 2020


48 49 50 54 56 58 60 63 66 68 76 78 80 84 87

Can’t see the wood for the trees

MORE p20

Crop & Forage Special

Future-proofing food production systems A lighter touch to crop protection Be smart about glyphosate use Opinion: A new life for Mendel’s peas Managing sub clover on hillsides Sweet sixteen for pastures Gearing up for testing times Identifying insects enhances system The helicropping advantage Highly profitable and in sync with environment Regenerative ag’s up to 40 species too many Uniformity key in wheat record Contractor constantly seeking gains Next level fungicide launched FAR’s view on where iblon fits

ENVIRONMENT 88 Giving nature a hand 93 Rules behind the letters 94 Community involvement key to farm plan success

MORE p47

SOLUTIONS 96 Fusion for flexibility 97 AsureQuality’s new look

FARMING IN FOCUS 98 More from this month’s Country-Wide Contractor constantly seeking gains

It’s time to support the do-ers.

NEXT ISSUE: 2020

OCTOBER 2020 SERVING UP 52 pages of expert advice on growing crops and forages

Livestock

Helicropping

Hill country

Akitio station has had a massive shot in the arm

A nationwide hill country winter cropping project

Managing sub clovers

Country-Wide

September 2020

MORE p12

Sheep

• A comprehensive look at: The markets, management, livestock, animal health, genetics, wool, environment. • Body condition scoring: It is a great way to enhance mating so why don’t more farmers use it?

SEPTEMBER 2020

$12.00 incl gst

COVER DESIGN: Emily Rees

MORE p80

• Triplet management from scanning to birth: What are farmers doing that works and doesn’t work.

• Drench resistance: A warning of what can go wrong and how to avoid the worst case scenario on your farm. • Where to now for crossbred wool? Grow no wool, or breed a sheep that doesn’t need shearing? Or is there still hope?

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Ebitae esti dio molupta quae sintur.

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September 2020


For nearly 80 years we’ve been making world leading sheep vaccines, right here in New Zealand. Kiwi farmers rely on our vaccines because they trust them to protect their stock, help increase productivity and boost farm income. And now New Zealand’s leading 5-in-1 vaccine* just got better. Multine® B12 Selenised. With an optimum 2mg dose of selenium for supplementation of lambs from tailing. Made in New Zealand, specifically for New Zealand lambs and New Zealand conditions. Available from leading veterinary clinics & retailers.

ASK FOR MULTINE B12 SELENISED.

ACVM No: A11766 Schering-Plough Animal Health Ltd. Phone: 0800 800 543. www.msd-animal-health.co.nz NZ-MUL-200600004 © 2020 Intervet International B.V. All Rights Reserved. *Baron Audit Data, March 2020

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September 2020

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BOUNDARIES WHEELING IN THE WAGYU

Off-road with a house BY: JOANNA CUTTANCE

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here is nothing like watching a truck carrying a house to highlight the shortcomings of your farm track. With sections sold, the first new house has arrived. It appeared over the brow of the hill on the back of a truck. The driver pulled to a stop, possibly to contemplate the fantastic sea view but more likely to look dismally at the upcoming off-road adventure about to be embarked on. To get on the track required precision, a 90 degree turn is a lot harder in a truck with a 15m trailer carrying a house, than the stock truck drivers make it out to be. Next, the obstacle course, which involved raising and lowering the house trailer, and ensuring it was not too far left or right to avoid a selection of farm obstacles including a disused diesel tank, a shed, a water tank, balage, gates and strainer posts. Once through the gauntlet, the heavy duty International ProStar, named Blue Genie was the most impressive piece of kit to have passed by our woolshed to date. The truck and trailer rated 90 tonnes GCW, was custom built by MTE - Modern Transport Engineers Ltd in Hamilton, and started work in June. The house taken from Genius Homes in Timaru to Toko Mouth was its fourth house delivery. The next challenge involved a potentially treacherous slope to be negotiated. Our tractor was used as a brake to stop the truck from sliding down the hill. The tractor, which gave more grip and weight, was attached to the back of the trailer and worked in a lower reverse gear than the speed of the truck pulling. Together the combination worked their way down the hill with the tension on the rope increasing at times as the truck pulled the tractor down the hill. The final challenge proved the most inconvenient when going through the narrow old house site, one front wheel moved off the track and sank into the mud temporarily halting the operation, until our little tractor got it back on track.

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The Australians have come up with a new way to market Australian Wagyu beef, which they believe will increase their Wagyu’s credentials and marketability for export. The University of Queensland in partnership with the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) have developed a flavour profile for Australian Wagyu, similar to flavour wheels used to describe flavour and sensory properties by the wine, seafood, coffee, beer and cocoa industries. The Wagyu flavour wheel would provide product descriptors and differentiate between different cuts and marbling grades. Dr Heather Smyth, a sensory and flavour expert from Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and AACo Westholme brand combined to develop the wheel to help Australian beef stand out on menus. Dr Smyth said it was a language tool – a lexicon that could be used for marketing and production education. It meant exporters and chefs could select products based on the specific sensory experience they wanted to provide for consumers, including aroma, flavour, texture and aftertaste, she said. The development included blind taste tests of a selection of Wagyu beef samples by a flavour panel who identified nearly 100 words to describe Wagyu based on sensory attributes across texture, aroma and flavour. “I would describe the flavour as intensely caramelised – a tender roasted juiciness, buttery and dissolving sweetness in the mouth that lingers. Some cuts are more delicate with complex notes such as game meat, white pepper notes, fresh bread crust and hints of brassica,” Dr Smyth said.

JOKE

A man visiting town walks into a bar and orders a drink. Sitting next to him is a man who is old and beat, he has a black eye patch, one arm, a hook for a hand and a peg leg. The visitor asks the man “do you mind telling me how you got these injuries?” “Sure enough matey,” he answers. “I lost me leg when I fell off me boat, a huge shark came and tore it plum off! Then I lost me arm in a drunken sword fight with a fellow sailor...” And the eye? Asks the visitor. “Me eye, yes, well I lost it one day when a bird flew by and shit right in it!” “Oh c’mon...” the visitor says “you lost your eye when a bird flew by and shit right in it?” “Well you got to understand” the man says as he raises his arm “that was just after I got me hook”.

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September 2020


TROUBLESOME BRAND The Primary Sector Council’s adoption of the Maori concept of Te Taiao is laudable, but suggestions it becomes our all-encompassing national brand, like Ireland’s Origin Green, are worrying. Strong brands are simple, immediately identifiable, targeted and under-pinned by strong principles and products. We can ensure Te Taiao is all of those. Pronunciation is the problem. Unless you’re well versed in Maori it’s a verbal trip wire. If we are to run with it then we urgently need a one or two word synonym that won’t tangle tongues in the languages of our major customers. “Te Taiao – Naturally NZ” might work.

BIRDS IN PARADISE BY: LYNDA GRAY One of the unexpected highlights on a post-Covid weekend break to Stewart Island was a trip to Ulva Island, an open bird sanctuary that’s been predator-free since 1997. The island is among the country’s earliest reserves. In 1899 it was given official protected scenic reserve status because of its scenery, native bush and wildlife. Since then there’s been ongoing efforts to build and maintain what’s become a special bird paradise. You can pay for a specially guided walk but we took the cheapskate option, catching the water taxi ($20 adult or $10 child return) at Golden Bay across Paterson Inlet,

then spending a couple of hours walking along the beaches and well maintained gravel tracks. While the guys in our group hightailed it along the bush tracks, the girls took the time to spot the bird life and generally drink in the native forest surroundings and bird song. We weren’t disappointed, catching sight of saddlebacks, spindly legged Stewart Island Robins, and several bright green native parakeets. We shared the walkways with several bug-browsing weka who were clearly unfazed by our presence. Capping off the visit was a low flying albatross which followed the water taxi on our return trip to Golden Bay.

MUM’S THE WORD During New Zealand’s Level 4 lockdown a woman employed by an ag business had to work from home but didn’t want her young children to know she was in the house. So she pretended to go to work by walking out the front door in the morning, saying goodbye to her children. She then slipped back into the house, into the spare room where her office was set up and put a wedge under the door. Her husband brought her coffee, lunch and warm socks. The ruse only lasted for a day before mum was discovered and had to move out of the home office and on to another nearby.

Country-Wide

September 2020

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HOME BLOCK | COLUMN

Counting beans: It’s time to find some bean counters who know the real value of money.

Time for those who do In the midst of campaigning, Matata farmer Paul Burt reckons it’s time to support the do-ers rather than the talkers.

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igh…it’s that time again in the life cycle of government when we have to endure the tiresome see saw of campaign politics. In a bid to avoid the dross and reward the potential I have an idea. Catch a bean counter, it shouldn’t be hard as there are lots employed in Wellington. The trick is to find a good one who knows the real value of money and doesn’t idly toss about other peoples’ billions, especially those notes that haven’t been printed yet. The bean counter will take his abacus and add up all the money spent on inquiries, committees, working parties, consultants, feasibility studies, discussion papers etc. Presuming he has enough beans they will represent a very big pile of cash. His next job will be to elicit from the various groups a simple statement identifying the problem they were trying to solve (if they can remember!) Stage two will involve a competition open to all comers offering some of the

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saved billions as a prize for satisfactorily solving those same vexing issues that plague governments term after term. What you will achieve is problem solving by do-ers rather than problem solving by talkers. The solutions should still be judged by social, economic, and environmental criteria but the breadth of knowledge, enthusiasm, practicality, and innovative thinking brought to bear will ensure outcomes light years ahead of anything bureaucracies can conjure. Do-ers live by their deeds. What they have in common is a refusal to accept a situation not their liking. Like terriers, they will worry a problem until it buggers off or dies. Do-ers don’t accept failure. They achieve their goals because poor outcomes are personal and insult their professionalism, their reputation and their bank balance. Do-ers approach from the positive and invariably have personalities that pick

other people up and carry them along. In a recent “Farmers Weekly” with a “wool” theme there was input from both talkers and do-ers. The article on the do-ers was exciting and offered much hope for the future. The reporting from the talkers camp was a rehash of themes I’ve read about, in one form or another, over the last 40 years. Do-ers and talkers, action vs procrastination. One group ineffectively pushes and has been doing so uphill for a long time and the other group concentrates on pulling, the classic “build a better mouse trap” scenario. The wool industry hasn’t accepted that the generations of automatic wool product consumers have long gone and with them all knowledge of the material. It seems the only ones who know that wool is perfectly poised to help save the planet are the farmers and the sheep, of course, because they keep growing it. Ignorance can be countered with money but who has enough to rebuild a brand and is it even necessary? As was shown in the Farmers Weekly by two very bright women even if wool was the nameless biodegradable ingredient in disposable nappies and if by legislation or good marketing they became the only ones to have, our worries would be over. There are many similarities between the wool industry and our national economy. During my farming career wool has lost its economic relativity by a factor of 10. I would guess during the same period, taking into MATATA account levels of national debt, loss of once-free social services, fire sales of public assets, run down infrastructure and no decrease in negative social statistics that the country has had a similar slide. It’s hard to fathom because in both cases we have ample raw material to work with advantaged by a natural environment that is a marketer’s dream. With wool we have a renewable, nonpolluting, safe fibre. In the case of New Zealand it’s our landscapes, our isolation, and our population’s uncanny ability to represent itself well above normal in many diverse fields. In a world hankering for an innocence lost we are closer to that perception than most places. Support the do-ers, it’s time to cash in.

Country-Wide

September 2020


HOME BLOCK | COLUMN

Looking up the Rakaia Gorge.

Ditching tea for tonic Seeking grand-parental advice, Charlotte Rietveld watches the tea leaves being read on the upcoming general election result.

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hey say only a fool would predict an election outcome. But with Grandad foretelling Judith getting Aturn at the National reins, I’m ever happy to play the fool and take a punt. With Crusher ensconced at the oppositional helm, it was time to once again brew the billy with my unsuspecting Grandfather to see what visions the tea leaves conjured for our nation. With 98 years worth of grisly tales to tell he’s possibly more of an entrailstirring type prophet, but with communal blood pressure to consider I figured the rest home matron would frown upon such malarkey. Channelling Colmar Brunton I politely offered various tea options; “Perhaps you would like green tea? Or a red berry tea?” True to demographic Grandad’s response was unequivocal; “Black tea please”. Clearly the fortune telling had begun; I immediately disregarded all media proclaiming the demise of Winston. Barely one sip in and oblivious to my intentions, Grandad was in a reminiscent mood. He began talking about his 1943 war training days in the army. Months spent on sentry duty day and night, awaiting an invisible enemy to New Zealand shores. The threat was submerged back then, airborne these days, but significant either way. “The Government compulsory

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September 2020

conscripted us and we willingly obeyed. We had to stop farm work and take up dull army duties but it was the best thing we could do for the country.” The tea leaves were surely talking already, providing me a stab of guilt for wavering from the patriotic ‘team of five million’. I translated such talk as a clear nod to a Labour landslide come September.

Left: Grandad, Colin Watson with now 1 year old Edward Rietveld

Half a cup down and tea leaves still swilling, my century-nearing seer was obviously going to keep me guessing; “But I hated the army! So much so, I requested to transfer to the air force at the first opportunity and never looked back”. Replacing the army’s duty, parades and drill dictatorship, the air force apparently operated under stern, straight-talking leadership that let one think for oneself. Such free market talk invoked visions of Crusher ably piloting a trusty Tiger Moth.

Surely invisible undercurrents now had the tea leaves making an unreported rush to the right? But before I could press the matter, Grandad politely paused to thank me for a lovely cup of tea. “After several months of air force training we were put on a ship that sailed to Canada. On the ship we longed for a decent cup of tea like this. Fresh water was a closely guarded commodity.” Well I’ll be darned if the Beehive-shaped ship wasn’t now lurching to the left. Surely this was a clear sign of the Greens’ ongoing influence? Unable to contain my confusion I was forced to realign, “who was in government then?”. Grandad replied with an indecipherable “Labour”. Seizing the opportunity, I diverted my glance, desperately RAKAIA trying to be casual while GORGE inquiring whether he thought they would get in again this ‘wartime’. He stretched back into his chair and arguably took a quick glance at the tea leaves left in his cup. “Well” he said “you never can tell until it’s all done and dusted. But the worst never happens”. And thus, the tea leaves had spoken. Grandad’s far too wise to be drawn into such tomfoolery, but history suggests I’m highly likely to be. Combining tea leaves and technology, I suspect the current polling of a Labour majority government is well off the mark and instead we’re in for a repeat of exactly the same coalition government. Sneaking in with an ethically sourced 5%, the Greens’ ardent loyalists will see to their second term. ACT will be rewarded with 7% while Labour will slip to 44%. National will shrug off the scandals and slowly grind up to 39% leaving the ol’ dog to decide. Benefitting from lastminute reluctant ‘hand-brakers’, Winston will sneak in and bluff victory. That, at least, is the optimistic fool’s punt. Reality is pointing to a LabourGreen coalition with their rogue handbrake long forgotten. With United StatesChina relations deteriorating by the day and Covid-19 knocking on our door, we’ll be in for dual wars abroad and an antifarming one at home. I’ll be ditching the tea for tonic and holding tight that the worst never happens.

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HOME BLOCK | COLUMN

CARBON FORESTRY Speaking of painting ourselves into a corner, there is no hiding the fact that rampant pine afforestation is causing irreparable harm to a community near you. If you sit still for too long in our hinterland, NZ First will plant a pine tree in you and if you move in a progressive manner, Labour will tax your every limb. You don’t need a degree in telemetry to work out that Shane Jones’ ridiculous black hat and coat ensemble is about as close as he gets to paralleling Winston Churchill’s leadership. His $3 billion lolly scramble is a desperate attempt to buy votes and a way for Jacinda to keep Jones and Peters distracted and out of her hair for the past three years. Somewhat ironic that the Provincial Growth Fund and the Problem Gambling Foundation share the same acronym and outcome.

Weaning time at Newhaven.

Not taking offence North Otago farmer Jane’s Smith’s bureaucratic bullshite barometer is off the scale - there must be an election looming.

D

on’t believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” Whew, what a circus of a year in the Beehive, an unbelievable array of comedic shenanigans, a moratorium on common sense and an absence of anything that vaguely resembles a policy. No need to govern when you can sub-contract out important decisions to a working group, referenda, tribal roadblock or inept minister. My bureaucratic bullshite barometer is off the scale - anyone would think there was some sort of election looming. We live in a world where ‘feminazis’ conveniently feel aggrieved for being identified as a female when it doesn’t

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suit them, and then requesting special feminine status when it does. (I can of course get away with saying this, a male would be castigated or more likely castrated). An increasing percentage of the population seem to wake up every morning searching for something to be offended by. If you are male, middle class, own a business, property or an opinion – they will hunt you down. Perhaps David Cunliffe was actually ahead of his time when he apologised for being a man. I’m all for equality but I detest using any sort of status at your convenience, pulling out the ‘minority card’ when it suits and the ‘equality card’ when you want the opposite effect.

So then we see our levy organisations jump on the Regen Ag bandwagon coupled with a slush fund from the Crown to promote their wares. Wow, Greenpeace have endorsed the movement, so it must be good. My mantra for this election is simply “anyone but the Greens” - a party undeterred by reality or reason, resulting in a myriad of unpalatable, anaemic policies that make as much sense as a vegan BBQ. Chloe and Eugene have a master plan to destroy the inner fabric of NZ’s economy, one industry at a time while a pasty-looking James Shaw is barely a bystander, looking more like a wormy wether in the ewe paddock than a party leader. So the West Coast has been told their fossil fuels have no future despite supplying 88-92% of energy requirements in dairy and meat processing and hothouse horticultural, and being vital in cement and steel production. I can’t quite reconcile how importing coal and steel from Malaysia is better for either our environment or economy? Asking the coal industry to turn their ‘Komatsus into Kayaks’ and their

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September 2020


BACK ON THE FARM

Blair and Jane Smith on their Five Forks farm, North Otago.

‘Caterpillars into Cafes’ will destroy communities and the GDP in one fell swoop. One can only assume they had been smoking far too much Golden Bay Hay over lockdown to miss the tsunami of risk relying on international tourism. The only bi that seems to be missing in parliament these days are bipartisan agreements – I wish someone was brave enough to suggest all parties agree on a way forward to nail child poverty, health and education together and then happily jelly-wrestle the rest of the issues out in the bull pen. We owe it to our future generations to get health, welfare and education sorted via a long-term strategy and some real action. The litmus test is achieving this post-Covid, especially in our current ‘zero accountability’ environment. I suggest building a sizable drafting gate on Featherston Street – cull the number of MPs from 120 to 60, and those with no business experience let alone a driver’s licence can go out that same gate too, thanks. Out of 22 Labour ministers, only two have had a career outside of the public service. It is no wonder the only tangible thing Jacinda has delivered in three years is a baby and a lockdown. And while we are at it, our supposed ‘academics’ such as Landcorp’s beloved Dr Mike Joy need to either go into politics or give up their thinly disguised alarmist veil.

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September 2020

REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE So then we see our levy organisations jump on the Regen Ag bandwagon coupled with a slush fund from the Crown to promote their wares. Wow, Greenpeace have endorsed the movement, so it must be good. I had the misfortune of attending a seminar where NZ’s ‘conventional farming’ was made to sound like some sort of evil Chernobyl experiment. As an environmentally sustainable low-input yet high-output farmer, I was offended to say the least. I’m all for pasture diversity and holistic sustainability, but it is dangerous to promote this as a brand, especially when a large realm of fundamental science is dismissed as irrelevant. It certainly fell on deaf ears when I questioned the relevance of their vision to increase soils to 30 tonnes carbon/ha when the vast majority of our soils average 90t carbon/ha. This is not Midwest America with a monoculture of roundup-ready crops and sterile soils. Let’s promote what we already do bloody well – efficient pastureraised farming and not get sidelined or distracted by evangelistic movements. I fully respect those immersed in Regen Ag, but why do we need a road show, a levy-funded study and taxpayer funds to underpin it?

So back on the farm, it appears that being a business owner is becoming increasingly unattractive so I might look at reverting to a more convenient employee status. I’m pretty damn excited about the prospect FIVE of doubled sick FORKS leave days, an ever-increasing minimum wage, the demise of the 90-day trial period and gosh even maternity leave looks pretty damn attractive now, almost worth going through labour again (the child birth version, not the party). A wise head advised me the other day to concentrate on doing what we love – producing efficient Perendale and Angus genetics, working hard and taking pride in our farm and not get dragged down by the bureaucratic breeding ground outside the farm gate, great advice indeed. We have taken a couple of highly motivated young guys on to the Newhaven team this year, and we need to remain focused on fostering their passion for farming. I assured a downtrodden Blair the other day that there could be some very good news on the horizon for him and his cohorts that are feeling marginalised as generic taxpaying male capitalists. In less than 10 years he will be the minority. Good things come to those that wait.

Jane Smith is prepared to stand up and speak out.

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HOME BLOCK | COLUMN

Oilseed rape was a fairly big disaster, with our flea beetle ridden plants averaging a very lacklustre 1.48t/ha. There seems to be little rhyme or reason as to how badly people are affected within a few kilometres of us we have neighbours who lost entire crops, or had effectively zero yields, but also people getting 3.5t/ha. We are giving this crop one more chance, with some management changes. If it cannot perform next harvest then we will go the way of so many other United Kingdom farmers, and stop growing it altogether. Even worse than the oilseed rape were our peas, which on our biggest field, produced probably the single worst crop I’ve ever grown - 0.77t/ha is still worth combing, but only just. A lot of the responsibility for this has to go down to myself for poor management; literally over the road my neighbour managed over 3t/ha. Spring oats were slightly better, but still Crops have ripped early and light, David poor, making 4.43t/ha, with questionable Walston writes from Cambridgeshire, England. quality. Whether we can get them passed for milling use will determine how profitable - or otherwise - they end up being. arvest 2020 is done. It The best performer, relatively speaking, Finally, winter beans were another was actually a reasonably was KWS Crispin, which made almost terrible crop, with an overall average of long one, as for the first 9t/ha on some fairly average fields. 1.95t/ha, quite a comedown from almost time in recorded history, Graham and Freiston were 6t/ha last year. It doesn’t seem to have we started in June. This okay, and KWS Siskin was a bit been a bean year for anyone around the is never a good sign, as on our dry land, disappointing; it was on some of country, so I don’t feel quite so bad here. whenever crops are ready early it tends to our best fields, and still it was just All in all, these results are the lowest signal that they never ripened properly. hovering around 9t/ha. ever OSR, oats, peas and bean yields Sure enough, now that all the The very worst performance we have ever recorded. Not a vintage results are in - and measured over our was with a variety I had been performance. weighbridge - I can report it has been our very excited about. We For the second time in three lowest ever yields for almost all the crops grew a small amount of CAMBRIDGESHIRE, years we didn’t touch the grain ENGLAND that we grow. KWS Extase as a seed crop, drier this year, and in fact we First, and most importantly, is the on what is probably our very best have had the opposite problem. wheat. field. Immediately next door was a rough Sweltering weather over the summer This makes up roughly half of our looking piece of late-drilled second wheat, saw us stopping harvesting wheat in the cropping, and much more than half which yielded 7.34t/ha. afternoons as the moisture level dropped of our profit. The yield this year has The Extase field really should have outto 11%, and we were starting at 4am the turned out to be 7.94 tonnes/hectare - an performed this by 2-3t/ha at the very least next day to try and get a bit more weight agonising 600kg short of being 7.95t/ha, - but the variety was so early it just died into the crops. The difference between which would have allowed me to report before any rains came in June - and ended 11% and 15% moisture in a wheat crop the result as 8.0t/ha! up with a meagre 7.73t/ha. was around 0.4t/ha this year - so it’s really This could actually have been much I had thought we may be in for a rough a very significant reduction. Perhaps worse, and considering the exceptionally ride when I went to check the fields in if this continues we will need to have dry spring, it’s a reasonable result. There late June and the second wheat was bright equipment installed to add water back was great variation in the varieties this green, whereas the Extase was already into the grain. season, much more so than is usual. totally dead and yellow. Just another reason to love 2020!

Low yields a mark of 2020

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HOME BLOCK | COLUMN

There’s more than one way to get into power.

A flock of five million Covid-19 has once again thrown a spanner in the works, this time to the general election, Mark Chamberlain writes.

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ells Bells. Just when you think you have a column sorted, pesky old Covid-19 goes and throws a spanner in the works. As I write this (at the last minute) Auckland has been locked down once more, no thanks to the government’s porous border controls. Farming has just been ticking along with not much to report. The winter was a success with us avoiding incarceration and/or a fine for the seemingly mortal sin of cows making mud. As we move from one season to the next, the spring could become a welcome distraction from that other season – electioneering. The time when politicians gladly shake your hand before election day and shake your confidence after it. In days gone by photos of politicians kissing babies were the big thing. But now, a baby delivered (figuratively) while in office, has become the gold standard.

