Expert advice on offer during Waipapa outing
Beef and sheep farmers need to retain information about their stock to analyse where they can improve productivity, says a Massey University professor.
Professor in animal science Dr Stephen Morris spoke to about 50 Marlborough farmers and suppliers at a Farming For Profit programme field day, held on the Millton family farm, Waipapa in the Clarence Valley on Wednesday.
Waipapa is a 1081 hectare family owned and operated sheep and beef cow farm with 850 hectares of grazing area.
They graze between 2600 to 3000 romney ewes, 300 corriedale ewes and about 200 angus, hereford and angus/hereford cross breeding cows.
Dr Morris said beef cows were known as "hay balers" for their ability to fatten up on low-calorie feed and tidy up the pasture after sheep grazing which played an important role in the management of high country pasture for other stock.
However, beef cows were not as profitable as dairy, and farmers needed to aim to rear 93 calves from every 100 mated each year to make it worthwhile, he said.
Figures from Beef and Lamb New Zealand show the average farm has only an 82 per cent success rate.
To lift profitability people needed to keep records of calf birth and weaning weights and condition scale of heifers at conception and at weaning, to get information on where they could make adjustments to their management, he said.
"Once you have information you can make informed decisions rather than guessing," he said.
Farming for profit programme committee member and Lake Grassmere farmer Fraser Avery said he was rapt Dr Morris was reinforcing the importance of planning, preparation and monitoring.
"We all know we should be looking a bit harder at what we want to achieve and questioning why we do what we do, but it's not something we necessarily do," he said.
Dr Morris also recommends condensing the mating season to two cycles or 42 days so the heifers calve at once to make it easier on labour, feed allocation and weaning.
Dr Morris said having an even line of calves made them easier to sell as there were fewer tailenders bringing the quality down.
Seddon farmer David Dick said calving needed to match when feed was available, which varied from region to region.
"There is no point in having calving dates during a period when everything's all dried out."
Bulls should be fertility tested annually and checked daily throughout mating to ensure they are not injured, he said.
Millton operations manager Ben Millton was pleased to have the opportunity to show other farmers what they are doing at Waipapa.
"It's all about sharing ideas, everyone's interested to see what their neighbours are doing," he said.
"We're not in competition, the aim is to help each other improve to get a higher per centage of calf and lamb rates and higher growth rates."
The Marlborough Express