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September 2020

New Zealand seems to be operating in a political vacuum. Covid-19 has brought us the GORE unintended consequence of a power imbalance. The carefully scripted daily press briefings from the Church of Cindy; Saint Jacinda with her faithful sidekick, Bishop Bloomfield successfully swallowing all the political oxygen available on any given day. Simon Bridges and Todd Muller could not, and did not, survive. The problem is, in my view, there are some in the media who have crossed over from reporting to opinioning and in some instances, have become obviously partisan. It is ironic that our Prime Minister tells everyone to be kind while some in the media ignore this on their relentless campaign for another political corpse. Who in their right mind would put their name forward to serve? There are very few of us who have a

totally unblemished background and perhaps we do not have enough people in Parliament who have made mistakes and who have learnt from them. The outcome of this behaviour is that increasingly, over time, the House of Representatives will not actually represent, or reflect, many of us. As parents we are always trying to warn our children about the dangers and harm of bullying – it is a shame this is not reflected by some in the media who seem determined to pick at people until they crack. There appears to be, at times, little difference between the schoolyard bullies and those holding microphones at press conferences or on the news. Both hunting for the ‘gotcha’ moment. Locally we have had a bad run of MPs. Two in the last two terms. Both young men with lots to offer but after a couple of dumb moves, they were promptly crucified by the media and the public happily piled on. I would have made the perfect MP for Clutha-Southland. After countless seasons of early starts I would have gone to Wellington and simply slept for three years (by myself, of course). I would be sure to avoid any trouble and especially any attention from the opposite sex - I was a natural in my teenage years. Now Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins has entered the melee. She is someone who has made a few missteps along the way but who has quietly taken her medicine and bided her time. She is a political survivor. Going forward we are obviously going to need tough leadership. It is capitalism and an entrepreneurial spirit that will pave the way to recovery not hand-outs and over-the-top welfare policy taken directly from the socialist handbook. Our Prime Minister, rightly or wrongly, has led us down a path into serious, possibly dangerous debt. This debt will be passed on but never cured akin to an inter-generational financial cold-sore. It is going to need more than an ointment. Are either of these leaders the one to sort it? Who knows. Or could it be possible that the dark horse in his pinstriped suit will make a late run? I guess time will tell.

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HOME BLOCK | COLUMN

over creek crossings. The creek crossings met our compliance regulations but they didn’t reflect what we felt was doing the right thing. With significant expense, they now do – at least for today. While environment has been the big tick measure of farmers’ responsibility, there are less obvious practices to flaunt. Being a responsible employer is important to us and part of this has seen us move to using a payroll company to ensure our team are fairly and accurately paid for every hour that they work. Over the last year, we have been working on improving our responsible Harm minimisation in practice: the new culvert. use of antibiotics. We are not unusual in that mastitis control accounts for the majority of our onfarm antibiotic use. We have never been indiscriminate in their use, and there have always been sound clinical reasons to begin treatment but we were using more than we thought was reasonable and too often treatment Government and local authorities have long would have to be repeated or changed. required farmers to do the right thing. Now Last year we bought a Mastaplex banks have added their voices, West Coast machine which is an innovative piece of equipment that incubates farmer Gaye Coates writes. milk samples from suspect mastitis cows, communicating the growth of esponsible is one of those Recently banking has joined the sectors bacteria via cloud-based technology commanding words that who feel entitled to speak, with one to a laboratory. They determine which lingers with dubious bank now saying to businesses they will bacteria are present and then report back reminiscence from my only give financial support if they are to us which antibiotic is required to kill childhood. It sits alongside responsible. Achieving this responsible the mastitis bug present in that cow. being told to be good. Both words label requires providing evidence of This machine links with resonate in my memory as having very compliance with and the delivery of our local vet clinic who subjective definitions with certain but harm-minimisation practices. add to the advice. The variable consequences when they were On our farm, our most visible benefits of this system have HAUPIRI not achieved. evidence of harm-minimisation been well proven onfarm I naively thought that when I “grew practices is our waterway protection, over the last season with first up”, I would have attained these and completing this has taken time right antibiotic treatment somewhat obscure virtues of doing the some years. We weren’t delayed resulting in less antibiotics being right thing. in our response to doing the used, prompt treatment and quick Not so it seems. right thing; the process in its return of milk to the vat. The words simply changed as did the entirety just simply had to be I would like to think that if we ever people admonishing them. Responsible budgeted in terms of time and had to prove our responsibility to a and being good were swapped with money. key player in our business such as our modern day directives of being Many a school holiday family bonding bank, we could provide better than good sustainable and ethical. And then, just session was undertaken constructing a evidence of our efforts. It wouldn’t be just as I thought I had mastered the language new farm fence alongside a creek. We because we were told to be responsible. and rules of these new commands, have achieved compliance with these For us, it is doing things right because responsible self-importantly resurfaced. rules and expectations for some time, but we believe with certainty that is what is Being told to do the right thing by we have been realistic that the standards important. authorities such as Government policies for good practice are ever increasing and I’m less sure however that our and Regional Council rules is an expected expanding. definition of responsible will match with part of farming. The reproving voices This month we completed a major unity and volume that of the authority have increased and widened over time. project of installing two new culverts demanding it.

Taking responsibility

R

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September 2020


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September 2020

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BUSINESS | OPINION

Pines at Pongaroa.

Can’t see the wood for the trees Rather than massed planting of pine trees, New Zealand’s sheep and beef country needs a balanced approach throughout the sector, Dani Darke writes.

I

n 2019 I wrote an article about the threat lining up with the converging forces of the changes to the overseas investment rules, One Billion Trees fund, and the Emissions Trading Scheme. These concerns have been borne out, with rural communities suffering a blow from farm conversions. In 2018 forestry wasn’t competitive with sheep and beef farming. Fast forward to 2020 and sheep and beef farmers are struggling to compete at land sales. In 2018 the carbon price saw NZUs trading at $25, now it has climbed to $33.50. The jump in land prices can be largely attributed to ‘reforms’ to the ETS, which did nothing to limit the amount of carbon dioxide a fossil fuel emitter can offset. Effectively forestry is being subsidised. In Pahiatua about 19 farms have sold to forestry recently. The farmers left are probably looking at their options, as nobody wants to be the last farm surrounded by trees. Each of those farms represented at least one family. The fire brigade and St John’s Ambulance have lost

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volunteers and are struggling to get the numbers they need. Pongoroa school has lost a teacher. A vet who used to drive for an hour out of town servicing sheep and beef clients along the way, now drives past wall-to-wall pines. The roads where forestry is being harvested are causing havoc. Putere school near Wairoa, once a solid sheep and beef farming area, has just a handful of children. It has been a battle for the school to get the gravel outside the school tarsealed, but it has finally been done. In a bid to protect their workers from fast trucks, a farmer in the area gave staff radios to communicate with the trucks, which led to reports of the radios being used inappropriately by the truck drivers. Highway 52 between Waipukurau and Masterton has been severely damaged, and the council is unenthusiastic about fixing it up. The discussion about blanket afforestation has not yet focused on the investment needed in infrastructure, an investment that begins to be side-lined

when rural communities disappear. The investment has been made possible by local tax and ratepayers over many generations, and is hidden within the farm price. The reality is, with falling farm numbers funding will dry up, and regional infrastructures will erode quickly because of the massive impacts that logging trucks and slash have on local roads and bridges. The problem with slash from harvest hasn’t been addressed yet, with many of us familiar with the sight of Tolaga Bay beach covered in debris again following the recent floods. Attracting good staff is harder for these communities. People want a community base; they want a thriving school and a rugby club to be involved with. They want neighbours they can socialise with. Not knowing your neighbour is a reality for many now – farmers may have to find out who they need to talk to in Germany to fix up the boundary fence. This was an urgent need for one farming family who were devastated to find ewes and lambs had got through the boundary had been shot by a

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September 2020


Top: Mangatokerau bridge Tolaga Bay after flooding this year. Above: Pines on the Central Plateau.

Unfortunately, some in the forestry sector have labelled farmers as antitrees. However, most farmers recognise there is a massive opportunity to add more woodlots to our farms, by planting the right tree in the right place.

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September 2020

culler, rather than being mustered in and returned as farmers usually do. With fences not being maintained, and gates being left to swing in the breeze, it’s a recipe for problems. Morale for these farmers, and their children has been seriously hit. On the positive, the issue of blanket afforestation has gained mainstream awareness thanks to the likes of 50 Shades Of Green, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, and many other individuals who have spoken up in their communities. It has been incredible to see how through social media, we have stood together in different parts of the country and collectively made a noise loud enough to be heard over all of the other issues facing New Zealand. It is up to us to keep the issue front and centre as election policies are developed. Our message needs to clearly be: 1. Fix the ETS to make it work as intended i.e. to reduce the burning of fossil fuels;

2. Blanket afforestation and carbon farming ruin rural communities. We need to keep building awareness with academics, ecologists, iwi and others. Unfortunately, some in the forestry sector have labelled farmers as anti-trees. However, most farmers recognise there is a massive opportunity to add more woodlots to our farms, by planting the right tree in the right place. This has happened with vast numbers of natives planted this winter. Exotics also carry a great opportunity for farmers, where they are to be harvested and carbon credits collected. Farmers are not anti-trees, but integration is the future – not whole-farm conversion. As the Government continues to push towards its climate obligations, we need to get behind He Waka Eke Noa. This is our sector’s opportunity to have a say in how we get recognition for our existing and new trees on our farms, particularly native trees. The alternative is a levy on us at the meat processors, which lumps everyone in the same basket. Imagine if every sheep and beef farmer used their farm environment plan, identified 10% of their farm that was steeper, a riparian area, or useful as providing shade and shelter, and planted this with the right tree. There’s 8.5 million hectares of sheep and beef land in New Zealand - at 10% that’s 850,000ha. This would quickly chew up the One Billion Trees funding, won’t greatly upset the farm’s red meat output or profitability, nor lose industry critical mass. Instead of monocultures, our landscapes would look like intensive lowlands, with a decreasing gradient of intensity as we move up into hill country, matched up with bush blocks, woodlots, and riparian zones - all giving and supporting the opportunity for biodiversity and more. Thriving rural communities are beneficial for all of New Zealand and New Zealanders. The way to achieve this is by creating a mosaic of different land uses, where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. This would be a great story for our sector, and our products. We need our meat processors and exporters on board, so they can take that story global and demonstrate NZ is committed to sustainable food and fibre production. • Dani Darke is a King Country farmer and Country-Wide columnist.

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BUSINESS | COVID-19

The economic impact of a pandemic Covid-19 will have extreme consequences for the global economy. Murat Ungor of the University of Otago’s Economics Department looks at the impact the pandemic will have on debt, economic growth, and what it means for those entering the workforce.

W

e live in a world of scarcity. We are all consumers and we always enjoy consuming more. However, most of the time our wants exceed the resources we have. How do we overcome this problem? We borrow against future income. If a farmer borrows money to develop land or irrigation and spending exceeds income, the money borrowed will be expected to be repaid out of improved efficiency and production. Governments also borrow against future income. To pay for their deficits, governments borrow, which increases their debt. Governments all around the world spend money on a variety of programmes for the wellbeing of their citizens. When a government spends more than it collects in taxes, it has a budget deficit, which it finances by borrowing from the private sector or foreign governments.

product (GDP) in the Group of Seven largest industrialised nations and in New Zealand. Gross government debt excludes private debt held by businesses and individuals. Gross domestic product, or GDP, measures a country’s annual production and is often considered the best measure of how well an economy is performing. The government debt of five of the seven G7 countries accounted for more than 45% of global GDP in 2019. Government debt in countries like in Japan and Italy was already high by historical standards before the pandemic. Debt in Japan and Italy exceeds annual GDP. Government debt in NZ is much lower, but was still up from 21% of GDP in 2005 to 30% in 2018. In comparison, Germany, with a share of 62%, had the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio among all the G7 countries.

The pandemic is likely to lead to further increases in borrowing by governments around the world. In early April the IMF projected global output would shrink by 3% in 2020. The IMF now believes the global economy will contract by 4.9% this year. This is a major revision. According to the World Bank, the global recession will be the most severe since the end of World War II. A definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of falling GDP. European countries have already started to report falling production for the first two quarters of 2020. Germany’s GDP fell by 2% in the first quarter of 2020 and by 10.1% in the second. The figures are much worse for Italy and France. Italy’s GDP fell by 5.4% in the first quarter of 2020 and the Italian economy contracted by 12.4% in the second quarter. France’s GDP fell by almost 6% in the first

GOVERNMENT DEBT Government borrowing had been increasing tremendously before the pandemic struck. Total global debt reached US$188 trillion at the end of 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund, up by US$3 trillion compared to 2017. Rising debt across the world has been a big concern for investors. Figure 1 shows total debt as a share of gross domestic

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Money borrowed to fund irrigation is expected to be repaid through increased production and profits.

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OPTION 1

WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?

September 2020

N Z

an y

G er m

U K

Ca n

ad a

ce

Fr an

U S

This is way lower than the corresponding figure for Germany (62 per cent), which had the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio among all the G7 countries.

Spending on infrastructure can have positive impacts on future economic growth by removing constraints on productivity such as transport bottlenecks. In this case, future generations of taxpayers will benefit from these improvements, higher economic growth and improved tax receipts. Therefore, in theory, government

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Ja p

an

quarter of 2020 and the French economy Figure 1. Total gross debt as a share of GDP (%) in 2018, G7 vs. NZ § Figure 1. Total gross debt as a share of GDP (per cent) in 2018, G7 vs. NZ § contracted by almost 14% in the second quarter. Many other countries have yet to 250 post second-quarter results. New Zealand’s GDP fell by just 1.6% 200 in the March quarter of 2020 – the first quarterly fall in GDP since 2010 when the economy contracted by 0.5%. It is very 150 likely NZ will record another contraction in the June quarter which is still to be 100 reported. Governments around the world have 50 already pledged to spend trillions of dollars to contain the coronavirus and shore up 0 financial markets and businesses. NZ was not an exception. The Government in March announced an initial $12.1 billion response package to protect the health and § Gross debt represents total liabilities of all levels and units of government. wellbeing of Kiwis. Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook, October 2019. More debt now could be good or bad § Gross debt represents total liabilities of all levels and units of government. for future generations, depending on the Source: International Monetary Fund, World Outlook,GDP. October 2019 Japan and Italy have accumulated a debt thatEconomic exceeds annual NZ has been doing implementation of policy. better than all G7 countries. NZ’s total gross debt as a share of GDP was about 30 per cent Borrowing allows government to spend in 2018. This is way lower than the corresponding figure for Germany (62%), which had the debt-to-GDP ratio among all the G7 countries. money today while foisting the tab on Japan and lowest Italy have accumulated a debt that exceeds annual GDP. NZ has been doing better future taxpayers. than all G7 countries. NZ’s total gross debt as a share of GDP was about 30 per cent in 2018.

investment in public sector infrastructure can have a beneficial effect for future taxpayers – even if there is a short-term increase in government borrowing. Key to weighing up the value of increased government spending is quantifying the subsequent rounds of spending in the economy it stimulates.

However, there is no rule of thumb and policymakers should bear in mind that the second-round effect of government spending can vary across countries. The pandemic will also cause younger people anxiety about their financial future and whether there will be a job for them when they enter the workforce.

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BUSINESS | PANDEMIC

Tourist destinations like Hainan Island have hotels and resorts breaking sales records with Chinese travelling locally.

Living with Covid-19 in China BY: HUNTER MCGREGOR

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t has been more than half a year since the Covid-19 pandemic started to change the world. Shanghai is one of the few places like New Zealand, which has retained its sense of normality. The city has not had (so far) any major Covid-19 challenges, although plenty has changed since January. The one thing that has not changed is the ability of the Chinese people and their companies to endure. The global economic impact from Covid-19 has been massive but you do not hear Chinese companies complaining because fast changes to the market here are normal. I like to think if it as adapting (quickly and a lot bigger than normal) to the current market conditions, “playing with what is in front of you” mentality. Fast changes to the many markets throughout China are one of the many

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things I like about running a business here. The challenge is that Covid-19 could potentially remerge in Shanghai at any point, as it has done lately in both Beijing and Dalian. This does not keep me awake at night; fortunately, this is something I have no control over. The Chinese Government pandemic response is constantly improving from previous experience with recent SARS and avian flu pandemics which gives many Chinese and myself confidence. For example, the situation monitoring, large-scale patient surveillance, preparation of medical facilities and medical supplies allowed them to test more than 7 million people in Beijing in a threeweek period and they will test everyone in Dalian (about 6 million people). The infrastructure to do this would not have been around a month or two ago and this will continue to improve. Wearing a facemask is one important response I can do in this densely populated

city. If someone had told me last year that in the heat (temperatures above 35C) and high humidity of the Shanghai summer that I would be choosing to wear a facemask, I would have said, “you are crazy!” I took the subway the other day for the first time in months and everyone was wearing a mask. I was initially surprised but with many people in a confined area, it makes sense. In Shanghai I do not need to wear a mask walking down the street (like most people) but if I go into a crowded area (even outside) or take a taxi, for instance, I always wear a mask and I get the driver to do so as well (if they aren’t already). There is plenty of evidence that facemasks reduce the risks of transmission of Covid-19 and this is one thing I can do to protect myself and others. July and August are always very hot in China. It is a time when a lot of Chinese people would normally go on holidays to Europe or North America. More than 150 million international trips were made from China last year, it is staggering to think that this will not happen this year. So, like within NZ, the Chinese are now travelling locally. Fortunately, China is a big country with a lot of great places to visit. All the major tourist spots are extremely busy, this includes both Yunnan province and Hainan Island in the south. Hainan Island has positioned itself as the Hawaii of China, and usually its peak season is during the Chinese winter. But at the moment it is full with many hotels and resorts in the area breaking sales records. Schools in Shanghai went back to normal in June for a month before summer holidays started. The Shanghai public school system gave families the option to send kids to school or to attend classes online. Most people choose to send their kids to school, which speaks of the confidence the Shanghai people have in the Shanghai government response to the pandemic. One of the biggest challenges China is facing is the influx of Covid-19 cases from overseas. Millions of Chinese want to return home but like everywhere it is difficult to get a flight and tickets are very expensive. Quarantine rules for people arriving in Shanghai are constantly adjusted, but

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September 2020


Hunter McGregor shopping in a mask at the high-end supermarket called City Super in downtown Shanghai.

one thing is clear, you pay your own way. The government did start off covering the costs, but this quickly changed. You do get to choose a price range for your quarantine hotel and you stay in your room the entire time without exception. China has adapted to the rising challenges of quarantine capacity. They are now bringing in new rules to reduce hotel space pressure and most people who live in Shanghai can now do part of their quarantine at home to ease pressure. For people who live in Shanghai after their first test results are negative can go home, as long as their building compound officials agree. Most importantly, when they state ‘at home’ this means you do not go outside your apartment. This is mandatory and monitored. The number of international flights coming into China has greatly reduced. Currently there are only three return passenger flights a week between NZ and China (Air NZ and China Eastern Shanghai to Auckland, China Southern

- Guangzhou to Auckland). Flights were at least daily for these three airlines preCovid-19. On top of all the economic and pandemic challenges, July has been unusually wet for many parts of China. Shanghai has had an extra three weeks of summer rains. Consequently, at the end of July, this rain has affected more than 54.8 million people and 41,000 houses have collapsed. We have no idea what impact this will have on top of the challenges of dealing with African swine fever for some Chinese farmers, 2020 is going to be very challenging. Despite plenty of head winds and uncertainty around the globe, most Chinese people feel confident things will continue to improve within the country along with the ability of their companies to endure what comes next. • Hunter McGregor is a Chinese-speaking Kiwi based in Shanghai selling NZ meat into China.

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BUSINESS | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

It is in the bag Response to ‘What’s in the bag?’ article, published in Country-Wide July 2020.

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armers looking to maximise the profitability of their dairy farm operation understand the importance of high-quality care and nutrition of the young pre-ruminant. Agricultural scientists and nutritionists understand this too and so researchers around the world have invested substantial resources into quantifying the nutrient requirements of calves and understanding the suitability of different raw materials for inclusion in the diets of these rapidly growing, valuable, young animals. Finding a suitable alternative to whole milk has been an important focus for over 100 years. Yet, the factors identified in the 1940s as critical for the successful replacement of whole milk are still relevant today: use of high quality, highly digestible ingredients, careful selection of fat sources and homogenisation of fat, plus the addition of essential vitamins and minerals. While the importance of these factors has not changed, research has proven that the previously “sacred cow” of milk replacers, namely the importance of curding, is not as important as once thought.

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September 2020

Understanding the importance of curd formation in the digestibility of milk replacers has been an area of interest for anyone looking to develop alternative feed sources for young calves. Yet, in their comprehensive 1998 review of this topic, Longenbach and Heinrichs concluded “The complete function and necessity of abomasal coagulation in calves, beyond colostrum feeding, remains questionable with current feed processing technology”. More recently, Japanese researchers (Miyazaki, 2010) used ultrasound to assess curd formation in young pre-ruminant calves. These authors reported that abomasal curd formation was absent in eight out of 29 calves fed a curding milk replacer. These authors also reported no significant difference in appearance, appetite, vigour or blood parameters of the calves. Taking account of this novel and current research and looking back at some of the research published over the last 100 years with a better understanding of the calf development and the digestion of milk, it is becoming increasingly clear that curd formation plays an important physiological role in the success of passive transfer of immunoglobulins in colostrum

in the first 24 hours of life, but not in the digestion of milk proteins post-colostrum feeding. These research findings are supported by practical experience. Many farmers around the world use whey-based milk replacers as the sole source of nutrition for young calves from as young as four days of age. Published data (Urie et al., 2018) from the United States shows more than 30% of heifer calves raised in the US are fed only milk replacer, of which over 95% does not curd. Similarly, market research shows that in the United Kingdom as many as 44% of dairy farmers feed only milk replacer to heifer calves and over 60% of this is whey-based. What is clear is that, in much the same way as the book cover only presents a glimpse of the story, the list of ingredients making up the milk replacer is far less important than the digestible nutrient profile of the product and the performance of the product in your feeding system. When choosing a suitable milk replacer (curding or non-curding), look beyond the product label and choose a product which is formulated by a qualified nutritionist, based on a thorough understanding of upto-date scientific research, is manufactured to high quality standards, and which is backed by comprehensive local support. Unfortunately we don’t have a registration process for nutritionists in New Zealand, so I am not a registered nutritionist in New Zealand. But I do hold a MSc. in ruminant nutrition, and I am a full member of the NZ Association of Ruminant Nutritionists (https://nzarn.org. nz/). – Natalie Chrystal, Nutritionist.

AUTHOR AND SCIENTIST DR PAUL MUIR RESPONDS: Yes it is a very technical subject. It is also an industry with a lot of players – the CMR industry has a $80 million turnover so a lot of people making money. But I am unashamedly on the side of the calf rearers. Since they don’t have information on what is in a CMR, a curd test does tell them one thing and that is that it has skim or whole milk powder in it. Otherwise who knows what is in the bag. However this company could voluntarily put an ingredient list on their bag and become industry leaders. That would be a good outcome and give them a marketing point of difference.

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LIVESTOCK | SHEEP

Top ram breeding group starts in a fish shop BY: TONY LEGGETT

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fish shop in Masterton provided the inauspicious venue 50 years ago for the first meeting of what has become the most influential ram breeding group in New Zealand. The Wairarapa Romney Improvement Group (WRIG) celebrated its first 50 years in July with a seminar and dinner event in Masterton with more than 200 invited guests, mostly clients of the group members. The group has a combined flock of around 32,000 recorded ewes and sells

more than 5000 rams annually. This gives it influence over more than 20% of the total self-replacing ewes in the country. One of its senior members Bill Hume presented a potted history of its first 50 years. He said the group’s genesis began mostly out of frustration with the direction sheep breeding was heading. “There was a ground swell beginning of mainly younger farmers who were dissatisfied with this level of performance and wanted to improve their lambing percentage.” Wairarapa farmer Holmes Warren, whose Turanganui flock is still a member of the WRIG today, had already developed a

reputation for improvement of fertility in the Romney. Warren had begun selecting for fertility when he first came home to Turanganui in 1948. “During the fifties and sixties, Holmes became the breeder that anyone looking to improve the Romney came to for encouragement, advice and his genetics.” Together with Massey College’s head of animal breeding, Professor Al Rae, he developed a system of recording ewe performance that included lamb weaning weights. It enabled rapid improvement and later evolved into The National Recording Scheme, a forerunner of Sheeplan.

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Another leader in the early history of WRIG was the late John Daniell who had returned home in the sixties to his family’s property, Wairere, after time as a stud stock agent. Daniell had a registered flock which was not performing and approached Warren with the idea of forming a breeding group in Wairarapa with people who had begun to select for improvement. Hawke’s Bay farmer Tony Parker had already formed the first breeding group in NZ, but the Wairarapa farmers decided to establish their own. A date was set for their first meeting and it was Warren who chose the venue – the Wenvoe Fish Shop in Masterton. “There is no plaque to commemorate the occasion, but the outcome was that we made a list of people in Wairarapa who were doing good work with sheep and asked them if they would like to join a breeding group,” Hume said. Aside from Holmes Warren, John Daniell, and Bill Hume, the list comprised Trevor Oliver, Ivan Stringfellow and John Wingate, who all farmed near Wairere, north-east of Masterton; and Ian Campbell at Mt Bruce, and Bill Hume’s brother John. Southern Hawke’s Bay farmer Bay de Lautour was also added to the list and became the only breeder outside Wairarapa. Hume said the group today owes a huge debt of gratitude to Holmes Warren, especially in the early years when his belief in taking a scientific approach to selection was widely challenged by other ram breeders. “Holmes had the strength of character to pursue what he knew was right and we in the group had the same attitude,” Hume said. Those early years laid a platform of collaboration which has endured through the past 50 years. “In fact, the real strength of our group has been the discussion and sharing of ideas. Over the years we have had some of the best brains in the industry address us and that has influenced our direction.” Other farmers have joined the group over the past 50 years. Sandy and Tim Wallace joined the Group in 1980; John Le Grove joined in 1983 when he moved to his own farm and Roger Barton joined in 1992. The most recent group member is Tinui farmer George Williams who joined in

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September 2020

Left: Holmes Warren with some of his Romney rams. Below: Southern Hawke’s Bay breeder Bay de Lautour was the only member from outside Wairarapa.

2016 when he took over John Hume’s flock. Williams now also runs the New Generation Central Progeny Test Flock for Beef + Lamb Genetics. The WRIG Central Flock was initially run at Turanganui before Ian Campbell took over running it in early 1980s. The group replaced the Central Flock in the late 1980s in favour of a system of swapping ewes with other members during tupping. “This system worked well until we superseded it in 1990 with a flock selected on a single trait - growth rate.” The Growth Rate Flock was run at John Hume’s place for nearly 20 years and led the group into the field of meat production, carcase composition and all aspects of tenderness, colour and taste. “We had some very inspiring advisors help us in this project; among them George Cruickshank, Mark Young and of course Dorian Garrick.

In recent years, progress has been made through a system of swapping top rams, selected on their ranking in the Sire Reference over the whole group comprising 30,000 recorded ewes including replacement ewe hoggets. Hume paid tribute to the scientists and experts who have assisted the group so far. Aside from Professor Rae, he mentioned George Cruickshank who advised on meat research and Mark Young who offered similar experience but more knowledge on physiology and genetics. But he singled out livestock genetics expert Dr Dorian Garrick for his contribution. “For the last 30 years we have had Dorian as our guru. Al Rae once said to Holmes and me that he felt his greatest achievement in his time at Massey was to lure Dorian back from Cornell University in New York.”

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LIVESTOCK | ONFARM

Rocket fuel drives lamb finishing Akitio Station has seen a major turnaround since manager Nigel Bicknell arrived. Russell Priest reports. Photos by Brad Hanson.

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oastal Akitio station, notorious for being one of the windiest places in New Zealand, has had a massive shot in the arm since the arrival five years ago of manager and equity partner Nigel Bicknell. Angus breeding cows have ousted Friesian bulls and high octane finishing feeds and new ram genetics have revolutionised its lamb finishing operation. “Our ewes are now queens and lambs are princesses and the cows are there to support them,” Nigel said. When Nigel first arrived at Akitio the station was struggling to kill 16kg lambs and consistently meet processor specifications. However, with a change in ram genetics and the implementation of a system involving A, B and C lamb finishing mobs, coupled with the use of high ME finishing crops, has changed this significantly. Having worked on Landcorp farms and seen their sheep genetics in action he wasted little time in introducing similar Romney and Texel genetics to Akitio, with dramatic results. “We went from 60% to 70% of our

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lambs meeting processing specifications to 90% to 92%. Not only did our lamb weights increase but the new genetics gave us the confidence of meeting our year-round supply commitments of 250 to 500 lambs a fortnight.” A vital component of Akitio’s successful lamb finishing operation has been a dramatic improvement in pasture quality. Much of this must be attributed to its recently acquired Angus cow herd, which has replaced the Friesian bull finishing operation. Increased use of fine-particle lime on the predominantly crushed argillite soils has reduced the aluminium toxicity and encouraged greater clover growth. Nigel brought a wealth of experience with him to Akitio after initially attending a 20-week training course at Taratahi Agricultural College in 1989. On graduating he worked in some wellknown sheep, beef and dairy farming businesses, interrupted by a stint as a directional driller. Erewhon Station, Landcorp and Brownriggs all benefited from his considerable talents before his move to Akitio.

›› Breeding and finishing units p32 Country-Wide

September 2020


Nigel Bicknell on the ridge at Akitio Station.

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Above: View from the ridge looking south showing farm buildings.

AKITIO

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Breeding and finishing units Both Akitio and neighbouring Huiaruau are farmed as breeding and finishing units with the breeding cows, weaner cattle and main breeding ewe flock being run on Akitio and the one-year ewes and most of the A group finishing lambs run on Huiaruau. They are also used for growing out replacement ewe lambs and B and C group lambs destined for the finishing units on both the stations. Specialist lamb finishing crops of mainly plantain /clover (P/C) and Raphno brassica (Raphno) are grown on both stations, providing year-round feed for the business’s lamb supply contracts. Other fillin crops grown are Moata Italian ryegrass (Moata), Lush tetraploid Italian ryegrass (Lush) and Pasja. The last mentioned is sown when the area is too wet to plant Raphno, and the other two are used when weeds become a problem as they provide more spraying options than are available for P/C

and Raphno or when transitioning from old pasture or from autumn to spring sowing. As of early August 2020 the lamb finishing area has 50ha in P/C, 94ha in Raphno and 86ha in Lush. Akitio has 30ha designated for specialist lamb finishing of which 8.4ha is at present planted in Raphno and the balance in P/C. Sown in early November 2019 with 300kg/ha DAP after being in P/C for four years, the Raphno was first grazed in mid-December. Eight hundred lambs spent five days in each 1.4ha paddock and every 30 days as they passed the yards a draft was taken, while new (B) lambs entered the system off the hills to replace those going to slaughter. “The Raphno stand was brilliant through the drought finishing 2000 lambs. We’ll get 10 grazings each of 2500kg DM off it before replacing it with a new crop of Raphno in the spring.” Nigel has had considerable technical support

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September 2020


Top: MA Romney ewes on Akitio. Above, left: Angus Simmental herd sire on Akitio. Above, right: Angus Simmental herd sires on Akitio.

from Mark Jones of PGG Wrightson Seeds in growing and managing the Raphno and confesses to following his advice unwaveringly. “His best advice has been to graze it heavily so there is little if any leaf left before moving the lambs off. This prevents it from going to head.” Analysis of Raphno reveals the metabolisable energies (MEs) of the stalks and leaves are 13.5 and 14 respectively. Nigel said scald can be a problem if lambs eat only the leaves. This is overcome by encouraging some stalk to be eaten. Other major advantages over brassicas are that it is not susceptible to club root, allowing Nigel to plant it on the same area in consecutive years. Stock find it so palatable there’s no lag time involved in their starting to eat it, while no rumen transitioning is required in going from it onto other brassicas and vice versa. Because of its large tap root (up to 1.5m long according to Nigel) it performs

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exceptionally well during dry periods but this also means it doesn’t like wet feet. Huiaruau is the focus of most of the present development work in the business. This will result in the addition of a further 200ha of lamb finishing country divided into about a hundred 2ha paddocks by permanent fencing and a laneway system to service these. The two stations are leased from the Kight Family Trust by Akitio Livestock whose shareholders are Edwyn and Jenny Kight and Nigel and Connie Bicknell. Nigel is paid to manage the company, which is run by a board with an independent chairman Derek Neal. Nigel and his wife Connie became involved in Akitio Livestock five years ago after Nigel answered an ad for the position of equity manager on the station. After being appointed to the position he undertook a six-month trial period to ensure he could work with the model and personnel involved.

›› Pastures control weeds p34

FARM FACTS: • Akitio and Huiaruau Stations. • 3800ha (1200ha eff.) and 1000ha (950ha eff.) respectively. • Situated 73km and 58km south-east of Dannevirke. • Owned by The Kight Family Trust. • Leased from the Trust by Akitio Livestock. • A large sheep and cattle breeding and lamb finishing business. • Finish 12,000 lambs using 230ha of specialist finishing crops. • Angus herd of 300 breeding cows mated to MMM bulls.

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Above: Nigel in a stand of plantain/clover. Top, right: Plantain/ clover stand on Huiaruau. Above, right: Nigel pointing out ideal grazing height for Raphno.

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Pastures control weeds Transitioning from old pastures to specialist lamb finishing crops involves spraying out the former in either the autumn or the spring. Moata or Lush are used as transition pastures, depending upon whether P/C or Raphno are to follow. This transitioning process is necessary to eliminate as much of the weed challenge as possible before sowing P/C in particular. Crops are sown with 250kg/ha of DAP to remove any limiting factors relating to fertility, and a further 250kg/ha of DAP the following spring or autumn depending upon when they are sown. Soil tests on the predominantly silt flats show a PH of 7 and Olsen Ps in the mid-20s. The intention is to have 115ha each of P/C and Raphno between the two stations and alternate them while replacing P/C stands every two years and Raphno stands every year. “The Raphno goes crazy on the residual nitrogen left

by the P/C when in rotation with it.� If successful weed control is not achieved by spraying Raphno it will be replaced by Moata in the autumn, which in turn will be replaced by Lush the following spring and finally go into P/C in the autumn. Four clovers are sown with the plantain to provide a continuous annual supply of this rocket fuel. This tiered approach to annual clover production is the brainchild of Dr Paul Muir and is designed so that when one clover species starts to decline in production the next takes over. The clovers involved are winteractive Balansa, Lusa Persian clover (kicks in during the spring), Mainstay white (covers the summer period) and Morrow red (late summer/autumn). Clovers are sown at 3kg/ha with Tonic plantain at 6kg/ha. Nigel said the fertiliser and seed cost of both P/C and Raphno is roughly the same at $200/ha. The business does all its own crop establishment by direct drilling with a Taege drill.

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Lamb finishing area on Huiaruau.

“A quick cost-benefit analysis on the back of my cigarette packet showed a net annual return of $4567/ha for the 8.4ha of Raphno and 21.6ha plantain/clover on Akitio this year.” Short-term finishing lambs go onto P/C because no rumen transitioning is required from pasture, while longer term finishing is done on Raphno. Daily growth rate averages of lambs are 300g (450g maximum) on P/C and 250g on Raphno (300g maximum). Early lambing, one-year, twin-bearing ewes (mated to Texel rams) from the hills on Huiaruau are allowed to drift on to the flats after lambing where they will find P/C crops carrying 2500kg/ha of highly digestible feed. Fifteen days after the start of lambing any stragglers still on the hills will be driven down onto the flats resulting in a stocking rate of 125 – 150 ewes and their lambs per hectare. Mobs will be shifted every two days between the 2ha paddocks, allowing only the top to be eaten off the crop. Twelve thousand mostly homebred lambs averaging 18.6kg are killed off the two stations annually at Ovation’s processing plant in Feilding for Coastal Spring Lamb and BX Foods NZ Ltd. Killing the 2000-2500 one-year ewes (end October) and some of their Texel cross lambs (25% drafted off mum at 19kg) early takes pressure off the finishing country and makes it available for finishing Romney lambs from the main breeding flock. Weaning of MA Romney ewes occurs mid-November when 5% of the male lambs are killed off mum while a second draft of Texel cross lambs is also taken. Twelve hundred milk lambs are drafted off mum pre-Christmas at an average CW of 19kg.

TRAGIC END TO PIONEER Akitio Station is on the east coast of the North Island 73km south-east of Dannevirke. The original 10,370 hectare station and bungalow was bought by Australian James Armstrong in 1876 for $29,000. Within four years he had acquired a further 21,280ha from neighbours. He drowned tragically while trying to cross the Akitio River, which dissected the station, on horseback with a herd of cattle, and his body was never found. All land south of the river had to be sold to pay death duties thus reducing the size of the land holding considerably. Great-great grandson Edwyn Kight and wife Jenny are two of the present guardians (Trustees) of the Kight Family Trust, which includes 3800ha (1200ha effective) Akitio Station and 1000ha (950ha effective) Huiaruau Station. Production forestry covers 2350ha of the area not farmed on Akitio while the balance is in native bush. Three QEII covenants cover the 50ha not farmed on Huiaruau. Bought in August 2019, Huiaruau Station, 15km north-west of Akitio, was part of the original Armstrong land holding but was gifted to one of the Armstrong daughters as a wedding present, thereby temporarily leaving the immediate family.

›› Time for teasers p36

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Time for teasers

One-year ewes lamb on hills at Huiaruau.

Pre-mating management involves the introduction of teaser rams to the mating mobs for 10 days then withdrawing them for 10 days after which the mating rams are introduced. For the 2000-2500 one-year ewes, mating begins on February 20 with the introduction of high indexing Texel rams at a ratio of 1:60 for 17 days. Most of the rams are withdrawn after this and used in the next mating group leaving a token number of rams to tail-up the ewes not in lamb. “We call this mating technique ‘ram bombing’, which allows us to get maximum use out of our high indexing rams.” The day the teasers go out with mobs of 1200-1500 ewes is the beginning of what Nigel calls “the golden 30 days of mating” during which time ewes are shifted daily to increase their condition and to minimise their exposure to zearalenoneproducing fungi. This toxin is a powerful oestrogenic metabolite that can interfere with a ewe’s ability to get in lamb. The main mob of 7000 Romney ewes goes to Romney rams on March 20, with a small mob that is lambed on the back country of Huiaruau mated on March 25. Ewe mating weight normally averages 70kg but because of this year’s drought it was only 62kg. “If feed is in short supply over the mating period I don’t hesitate to shut the ewes down 10 days after the rams go out and channel the feed into later-mating mobs.” The Romney ewes are robust, highly fertile sheep with high

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Top: Romney finishing lambs on Raphno. Above, left: Wind erosion of sedimentary soils on Huiaruau. Above, right: Historic Akitio Station woolshed.

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September 2020

eczema tolerance and generally dock 145-150% (scan 180%). Nigel believes in buying the best rams he can find, paying on average $1250 each. His Waihora Romneys are bred by Simon Wilson from Waipukurau. He targets soundness, fertility, length and longevity when selecting his Romney rams and growth when selecting his Texel rams. He’s a great fan of the robustness of Texel-Romney lambs claiming they are great foragers and refuse to go hungry and thirsty. Winter management of the ewes involves a 60-day rotation in five mobs of about 2000. Scanning in July identifies singles, twins, triplets, late lambers and dries. The dries are all killed as soon as possible after scanning. The one-year ewes are not shorn but belly crutched instead and moved from Akitio to Huiaruau about a month before the start of lambing. At paddocking out about 20 days before lambing singles are set stocked at about 8/ha, twins at 4/ha

while triplets are spread out as thinly as possible (after scanning) around the smaller paddocks surrounding the farm buildings to reduce stress levels. After lambing most of them will go on to P/C paddocks, which stimulates milk production and increases ewes’ condition dramatically enabling each one to wean even sized lambs averaging 33kg. Nigel aims to lamb on covers of 1300kg/ha but if it’s been a wet winter he usually doesn’t meet this target because ewes are set stocked for lambing earlier. Ewes are shorn in early to mid-December and again before scanning in July, with Romney lambs being shorn in early January and any remaining Texels at the end of February. The business’s 2400 replacement ewe hoggets are not currently mated but will be so when Nigel feels their performance and the system are able to accommodate them lambing.

›› Angus cows on clean-up duty p38 37


Angus cows on clean-up duty Pivotal to the success of the lamb-finishing operation is a herd of 300 Angus cows. These are the nucleus of a herd of 400 cows assembled from several sources in June/July 2018 after the decision was made to get rid of the Friesian bulls. Now that the major pasture clean-up job required after the bulls left has been completed the cow herd has been reduced. Nigel believes later calving cows complement an intensive sheep breeding and lamb finishing operation better than do Friesian bulls because there’s too much competition for high quality feed running bulls. Cows now perform the role that Friesian bulls were never able to do successfully and that is maintain pasture quality for the sheep. With 400 cows to mate Nigel had to find 12 bulls and, not wanting to pay the premium Angus bulls have been fetching in recent years, he turned to a long-term acquaintance John McFadzean who was holding his inaugural McFadzean Meat Makers (MMM) yearling bull sale in September 2018. “I have known John for years and he’s been producing some of the best weaners in the country for a long time and is not afraid to compete with stud breeders for the top bulls.” Nigel bought 17 mainly ¾Simmental

¼Angus bulls at the McFadzean’s first two bull sales, averaging just over $5000. He has been extremely impressed with the performance of the MMM yearling bulls achieving a 93% calving (cows to bull) last year and a 92% in-calf rate this year during a severe drought. He’s also impressed with the temperament and performance of the progeny, which averaged 220kg at the end of March and 275kg at the end of July. “Their temperament is brilliant. After initially being a bit fizzy at weaning they had settled down by the second time we handled them and were unfazed when the chopper flew over their paddock applying nitrogen in the autumn.” Nigel’s intention had been to sell all the weaners but the Covid shutdown intervened so he was forced to apply split dressings of 100kg DAP and 100kg urea to carry them through the winter and now intends to sell them in the spring. The nitrogen produced enough feed for the weaners to set up a 40-day winter rotation, which will be significantly shortened over lambing. Herd replacement Angus R2 dry heifers are bought in the winter and, together with the cows, help to clean up pastures in readiness for the spring flush. Most of the cows are set stocked on their own for calving in a large hilly paddock.

A SOUND SELECTION In selecting his bulls Nigel looks for a sound, moderate-framed, meaty animal with good length, eye muscle area and weight gain figures. The bulls go out on December 13 and stay out until it’s convenient to remove them. Calving starts at the end of September. Calves are foetal aged at scanning with dries and late calvers culled. “I like to calve cows on to a true surplus and besides, we can’t lamb early as well as calve early because of our feed situation.” Over the spring/summer period the cows spend a lot of time with the best views on Akitio. The station has 11km of coastline and is essentially a ridge running roughly north-south with easterly and westerly aspects. The coastal country (easterly aspect) is unstable because of its many springs so fencing is minimal, meaning paddocks are large. Being some of the best lamb finishing country on the station the challenge is to maintain pasture quality in the large paddocks, and this is where the cows play a vital role. The western side of the ridge can dry out badly being exposed to the station’s notorious northwesterly winds, and is divided into seventy 6-7ha cells that used to be used for bull finishing. Nigel is ably assisted on Huiaruau by block manager Ryan Adamson and his shepherd partner Courtney Urquhart, and on Akitio by block manager Dean Follis. Another shepherd will soon be appointed on Akitio as Nigel’s role becomes less hands on.

Yearling cattle on the ridge at Akitio looking south to Castle Point. 38 

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LIVESTOCK | ANIMAL HEALTH

Veterinary technical manager for MSD Animal Health, Jo Halter, also a member of the BVD Steering Committee.

Commitment needed for BVD eradication BY: TONY LEGGETT

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ontrol and eventual eradication of bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) is possible for beef and dairy farms, but it requires long-term

commitment. That’s the view of experienced veterinarian Jo Holter, a member of the BVD Steering Committee and the veterinary technical manager for MSD Animal Health. The BVD Steering Committee, established more than a decade ago by veterinarians, conservatively estimates BVD is costing beef and dairy farmers $150 million per year in lost production. Research studies have estimated that 65% of beef herds and 35% of dairy herds are actively infected with BVD. Most of the impact of BVD in beef herds manifests as an increase in dry and latecalving heifers and cows - the average is a 5% increase in empty rate, but some beef herds will experience a 15% increase, or greater. At a 5% higher empty rate, the estimated total cost for a 100 beef cow herd selling weaners at $500/head plus the net cost of

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replacing five empty cows at $200 each, is $3500 every year. If the same herd had 15% more empties, the cost of BVD soars to $10,500/year. For the dairy industry, BVD has been estimated to cost an average-sized herd (419 cows) more than $76,000 in lower milk production, increased calving interval and increased abortion rate. Blood sampling or ear notching can determine if a herd has been exposed to BVD and whether an animal is Persistently Infected (PI). A PI is an animal which was infected with BVD when it was a fetus in the first four months of gestation. After they are born, PIs shed BVD virus in their saliva and faeces for their entire life, and they are the source of BVD transmission within and between herds. If they live long enough, PIs always go on to give birth to PIs. So, Holter says, all PIs need to be identified and culled, and farmers should ensure no PIs are brought into the herd. Alongside eliminating PIs, an ongoing vaccination programme can reduce the impact of any accidental BVD exposure. Vaccines aim to reduce the severity and duration of sickness when an animal is infected, which can reduce the costs

associated with BVD. If a cow or heifer is vaccinated before mating, and the vaccine prevents her fetus from being infected with BVD, then the vaccine is also preventing the formation of new PIs, helping break the cycle of BVD transmission. And, while Holter says the risk of creating a PI occurs in the first four months of gestation, there are still other BVD risks later in pregnancy, making protecting pregnant cattle critical to BVD control. “There never is a good time for a pregnant cow to be infected with BVD. That calf (infected later in gestation) might not be born a PI but they might be smaller or have birth defects. Or, that later-calving cow can still abort.” Three BVD vaccines are available in New Zealand. Only MSD Animal Health’s Bovilis BVD has demonstrated 12 months fetal protection after the third dose the longest duration of fetal protection available. “Creating enough immunity with a vaccine to protect the fetus is actually quite challenging, but it’s a key part of BVD control to make sure that you actually protect that pregnancy, to ensure we break that cycle of infection from cow to calf.” With Bovilis BVD, the first vaccination can be any time from four months of age and the second dose four weeks to six months later. Then, the annual booster should ideally be done four weeks before each mating. Holter encourages farmers to talk with their veterinarian before deciding which vaccine to choose, as these vaccines are only available under veterinary authorization. “So, we’ve got some great tools to help farmers deal with BVD and it’s actually relatively easy. You've got good testing, there is a good economic case for BVD eradication, and you've got good vaccines available to provide future protection,” she says. The most appropriate time to vaccinate cows and heifers is around mating time, often a busy time of year on the farming calendar. “You've only got a very short window. And we know it’s the calves that are really the potential major problems, so breaking that cycle can be quite hard with beef herds.”

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LIVESTOCK | STOCK CHECK

Smooth operations at a lamb processing plant.

Lost opportunity to add value BY: TREVOR COOK

I

recently had a tour of a lamb processing plant and was very impressed with how smooth the whole process was. It seemed strange that its efficiency was hampered by the unreliability of staff attendance. So many of those operators had skills that made them special for that job, but clearly being needed is not enough. That aside, I was also impressed with the plant’s ability to change product type and its closeness to the market. Their response to the Covid-19 shutdown was nothing but remarkable and should demonstrate to the Government the power of private enterprise to get things done unlike their fumbling efforts to implement new systems. I came away from that visit feeling more convinced than ever of the huge benefit of there being more formal value chains. If that processing efficiency was dealing with and linked to animal systems that have a verifiable background of animal welfare, environmental care and “good practice”, it allows a much more comprehensive pasture-to-plate model. This is not a new concept and it is being successfully implemented by some companies. But most meat is being processed as a commodity product supported by a poorly described

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background of pasture reared and free range. For that lamb processor it seemed a lost opportunity for the producer to not share directly in that market and so add value to every link in that chain. Fresh water, methane, animal welfare and alternative proteins are topics that figure in most of the farmer discussions I have. I do trigger some of that discussion because, more and more, onfarm policy and management decisions can impact on at least the first three of these topics. The discussion above on market links is a response to any challenge from alternative foods. But as these challenges are being presented to farmers it is becoming very apparent to me that uniting capabilities, experiences and even ideologies is a powerful way to deal with them effectively. Ignoring them or discounting them is not the way to deal with them even if many of them seem almost irrational or too emotionally based. We pride ourselves in farming on being science-based, and it is hard to take when some of these challenges are not. I see farmers are dealing with these challenges not unlike dealing with a drought – it is not until the mindset accepts that planned production levels will not be achieved that effective actions to minimise the loss are implemented. Likewise, getting consumed by the irrationality, emotion or imposition of these challenges will not allow actions

to manage them even to be considered, yet there are opportunities here. Since the lockdown I have been at some group meetings at which the issues above were discussed. The meetings’ intents were to find solutions or pathways forward rather than to question them. At one of these was a non-farmer representing the “green” view. Out of that discussion all sides were better informed. The “green” criticism of farming was largely based on the extremes. Soil health, animal welfare and water care on the sheep and beef farms being represented were not the threat to the world as expected, and on the other side the basis for some green and community demands was not so unreasonable. But the point of mentioning these meetings is how effective they were in arming farmers with confidence and resources to make progress. This is no different, of course, to any group that forms to find solutions. What is important to me is that this is all seen and dealt with on a whole-farm basis, as is the case for much of what we deal with. Genetic solutions to increasing production have been the backbone of our livestock industries. Such solutions are also being applied to some of the challenges mentioned above. There is a common thought among farmers that lowering their farm’s greenhouse gas emissions will be production limiting. In fact, producing more from less will achieve better outcomes. Fewer ewes weaning more lambs is possible. Getting lots of lambs into the ewes is now commonplace. Getting most to weaning is the opportunity. New technology allowing lambs to be linked to their mothers and so allowing more effective selection for that trait is now available. Such a link is being achieved, other than by tagging lambs at birth, using DNA technology. The cost of this confines its use to full-on stud breeders. Farmers other than full on breeders could use this to make better selections. Detecting those sires, ovine and bovine, that have lower methane outputs is happening and getting into selection programmes. Lower ewe wastage arising from a combination of trait selections adds to sheep farm efficiency. Selecting for no tails on sheep needs to be a priority to stay ahead of welfare demands.

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LIVESTOCK | BEEF

There are major benefits from running beef cows on hill country because of their flexible feed demand that can be aligned with seasonal pasture growth.

Balancing breeding and feeding BY: DR KEN GEENTY

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he age-old debate with beef cattle, comparing impacts on your bottom line of breeding versus feeding, is worth revisiting. Some say breeding is king and others lean towards feeding with all shades in between. Keeping the balance right for your farm needs constant attention, and discussions with farming colleagues and/or rural professionals can help. This author advocates equal importance for each discipline believing one without the other is like a ship without a sail. And remembering recipes are not appropriate as each farm has a unique set of requirements. Your breeding plan, often seen as a medium to long-term improvement strategy, and the more opportunistic and ever-changing feeding and management interventions, very much complement each other. However, there are subtle differences in the contributions of each. Genetics are often seen as the foundation to your

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production system. Annual breeding gains can be cumulative and compounding whereas feeding and management benefits tend more to be additive, with incremental improvements towards realising full genetic potential. Decisions on genetics are made once a year whereas feeding and management inputs are pretty much dayto-day throughout the year. The expression of genetic potential is naturally dependent on good feeding on pasture or specialist crops, with supplementation as required. Rarely is the full genetic production potential of beef cattle realised but incremental steps toward this ultimate level are achievable through implementing feeding and management innovations. Such feeding and management improvements can be achieved by simple interventions resulting in added productivity. For example, maintaining winter cow body condition score at five or above by using forage crops, such as fodder beet or brassicas, and fine tuning calving date can increase 240kg calf weaning weight by as much as 10-15% or 25-30kg. The relatively simple process of

altering calving date to match cow feed requirements better with your pasture growth curve can increase production, as the graphs on the next page illustrate. In this example October calving matches beef cow feed requirements to Taihape hill country pasture growth averaged over three years. In this case matching of cow feed requirements with pasture production is quite precise, meaning cows will be well fed with productivity gains while maintaining pasture quality and minimising waste. Regional pasture growth curves for your area can generally be found from such sources as the Farmax Pasture Growth Forecaster or from the B+LNZ Q-Graze Manual. There are major benefits from running beef cows on hill country because of their flexible feed demand that can be aligned with seasonal pasture growth as shown. An additional benefit is the ability of beef cattle to assist in the management of pasture quality. At the same time they play an important role in better utilising the likes of kikuyu pasture in Northland and brown-top dominant swards elsewhere. Various ways of maintaining an allimportant supply of high quality feed for your cattle include: • Strategic applications of fertiliser and nitrogen • Use of forage crops and regrassing • Judicious use of high energy supplements or concentrates • Increased subdivision for improved grazing management • Flexibility of seasonal stocking rates through buying and selling • Altering seasonal rotation lengths • Mixing of sheep grazing with cattle for complementarity • Topping and/or conserving surplus feed as supplements. Variations in grazing pressure have the most influence on pasture quality and clover content during October to March. Clover responds well to light and so is encouraged by close grazing during its maximum growth period of October to December. Low quality grasses such as Browntop, Yorkshire Fog and Danthonia and weeds are discouraged by avoiding the growth of rank pastures during the December to March period. Maintaining pasture control benefits pasture quality and animal performance, especially during

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The relatively simple process of altering calving date to

be done online. Most breeders have their

own websites and producer group B+LNZ five or above by using forage crops, such as fodder beet or brassicas, and fine tuning calving match cow feed requirements better with your pasture http://beeflambnz.com and breeding date can increase 240kg calf weaning weight by as much as 10-15% or 25-30kg.

growth curve can increase production.

organisation Group Breedplan http:// breedplan.une.edu.au/index are well worth The rela vely simple process of altering calving date to match cow feed requirements be�er visits. Remember, the more informed you with your the pasture growth curveperiod. can increase on,considered, as the graphs illustrate. summer and autumn It also produc carefully will be a very good are before bull purchase the more likely encourages pasture density for maximum investment. you will be to obtain sires that perform to winter growth particularly on steeper The task of looking for and choosing a expectations. hill country, which suffers most from rural professional for assistance can start For example, often spectacular substandard pasture management. with the NZ Institute of Primary Industries predictions of improved income from For implementation of any of the Management website https://www. astute bull selection are possible using feeding and management options listed nzipim.co.nz/, which lists registered farm the likes of the Angus Self Replacing above, especially if new to your system, advisers. Other options include visiting Index (SRI). This gives differences in net it is reinforced that you consult with a websites of well-known farm consultancy profitability per cow joined for a selfknown and competent rural professional. groups, using your established networks or replacing herd finishing steers at around Application of any new technologies or reverting to good old “word of mouth”. 525kg liveweight aged 16 months. For the changes to existing practices on your farm The task of obtaining good genetics to 2020 sale year the Angus SRI average was need informed discussion in relation to underpin your beef production system +114. In that year an Angus bull with a your objectives and desired results. solidly, with ongoing improvements in Group Breedplan SRI of +214 means he Use of professional advice, especially each generation, can be guided by a few will contribute $100 more value to each if it’s for the first time, generally pays essential steps. progeny compared with the average. good dividends. Not only does an outside Whether your bull purchases each year Because only half the genes come from the view or recommendation often bring are by private treaty or attending bull sales bull there is a $50 advantage to offspring fresh perspectives but in most cases, if a lot of your preliminary homework can adding up to an additional $5000 for 25 calves over four seasons. Matching pasture growth and cow feed requirements by altering calving date Recommended steps for getting out and purchasing bulls for your situation is well outlined by B+LNZ Genetics on their Matching pasture growth and cow feed requirements by altering calving date website https://www.blnzgenetics.com/ under the heading “Better beef breeding – bull selection tools”. The five steps include: 1. Setting your objective 2. Finding a breeder with similar objectives 3. Choosing a bull with the right index to do the job 4. Checking him for structural soundness 5. Settling the bull in at home. The key mantra “where your breeder goes, you will go” emphasises the importance of choosing the right breeder for your situation. Ideally, your choice should be based on the breeder’s genetic trends available, with the breeder’s permission, from Group Breedplan using their website shown above. You will follow a similar trend in genetic improvement to your breeder but lag up to two generations behind. While this example is for Angus sires the same process can be applied to any breed recorded on Group Breedplan. Various indexes can cater for overall productivity, dairy beef crossing or inclusion of specialised carcase traits like marbling. Source: Guide to New Zealand Cattle Farming, 2017 – B+LNZ

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• Dr Geenty is a primary industries consultant.

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LIVESTOCK | OVERSEAS

US meat industry recovers BY: TOM WARD

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n April 2020 meat processing plants in the United States were severely disrupted by workers infected by Covid-19. For the two weeks ending April 29 469,000 and 502,000 head of beef respectively were slaughtered, the beef industry needing to slaughter 657,000 head per week in April. By May 11, beef supplies on a weekly basis were 165 million pounds lower than 12 months ago, or 31% lower. Retail prices on average doubled with the benchmark choice beef cutout (CBC) rising to $460/cwt. But also, some cuts were retailing for less than the wholesale price, as much as 30% less. For example, prior to Covid the retail price of 80-89% ground beef (81CL) was at an 80% premium to it’s wholesale value. By May 11 it was at a 14% discount. CL is short for chemical lean, a US-mandated calculation of the grade of mince, the proportion of fat to meat (95 CL is 95% lean meat). New Zealand sells bull beef (95 CL) and cow beef (90 CL). The benchmark choice beef cutout is the boxed beef cutout, a “basket” of beef cuts which estimates the FOB (wholesale) value of a carcase from the cuts which make up the carcase. Two boxed beef cut outs are calculated, the choice and select, with choice being the better quality meat. The scenario here is packers were able to ask ridiculous prices on meat shortage caused by processing difficulties, and retailers not willing to pass all the cost increases on to avoid losing customers to pork and chicken. The problem was not just slaughter capacity – fabrication (or breaking a carcase down to saleable parts) continued to be a problem. About the same time, grocery sales were up 28% in March and 15% in April, year on year. Food service (restaurants) was down 28% in March and 49% April year on year. Despite the reduction in placements on feedlots, total cattle on feedlots have remained about the same (as previous month). The issue is at the front end (nearly market ready) where cattle on feed more than 150 days went from 12% less than 12 months ago to 13% more. Per

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Auction sales of feeder cattle (weaners) to feed-lots were 53% and 42% lower in March and April respectively.

head weights are 6% up on 12 months ago. Slaughter in April was down 25% on a year ago, and in May 30% down. By mid May things had started to turn around. The choice beef cutout (CBC) which rose from $230/cwt (US hundredweight, 100 pounds, which is 45.36kg) the first week of April to $475/ cwt, declined to $425 the week ending May 20, 13% off last week’s high, but still 87% higher than a year ago. Beef slaughter was 14% higher, (60,000 head), than two weeks before. Total cattle slaughter since the first week April, to last week, was 2.875 million head, 1 million head (27 %), lower than the same period last year. With the improved slaughterhouse performance, feed lotters were able to buy more cattle, and the fed cattle price, which had fallen 17 % to $85/cwt, ($20/cwt) rose to $117/cwt, 1.3% higher than the same date last year. A USDA report from April showed beef exports to China were down 3% on low quantities (78,000 tonnes), but beef exports to Japan, on lower tariffs, were up 45%, and up 41% to Canada. Pork exports to China at 218,000 tonnes, were up 23%. As the country approached July 4 celebrations, the quantity of beef on the shop shelf was up 72% compared to Memorial Day (May 31), however was still 40% behind the same time last year, perhaps illustrating supply chain bottlenecks, and ongoing difficulty with processing beyond slaughter. By August 8, the CBC was $204, compared to $216 on August 8, 2019.

Dressed steer was $163/cwt compared to $183/cwt at the same time 2019, and fed steer $101/cwt compared to 112/cwt at the same time 2019. All meats slaughtered that week was 1959 million pounds (Mlbs) cwt, compared to 1931 Mlbs cwt, a 1.5 % increase. Steer slaughter (F1 steer) was 633,000 head compared to 647,000 head the same week last year, a 2.1% reduction. Cow slaughter 111,000 compared to 115,000 the same week last year. The average dressed weight was 835lbs compared to 813lbs 12 months ago, illustrating the front end loaded nature of cattle on feedlots. This has improved grading, but harmed yield. Total beef production last week was 527m lb compared to 524m lb for the same period 2019. On July 16, cattle on feed greater than 150 days was 950,000, or 40% greater than last year, and it’s thought it will take till the autumn to work through this backlog. Covid issues may have suspended cow liquidation – 2018 and 2019 were very poor years for calf producers (worst since 1994) and drought is threatening much of the US. There are 1.03m cattle outside feedlots that should have been placed by now. Meat processor firms’ balance sheets remain strong with Tyson reporting a record US$651m USD operating profit for the quarter ending June 30, 2020. • Tom Ward is an Ashburton-based farm consultant.

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COMMUNITY | TAHR HUNTING PLAN NEVER REVIEWED

Call for pause on tahr culling plans BY: ANNABELLE LATZ

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he tahr hunting community fear the Department of Conservation will cull the tahr population in two of the South Island’s National Parks to a level that will strip away their ability for recreational and commercial hunting. Within its review of the Himalayan thar control plan 1993 (HTCP), DOC said its estimated population of 34,500 tahr is too high, and has commenced a controlled culling programme across the feral range which includes Mt Cook/Aoraki National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park. The goal is to reduce the tahr population to 10,000. This operational plan for 2020-21 is on hold for now, however, because the New Zealand Tahr Foundation (NZTF) in early July filed judicial review proceedings against the Minister of Conservation and Director-General of Conservation. The foundation’s claim that DOC’s time frame to allow for reasonable review of the revised Operational Plan was inadequate, was upheld, resulting in DOC being

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instructed to undertake only half of its proposed 250 controlled culling hours throughout the feral range, until after further consultation with stakeholders took place. This consultation took place at the beginning of the month and included 12 oral and 13 written submissions. DOC will be making a decision about its number of culling hours by the end of the month. Operations director Ben Reddiex, says DOC made the decision to undertake only 60 hours within the National Parks while consultation was carried out, and took place between July 1 and early August, and he said the planned activity was made public. “DOC is in agreement that further research is needed for effectively reviewing the HTCP 1993 plan.” Inside the 148,000 hectares of National Parks DOC wants tahr at the lowest practicable densities, (targeting bulls and nannies) compared to the remaining 425,000ha areas outside of the National Parks but still within the feral range, where lowest practicable densities is not the goal, and they will target just nannies.

Reddiex admits the plan has never been reviewed, as was intended when it was first published in 1993. He also sympathises with the tahr hunting sector, and acknowledges how special National Parks are to them as a place to hunt, but says there will still be tahr in the National Parks, just not to the quantity they are now. “The two National Parks are just 148,000ha of the total 706,000ha, (seven tahr management units) in the South Island.” Population density reviews happened between 2016 and 2019, tahr populations estimated from aerial surveys across a number of two kilometre square grids. DOC will be proactively publishing maps which include sightings of bull tahr outside of the National Parks, to help trophy hunters plan their next hunt. If the full 250 hours of culling does take place, valid until July 1, 2021, it will cost DOC $700,000. The Tahr Jam was a huge success for the NZTF last month, which saw more than 1000 people in 600 vehicles drive slowly from Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook Village, in a bid to peacefully rally against DOC’s magnitude of proposed culling hours and the targeting of bull tahr in National Parks – which through mutual agreement, hasn’t happened for years; 55,000 people also signed a petition requesting DOC ‘halt the 2020-21 tahr cull and review the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan’. As a crowd gathered in the village, some mentioned helicopter culling had begun without any prior notification to park users and tahr were being shot in close vicinity to huts and around people in the hills, ruining their long-awaited trips, some who had travelled from the North Island and incurred considerable expense. Witnesses say tahr took 18 shots to kill, while some were left wounded and died slowly in the snow. Willie Duley, NZ Tahr Foundation spokesperson, acknowledges DOC was given the right by the High Court to begin its 125 hours of interim culling last month without consultation, but says he hoped they would have been more collaborative in their approach to reduce conflict. He says it’s the amount of common ground among the stakeholders tied up in

›› Continues p46 45


this debate continually being ignored that is the most frustrating for the tahr hunting industry. Having a tahr population in the National Parks which enables the natural habitat to thrive is what hunters want just as much as non-hunters, and it can be achieved with proper consultation and a well thought out management plan. “We can all have our cake and eat it too”.

MORE THAN 166,000 HUNTERS There are 166,000 hunters in NZ, many more than happy to continue helping with control work. Duley is concerned with the 34,500 tahr population DOC talks about, this figure an average, estimated on their population data gathering that took place between 2016-2019 which ranged from 17,000 to 54,000 tahr. NZTF population modelling says 18,000 tahr have been removed in the last three years, and of that 11,000 have been removed since the last 2019 population survey. This means 20,000 tahr remain, of which 5000 are estimated to be nannies which control the breeding. “A three-fold increase in culling from DOC is frightening and totally unwarranted, particularly at a time when hundreds of hunting businesses are still hurting from the effects of Covid-19. There is no conservation imperative for this magnitude of culling and their continual spin on this issue is very misleading.” Duley says hunting would not be viable in the National Parks if populations were reduced to DOC’s intended zero densities. “That is our major concern, especially when we’re the largest user group of much of the parks.” He would also like to see DOC focus on

targeting nannies as this is the best way to control population while bulls are the recreation incentive and income provider for thousands of Kiwis. “Our mental health relies so much on spending time in those mountains and living among tahr. I challenge anyone to say a bull tahr in that rugged and inhospitable environment isn’t impressive.”

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR Matt Sanson’s annual multi-day tahr hunting trip with friends to Westland Tai Poutini National Park is a true highlight of his year. A tool for escaping the hustle and bustle, spending time with friends, and gracing the same challenging and remote areas as the tahr. “In this day and age it’s getting harder to get that kind of adventure, where you feel you are the first person to visit a place. I think time in nature and the challenge of remote places is a fundamental experience that all people should have.” Although he admits the worst part about

If populations get too high, tahr do damage flora and fauna. But the tahr hunting community believe there is a balance that can be achieved between looking after the alpine environment and having tahr there.

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hunting is actually killing an animal, he says hunting is also about the connection with food. “I admire how they are able to survive in such a harsh environment. Those mountains, that terrain, it’s no easy feat to carve out an existence in that environment... It’s also important to us to know where our food comes from. For hunters, we know the animal before it ends up on our plate. It’s such a natural thing, it’s a natural process.” Non-hunters sometimes join him, a lifechanging adventure and a chance for the them to gather an understanding of what tahr mean to hunters as a resource. “There are two sides to the discussion, and yes I agree that numbers need to be managed. But it doesn’t take much to tip the balance. Removing them completely from National Parks is callous and unnecessary.” Before the cull DOC enforced in 2018, Matt would see mobs of 50 tahr, and during his recent trip to Westland he saw perhaps 25 in total. He vividly remembers his first-ever tahr hunting trip 15 years ago up the Bettison Stream in South Westland, and that immense enjoyment still stands today. “We love the idea of tahr collectively, more than we love individual tahr. Hunters understand the need for population control, but not at the expense of the resource that provides organic freerange meat, a fantastic challenge, and gets so many out to experience our wild and remote places.” Matt suggests tahr is managed in the same way Wapiti in Fiordland is managed, where animal management and population control is undertaken through a strategy jointly devised by hunters and DOC.

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2020

WEED CONTROL

SOIL FERTILITY

IN SYNC

Be smart with glyphosate use p50

Only 16 essential nutrients needed for pastures p58

with the environment and profitable farming p68

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CROP & FORAGE | INDUSTRY

The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) has joined a pan-sector research project looking at reducing reliance on agrichemicals.

Future-proofing food production systems BY: VICTORIA O’SULLIVAN

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grichemicals have provided a solution for weed, pest and disease management in New Zealand arable systems for decades. But what if they are no longer available? Serving to provide answers and alternative strategies for farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) has joined a pan-sector research project looking at reducing reliance on agrichemicals. FAR CEO Alison Stewart says the ‘Three R’s’ - chemical resistance, residue buildup in food products and registration constraints - are the drivers behind the seven-year $27 million MPI-funded research known as ‘A Lighter Touch.’ “We are looking for an approach to crop protection that is more holistic and takes into account agroecological principles, rather than a one dimensional [solution] of just applying fungicides or insecticides.” She explains agroecological production systems as an all-encompassing concept - a philosophy around harnessing what’s already available in nature, trying to integrate different systems and avoiding reliance on one particular input. It can

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FAR CEO Alison Stewart.

be considered complimentary to both the organic and regenerative farming philosophies, but it doesn’t push any one particular type of farm system. “We are trying to provide the research and the options so that growers can adopt whatever they want for their system.” She says that resistance issues in some chemical groups worldwide means available options must be carefully managed to prevent them being lost forever. Public perception around food safety and chemical residues has also led to a number of key chemical groups becoming deregistered. In addition, New Zealand’s relatively small market size on a global scale has made it unattractive for the big agrochemical companies to register new products in NZ given the registration costs. “All of these things are telling growers

in New Zealand that we can’t rely on synthetic chemicals to manage pests and diseases. We have to be more resilient; we have to build more diverse systems that include a range of other options.” Alison says it makes sense for industry partners to collaborate on achieving a common goal as there are a whole range of common issues that can be collectively leveraged off. “We are all suffering from the build-up of resistance to pesticides and how best to manage that.” Industry-wide research is happening around the identification of newer, softer fungicides and biological products. A softer chemical refers to a product that has very low human and environmental health risks. Biological controls include actives such as beneficial microorganisms, plant extracts and natural predatory insects. One of the main problems around the registration of biopesticides is they are forced through the same registry process as synthetic chemistry, resulting in a mismatch around criteria. The plan is to work with regulatory agencies to create fit-for-purpose criteria for biopesticides, to facilitate more rapid registration. “It’s about trying to get more biological products out onto the market and making sure the regulatory process doesn’t act as an inherent restraint to that.” Building on research already undertaken by FAR in the integrated pest management (IPM) space, FAR is developing cropspecific IPM programmes, beginning with wheat. Depending on how the research progresses and the level of engagement from growers, this may be expanded to other crops. “This funding will give us the chance to pull together all the [previous] research we’ve done to then illustrate to growers how they can make changes.” In the meantime, she says there is much value to be gained from having an industry-wide goal of combining cultural, biological and chemical practices into a more integrated system to future-proof the sector. “We want to focus on developing these agroecological production systems for arable crops, but we also want to contribute to some generic research that will benefit everyone.” Anyone interested in getting involved with the trials can contact alison.stewart@ far.org.nz for more information.

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Jo Drummond (right) and Abie Horrocks at work: FAR is setting up Integrated Pest Management monitoring sites in wheat paddocks across Canterbury.

A lighter touch to crop protection BY: VICTORIA O’SULLIVAN

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oundation for Arable Research (FAR) researcher Jo Drummond says she has seen increasing interest from farmers and company reps in how beneficial insects can do the work for them. Jo works on FAR’s A Lighter Touch programme, which focuses on agroecological crop protection systems, lighter touch chemistries and long-term sustainable thinking. She says that, with the closer focus on the way farms are operated and the inputs used, IPM represents low-hanging fruit”when it comes to sustainable changes. “You can start big or you can start with a single paddock and see how that compares with your neighboring paddock. It’s less prescriptive but it’s probably more flexible.” Beginning in cereal crops the work has come off the back of a Sustainable Farming Fund project on managing barley yellow dwarf virus (BYVD) sustainably.

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“As part of that work we did some tramline-scale trials and found we weren’t seeing any yield loss if we were implementing an IPM programme over a conventional calendar-based approach, so we wanted to investigate that more,” says Jo.

‘Farmers can look at data from a paddock or a trap near them, which we hope will act as a prompt to go out and look at their own paddocks.’ A network of wheat paddocks across Canterbury will be set up with sticky traps to record insect species. Paddocks will be monitored and the data will be available through FAR’s Crop Action newsletter. “Farmers can look at data from a paddock or a trap near them, which we hope will act as a prompt to go out and

look at their own paddocks.” It will provide information on beneficial insect and aphid numbers including the potential for aphid flights, which are determined using a model. Coupled together, the information can help with the monitoring and decision making around the management of the crop. Jo says IPM needs to take into account the weather, the numbers of aphids and beneficials and how the aphid/beneficial ratio changes over the season, cultural control practices such as sowing date, and controlling green bridges. Then it’s choosing the chemical controls based on risk and the appropriateness of a product – avoiding broad spectrum when there are a lot of beneficials in the system. “It’s the whole package of really having a good look and making a decision on all of those factors,” she says Spring field walks will be run in Canterbury to support farmers and get insect identification happening. “Farmers can have a look and see for themselves, and we can support them through that learning process,” says Jo.

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CROP & FORAGE | ARABLE

Hamish Marr says his Nuffield study has prompted a subtle change in his approach to agchem use.

Be smart about glyphosate use BY: ANDREW SWALLOW

C

ropping farmers, pastoral farmers and contractors alike need to be wise about the way they use glyphosate not only to retain it as a tool for the future but also to protect New Zealand’s reputation in export markets, a Nuffield Scholar who spent six months studying the herbicide and the hysteria surrounding it says. Hamish Marr, from Methven, Mid Canterbury, filed his report in March this year making four recommendations. Top of his list was avoiding pre-harvest weed control on cereal crops and pasture. While science has shown such practice to be safe, consumer preference is that all food should be free from residues, and glyphosate residues have occasionally been detected in NZ grain samples because of pre-harvest applications. The fact that livestock sometimes get fed pasture recently treated with the herbicide, either by grazing or as balage or

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hay, would likely cause consumers concern too, he says, especially as such use is not actually approved on the label: it’s simply not prohibited, so over time it has become an accepted practice among farmers and agronomists. “All that’s on there is a withholding period to allow the chemical to work.” NZ livestock’s intake of feed from glyphosate treated crops or pasture is negligible compared with countries where glyphosate tolerant soy, maize and canola are grown or used. Nonetheless, cutting out this non-essential use here by voluntarily limiting glyphosate to between crops or pastures would be much safer from a reputational point of view, he believes. In cereal crops, use of late fungicides that leave straw green even when grain is fit might have to be tweaked to ensure crops naturally senesce sufficiently to be harvested without glyphosate. Such voluntary reductions in glyphosate use would also mitigate the scientifically proven risk of glyphosate resistant populations of weeds developing, as

NUFFIELD REPORT ACTION POINTS: • Avoid pre-harvest weed control (with glyphosate) on cereal crops and pasture. • Discuss openly the future of agriculture including GMO • Establish a communication loop in the value chain between the consumer and the farmer. • Model glyphosate’s contribution to the economy in NZ. has happened widely elsewhere in the world where multiple applications of the herbicide have been made year in, year out. The main catalyst for such widespread and repeated use overseas was development of Roundup Ready – i.e. glyphosate tolerant – strains of crops by genetic modification in the 1990s. Such crops are now the norm in North and South America, China, and some states of Australia, but even in Europe

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A GOOD ROUND-UP Marr’s report, “Can we farm without glyphosate” is free to download from ruralleaders. co.nz/nuffield-scholar-reports. Excluding the executive summary, acknowledgements and references, the core of the report is a very readable 40-odd pages outlining the glyphosate issue and his findings from 22 weeks of travel and study. As he puts it, “it is no way a scientific paper nor literature review”, and it touches on many innovative ways farmers overseas are managing to reduce their reliance on glyphosate. He’s also presented several webinars and given interviews, which can be watched online if your internet connection’s up to it. Google: Marr Nuffield glyphosate. However, none to date provide the detail the report does.

Left: Seed production, including processing, is the cornerstone of the Marr family’s 500ha operation near Methven. Below: Cultivation techniques, as well as crops, livestock and agrichemicals, all help reduce pressure on herbicides. Bottom: Yearling heifers on greenfeed oats on the Marrs’ farm. Hamish Marr visited farms seeking to reintroduce such systems overseas during his Nuffield study.

where, because of their GM origin they’re not permitted, pernicious weeds such as blackgrass can lead to growers using glyphosate on the same paddock four or five times a year. Regulatory withdrawals of alternative herbicides have also added to growers’ dependence on it. “In Europe they’ve lost Reglone and Diquat so they’re having to use glyphosate to dessicate oilseed rape now as well,” notes Marr. Combined, these factors have increased global sales of glyphosate 15-fold since the 1990s when Monsanto’s patent expired, making it by far the world’s most widely used herbicide. Marr believes it’s that massive increase in use, and association with GM technology, that is at the root of global concerns about glyphosate’s use. More recent association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma has further fuelled fears. Another part of the problem is communication: farmers globally, New Zealand included, have left the public behind, failing to keep them informed about how their food is produced and the reasons why certain practices are

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September 2020


used. It’s the basis for Marr’s second recommendation: “Discuss openly the future of agriculture, including GMO.” His view is that, on balance, NZ probably should permit use of certain GM technologies but he acknowledges the potential that GM could taint NZ’s image. However, that could change as bans elsewhere, notably Europe, may soon come under pressure because withdrawal of pesticides is making production of some crops, such as oilseed rape, near impossible without cultivars modified to make them resistant to insect pests. “They’re going to have to import all their brassica seeds soon,” he notes. Marr says his top two recommendations are already “getting traction” but he hasn’t made as much progress with his third action point (see panel). That’s despite his having presented his report and findings to 13 live audiences and two webinars as of the end of July, with at least another four presentations booked. “I just happened to choose a hot topic. People are really interested.” His fourth point, modelling glyphosate’s contribution to the economy, would be an ideal postgraduate study if a funder for it could be found, he suggests. He’s had a stab at it in his report, coming up with $300 to $520 million per year, but lack of data means that’s based on several sweeping assumptions. What those figures don’t convey is the likely leap in greenhouse gas emissions and use of less environmentally friendly agrichemicals that glyphosate’s withdrawal would cause. “We take direct drilling for granted today because of glyphosate. Without it we would have to revert to cultivation as standard practice, risking more soil erosion, silt in waterways, and other problems.” In conclusion Marr urges all glyphosate users to treat it as a specialist tool rather than a duster on the blackboard. “Agriculture will suffer and food production will suffer without glyphosate because there are no alternatives. However, we must heed the underlying message in all the noise that surrounds the glyphosate debate – that consumers want zero residues in food and they do not like prophylactic use of agrichemicals.”

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Hamish Marr with wife Maxine.

Glyphosate on Marr’s family farm Hamish Marr is part of the fifth generation of his family to farm at Longfield, near Methven, Mid-Canterbury, and glyphosate plays an essential role on the 500ha integrated crop and livestock operation. Seed production, including processing, is a key part of the business with cocksfoot the mainstay. Glyphosate used between crops helps achieve the high purity standards required for both domestic and export markets. “Most of the cocksfoot goes to Australia.” Seed crops of wheat, barley, oats, red clover and process peas are also grown, hence the need to keep paddocks pristine. “It’s not so much about controlling the weeds, as controlling the weed seed bank,” he notes. Integration of livestock with cropping is also a key part of that, reducing pressure on agrichemicals to keep paddocks clean. After three years of arable – including some double-cropping with green feed

oats or forage rape between combinable crops – paddocks go into cocksfoot for five years. The cocksfoot is grazed for eight months of the year then closed in spring to grow out for seed. Once seed stubbles have greened-up the livestock go back in, and so on until they’re eventually sprayed and ploughed out. “We graze 300 dairy heifers for 18 months December to May, have a few lambs in the autumn and there are dairy cows here in the winter.” Cultivation is also varied. Some crops are direct sown, others established into a cultivated but not inverted seedbed, and some ploughed. So has his study changed the way they do things at Longfield? Not yet, he says, but it has made him think more about his agrichemical use. “It’s about how we make a decision before we spray: do we really need to, or are we doing it just because standard practice says we should?”

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CROP & FORAGE | OPINION

The Beyond Burger: sourced from yellow peas.

A new life for Mendel’s peas BY: ANNA CAMPBELL

G

regor Mendel built his career around the humble pea. That inauspicious pea is making a comeback. Mendel discovered that the green pea phenotype is recessive – which means if you cross a yellow pea with a green one, you will get yellow progeny. It is these yellow peas which are in global demand creating headaches for some highly trendy food companies. In 2018, 757 new pea-related foods hit the shelves (Mintel Market Research) and that number is growing fast. To give you an idea of the scale of predicted demand, in 2017, the global pea protein market was worth $32 million, that figure is expected to rise to $176m by 2025 (Allied Market Research). Why yellow peas? As the world looks for alternatives to animal-sourced proteins, yellow peas have become the go-to source with a protein content of about 20% and a relatively benign taste. The most famous yellow pea product is the Beyond Burger – which with added salt and many other

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additives, apparently tastes all right too. Peas are easily broken down into starch, fibre and protein. China is home to many of the manufacturing plants, utilising the pea starch for noodles. Until recently, pea-protein isolate has widely been thought of as a by-product of the process. Interestingly, the yellow pea headache is not caused through lack of peas, but not enough processors. This is causing problems for the fast-growing start-ups who are frantically signing up to fixed term supply deals to manage their costs. There are a few other reasons that peas are taking the plant protein world by storm. Unlike soybean, there are no GM peas out there, this gets a big consumer tick, there are also fewer allergenic issues with peas compared to soybean. Yellow peas also get the sustainability tick, having lower water needs than many other crops. Other plant crops are being tested as sources of protein. In Canada, farmers are testing fava beans and canola seeds and in New Zealand Leaft Food is building a business to extract protein from leafy crops such as lucerne, using the remaining fibre for animal feed.

NZ companies are at the consumer end of the market as well – Sunfed Foods imports yellow peas to make their “Boar Free Bacon” and “Chicken Free Chicken,” they are on a growth path and launched into Australia last year. Other entrepreneurial plant protein companies from NZ include Tahi Spirulina using aquatic plants as a protein source, Olive and Ash a company producing plant-based mince and My Goodness a company using persimmons as a primary ingredient for plant-based ice creams – this is a truly innovative space. Opportunity in NZ for plant-based proteins sits at multiple levels of the value chain. For farmers, global demand will increase prices for crop production, but it’s still hard for NZ crop farmers to compete with those in vast cropping countries like Australia and Canada. We need to ensure we also compete and develop industries around ingredient manufacture and final product manufacture and distribution. Increasingly, with direct to consumer platforms such as Amazon and Shopify, companies have an ability to retain maximum value here – we need to build and share knowledge around that. FoodHQ have compared NZ’s entry into the plant-based protein sector with that of the Netherlands. In an interview with Radio New Zealand, FoodHQ’s chief executive Abby Thompson commented that the Dutch have “been very strategic, very deliberate and they’ve put a lot of investment in there... there’s a lot more scale and scope and focus, whereas in New Zealand, to be completely honest a lot of the companies who are doing this work are entrepreneurial individuals or family groups.” Vision, strategy and excitement about what we might be able to create in a postCovid-19 environment are great drivers for entrepreneurship and change. NZ has a limited pool from which to invest with and many competing demands including tourism and food. As we decide, I rather like this reminder from Gregor Mendel himself – “One thing my pea plants taught me: always do science with things that you can make into soup.” • Anna Campbell is managing director of AbacusBio Ltd, a Dunedin based agritechnology company.

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55


CROP & FORAGE | FORAGES FOR GRAZING

Sub clover in pasture.

Managing sub clover on hillsides BY: TOM WARD

I

have written about the importance of legumes on summer-dry farms. Lucerne combines the ability to search out moisture with nitrogen fixing capacity, thus maximising early summer growth; where moisture is plentiful, white clover is our preferred legume. However, both are slow to grow in spring on most hill country blocks, and white clover lacks persistence in summerdry conditions. Subterranean (sub) clover, being an annual, will grow at the lower late winter and early spring temperatures four to six weeks earlier than lucerne, white clover and Caucasian clover. Lucerne needs 20-25C air temperature; sub clover needs 10-15C. Up to 90% of sub clover growth can occur in September-October. Research and farmer experience has shown three tonnes of drymatter (DM)/ha of sub clover in a mixed grass-clover sward can be grown at this time, providing very good feed for early ewe lactation. In common with any legume in a mixed sward the grass will be more palatable due to the fixed nitrogen lifting the crude protein in the grasses. Pure sub clover swards can grow from 4t to more than 10t DM/ha. During September and October the

56 

plant flowers and the seeds burr and bury themselves in the ground, the plant eventually dying. From mid-September, spelling for at least three weeks allows the plant to set seed fully, so the sooner ewes and lambs can be rotationally grazed the better. By late September lucerne stands and grass-based pastures should be becoming available, reducing grazing pressure on the sub clover. Sub clover thrives best on open paddocks so cattle (preferably), but also sheep if used carefully, can be used to reduce pasture mass to 700kg DM/ha by the end of February. This will aid seed germination. In autumn at least 20mm of rain is needed for germination. Once germination occurs, spell the paddock to allow plants to reach the 3-4 trifoliate stage (the “pluck” test) then graze through winter with cattle to prevent the grasses from shading the new sub clover plants. Keep pasture covers above 1200kg DM/ha and spell lambing paddocks if possible. In September observe sub clover paddocks carefully and if sub is low or absent prepare to oversow or direct drill the following autumn. Graze hard to 600kg DM/ha covers, then drill after the first good rain in March at 10kg/ha. Once renovated paddocks have germinated, graze lightly through the winter with cattle maintaining a 2000kg DM/ha cover. You can lamb on

these paddocks in the spring but they will need a six-week spell from flowering (early to mid-October). Then graze with cattle to control tall grasses. If broadcasting, use stock to tramp seed into the ground immediately. Best results are seen when seed is spread just before a prolonged moist spell. Evapotranspiration is potentially greater in March; you can avoid a false strike by sowing in April but the seedlings will be smaller going into winter and more vulnerable to competition from grasses. False strikes can be a challenge. Where summer rain causes early germination but this is not followed up with autumn rain the seedling can be killed off. If repeated in consecutive years this can decimate the seed bank and restorative action may be needed. A proportion of the seed set is “hard” seed that will germinate one or two years later, a characteristic of sub that protects the plant from false strikes. Cultivars vary in the proportion of hard seed, those with very high hard seed rating being more suited to Australia than New Zealand. Cultivars vary in seed size, but not significantly. The best way to rebuild a large seed bank is to sow it alone or at least reduce the grass seed rate down to less than half the normal rate, i.e. 8-10kg/ha. When sowing with cocksfoot and plantain keep rates to 2kg/ha maximum. After the sub clover has given a large seed set, grass can be over-drilled the following autumn. Sub clover needs Olsen P of 10-18, pH of 5.6 and sulphur of 7-10, typical of many hill country farms. Boron and molybdenum are important; high molybdenum levels allow a slightly lower pH. In peat where there are nil or low levels of sub clover the seed should be inoculated with strain C Rhizobium. If the resident clover plants are healthy and pink nodules are present, inoculant should not be required. Sub clover needs a different inoculant from white clover. Cultivars vary in oestrogen levels, resistance to disease and ability to withstand hard grazing. Some of the larger-leaf cultivars may need to be grazed more laxly. It is recommended that a variety of cultivars be planted; although early flowering cultivars suit drier climates, climate variability is a bigger issue than drought. Patience is needed to develop this

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forage system; it will take 3-4 years and there will be management challenges. With good management, stands can last eight to nine years before needing to be spelled and renovated. Although I have focused on summer-dry properties, sub clover can do very well in wetter districts like the King Country or Taihape-Hunterville where very steep faces and at times very intense rainfall cause excessive runoff and little moisture penetrates the soil. North and west faces also can open and be good environments for sub. Forty to 50 years ago aerial topdressing sowed much of NZ hill country with sub, and in many areas it will still be in the ground. In such cases you will probably not need pelleted seed.

COMPARATIVE BUDGET ON FARMAX These two budgets are based on research by the Lincoln University Dryland Research Team and set up on a hypothetical 112ha effective Class 6 (breeding/fattening) unit representative of any number of Canterbury and Marlborough properties. The research set out to compare the production and persistence of three pasture types: lucerne, cocksfoot/sub clover, and ryegrass/white clover. Some of the trial results are set out in Table 1. It can be seen that lucerne was the highest yielding in all but one year and cocksfoot/sub clover the highest of the grass pastures. All pasture types suffered reduced yield over the nine years. Not shown in the table is that total clover yield from the sub clover pasture exceeded 3t DM/ha in spring (Sept-Oct) in five of the nine years. The two budgets compare a cocksfoot/sub clover farm growing 10,500kg DM/ha/year with a ryegrass/white clover farm growing 7800kg DM/ha/year, being the average pasture production for those pastures in the research. The cocksfoot/sub farm grows 3t DM/ha in September-October. On the cocksfoot/sub farm stocking is 800 ewes doing 157% to docking, fattening wether lambs, selling surplus ewe lambs store, wintering 350 ewe hoggets, and 250 R2yr steers are wintered and fattened early the next season. On the ryegrass/white clover farm stocking is 700 ewes, 133% lambing, 350 ewe hoggets, and 190 R2 steers wintered and fattened. Financial results are roughly in line with the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service’s quintile analysis for 2017-18.

Table 1: Trial results

Pasture Type

Average DM Production (Tonnes)

Year 1 DM Production (Tonnes)

Year 9 DM Production (Tonnes)

DM reduction over time (Tonnes)

Percent DM lost (Tonnes)

Total DM Production (Tonnes) Years 1-9

Lucerne

14.4

18

13

5

28

130

Cocksfoot/ sub clover

10.5

13

9

4

31

94

Ryegrass/ white clover

7.8

10

6

4

40

70

Table 2: Financial results Gross Revenue/ha

EBIT

Cocksfoot/sub farm

$1982

$878

Quintile 5 (top)

$2198

$1116

Ryegrass/white clover farm

$1314

$317

Quintile 3 (middle)

$1321

$230

• Tom Ward is an Ashburton-based farm consultant.

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57


CROP & FORAGE | SOILS

Just the essentials; spreading fertiliser in North Canterbury.

Sweet sixteen for pastures BY: DR DOUG EDMEADES

I

see a number of advertisements for fertilisers, soil conditioners, biostimulants and the like that make a virtue of claiming they contain many, many elements – up to 50 in one case! This fact alone should alert the unwary. However, I do get asked a more serious but related question: how many nutrients are required for pasture plants to achieve optimal production. The answer is 16. Here is why. The 16 essential nutrients (see table) are normally divided into major nutrients (i.e. present in “major” amounts) and the micronutrients (required in lesser amounts and hence sometimes referred to as minor elements). In this sense, major and minor do not mean more or less importance – all are required at the same time. These are the only elements required for plant growth, and if you try to grow a plant without one of these nutrients it will

58 

not grow to its potential if at all. So what about all the other elements in nature (120 of them at last count on the Periodic Table)? It turns out that if a plant has all of the 16 elements listed above, then adding one of these other 104 elements makes no difference – they do not further enhance plant growth and some are toxic. Now for some qualifications: There are some agriculturally important plants (e.g. sugar beet, fodder beet and mangolds) that do require sodium (Na, as in common table salt). And there are others (e.g. sugar cane) that appear (there is still scientific doubt about this) to benefit from silicon (Si) applications (as in, say, serpentine, a magnesium silicate). Also, the bacteria on the roots of clover – the ones that convert atmospheric N into clover protein – need tiny amounts of cobalt (Co), but Co is not included above because it is required by the bug and not the host plant. Apart from these exceptions plants, and particularly pasture plants,

The 16 essential plant nutrients and their chemical symbols Major nutrients

Minor nutrients

Carbon (C)

Copper (Cu)

Hydrogen (H)

Zinc (Zn)

Oxygen (O)

Boron (B)

Nitrogen (N)

Manganese (Mn)

Phosphorus (P)

Iron (Fe)

Sulphur (S)

Molybdenum (Mo)

Potassium (K)

Chlorine (Cl)

Calcium (Ca) Magnesium (Mg)

need only 16 nutrients. So why do we add Co and Se in our fertilisers if they are not required for plant growth? The reason is simple. These two trace elements are required by animals and the simplest most cost-effective way

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All 16 nutrients are required for plant growth but the rate of growth of the plant… will depend on the rate of supply of the most limiting nutrient. of doing this is to add it to the soil and let the plant and animal do the rest. Okay then, why do we not add Mn, Fe, Zn, B and Cl to our soils? The reason is that at the normal soil pH levels we deal with in New Zealand (i.e. 5.0 to 6.5), there is enough of these nutrients already in the soil for most situations. Indeed, the only known case of Mn deficiency in NZ occurred in wheat on an over-limed soil (pH < 6.5). Boron is required, however, on brassica crops and on white clover crops grown for seed production, but no cases of B deficiency in pastures per se have been reported. So the list is down from 16 to 11. Of these, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen are obtained by the plant from the soil as water (H2O) and from the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2). Via the process of photosynthesis they are made into carbohydrates (the stuff that gives the plant its structure). So, provided that there is sunshine (energy), water (normally in the soil) and carbon dioxide (in the atmosphere), the problems of C, O and H supply are solved. We are now down to eight: N, P, K, S, Ca, Mg, Mo and Cu. Calcium we can eliminate immediately:

Soil testing helps dictate fertiliser requirements.

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thanks to our young soils (i.e. not strongly weathered), and the fact that we use lots of super (20% Ca) and lime (35% Ca), Ca deficiency is unheard of in NZ. Note: a) the active ingredient in lime is the carbonate, not the Ca b) hypocalcaemia in animals is not due to low soil and plant Ca levels – it is a hormonal disruption within the animal that prevents it from releasing bone Ca in early lactation. Down to seven. Most NZ soils currently have good reserves of Mg – at least those sedimentary soils derived from the sea. Mg deficiency for pasture growth first appeared on the coarser pumice soils that had little or no reserves of Mg and hence Mg had to be applied via the fertiliser. However, Mg deficiency is becoming more widespread for the simple reason that after farming for 50-100 years we are mining down the originally adequate soil reserves. Within another generation it is likely that most farmers on volcanic soils will also need to add fertiliser Mg. A similar logic applies to Mo and Cu. When pastoral farming started in NZ you could tell by the soil group whether one or other of these two trace elements was

required. Peat soils were deficient in Cu and most sedimentary soils needed Mo. The same pattern does not necessarily apply today. Certainly, these two soil groups require ongoing inputs of Mo and Cu but we have exhausted the original supply of these trace elements in other soils – for example, I have found three cases of Mo deficiency in the Waikato! The only way to be sure about whether these trace elements are required on your farm is with regular pasture testing (clover-only samples for Mo and Cu and mixed-pasture samples for Cu intake into the animal). Down to the big four: N, P K and S. Most NZ pastoral soils in their virgin state were deficient in N, P and S and most soils used for dairying needed K. Maintenance inputs will continue to be required on these soils. This is the reason why so much discussion about fertiliser revolves around these big four nutrients, and incidentally this quirk in nature is the reason that scientists like me get labeled – wrongly – as NPKS addicts! There are two sources of N in our clover-based system. Clovers should be nodulated. These nodules contain bacteria that convert atmospheric N into clover plant protein, which is subsequently returned to the soil as dung, urine and plant residues. This process adds about $1.3 billion worth of N to our pastoral soils but we top this up – especially dairy farmers – by adding extra fertiliser N. We typically think of the clover N – the $1.3b of N from the atmosphere – as free but it does in fact come at a cost. Clovers have higher requirements for P, K and S (and indeed all the other 13 nutrients) than grasses. So while we do not need to add fertiliser N to the clover-based pastures we must add sufficient P, S and K to maximise clover growth. Several last points. All 16 nutrients are required for plant growth but the rate of growth of the plant – assuming adequate sunshine and water – will depend on the rate of supply of the most limiting nutrient. This is Leibig’s (he was father of plant nutrition) famous “Law of the Minimum”. No point in adding, say, more P and S to a soil that is K deficient or Mo deficient or whatever. This is the meaning of “balanced nutrition”. • Dr Edmeades is an independent soil scientist and consultant.

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CROP & FORAGE | SOILS

Gearing up for testing times BY: ANNE LEE

R

avensdown’s Analytical Research Laboratories’ (ARL) soil testing lab is bringing in home-grown Kiwi ingenuity to fully automate the surprisingly physical and mentally taxing processes of preparing soil samples for analysis. The move to full automation will be a first for a soil testing laboratory, will help improve the accuracy of results for farmers, and build capacity so that more samples can be processed on a given day. ARL manager Will Bodeker says the investment will be significantly more than $500,000 but Covid-19 showed just how valuable the automation process could be. Alert Levels three and four came right at the time the lab typically sees the number of samples arriving ramp up towards its peak testing period of June, July and August. “In March we normally take on four fixed-term people and train them ready to support us through the busy period. “June, July, and August are our peak

When the lab opened the samples came thick and fast.

months when we receive 12,000 to 14,000 soils a month. “For comparison, in December and January we receive about 1500 tests a month.” A decision was made by Ravensdown not to test soil samples through Alert Levels four and three. Once the country returned to more

normal business so did the lab but that meant a huge influx of samples coupled with the need to train people quickly. Sample numbers were 20-30% higher than expected for this period with farmers in catchup mode. Pressure on the lab and courier delays led to a backlog and through late May and early June turnaround times for soil test

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Mat Dorward matd@hnt.co.nz 027 642 2957 Hawkes Bay

Jacob Smith jacobs@hnt.co.nz 027 6422 001 Wairarapa

Ken Smith kens@hnt.co.nz 021 461 466 Manawatu

Sam Black samb@hnt.co.nz 027 462 0176 Wairarapa

Eddie Walker eddiew@hnt.co.nz 027 537 4866 Manawatu

Fraser Dymond fraserd@hnt.co.nz 027 6422 944 Waikato, King Country

James Buckley jamesb@hnt.co.nz 027 642 2955 Lower North Island

Martin Johnson martinj@hnt.co.nz 027 465 6037 Waikato

Dave Treder davet@hnt.co.nz 027 642 2922 Tararua

Matthew Hathaway matth@hnt.co.nz 027 6422 123 Bay of Plenty

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Wet, heavy soil samples have to be manually pushed through a 12mm sieve before they’re dried.

results were up to 10 days instead of the targeted three to four days. It took until mid-June for things to return to a semblance of normal. “One consequence of Covid though has been a different skill set of people becoming available in the labour market so that’s allowed us to get them trained quickly and operating at a fairly good speed.” There’s a lot of physical work in handling the samples from when they arrive in bags to where they’re ready in solutions in testtubes for analysis. Clay soils are heavy and difficult to handle, for instance. “Some of them are in a state where we can sculpt them – we actually have our own sculpting competition amongst ourselves each year. “Along with the manual aspect it also requires a lot of attention to detail. Obviously we have systems but it still requires people to be thinking and engaged – it’s not the kind of job you can switch off for a minute or two.” When a sample arrives, the barcoded bag is scanned. Soil samples are then manually pushed through a 12mm sieve, which for heavier clay soils takes a bit of effort. They are then dried overnight and

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subsampled, which means weighing out varying amounts of soil depending on the analysis being done for each sub-sample, mixing each one with a specific reagent, and shaking it for a set period of time. The solution is then passed through a filter paper into a test tube. Only then is it ready for analysis. The new automation process will be installed over the coming year and has been designed from scratch to bring together some of the existing technology and equipment in the laboratory. This also served to keep costs down. “We’ll be the first to fully automate this style of sample preparation process for soils.” Will says they looked globally for a company to develop the process and found the best candidate was in their own backyard – CR Automation, based in Hastings – a company that specialises in industrial technology, automation, and robotics. “Once the sample preparation is automated it will eliminate the need for casual or fixed-term staff each year. It will cut down on the mundane, repetitive work, and reduce the risk of strains and sprains so we’ll have a faster, more accurate, and safer process.”

FASTER N TEST ARL is replacing its anaerobically mineralisable nitrogen AMN) test for the faster, more accurate, potentially mineralisable nitrogen test (PMN). Both tests predict the amount of mineralised nitrogen that will be made available for plant growth over the growing season. But the PMN test can give results in three to four days rather than the seven days required by the AMN test. The AMN test is a shortened version of the original gold standard test that takes 49 days. “Nobody’s got time to wait 49 days for information and that’s why the AMN test was developed as a predictor, but the amount of nitrogen that’s actually mineralised will be affected by soil temperature and moisture,” Will Bodeker said. Research has found the PMN test is a better predictor, and the shortened turnaround time is another benefit.

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CROP & FORAGE | PESTS & WEEDS

Left: Insect identification unlocks integrated pest management potential. Above: Getting your eye trained into the different insects can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort.

Identifying insects enhances system BY: VICTORIA O'SULLIVAN

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t can take a while to tune your eye to the insects present in your crop but identification is a valuable tool in unlocking the potential of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Predator and parasitoid insects (known as beneficials) make up the biological building block of the IPM system. Other controls include cultural management (rotations, time of planting) and chemical controls (selective insecticides and pesticides). Abie Horrocks from the Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) says IPM offers a softer approach for farmers who are looking to use fewer insecticides and future-proof their farm systems in light of the three Rs – resistance, regulation, and the limited registration of new chemical controls. “While it can be tricky to identify insects at first, getting your eye trained in on two

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or three key beneficials can be good across a range of crops,” Abie says. Common beneficial predator insects include parasitic wasps, ladybirds, brown lacewings and hoverflies. These fly into the crop when a food source, such as aphids or caterpillars, is present, while resident beneficials such as beetles and spiders live in the paddock year-round helping to control establishment pests like slugs and grass grubs.

TREND IS YOUR FRIEND Successful IPM hinges around monitoring the crop-beneficial populations. Establishment is a high-risk period, particularly if no neonicotinoid or seed treatment has been used. The second highrisk stage comes once the seed treatment has worn off and before the crop reaches the stage where aphids are not an issue. Abie says there is no threshold or magic number of insects present in a crop that informs decisions – instead it’s the ratio

of beneficials to pests and how it trends between monitoring events. “What you need to get your head around is looking for the trends – are the insect numbers going up or down? “If you come back in a week and the aphids are numbering 60 but you still have the same amount of beneficials, they may not be getting on top of it. This is when the spray needs to go on – ideally something that is not going to knock out all beneficials.” There are good IPM-compatible insecticides available but she says it’s important they’re used in moderation because new chemistries are limited. “It’s the process of monitoring, knowing what the beneficials are, being aware of what chemistries are available and the cultural options too, and then IPM is pretty flexible across the farm.” Farmers should not be afraid to ask questions and come to the FAR team for help in identifying crop insects. “Everyone needs to upskill in this space and there’s a little bit of process in getting it to a standard practice,” Abie says. “But like anything, it will eventually become normalised.” Information on insect identification is on the FAR website and insect guidebooks are also available.

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SPONSORED CONTENT | N-Smart

Government “cracking down on Nitrogen Fertiliser use”

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pplications of nitrogen fertiliser on dry stock properties is rising in popularity and is considered a valuable management tool. However, the new freshwater regulations unveiled by the government recently will require farmers to search for efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser. Fertco believe they already have the answers to reducing and or becoming smarter with nitrogen fertiliser use on farm. That is, Fertco’s N-Smart - controlled release urea. N-Smart uses a vegetable oil-based, bio-degradable polymer coating over urea granules to reduce

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nitrogen loss to the environment and increase plant growth rate per kg of nitrogen applied. Fertco recognises that the use of nitrogen fertiliser to boost pasture and crop growth is vital during winter and spring. However, given the weather is volatile at this time of year, urea is a hit or miss product as its nitrogen can be easily lost to the environment through leaching (most likely) and/or volatilisation (less likely). Urea is also very short lived, giving a sharp increase in growth over just a few weeks, which in sheep and beef situations can be difficult to manage. Crops like maize and forage brassicas do much better where a nitrogen source matches plant nitrogen demand. Removing the risk of nitrogen loss is now possible with coating technology applied to fertiliser. Fertco’s N-Smart offers the potential to reduce direct loss and benefit production by increasing plant nitrogen uptake. N- Smart’s coating acts as a membrane allowing water to pass

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September 2020


SPONSORED CONTENT | N-Smart

through it. In moist conditions it takes a few days for the hard N-Smart granules to imbibe water, swell to roughly twice the original volume and start leaking out N by osmosis. This process continues for about 90 days unless there is a dry spell and the granules dry out, shrink and stop releasing N. When it rains again the release process continues. Urea on the other hand releases all its nitrogen content to the soil or atmosphere within hours. The nitrogen use efficiency (NUE, kg DM/kg fertiliser N applied) of N-Smart has been shown to be significantly greater than that for urea. The 90-day controlled release pattern means farmers can apply one dressing of nitrogen fertiliser at almost any time of year without the risk of N loss, thus reducing application time and cost. Perhaps the most advantageous is the risk of failure from a nitrogen application through leaching and/or volatilisation is mitigated, a big bonus for your wallet and for the environment. Work by AgResearch shows in pastural situations with high rainfall and well drained soils, controlled release urea applied at 25kg or 50 kg per ha reduced direct loss (from fertiliser nitrate leaching) by 30% to 100%. Ammonia volatilisation losses were also reduced typically by around 70% and denitrification losses by 50 to 100%. Plant nitrogen and pasture growth also increased when controlled release urea was used. Pasture growth was 5-15% higher when using controlled release urea, compared to standard urea. On pastural sites, direct loss of N from fertiliser nitrate leaching from April to August was shown to reduce by 86% to 100% at 50 cm depth. N-Smart has been designed to release nitrogen into soils slowly over a 90-day period meaning there is no build up of nitrate in the soil. This release rate matches the plants requirement for nitrogen keeping soil nitrate levels low. Therefore, when drainage occurs, there is less nitrate to be lost. Efficiency of nitrogen use results from reduced losses - meaning plants can use more of the N applied as N-Smart. N-Smart contains 44% nitrogen and on its own or combined with other required nutrients such as sulphur, it is easy to apply with Country-Wide

September 2020

traditional spreading equipment and mixes with just about anything without risk of chemical reaction. There are also benefits to using N-Smart in cropping situations and Fertco have developed programs for use in crops such as maize and forage brassicas. The maize cropping programme has been used effectively for many years now and results have been consistently good - even in dry seasons. One of the obvious benefits is very even, green crop growth right through to tasseling. Further, not having to do a nitrogen side dressing is an important advantage. Similarly, never being late with a side dressing is no longer a problem. Fertco Technical Service Reps have been incorporating N-Smart into many Sheep and Beef fertiliser mixes for the last eight years. On-farm benefits include the reduced frequency of application (important in wet conditions from soil damage and loss perspective), lower rates of N application and no adverse chemical reactions when blended with other products. The vegetable oil coating also breaks down into natural products so there is nothing that shows up as residual in either milk or meat. With the government using words like â&#x20AC;&#x153;cracking down on nitrogen fertiliser useâ&#x20AC;? it could be time to re-evaluate your farms urea use policy. Fertco specialise in controlled release fertiliser products and are proud to help farmers meet their production and environmental goals.

N-Smart is Fertcoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proprietary product and we are currently looking for a South Island distributor as we operate only in the North Island. If your fertiliser company is interested in working with us to take N-Smart to South Island farmers, please call Rob Williams on 029 860 8000. For all North Island enquiries please contact Fertco on 0800 337 826 or visit www.fertco.co.nz 65


CROP & FORAGE | AERIAL CROPPING

While this project was initiated by farmers in the central North Island, work has been done on farms in Hunterville, the Wairarapa and Te Anau.

The helicropping advantage BY: SANDRA TAYLOR

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reservation of soils under a hill country winter cropping regime is the focus of the Farming Fund project being run on commercial farms in both

islands. The project, led by Ballance AgriNutrients, is building on existing knowledge of hill country cropping with helicopters (helicropping) with a focus on soil preservation. Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ science extension forage specialist Murray Lane, says the initial work on how to grow crops on hill country was carried out nearly 20 years ago and farmers have picked up the technology and run with it. Lane says it is not going to appeal to perfectionists, but it enables cropping and pasture development in hill country,

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significant time efficiencies with 40ha of crop established in six hours and has health and safety benefits. “You’re employing just one person (the pilot) to do the job and there is no danger of farm staff rolling tractors on hillsides.” While the practice has opened up opportunities for increasing drymatter production on hill country, Lane says farmers recognised there was a responsibility that came with growing crops on hill country, particularly around matching soil types, slope, crop type and stock classes. The SFF project, funded by The Ministry for Primary Industries, Ballance AgriNutrients, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, PGGWrightson Seeds, Agricom and Nufarm is focused on keeping soil on the land and not losing it - and associated nutrients - into waterways. Comparing crops established using a

helicopter to those established through traditional cultivation clearly showed there is no soil loss under an aerial cropping regime, whereas with cultivation soil is lost, particularly after weather events. The risk of soil loss in aerially-established crops is during winter grazing. “We know we can grow and graze summer crops, and have the area back in pasture for winter and lose no soil, so the focus is on winter and how we can harvest forage crops without losing soil.” Lane says one factor that has stood out all the way through on mixed terrain, is crops will be poorer on steeper slopes because of the lack of fertility on those slopes. “Rather than apply more fertiliser to the area and grow a higher yielding crop, let’s accept lower yields on steeper slopes. “The question is do we really want large numbers of hooves on steep slopes

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to harvest a large crop? “Perhaps it is better to accept a lesser crop on these slopes, meaning less hooves, less damage and concentrate on the flatter areas where there will be less soil movement.” He says they have looked at numerous ways to establish cover crops from the air, to protect the ground after grazing. “We were not successful sowing grass cover crops prior to grazing swedes. “Not because the annual ryegrass didn’t establish, but because grazing destroyed the less-than-mature ryegrass.” The focus now is on establishing cover crops after grazing. While cover crop seed has been successfully broadcast onto the soil, midwinter, after grazing swedes or kale, success depends on resident bird populations. This year the research team is evaluating the use of a bird repellent to protect the seed. They are also evaluating “companion cropping” where plantain is sown with the brassica seed. Plantain tolerates the brassica herbicide, so grows under the swede canopy over the growing season. Lane says plantain grows very well under rape, as it is grazed over summer, however under swedes, it fills any gaps in the crop, survives under the swede and still flowers and sets seed. Following grazing, the plantain recovers (depending on grazing pressure) and becomes the cover crop, protecting the soil. However, plantain survival requires a

One of the benefits of helicropping is soil structure is not affected.

move away from intensive strip grazing to a less intensive “block grazing”. This will also minimise soil damage. Lane says some farmers have been offering stock four days grazing in a block, using a back wire and portable trough, and moving them earlier if weather conditions deteriorate.

MODERATE GRAZING VERSUS OPTIMAL UTILISATION “We need to change the message away from optimising the crop to minimising soil damage.” Lane admits this does require a shift in mind-set but sacrificing a small amount of

Helicropping has a number of benefits besides just cropping and pasture development in steep hill country. About 40ha of crop can be established in six hours, and has health and safety benefits.

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crop (perhaps growing more than required) could have long-term environmental benefits to the soil and allow the companion plants (plantain) to come away quickly to protect the soil and capture the nutrients left in the wake of winter grazing. He says one of the benefits of helicropping is soil structure is not affected, the pest/predator balance is retained as are water infiltration rates. “Preserving this as much as possible with moderate grazing will protect soil and water resources for the future pasture.” Murray says the ultimate goal of helicropping is to improve the quality of the resulting new permanent pasture on a range of terrain. He cites an example of one farmer, helicropping on a largescale, who establishes permanent pasture by broadcasting seed within a month of grazing winter forage crops. “If the pasture isn’t dense enough in its first spring, he simply lets it seed… At least it’s covering the soil in that first spring and summer.” While this project was initiated by farmers in the central North Island, work has been done on farms in Hunterville, the Wairarapa and Te Anau. Murray says it is amazing what farmers are doing on their farms in terms of cropping and managing their soil and water resources. “Our role is to observe, learn and work out how to make the systems reliable.” • Next issue: Onfarm examples.

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CROP & FORAGE | EFFICIENT FARMING

Two new wetlands were established last year.

Highly profitable and in sync with the environment Figured thinking and hard work by a Central Otago couple led to an extraordinary, award-winning farm business. Lynda Gray reports.

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nna and Ben Gillespie’s dairy heifer grazing and beef finishing operation has taken shape over the past decade on the back of astute livestock and financial management. Since 2012-13 they’ve doubled farm income, and over the last six years reduced Overseer calculated nitrogen losses from 17 to 8kg/ha. The results are testament to their success at

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developing a highly productive livestock system in sync with the environment. The Omakau farmers are the supreme winners of this year’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards. They also won the Soil Management and the Wise with Water awards. When Anna and Ben started farming at Omakau in 2011 their focus was dairy cow wintering and heifer raising. The

developed and mostly free-draining flats were well suited to dairy stock and centrally located to the dairying strongholds of Southland and Canterbury. By 2015 the Gillespies were feeding 2000 cows and 300 R1 heifers but realised further growth was stymied by insufficient grass and lucerne for hay and silage. They decided to reduce cow numbers and increase the number of summer-grazed

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FARM FACTS • Ben & Anna Gillespie, and children Will (9) and Milly (7) • Omakau, Central Otago • 360ha effective, 230ha irrigated • Dairy heifer grazing and beef finishing • 2020 wintered stock • 150 R2 mixed-sex beef cattle • 720 R1 dairy heifers • 665 R2 dairy heifers • 45 R1 dairy crossbred bulls • 25 R2 dairy crossbred bulls • 42 MA carryover dairy cows

Left: Ben and Anna with Will (9) and Milly (7). Below: Since 2012-13 they’ve doubled farm income, and over the past six years reduced Overseer calculated nitrogen losses from 17 to 8kg/ha.

OMAKAU

heifers to free up spring pasture for the making of supplements. Cow numbers were ramped back, and the turning point was 2018 when the owner of the 700 dairy cows grazed bought a run-off for future wintering. “He gave us plenty of warning so we had time to find cows to replace them if we wanted to, but we decided it was a good time to look at other options,” Ben says. They used Farmax to assess several beef cattle options to complement heifer grazing. The first scenario and diversification were the autumn buying of weaner Charolais-Angus steers for ad-lib winter feeding on fodder beet and grass to prime weights before Christmas. Most of the 220 cattle made the grade despite an early drought and irrigation water restrictions, but the stumbling block was being able to source enough of them at 270-280kg LW. “If we didn’t buy them in at that weight there was the risk of not getting them to weight before it got dry. We made a margin but it wasn’t what we hoped for,” Anna says. In 2019 they broadened the beef selection buying in 60 R1 and 110 R2 mixed-sex beef cattle, again with the goal of quitting them after their second winter and before Christmas. It became apparent that the older cattle about 440kg LW were ideal, leading to the decision to drop the R1 cattle from future cattle purchases. Another beef income stream, added at the suggestion of a dairy farmer, is the

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grazing and finishing of R1 and R2 dairy service bulls. This is the second season that 100kg weaners bulls have been bought in at $500 a head. They’re grazed until the following December, used for followup mating of AI heifers, and then sold at finished weights. Last year most were sent away in July at a $1250/head average. Before the new arrangement Jersey bulls were bought in by the dairy farmer at about $1700/head for follow-up mating from October until January. It was a costly exercise considering grazing and animal health costs of $200 plus, Anna says. When the bulls were sold for slaughter

they recouped at best about $1200/head. “This scenario is a win-win – we reduce our M bovis risk and get well-grown bulls to service the heifers, and the dairy farmers save a significant amount as well.” The Gillespies plan to increase the beef side of the business, which Ben says are flexi-factors of the system. “They’re the lever that can be pulled independently without affecting the heifer grazing… if we know we’re likely to have less feed we buy in fewer; if there’s a projected surplus we buy in more.”

›› Irrigation with a green flavour p71 69


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Two pivots and hardnose guns water 230ha.

Irrigation with a green flavour Livestock management and feeding have evolved with the development of spray irrigation. There are two pivots plus hardhose guns covering 230ha. The area is irrigated with a 200ha water allocation made possible with variable rate irrigation and the growing of lucerne and dryland pasture mixes under the hard-hose guns. If watering restrictions come into force the guns are the first to be ramped back but the lucerne and pasture will persist and survive. During the irrigation development phase the paddocks were reconfigured to work in with the laneways. They were subdivided from an 18ha to 5.6ha size average, each with two water troughs fed by dairy farming standard sized pipes. The Gillespies are highly conscious of the farm’s environmental footprint and have taken a number of steps to minimise runoff and maintain or improve waterway health. There’s a no cropping

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and wintering policy on the heavier soils at the south end of the farm; riparian margins are fenced even though none of the waterways exceed one metre in width; and two new wetlands were established last year. Under construction is a tiered, three-pond wetland that will provide habitat for wildlife and offer diversity for planting. Local schools have been invited to help plant out the area and learn more about practical ways of caring for farmed environments. About $4000-$5000 is spent each year on trees, shrubs and fencing, and about 2,500 shelterbelt trees are planted annually. “It takes about a week of planting. It’s a real time commitment but worth it,” Ben says. Another green-fingered effort, established by Ben, is a home nursery of native plants grown from ecosourced seed. He started the backyard

KEY POINTS • Development of highly productive heifer grazing and beef cattle system with due respect to the environment. • Reduced nitrogen losses from 17 to 8kg/ha over the last six years. • Achieved farm ownership through leasing and built equity by investing in developing a more productive farm. • 2020 Otago Ballance Environmental Farm Award winners.

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diversification a few years ago and was further encouraged by a horticultural speaker at a local Red Meat Profit Partnership group meeting, who suggested selecting and propagating from seeds or cuttings a few native species that grow naturally in their local area. Ben is pleased with the results to date, which are starting to be planted out in wetland and riparian areas. Ben and Anna’s plan for the next couple of years is to consolidate and focus on debt repayment. They’re at the point of squeezing the last 10 to 15% of farm income, which will happen as farm development costs reduce. In the meantime they’ll push ahead with environment-focused projects. “We’ll keep up with the physical changes that are going to make a positive environmental difference such as subdivision and development of wetland areas,” Anna says. They’re also mindful of enjoying and making the most of the time with Milly and Will. “They’re still at the age where we can sit down as a family for breakfast, and we enjoy helping out with their school activities.” Beyond that, Ben says they’re open minded about their farming future. “As they say, if you’re not going forward you’re going backward. We’re not sure what our next phase will be but are sure opportunities will crop up.”

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Left: They used Farmax to assess several beef cattle options to complement heifer grazing. Below: Riparian margins are fenced even though none of the waterways exceed one metre in width.

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Brigadier is the fodder beet of choice. Although potentially lower yielding, utilisation is high and is more palatable to young stock than the higher drymatter varieties.

Heifers and health Dairy heifers arrive at 100kg LW and leave 18 months later in calf. They are grazed at a weekly per head rate and there are no set weight targets or a written contract. While some would shun the non-formalised arrangement there have been few if any fallouts over the decade they’ve grazed heifers, which boils down to two-way trust. “There has to be trust on both sides to make it work. We have to trust that they deliver what they say they will, and they have to trust we’ll do the right thing,” Ben says. “Clients always know what’s going on. We’re not necessarily talking directly with them all the time but we clearly detail and itemise any animal health issues on invoices.” They’ve gone the extra mile in providing a quality grazing service by changing the approach to animal health treatments. Clients used to specify when and with what to treat heifers and would supply and sometimes take responsibility for administering drench and vaccinations. With several mobs all requiring different treatments it became complicated as well as messy due to a growing pile of half-full drench drums and vaccinations.

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They tidied up the process by devising an animal health plan, in conjunction with a vet, for each client’s herd and, once approved by the client, buy and administer the treatments. “It means we can have confidence in the quality of the products we’re using and can be sure of what has and hasn’t been administered.” The Gillespies also record the batch numbers and all other details so that if there is an issue they can quickly trace back. Another potential health issue given the regular arrival of stock is M bovis. They mitigate the risk by following more or less the same steps they do for avoiding BVD but have also planted a poplar shelterbelt at the south boundary as a precaution against outside infection. Heifer and beef mobs are kept separate and there’s always at least one paddock separating them. Grazing rotations – Anna’s domain – are set so that any following mob is from the same farm. The terrain of the farm also helps, with a dryland area roughly in the middle of the farm acting as a natural barrier.

›› Team approach to building business p75

DAILY RATIONS • R1 dairy heifers: ad-lib beet and co-grazing grass at 1kgDM/hd • R2 dairy heifers: slightly restricted access to beet, based on body condition scoring in April, and 2kgDM hay in ring feeders. • R2 beef steers and heifers: ad-lib beet and co-grazing grass at 2kgDM/hd. • R2 dairy bulls: ad-lib beet, 2 kgDM/hd hay in feeders • R1 dairy service bulls: ad-lib beet, 1kgDM/hd hay in feeders. With ad lib access to beet, cattle will eat up to 2.2% of their body weight, therefore a 500kgLW steer will eat about 11kgDM of beet. The Gillespies are strict in sticking to budgeted grass allowances. “We don’t want them eating too much because for us it’s all about maximising growth rates,” Anna says. Co-grazing grass was introduced at the suggestion of Jim Gibbs, Lincoln University’s fodder beet expert, and has replaced hay in ring feeders for the heifers and beef cattle. It’s made feeding easier, and reduced quantities and cost.

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Above: In 2017 the two generations formed the limited liability company Two Farmers Farming. Alan and Jan retained a 10% shareholding in the company, which owns the land and buildings. Ben and Anna farmed in partnership outside the company. Above left: Fun and games for Milly and Will on the under-construction tiered pond system. Above right: Grass measuring and cattle grazing are handled by Anna.

Team approach to building business The Environmental Farm Award judges praised Anna and Ben’s strategic and team approach to building their productive and future-focused business. Theirs is a true partnership with both sharing in the decision making and day-to-day running of the farm. They capitalise on their respective skills: Anna’s stock and feed management and financial budgeting; and Ben’s agronomy and irrigation management. They draw from a team of advisors who understand the unusual aspects of their system and their shared approach to the running of the farm. “We shopped around to get a bank manager who could add value,

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understood our business and the fact that I was the one who did the budgets and the stock work,” Anna says. The bank also backed their ability to build a farm business capable of supporting debt and to achieve their goal of farm ownership. Their pathway to ownership started out in a lease arrangement of the Omakau farm with Ben’s parents Alan and Jan. Ben and Anna built equity by developing a more efficient production platform through investment in irrigation, subdivision, and infrastructure such as laneways and yards. The capital development was paid for by Ben’s parents and the extra interest costs incurred were

added to the terms of the lease. In 2017 the two generations formed the limited liability company Two Farmers Farming. Alan and Jan retained a 10% shareholding in the company, which owns the land and buildings. Ben and Anna farmed in partnership outside the company. “It was a way of proving to the bank our ability as farmers as well as keeping any trading losses separate,” Ben says. Accountant Pita Alexander was a big help in putting the structures in place to achieve ownership and advising on the appropriate balance of bank versus family debt. “He’s been very encouraging and helpful along the way.”

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CROP & FORAGE | PASTURES

The classic farm discussion group pasture topics are when to graze, for how long and when to spell it and that’s for only several species.

Regen ag’s up to 40 species too many BY: JOANNA GRIGG

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igher legume content in any pasture must be the goal. But adding a plethora of herbs, legumes, flowers or vegetables all together is not the answer, Dr Derrick Moot, Professor of Plant Science, Lincoln University says. Like kids eating every jelly bean except the black ones, stock favouritism means the tastier legumes disappear first. Next to follow are those less able to compete for light and nutrients, or those annuals not managed for reproduction. Farmers considering following the Government’s push for embracing Regenerative Agriculture and its suggestion for sowing up to 40 species in one pasture,

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in a “suck and see” approach, should consider how that might work in reality. Moot suggests farmers carefully consider the species mix in a permanent sward and how they need to plan to maintain the composition and quality over time. High legume content is the king for sheep and cattle growth and lactation. Research shows that perennial ryegrass and plantain will dominate at the expense of white clover over time, especially with nitrogen fertiliser (Myint, Wood, Black, Lincoln University, 2019). Research on dairy farms shows optimal milk production occurring when pastures contain 40% legumes (Cosgrove, 2005). Moot is concerned that farmers who follow blanket recommendations for very high levels of pasture diversity without a clear focus on what species and why, nor

good science around how to manage them for a particular purpose, may emerge from the experience disappointed. Regenerative Agriculture has at its core a message of diversity of pasture species. Its emerging popularity follows unsustainable monoculture practices (namely cereal crops) in Australia and North America, which can use up soil nitrogen and organic matter. In a letter to Agriculture Minister Damian O’Connor, May 2020, Dr Moot and Dr Warwick Scott (retired Senior Lecturer in Plant Science) said they support several aspects of conventional agriculture that are promoted within Regenerative Agriculture. “Practices such as rotational grazing, high quality leafy legume based pastures, direct drilling, overcoming nutrient deficiencies, and landscape farming to provide ecosystem services.” But they also believe that the scientific principles underpinning New Zealand’s current agricultural systems are in danger of being devalued by a system that they see as having several serious shortcomings. In particular, Moot describes the promotion of pasture mixes of up to 40 species as of no benefit to farmers. “In parts of Europe farmers get paid for the number of different species they grow in a sward and that sward may never be grazed by an animal. It’s a completely different set of drivers here in New Zealand.” Farmers in NZ have existing systems to graze and maintain a three-way grass, legume and herb mix successfully. They can maintain a legume-dominant system through lucerne stands, red and white clover with plantain, or a subterranean clover and grass combination, depending on their environment. Moot queries the need to complicate it further with more species and a range of cultivars with different flowering dates and growth activity. “Ecological principles show that it is virtually impossible to maintain beyond a year or two, as competition for light and nutrients causes extensive self thinning. “Our own research shows that no more than three (grass, legume, herbs) make up over ninety percent, regardless of the number sown. “In irrigated and high rainfall environments, no matter what we start

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with we end up with mainly ryegrass with about twenty percent legume, even if we look after it. Ryegrass catches the light and handles the grazing, so dominates.”

LARGE RESIDUALS Moot queries encouraging large pasture residuals and then drilling into these because excessive vegetation can block coulters. Moist areas with thatch would be prone to slugs and springtails, increasing the chance of establishment failure from insect damage. Crushing machinery may be appropriate on dry stony soils but could cause compaction on moist heavier soils, he said. Direct drilling is certainly advocated wherever possible to maintain soil structure and minimise loss of soil carbon. At times, however, full cultivation is required to prepare an adequate seedbed. Regenerative Agriculture endorsers talk about the importance of spelling pasture as if it’s something new, Moot said. “Ask a New Zealand hill country farmer and they will tell you how they graze blocks hard at some times of the year and at other times let seeds regenerate, particularly in dryland environments.” Many of the principles of Regenerative Agriculture are not new here and do promote best management practice. “Our dairy grazing has always embraced rotational grazing with pre and post heights balancing pasture growth and quality.” Minimizing set-stocking in sheep and beef systems is also advocated as best

Get reacquainted with a sward stick and tried-and-true rotational grazing strategies rather than looking for species-mix silver bullets. Ideally keep pastures between 1500 to 3000 kilograms of drymatter per hectare.

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management practice and is actually the basis of the lucerne grazing system Lincoln University developed for dryland regions, Moot said. Leaving higher residuals at every grazing lowers pasture quality but it can be used when necessary to retain moisture and aid recovery after drought. Moot recommends farmers concentrate on appropriate grazing management for their pastures in their system rather than follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Recent work by Dr Alistair Black is revisiting plant trials last done in the 1960s and 1970s. The research is taking dry matter measurements from 270 different plots, with pastures ranging from single species swards through to mixes of up to six different species. “We are looking for combinations of species that over-yield – in other words give a better growth output than they do singularly,” Moot said. “We found this with a grass, clover and herb mix – ryegrass, plantain and clover giving a synergy of growth and quality.”

YE OLDE GRAZING LAWS Go back 10 years to when sward sticks were handed out by seed agents and farmers were posted pasture quality guides from the newly rebranded Beef + Lamb NZ. These pasture quality resources showed what 20%, 40% and 60% legume content looked like in a mixed sward pasture. Dr Derrick Moot, Lincoln University, would like farmers to pull these resources out again and use them. “It’s our grazing management that is key to growing quality meat and wool as well as profitability and sustainable soil management. “It is about building and maintaining dry matter and quality, not all about the number of species in the mix.” The ideal pasture height for stock performance and for protecting soils, and your bank balance, is 1500 to 3000 kilograms of dry matter, he said. This pasture height is also safer for parasite larvae intake. He admits it is not possible to achieve this all year round but it should be the target. “Sheep and beef farmers must refocus on good pasture management, not get distracted by faith-based silver bullet solutions.” He said set-stocking should be avoided.

Plants should not be grazed continually beyond their critical leaf index area if you want production – in other words, not to the boards time and time again. Once plant green leaf drops below three m2 of leaf per m2 of ground it is suboptimal for light interception and water use efficiency. He said rotational grazing followed by a spelling period is a conventional idea, but needs to be revisited by some farmers. “Don’t be afraid to mob stock ewes and lambs to create feed ahead of them.” Do this with lucerne when lambs are about three weeks of age, he said. This gives the benefits of rotational grazing, followed by a single spell during flowering to build root reserves. Soil fertility is not enhanced by adding microbes, he said. Rather, add sulphur as this is particularly important for legumes and is used up over time, becoming in short in most hill country environments. “Soil is a jungle of many microbes, mostly on the point of extermination due to shortage of moisture. After moisture, the numbers take off.” He points farmers towards the Lincoln University Dryland Farming page and the Beef + Lamb NZ Knowledge Hub as good places to sharpen up on grazing management.

LOWER STOCKING RATE LINKED WITH LOWER PROFITS A study in Australia* examined the findings of a National Environmental Science Programme report “Graziers with better profitability, biodiversity and wellbeing” by Ogilvy, Gardiner, et al. The original report concluded that a cohort of Regenerative Agriculture graziers were more profitable. The study concluded that this analysis was inappropriate as a measure of profitability and that the cohort were less profitable over 10 years (2007-2016) with return on investment of 1.66% compared with 4.22% for graziers who said they did not practice Regenerative Agriculture. This was most closely linked to differences in stocking rates. The study notes that there was no quantifying of environmental differences, which would have been highly valued. *Regenerative Agriculture – Counting the Costs, John Francis, Holmes Sackett consultancy, Australian Farm Institute, May 2020.

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CROP & FORAGE | ARABLE

Where the wheat was: Eric Watson checks out the ryegrass seed crop that’s now in the paddock where he broke the Guinness World Record for wheat yield last summer.

Uniformity key in wheat record BY: ANDREW SWALLOW

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ost cropping farmers have seen the header yield meter in winter wheat touch the high teens, even 20t/ha, but for every 20t patch in a paddock there’s usually an area in single figures. Such variability can be due to factors beyond a grower’s control – patches of shallow, stony soil for example – but increasingly smart management can correct for many other limitations. It’s an approach Eric and Maxine Watson have been fine-tuning for decades on their 490ha farm at Wakanui, east of Ashburton, and one that last summer saw them smash their own Guinness World Record for wheat yield with a crop of 17.398t/ha. “This crop was a lot more uniform than it was the previous time,” Eric told CountryWide, reflecting on their 2017 record breaker of 16.791t/ha. “We noticed it in all our wheats last year: you could see it on the yield meter.” So what has he changed? It wasn’t the paddock because it was the same one as in 2017, but the preceding break crop and a switch to liquid nitrogen applied on wider tramlines appear to have been key factors.

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“You can see the yield meter drop whenever you’re going over spray marks or where the irrigators have been,” he points out. The previous record was set on 32m tramlines with 258kg/ha of granular nitrogen applied in three passes. That left some striping in the crop: not enough for the naked eye to pick up but it was evident on the header yield monitor. This crop had 302kg/ha of nitrogen applied as liquid in six passes: five of urea and one as ammonium sulphate to get some spring sulphur on too. Mineral nitrogen tests in late August last year showed 26.5kg N/ha and 19.5kg N/ ha available from the soil in the 0-30cm and 30-60cm profiles respectively, bringing total nitrogen supply to 348kg/ha. At 17.4t/ ha that’s just 20kg per tonne of grain, well under the usual guide of 25kg of nitrogen required per tonne of grain produced. Nonetheless, Watson’s confident nitrogen wasn’t limiting and more would have been detrimental. “We know we get very good mineralisation of nitrogen from these soils later in the season so about 300kg of applied nitrogen is enough no matter what. Yields start to drop off if we go over that.” Paul Johnson, of Yara, works with

Watson on crop nutrition and says the 4.5% organic matter in the soil – unusually high for a continuously cropped paddock – is a key factor in both that nitrogen supply and water retention. To maintain soil organic matter, and with it nutrient status, Watson finely chops, spreads, then incorporates the straw of most crops. Pak choi preceded the record breaking wheat, with plantain before that. “We know we don’t get good first wheats after plantain, probably because it locks up so much nitrogen, but two years later it probably released some of that,” he notes. In turn, the pak choi takes little off the paddock with a seed yield of only about 1t/ha, and its deep tap-root benefits soil structure while bringing nutrients from deep in the soil profile to the surface. Consequently it’s a good entry to wheat and one pass with Watson’s tillage train (see picture) was all that was needed to incorporate the residue. This left a good seedbed ready for sowing Kerrin wheat at 73kg/ha on April 17th, aiming for a plant population of 110/sq m. “We possibly could have been a wee bit earlier with sowing,” he reflects. The 2017 record wheat, Oakley, was sown a touch earlier, on April 9, also at 110 plants/sq m but it was following a red beet seed crop. After that record, besides the subtle striping due to applied nitrogen, Watson had commented that where the earlier removed male lines of beet had been the crop was better than where the seed producing female lines had been. Base fertilisers have been variable-rate applied following grid soil sampling for

Unofficial trophy: Eric and Maxine Watson with the plaque Maxine made to mark the occasion once they knew they’d landed another world record.

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about a decade so little if any withinpaddock variability in phosphate, potash, or pH remains. An average of 500kg/ha of superphosphate was variable-rate applied prior to sowing the latest record crop, and 200kg of muriate of potash (KCl) was flown on in September. In 2017 potassium sulphate was spun on over the 32m tramlines. With macronutrients sorted, Watson fine-tunes micronutrients based on tissue tests during the season. “We know we’re going to be short of manganese and zinc, and we put on some boron too.” As in 2017, the 2020 seed was treated with Poncho and Galmano for early winter insect and disease control, with several further insecticides applied later in winter to keep virus out of the crop. A five-pass fungicide programme of mainly triazoles and SDHIs was used, starting with a T0 and finishing with a strobilurin at T4 to keep leaf rust at bay. Two plant growth regulator mixes of Cycocel and Moddus were applied, one with the early fungicide and one as a stand alone. “I tend not to mix too many products together because you can get a phytotoxic effect.” About 160mm of irrigation was applied in five passes through the only irrigator on

One pass with Watson’s massive tillage train, pulled by a QuadTrac, was the only cultivation prior to sowing the record breaking crop of Kerrin.

the farm that isn’t variable rate equipped, but that’s because it serves the most uniform paddocks. Applications were scheduled based on neutron probe readings of soil water content. “It was quite a dry season and the crop was under stress at one stage.” The last pass with the irrigator, on January 12th, had Watson worrying that the burgeoning crop would fall over but it held up and just stayed standing until harvest on Feb 17. That was a nerve-wracking, slow process with the 600hp Case 9250 header piloted by Watson crawling along at 2.5kmh to

capture every grain of the 8.6ha barnbusting crop, but once they knew the record was in the bag, as Maxine puts it, “he had a pretty big grin on his face.” Could he grow an even bigger crop? Given another good growing season “anything’s possible”, he says, noting plant breeders are continually nudging potential yields up with new cultivars. “The yield monitor was hitting 20.5t/ha in places in this crop but to do that over 8 or 9ha is a very big ask.” Somehow you can tell he hasn’t finished having a crack at ever higher world records.

Bayer agronomist’s insight Bayer CropScience’s David Weith works with Watson on his record attempts, registering paddocks and crops with Guinness before sowing, and ensuring all the necessary data and people are in place if pre-harvest yield assessments indicate a record is on the cards. “It’s got to the stage where a farmer would struggle to do it on his own: we had 16 people there on the day it was harvested and everybody had a job to do.” He also walks the crop monthly during autumn and winter, then weekly during spring and summer. Agronomic decisions are a collaboration between Watson, Weith, and Yara’s Paul Johnston (see main story). Weith echoes what Watson says about the evenness of the 2020 record-breaking crop of Kerrin – “the yield monitor never went below 16t/ha” – but like Watson he

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believes there’s still room to take yields higher. The key to that will be keeping crops standing. The 2017 record with Oakley had about 1100 tillers per square metre: this one had 1260. “Anything over that starts to fall over and you don’t get the light interception, not to mention more disease if it’s too thick.” Weith’s been trying to get data on how much light was available for the Watson’s crop to intercept during the growing season at Wakanui last summer so they can calculate how efficient the crop was at converting that into biomass and,in turn, harvestable yield. “ADAS in the UK are working on it.” Reflecting on the ongoing United Kingdom-New Zealand rivalry with the wheat record (see history chart) he says

a key advantage in NZ is that few tillers are lost in winter so nearly all grain is produced on primary tillers as opposed to secondary spring-formed tillers, which are common in UK crops because of higher tiller death during winter. Consequently it’s harder to achieve uniform crop maturity. However, higher latitude means longer daylight hours during grain-fill in the UK and, as Watson points out, Terpal (mepiquat chloride + chloroethephon) is an option there to help keep crops standing but is not permitted on wheat in NZ. A poor growing season just gone in the northern hemisphere means it’s highly unlikely any UK grower will beat Watson this year but it’s a fair bet there will be some trying come their 2021 harvest.

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CROP & FORAGE | ARABLE

The Rootster lifter and a Massey Ferguson tractor to pull it didn’t leave much change out of $600,000 for both. But Mark Dillion’s southern contracting business took off.

Contractor constantly seeking gains BY: JOANNA CUTTANCE PHOTOS: CHRIS SULLIVAN

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alking to Southland contractor Mark Dillon you quickly get the impression that he often asks himself “How can I do this better?” Mark and his wife Sonia own Dillon Beet Harvesting. They have over 40 clients from Orepuki, near Tuatapere in Southland, to Patearoa, near Ranfurly in Central Otago – a five-hour tractor drive. The expansion of the business can be associated with the couple’s abilities to solve problems in running their own farm and lease blocks. They operate a mixed farm, with arable, sheep, beef and dairy support being the major components. Mark is a problem solver by nature.

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Like many, he was quick to recognise the benefits of feeding high yielding fodder beet to his stock but felt that grazing the crop in situ on heavy clay soil could potentially damage the soil structure in cold, wet winters. Lifting fodder beet was the most effective option, and Mark modified a single-row swede harvester into a two-row lifter. As ingenious as this was, he later upgraded to a second-hand spud digger that had been modified to lift carrots before he modified it to lift beet. In April 2014, after four years of using modified diggers, he splashed out and bought a new Grimme Rootster fodder beet lifter and a Massey Ferguson tractor to hook it on to. There was not much change out of $600,000 for both. Thus his contracting RIVERSDALE

business took a big step up in operation. Mark, proud of his purchase, held a field day to show it working thinking that about 30 people might turn up but over 100 came. Six years on – he laughed that he’d nearly worn it out – he was very happy with it. When he first started using the Grimme Rootster for contracting he was lifting about 80ha of beet. Each year it increased, and last season he lifted between 500 and 550ha. The Dillons were holding off upgrading the lifter because they wanted to understand how the new environmental rules would affect cropping. Mark thought there was a possibility beet would ease off for a few years until farmers were able to set

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themselves up with wintering sheds. Then lifting and carting beet would increase again. Mark’s contracting was not limited to beet lifting. In 2015 he and Sonia bought a Massey Ferguson 9560 combine harvester. They still used their MF865 with a 16-foot front but the 9560 had a 30-foot front, speeding things up. Initially he was impressed with the extra capacity and the speed of unloading the 12,333l (9.75t) grain tank in less than 90 seconds. After five years he now describes it as awesome, “better than what the specs say.” Mark and Sonia, with their children Blaine 11, Rylan 9 and Ashlyn 7, live on the 389ha home block at Kaweku, Riversdale where they have cereal and beet paddocks, 200 ewes and 50 dairy grazers. Nearby they have 195ha where 100ha is in cereal crops, and some lease blocks totalling 240ha. 1800 dairy stock are scattered throughout the operation. Diversity is a large part of Dillon’s business plan and they challenge themselves to improve. They grow cereal grains for merchants and also make up their own blend of barley, wheat, and distillers dried grains (DDG), an imported corn by-product, to sell to dairy clients. To add value, and thinking of the environment, the Dillons are trialling growing high protein fava beans to replace DDG in the blend. It is at a “see how it goes” stage, and the pigeons are greatly enjoying them. They have 6ha in beans and would look at harvesting in February or March. Then they will decide if the beans need to be dried, a ratio mix to make up, and trialling how tasty they are for their own calves and some willing client’s stock.

AUTOSTEER A BOON On reflection, one of their best investments was embracing “autosteer”. This technology enabled automatic steering and positioning in the landscape, which for them reduced the risk of overlap to 40mm. Autosteer was known for reducing chemical, fertiliser and seed waste but for the Dillons, reducing driver fatigue and having rookie drivers able to do a nice job had been the most positive benefits. Mark gets a great kick out of driving past a paddock and seeing it look perfect. With autosteer, after negotiating the first outside lap the driver could focus on things such as the air seeder or check the yield monitor without the focused concentration needed to drive the tractor. Mark really appreciated this a couple of years ago when they needed to get 98ha of seeding done in fog before the weather deteriorated – 17.5 tractor hours later the job was completed safely. The Dillons tried to stay local when expanding their fleet and have struck up a good working relationship with the team at JJ Limited’s Gore branch, particularly with the now-retired Peter McKerchar who was involved in the sales of many

›› Continues p82

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Top: The fodderbeet harvester in action. Last season Mark lifted between 500 and 550ha. Above: Before harvesting their own fodder beet, tops are grazed off because the crops are too variable for the harvester’s topper so a lot of green vegetation is wasted.

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Top: Sugar beet is the best to lift as it has small bulbs which are more consistent. Above left: The Dillons were concerned new environmental rules would affect the lifting operation. Above right: When he first started using the Grimme Rootster for contracting in 2014 Mark was lifting about 80ha of beet. Each year it increased, and last season he lifted between 500 and 550ha.

of the tractors in the Dillon’s fleet. These ranged from 150hp to 240hp – a Massey Ferguson (MF) 6480, MF7475, MF7718, MF7622 and a MF7624, not forgetting the MF9560 combine that Mark bought new from them in 2015. The Dillons also have a lot of respect for the AGCO Corporation, which owns and manufactures Massey Ferguson equipment. From further afield they were awaiting the arrival of a new Hardi sprayer from Australia, expected in October. For quite a while they had been talking with Hardi NZ territory manager Ross Dickson to decide exactly which high specifications they wanted on the sprayer. New gear costs a lot of money but the equipment provided true gains in productivity and efficiency, Mark said. Mark likes perfection, and competing in plough competitions lets him refine

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his skills. He competed in his first match when 12 years old, with his great grandad’s Minneapolis Moline, winning his class. Mark still has the tractor in the shed. He kept competing and made his first New Zealand final at Rakaia when 22. The highlight to date was in 2013 when he won the NZ final at Lincoln. He then went on to represent New Zealand in the World Contest in Saint-Jean-d’Illac, Bordeaux, France in 2014. He loved the experience but felt he was not able to compete to his highest level because he was using borrowed gear. He had already decided if he gets to compete on the world stage again he would ship his own gear to the hosting country. In June, Dillon qualified for the New Zealand championships by winning first place and champion ploughman at the Toko and Taieri plough matches, held in Otago. The win secured a

spot to compete for national representation at the 2021 World Ploughing Contest to be held in the Republic of Ireland. He was to travel with the NZ team this year to the World Contest in St Petersburg, Russia, as coach and manager but Covid-19 meant it had been rescheduled to June 2021. Mark likes to have fun with tractors and he and Sonia are both founding members of the Southern Tractor Pull association. Mark was very involved with helping to build the club’s sled, which is designed for a tractor to sit on top with changeable tensions to create different forces. It can be seen in action at many farming events in the South Island. Both Sonia and Mark love competing, especially driving “Sherwood Thunder”, the front wheels up in the air, and for 12 seconds the adrenaline pumping.

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CROP & FORAGE | ARABLE

Yield benefit and greening was particularly marked in the high disease season of 2018/19, one wheat trial just south of Timaru producing 0.9 t/ha more than the next best programme and 9.1t/ha more than untreated.

Next level fungicide launched BY: ANDREW SWALLOW

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onger disease control and consequent greater yield are the key benefits a new fungicide will bring to wheat, barley, triticale and seed crops of ryegrass this season, its creator, Bayer Crop Science says. New Zealand is the first country in the world to gain access to the new succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide, isoflucypram, which gained EPA approval in September last year but Bayer decided to wait until this spring to launch it. European approvals and launches aren’t expected until next year or later. The active is trademarked iblon and comes as either a straight, called Vimoy iblon, or a co-formulation with prothioconazole called Caley iblon. Both contain 50g/litre of iblon delivering 75g/ha at the 1.5L/ha recommended application rate for all

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approved crops. At that rate, Caley Iblon also delivers 150g/ha of prothioconazole, the equivalent of a 0.6L/ha application of the prothioconazole straight, Proline. If using Vimoy iblon, it should always be with a triazole partner to reduce the proven risk of selecting for disease strains resistant to SDHI chemistry and, if disease is already present, to boost curative activity. “I’d always mix it with a prothioconazole-based fungicide which is a strong systemic, curative active while this [iblon] is going to give you longterm protection,” Bayer’s Mid and South Canterbury territory manager, David Weith, told Country-Wide. Both Vimoy iblon and Caley iblon are approved for only one application per growing season but that does mean they can be used in sequence, for example Caley iblon at flag leaf (T2) and Vimoy iblon plus a DMI (triazole)-based fungicide such as Prosaro (prothioconazole +

tebuconazole) at flowering (T3) in wheat, he notes. In trials in NZ in 2017/18 and 2018/19, Bayer Crop Science says iblon gave outstanding disease control, delaying crop senescence leading to consistently higher yields than the next best SDHI-based programme. Yield increases ranged from 0.1–1.4t/ha with the average across all seven trials being 0.5t/ha. Yield benefit and greening was particularly marked in the high disease season of 2018/19, one wheat trial just south of Timaru producing 0.9 t/ha more than the next best programme and 9.1t/ha more than untreated. Barley trials produced similarly positive results. Across eight trials in 2017/18 and 2018/19 the average edge over the next best programme was 0.26t/ha. No wheat or barley trials were conducted last season (2019/20) as Bayer Crop Science New Zealand had been expecting the product to be commercially available

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so none were commissioned. In barley, Weith says the best timing for an iblon-based spray will be T2, awns just emerging, which is when it will provide most protection against ramularia, the disease that’s become the main threat to barley yields. A key feature of both iblon-based products is the formulation, which spreads the fungicide over the entire leaf and is rainfast within an hour. While not truly systemic, the fungicide does have translaminar activity in that it passes from one side of a leaf to the other so applications only need to contact one side to be effective.

Both products are compatible with most insecticides, herbicides and plant growth regulators although Weith warns against mixes with Terpal (mepiquat chloride + chloroethephon) in barley to avoid unnecessary stress to crops: putting the iblon on first is probably going to be the best approach. “A key point about ramularia is crops become susceptible when they are stressed.” Iblon protects wheat against speckled leaf blotch caused by Septoria tritici, stripe rust and leaf rust. Besides ramularia in barley it also protects against scald, net blotch and leaf rust. Iblon’s strength in ryegrass seed crops, is on stem rust and it should be applied from full ear emergence. “We’ve still got some work to do on endophytes so for this season its use should be limited to non-endophyte and AR1 lines.”

THIRD GENERATION SDHI

RATES CUT RISKY Weith (see main story) warns against going below the recommended rate of 1.5 litres/ ha with either iblon product because those rates are the minimum level that’s still effective. “If you cut the rate, it doesn’t do the job.” Gone are the days when products would be registered at rates with some leeway: to grant registration the Environmental Protection Authority today wants to see recommended rates set at the bare minimum, he explains. “They don’t want any more pesticide put in the environment than absolutely necessary.”

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Bayer says isoflucypram represents a new subclass of the succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) group of fungicides because it contains a cyclopropyl ring (see highlighted triangle) that is thought to be the driver for the powerful and long lasting disease control. Also it’s hoped the cyclopropyl ring might make a difference in cereal diseases that develop reduced sensitivity to other generations of SDHIs. “There is already evidence of this in some non-arable diseases,” notes New Zealand marketing manager Neil Waddingham. Mid-South Canterbury territory manager David Weith compares the advantage it brings in SDHI chemistry to the step up seen with triazoles when prothioconazole was introduced. “Proline controlled more disease, and more diseases. This is the same.”

Revystar delivers triazole upgrade BY: ANDREW SWALLOW BASF’s Grant Hagerty says the firm’s new fungicide, Revystar (mefentrifluconazole + fluxapyroxad), offers an upgrade in triazole chemistry to cereal growers this season. “Its Ramularia control in particular is at a level above the existing group of triazoles,” he told Country-Wide. “In trials, it’s added about a tonne per hectare over standard programmes where Ramularia’s been an issue.” With that in mind, the best timing to use it is going to be T2, which for autumn sown barley should be ear emergence, GS55, whereas in spring sown barley the “toothbrush” stage of awns just emerging, GS49, is better, he says. In light of those likely timings BASF’s checked compatibility with late season herbicides such as Starane, Duplosan and Granstar, as well as the main plant growth regulators, and found no issues. In wheat, the combination of actives offers robust protection to speckled leaf blotch and other diseases with the new triazole offering “resistance breaking” control of SLB in Europe where reduced sensitivity to triazoles has become a widespread problem, though, thankfully, not yet here, notes Hagerty. A 42-day withholding period is required on wheat and barley prior to harvest for grain, or 28-day if harvesting for forage. Formulation is an emulsifiable concentrate delivered in 100% recyclable 10-litre packs.

›› FAR’s view on where iblon fits p87 85


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CROP & FORAGE | FUNGICIDES

FAR’s view on where iblon fits BY: ANDREW SWALLOW

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AR researcher, Jo Drummond, says iblon has performed well in the two years they’ve had it in wheat fungicide trials. “It seemed to perform just as well, if not better, than the current standards so it is a really exciting development,” Drummond told CountryWide. “Its real strength is on Septoria.” Results from 2018/19 in particular illustrate that. In trials at Leeston, where speckled leaf blotch (SLB, aka Septoria) was the main disease problem, a sequence of the co-formulation Caley iblon produced 0.93 tonnes/hectare more than the next nearest programme – a statistically significant difference by a comfortable margin (see table). However, at Barrhill, where leaf rust was also a problem affecting 21.5% of leaf area on average across all plots at GS75-80, that yield advantage was much less marked. The iblon treated plots at 12% were among the lowest for leaf area affected by leaf rust, but the difference wasn’t significant compared with all but the very worst treatments. Speckled leaf blotch also took its toll at Barrhill with 21.7% of leaf area affected, dragging the mean yield down to 9.98t/ ha across all treatments compared with 11.88t/ha at Leeston. In light of those results Drummond suggests where leaf rust rather than SLB is likely to be the main problem, growers keen to try an iblon-based product might be better going with the straight formulation, Vimoy, and adding a DMI (i.e. triazole) product that’s stronger on rust than straight prothioconazole. To minimise the risk of selecting for fungicide resistant strains of disease, no SDHI fungicide should be used alone in any case, she adds. “There has been a sensitivity shift in speckled leaf blotch to the SDHIs in Europe, so while we’ve not seen it to date in New Zealand we do need to be careful and maintain good stewardship of our chemistries.”

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Top four in FAR trials 2018/19 Barrhill (Starfire)

Leeston (Oakley)

Opus 0.75L/ha + Comet 0.4L/ha

10.62t/ha

13.37t/ha

Revystar 1.5L/ha

Opus 0.75L/ha + Comet 0.4L/ha

10.89

13.40

Caley iblon 1.5L/ha

Caley iblon 1.5L/ha

Opus 0.75L/ha + Comet 0.4L/ha

11.39

14.33

Elatus 0.75L/ha + Opus 0.75L/ha

Elatus 0.75L/ha + Opus 0.75L/ha

Opus 0.75L/ha + Comet 0.4L/ha

11.23

12.77

0.34

0.47

GS32

GS39

GS65

*Aviator 1.0L/ha

Adexar 1.0L/ha + Opus 0.25L/ha

Revystar 1.5L/ha

LSD @ p0.05

Top four programmes from both sites only. Both irrigated. *Aviator T1 was preceded by 1.0L/ha Opus at GS30-31.

SDHI applications in a growing season should be limited to two, but just because you can use two that doesn’t mean you have to, she stresses. “Tailor the programme to the disease risk of your crop.” In barley, Dummond says FAR has only one year’s data on iblon so it’s too soon to make any comment about its fit with that crop. It’s a similar story with BASF’s Revystar (mefentrifluconazole + fluxapyroxad), though with the new DMI paired with the SDHI form is “particularly exciting because there are so few actives with efficacy against Ramularia.” “It will need looking after because Ramularia’s shown its ability to become less sensitive to both these groups of chemistry.” For more on Revystar, see p85.

FAR researcher Jo Drummond says iblon’s real strength is on Septoria or another wheat crop or wheat plant.

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ENVIRONMENT | BIODIVERSITY

Mark and Felicity Brough have spent 20 years improving the sustainability of their King Country farm.

Giving nature a hand Ballance awards judges commended Mark and Felicity Brough as role models in their systems and commitment to biodiversity. Report and photos by Mike Bland.

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heep and cattle generate the income on Mark and Felicity Brough’s award-winning King Country farm but native birds, fish and invertebrates are considered equally important. The Broughs' quest to improve biodiversity on 400 hectares of hill country, west of Aria, helped them win the supreme title in the 2020 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Judges said the farm is an excellent example of farming within capabilities of the land.

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“The Broughs are role models both in terms of their farming systems and their commitment to biodiversity.” Felicity says the win came as a complete surprise, “and gave us something to smile about during the Covid lockdown”. The Broughs bought ‘Paerua’ 20 years ago and started fencing and planting waterways and ponds on the property soon after. “I’ve always enjoyed gardening, we are both keen trampers and Mark loves hunting,” Felicity says. “We wanted to live and work in a nice

environment, and the ponds, trees and wildlife give us a lot of pleasure. We regard biodiversity as the best indicator of environmental health on the farm. It’s part of looking after the asset.” With contour ranging from flat to steep, the 370ha effective farm is split into 65 paddocks and runs about 3700 stock units, including 1650 ewes, 500 ewe hoggets and 200 Friesian bulls and steers. Mark says the farm is lucky to have a reliable supply of high quality stock water, with all troughs gravity-fed from a spring in the hills.

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Since 2006 the couple has focused on improving the quality of water in the natural waterways on the farm, fencing and planting almost nine kilometres. “We started doing little bits under the Clean Streams Accord and set ourselves a goal of planting 1000 natives a year,” Mark says. A large drain on the farm was one of the first waterways fenced. “If this wasn’t fenced, stock would get in and cave in the banks. So we’d have to dig it out every year. But we haven’t had to clean it for 15 years, and now it filters the water that comes off the hills.” The Broughs have also fenced and planted the banks of the Pikiatua Stream, which runs through the farm and eventually joins the Mokau River. This stream is home to a wide variety of native fish, including freshwater mussels and long and short fin tuna (eel). Local Maori consider the stream wahi tapu (sacred), so the Broughs don’t allow fishing. Mark says he and Felicity get great pleasure from seeing clean water running through the farm. “It’s great to know that good quality water is going to other farms downstream, and you hope that they will be doing the same thing for the next guy.” Three large ponds and three smaller ponds have also been fenced and planted, along with two swamp areas, totalling about 1ha, which have been planted with flax and kahikatea. Protected areas are filled with a range of plant species, including manuka, kanuka, cabbage tree, toe toe, koromiko and hebe. Larger areas have been planted with longer-term species like kahikatea, matai and rimu. Felicity says fruiting trees provide an excellent source of feed for a booming bird population that includes tui, falcon, pigeon, bellbird, bush robin, tomtit and kingfisher. “These birds do an amazing job of spreading the seed of native trees up and down the planted areas.” Fencing and planting work has been carefully planned on “clearly defined” non-farming areas, taking into account environmental, aesthetic and management factors. Felicity says fencing off waterways makes good sense because sheep and cattle aren’t getting stuck in drains. Stock management is easier, and the permanent

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Plantings around ponds and waterways is carefully planned.

electric fencing used to protect waterways can also be used to power temporary fences on the bull block. “We’ve drawn up a biodiversity map which lists the bird and fish species that inhabit each area. It also takes into account bird corridors and helps us decide which area to protect next.” Over the years the Broughs have learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to protecting retired areas. Soon after arriving on the farm they planted pines alongside the edge of a creek. But after the pines were harvested, the stumps and roots rotted and the banks of the creek collapsed.

FARM FACTS • Mark and Felicity ARIA Brough, Aria • Farming 370ha effective • Approx. 3700 stock units • 2150 ewes and ewe hoggets, 200 bulls • Lambs and bulls sold store or finished.

›› Continues p90 89


Top: Healthy flora and fauna is a feature of the Brough’s 400ha farm, near Aria. Above, left: Mark Brough says farmers should take a collective approach to improving the catchment’s waterways. Above, right: Healthy flora and fauna are a feature of the Brough’s 400ha farm, near Aria.

“You’ve got to be careful what you plant,” Mark says. “Keep the big trees away from the river bank and make sure you set the fence back at least three metres from the water.” Felicity says trees like pin oaks, kowhai and ribbonwood work well around ponds because they keep the water cool. “But you have to kill off any blackberry before it provides a haven for weeds.” Sediment loss is the biggest threat to water quality on the farm, so the Broughs are careful to match stock class to land class to protect soils. They farmed breeding cows originally but found the heavier stock caused damage in the hills. To reduce the risk of erosion, only sheep are run on the farm’s steeper contour. They are rotationally grazed and shifted every 1-2 days.

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“We don’t like to chew the paddock right out because we know we can come back and clean up any surplus grass on the next round,” Mark says. Young bulls on the easier contour are shifted regularly to avoid pugging damage. “If it’s wet, we just keep them moving and leave the grass there for next time.” In recent years up to 400 poplars have been planted for erosion control and shade. Mark says the poplars, which are spaced at about 20m, could also provide a good source of stock food in future.

FARM POLICY HAS LIGHT FOOTPRINT Mark and Felicity Brough’s approach to livestock production is to keep things simple while minimising impacts on the soil. “We are not doing anything out of this

world here. It’s just a matter of doing the basics right and trying to think ahead to the next issue we are going to face,” Mark says. Over the years the Broughs have tried a number of different farming systems, but the current policy of selling lambs and bulls either store or prime is a good fit for them and the farm. The Broughs have been buying Facial Eczema (FE) tolerant rams from Matamata breeders Craig and Tina Alexander, Alexander Farming Genetics, for five years. “Before that we were using Poll Dorsets and trying to finish all our lambs, but FE was spreading further and further south and we wanted to breed tolerance into the flock. So I approached Craig about buying some Romney two-tooth ewes and he said he’d only sell them if we bought a ram as

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well. We haven’t looked back since.” Mixed-age ewes lamb at 140-145%, survival to sale, and lambing starts on September 1. “That’s about a month later than many farms in the district, but we find it’s a better fit for our grass growth, and we are still able to wean our lambs in midDecember.” After pregnancy scanning, singlebearing ewes are grazed in the hills and triplet-bearing and lighter twinning ewes are spread among the young bulls on the easier contour. Ewe replacements are selected from the twinning ewes only. Most of the remaining lambs are sold by mid-January, but the focus on finishing everything prime has long gone. “Nowadays it’s probably a 50:50 split between store and prime. The more important thing is to ensure we have enough feed to get the ewes in lamb for next season.” Felicity says when lambs reach a budgeted price they are sold. “It doesn’t make a difference whether they are store or prime.” Mark says the ability to sell lambs store is a safety valve if feed gets tight, as it did last season during the drought – the worst they have seen in their farming career. “We are very lucky to have an excellent

water supply, so the stock always had water in front of them.” The cattle side of the business is a simple bull-finishing system that requires a relatively low labour input. Friesian weaner bulls are purchased at around 100kg in November and sold 12-14months later. About a quarter of the bulls are finished by the end of January but most are sold store in December at around 450kg liveweight (LW). “We could finish the bulls in April or May, but our lambing percentage wouldn’t be that flash if we did.” Bulls are grazed in mobs of 25-30 on 100ha of easier contour. In winter this block is split into breaks using temporary fencing. To reduce the workload Mark sets up about 1500 fence standards across the bull block, leaving the standards in place for up to eight months. When bulls are shifted onto the next break he just reels in the electric wire and shifts it to the next row of standards. Bulls are shifted daily, unless it rains heavily, in which case they may be shifted twice. As both Mark and Felicity have off-farm interests, it’s important they have time to get away. “It’s just the two of us here, so we have to keep things simple,” Mark says. Contractors are used for shearing

and scanning, otherwise the Broughs do everything else themselves. No supplements are made, and the current all-grass system generates enough income for them to continue the environmental work. “We couldn’t build biodiversity if our production wasn’t up to it.” Mark says biodiversity is an essential component of a sustainable farm system. And it’s something more sheep and beef farmers are working on for both environmental and economic reasons. “From a marketing point of view it’s very important because consumers of our meat and wool want to know that our products are produced in a way that is animal and environmentally-friendly.” He says meat companies should be paying a premium for meat produced in a sustainable manner, in much the same way as Fonterra rewards its best suppliers.

TIME FOR CHANGE While the Broughs are very proud of the improvements they have made to their farm and optimistic about the future of farming, they recently made the tough decision to sell Paerua. The farm will go on the market in spring. Felicity says they will miss the farm and the district, “but we wanted to make the

Friesian bulls are farmed for 12-14 months and sold store or prime.

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Top: Local farmers discuss water quality issues at a recent meeting of the King Country River Care group. Above, left: Plantings around ponds and waterways are carefully planned. Above, right: Mark and Felicity Brough have spent 20 years improving the sustainability of their King Country farm.

change while we are still young enough to integrate into another community”. They hope the move will give them more time for their other interests. Mark, who gives time to a range of organisations, hopes to be involved with hands-on environmental work full-time, and Felicity wants to continue her parttime job with the NZ Walking Access Commission.

COMMUNITY APPROACH TO FIXING WATER QUALITY Mark and Felicity Brough are enthusiastic members of the King Country River Care Community Catchment Group (KCRC).

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Formed in 2018 and coordinated by Aria sheep and beef farmer Anna Nelson, KCRC covers the Waitomo district and includes the Awakino, Mokau and Upper Mangokewa catchments. There are about 300 farms in the district. In May this year KCRC received an $844,000 funding boost from MPI. Anna Nelson says the group’s focus is on assisting farmers and communities to understand and plan for changes that may be required in future. “KCRC believes completing Farm Environment Plans (FEP’s) will lead to improved environmental and community outcomes. It will also help future-proof farming businesses by getting a head start

against impending regulation.” KCRC hosts regular on-farm field days where farmers can brainstorm solutions to environmental issues. Felicity Brough says the group has been a great way to get the community together to discuss water quality. “All farmers are facing challenges when it comes to water quality. So this provides the perfect opportunity to face the issue in a positive way.” Mark Brough says farmers need to take a collective approach to improving the catchment’s waterways. “We’ve got to take ownership of the issue and share the common goal of improving water quality.”

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ENVIRONMENT | FRESHWATER

Rules behind the letters BY: KERI JOHNSTON

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he long-awaited National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2020 (NPS) and National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 (NES) have now been gazetted and come into effect on September 3, 2020. So, what actually does this mean? For most part, the NPS won’t appear on farming’s radar until councils start work on plan changes to incorporate the NPS into planning documents. However, the NES should be on every farmers radar right now. The NES is set of rules (much like a council plan), that sets out whether you can do something as a permitted activity (no consent required) or whether you need to obtain a consent. If consent is required, you apply to your regional council. Below is a summary of the NES.

RESTRICTIONS ON INTENSIFICATION These restrictions apply until December 31, 2024. Resource consents cannot extend beyond December 31, 2030. New restrictions on intensification now apply unless a regional council has implemented the new NPSFM (this is a decision for the councils to make and they need to prove that they have already). The cut-off date for increases in land-use activities is September 2, 2020. Discretionary activity resource consents required for: • land-use change of more than 10ha to dairy • land-use change of more than 10ha from plantation forestry to pastoral land-use • increases in irrigated pasture for dairy farming above 10ha • increase in winter forage cropping area above annual highest 2014/15 – 2018/19 • increase in dairy support activities above highest annual 2014/15 – 2018/19

CAP ON SYNTHETIC FERTILISER APPLICATION These restrictions commence from July1, 2021. National maximum of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser application of 190kg N/ ha/year to pastoral land (land used for

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the grazing of livestock) in a contiguous landholding, averaged over that land and to each hectare of that land that is not used to grow annual forage crops. A non-complying resource consent is required to allow application over the cap. The non-complying status means that resource consent will be reasonably difficult to obtain and a good volume of information will be needed to support any application. Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser can be liquid or solid and is more than 5% nitrogen by weight, but doesn’t include: compost, soil treatment, or fertilisers that are derived from plant or animal waste and is minimally processed. Farms with dairy farmland must provide annual information to regional councils: • area of pastoral land use • area used to grow annual forage crops • other land • receipts for purchase of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser • types of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser applied and percentage of nitrogen component application rate and dates of application.

Thresholds in place for intensive winter grazing of forage crop include pugging not deeper than 20cm and no more than 50% of a paddock.

STOCK EXCLUSION

from the NES, but have an equal amount of punch. These regulations apply to stock exclusion from lakes and rivers more than one metre wide and natural wetlands (whether flowing or not – it is about the bed width) for the following: • Dairy cattle on any terrain • Pigs on any terrain • Dairy support cattle on any terrain • Beef cattle intensively grazed on any terrain • Deer intensively grazing on any terrain • Beef cattle on low slope land • Deer on low slope land. Exceptions are provided for certain stock crossings, and implementation dates vary depending on farm system, from September 3, 2020, to July 1, 2025. There is definitely a bit to get our heads around, councils included. What does an application look like? What sorts of conditions are likely to be imposed if consent is granted? What if you already hold a farming consent for example – is further consent under the NES still required? The best advice I can give you at the moment is don’t panic, do a bit of reading, get some trusted advice, and make a plan of attack. Some of this will seem onerous and cumbersome, but putting it in the too hard basket is not an option – do something! 

The other set of regulations that come into force on September 3 are the Stock Exclusion Guidelines. These are separate

• Keri Johnston is an environmental engineer with Irricon Resources.

INTENSIVE WINTER GRAZING These restrictions commence from winter 2021. Thresholds in place for intensive winter grazing of forage crop are: • size: less than 50ha or 10% of property (whichever is larger) • setback: minimum of five metres • slope: average slope of paddock 10 degrees or less • pugging not deeper than 20cm and no more than 50% of paddock • land must be replanted as soon as practicable (no later than Oct 1 that year). OR managed through a Farm Environment Plan and adverse effects are shown to be no worse than those if the rules above applied. If the thresholds are not met, then resource consent is required.

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ENVIRONMENT | PLANNING

John (right) and Jay Clarke, Directors of Woodhaven Gardens. Credit: Foodstuffs.

Community involvement key to farm plan success BY: GEORGIA O’BRIEN

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oodhaven Gardens has brought a unique approach to onfarm compliance and environmental

planning. Seeing no viable consenting pathway for parts of its commercial vegetable growing operation, the Clarkes and their team set about improving their environmental position through a process of community engagement, insights from on farm data capture and practical on-farm change. As a result, Woodhaven is one of the growers redefining sustainable conventional vegetable growing. Woodhaven Gardens is a family-owned business growing fresh vegetables in the Horowhenua district in ManawatuWanganui.

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Started by Eric and John Clarke in 1978, Woodhaven Gardens now grows 23 different crops, employs about 250 staff, and crops on an area of 1000 hectares. Company director Jay Clarke (John’s son) is a key driver of the environmental policy changes made onfarm. Faced with increasing restrictions under the Horizons’ Resource Management Plan, Woodhaven Gardens became proactive. Jay stresses that investing a lot of time and money into just meeting the rules is not the right approach. “If you don’t get community buy-in it doesn’t matter whether you’re meeting a council regulation or not, because the regulation will inevitably end up changing if the community isn’t satisfied with the results,” he says. In a sensitive catchment and with some paddocks right on the fringes of residential Levin, Woodhaven Gardens’

farming is under the spotlight. What some growers see as relatively minor issues, such as mud on the roads from tractors, can be significant annoyances for the local community. “We may not be able to get everything 100% perfect but through talking with community stakeholders we identified several areas where we could make practical improvement to our onfarm practice,” Jay says. “It was extremely heartening to hear from even some of the most hardened environmental advocates that none of them wanted to see fewer vegetables being grown in the region. Indeed, everyone wanted to see them continued to be produced in the region but wanted reassurance that growers were implementing the best practices possible,” he says. Woodhaven Gardens set out on a

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journey to enhance their environmental sustainability and to maintain the social licence to farm. “The first step was a change in mindset in how we approached the relationship between us as growers and our environment and the local community,” Jay says. “That involved going out and talking to community stakeholders including iwi, some of the local environmental groups, and the regional and district councils to openly and honestly have a dialogue around what changes they wanted to see.” Genuinely talking with local council, community, and other groups, ensures that environmental sustainability targets are relevant and valued by those on whom they impact. Once targets are known, a plan can be developed. “We all want a quick fix, but there is no recipe or rulebook for environmental sustainability. Individual farms, properties and farming systems will each have different challenges, and the plan you develop needs to recognise that. “Growers need to understand their farming impacts to understand what mitigations are going to have the greatest effect for the least investment,” Jay says. With a background in data analysis in the finance industry, statistics and quantitative targets are never far from his thinking. “Having robust data capture and analysis is not only good for compliance, it also helps you run a better business.” Unable to find the right management software, Woodhaven Gardens developed their own. Their “Hortrac” programme is

Carrying out a Nitrate Quick Test is easy; nitrate concentration is determined by comparing a test-strip with the colour scale. Credit: LandWISE.

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Native plantings are enhancing the biodiversity at Woodhaven Gardens. Credit: Ravensdown.

used to track agronomic and economic performance indicators for every crop they plant, grow and harvest. It lets them identify the “low hanging fruit”; low yielding or low profit areas or cropping scenarios, and those where reducing or eliminating farm inputs can maximise efficiency and reduce impact on the environment. “We found our spray runs and irrigator runs always had lower yields, but we were putting the same fertiliser on,” Jay says. “Now we have permanent tramlines for those operations, they are permanent grass and we don’t waste money or nutrients on areas where we didn’t even make a profit. And our block access is much better.” Another data-capture example is the adoption of Nitrate Quick Tests, developed by the University of California and calibrated in New Zealand by Plant & Food Research. Working with LandWISE, the agronomy team at Woodhaven Gardens learnt the use and value of Quick Tests as a tool to better understand in-season soil nitrogen levels. They now test before any fertiliser application to a crop, and have a post-harvest soil N range target, minimising the risk of nitrogen leaching or crop failure. “If we cut it too fine and lose a crop, that actually is far worse for the environment than having a little nitrogen left at the end,” Jay says. Jay notes that developing a farm environment plan within the NZGAP

Environmental Management System (EMS) framework has been a valuable use of their time. The EMS acts as a reporting process to identify and document good and best management growing practices that mitigate environmental risks, use land, water and synthetic farm inputs responsibly, and enhance biodiversity. Woodhaven Gardens has demonstrated their commitment to sustainability once again by being the first vegetable grower to complete this certification. In recognition of the significant effort and community-led approach Woodhaven Gardens has taken towards Farm Environment Planning, they were named the 2020 Regional Supreme Winner at the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Now the Clarke family is confident they are future proofing themselves by ensuring they have excellent information about their farm practices, and alignment with their community’s expectations and values. Find out more about Nitrate Quick Tests, and how vegetable growers are being supported to “Future Proof” their production systems on LandWISE’s website (www.landwise.org.nz). More information on NZGAP’s EMS add-on can be found on their website (www.nzgap. co.nz) via Programmes > Environment Add-on. • Georgia O’Brien is project coordinator for Landwise .

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SOLUTIONS | DUAL-SPECIES CROP

Fusion for flexibility BY: TONY LEGGETT

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dual-species multi-graze forage crop system has been developed to meet new environmental demands and provide improved management flexibility for a full year. H & T Agronomics business manager Duncan Thomas says the recently announced winter grazing management guidelines led the company to develop a new approach to forage cropping, comprising a herb and leafy brassica sown together. “We’ve been advising our clients on this for a while now and found it has the flexibility to fit several different farm systems across any region of the country.”. Farmers can tune their management of the crop to cope with changing weather and livestock markets by altering the frequency of grazing to suit the conditions or take opportunities to enter markets quickly to gain improved margins. By varying the grazing frequency, the crop can be managed to be dominant in either component. If it’s grazed frequently to a low level, the composition of the resulting

crop becomes more herb dominant. Graze it less frequently and the leafy brassica component starts to shade out the herb. “Some farmers are just grazing it more lightly and removing say three tonnes of dry matter per hectare off a 15t/ha crop. Or they can take it right down if they need to, and the herb responds quickly to any moisture and shoots away.” The new forage package is called Fusion. Thomas won’t reveal the actual seed components in the dual mix, but it comprises a widely-used herb with proven ability to reduce the level of nitrate released on to soils, plus a commonly sown leafy brassica that doesn’t have a ripening period and can be consumed soon after establishment. “A big concern these days is N leaching where stock is intensively grazing paddocks, and where the ground is grazed to the point of being bare and you get a much higher risk of run-off occurring. Fusion is able to lower the risk of both these issues,” Thomas says. “So, this will also help with the welfare aspect of what the Government is seeking from farmers who are cropping their easier country this way.”

Above: Graze is right down, and Fusion’s herb component responds quickly to any moisture.

His colleagues Fred Milford-Cottam and Paul Oliver were closely involved with the committee that advised and made recommendations to the Government on winter grazing. Milford-Cottam says providing a mix that mitigates the environmental and animal welfare requirements was paramount in their development of Fusion. Fusion seed mixes are pre-treated with H & T’s proprietary slug-repellant coating called Rappel which studies have shown improves establishment rates and viable plant populations in the resulting crop. To minimise soil disturbance, the company recommends direct drilling the mix, rather than going through a full cultivation.

Growing to target

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Canterbury seed company is introducing a market-first approach to growing fodder beet crops in New Zealand. Wholesale Seeds chief executive Patrick Davis says its Sure Yield model offers customers a fixed-price agronomy deal. “The traditional agronomy service delivery model is fraught with risk to the customer and lacks accountability. “We wanted to recreate the model and offer a solution that delivers the best possible results for farmers.” Under this model, farmers simply supply the land and agree to target yields, then Wholesale Seeds takes care of the process from end to end.

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“We become the farmer in effect, and the customer to all of the external contractors involved in sowing and managing the fodder beet crops.” Sure Yield customer Rhys Roberts, operations manager for Align Farms Group, is an avid supporter of Sure Yield after breaking target yields in his first season under the model. “Traditionally we held all of the risk, and if a crop didn’t perform we would have to absorb the cost of that ourselves, as well as find alternative ways of supplementing stock.” “We have now offloaded that risk – giving Wholesale Seeds the authority to make the decisions in their specialist field,

and we have a guarantee in effect which takes the pressure of me significantly.” If Wholesale Seeds fails to achieve the target yield or better, it pays the farmer. Davis says the Sure Yield model gives Wholesale Seeds complete autonomy over the crop, which is the fundamental difference in contrast to traditional models. Fodder beet is a high input crop that when managed well can produce really good yields of high energy supplement feed for stock. “Our team of expert agronomists understand the diverse array of factors that need to be seamlessly managed in order to achieve the best result,” Davis says. 

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SOLUTIONS | QUALITY ASSURANCE

AsureQuality’s new look

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sureQuality provides the broadest range of food assurance services in New Zealand, with more than 100 years’ experience working closely with our food and primary production sectors. It’s been 13 years since the two state-owned enterprises, ASURE and AgriQuality, merged to become AsureQuality and after a delayed launch due to Covid-19, their team are excited to finally share their new look. The new branding is designed to better reflect AsureQuality’s business today, their shared role for NZ and the services they deliver. Along with the new look branding, they have also developed a new purpose statement - Helping Aotearoa shape a better food world. “People in New Zealand’s primary production and food sectors work hard every day to uphold what Aotearoa stands for in food – a higher standard of quality and safety,” AsureQuality’s chief

executive, John McKay says. “As a company, we are proud to work with them to help build and protect this enduring trust in food. Our new purpose captures our reason for being as a business, inspires our team and guides us in the decisions we make every day.” “We’re very excited to launch our new branding and purpose which really resonate with our people. Together, we’ve talked a lot about our New Zealand-ness and our deep sense of responsibility to do the right thing for food. “The introduction of Kaitiaki Kai to our brand represents our shared role in the Aotearoa New Zealand food and primary industry sectors,” he says. “Kaitiaki Kai literally translates to guardians of food, but it has a much deeper holistic meaning. It captures the guardianship role, but also the outcomes of successfully delivering in that role. Kaitiaki requires collaboration and working with others; sharing knowledge

resources and skills so that everyone benefits – not just in the immediate future but for generations to come. “Actively demonstrating Kaitiaki Kai demands we bring a personal sense of commitment to our partners – New Zealand’s farmers, growers, producers and manufacturers, and the food world.” More? Visit asurequality.com

Reaping the benefits

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ropmark cannot only track the type or variety they produce, but the line numbers represent the actual paddock where the seeds were grown. When the time came in 2013 to expand, they needed to capture and manage even more detailed seed stock information than before. "One of our most important objectives is looking after our stock,” said Paul McKenzie, Cropmark’s Financial Controller, "The seed business isn't just about quantity, but quality.” They also needed to improve operational efficiency, including the removal of duplication from the sales dispatch process. Fusion5 and their NetSuite solution hit the spot with Cropmark. McKenzie said they were impressed with their first look at NetSuite and could have

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almost rolled it out as it was. Fusion5 showed they’d understood our business very well, and NetSuite was clearly an excellent fit. “Where most of the other providers struggled, we could see straight

away it would handle our seed quality needs effortlessly.” As well as meeting all of Cropmark's business objectives, and saving on additional staff to handle the staggering leap in transactional growth, the company has another reason to love their NetSuite solution: it’s easy to use. “While our transaction volume has gone up around 500%, our staff levels are basically the same, McKenzie said. He said if they hadn't moved to NetSuite, they would have needed to bring on board at least another couple of people. “We also made some real gains in processing time, so we're very pleased with that as well." For more see www.cropmarkseeds.com www.fusion5.co.nz.

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FARMING IN FOCUS

Top left: Tahr on the tops: What the tahr industry is fighting for. Top, right: Eric Watson and his giant 8000-litre Agrifac sprayer. Eric believes the ability to apply liquid nitrogen evenly and accurately across the 48m booms was a key factor in his crop’s success, breaking the Guinness World Record for wheat yield last summer. Centre, right: Poplar poles ready for planting on Mark Brough’s farm. Above: Shearers’ stands in the historic woolshed on Akitio Station. Centre, left: Nigel Bicknell at Akitio Station points out ideal grazing height for Raphno.

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Country-Wide

September 2020


Top left: Shrivelled crops are a mark of the harsh season on David Walston’s Cambridgeshire, England, farm. Top right: Grass angels Will and Milly Gillespie. Centre, right: One of Mark Dillon’s seed drills. Above, right: Mark Dillon modified a second-hand spud digger to lift beet. Above, left: Coopworth-Romney two-tooths, mostly Carthew genetics, running on Geoff and Ros Burton’s Taumarunui farm (which should have run in the July 2020 issue). Centre left: Entrance artwork at Akitio Station.

Country-Wide

September 2020

99


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September 2020

Profile for NZ Farmlife Media

Country-Wide Crop & Forage - September 2020  

Country-Wide Crop & Forage - September 2020  

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