Plan for 'fantastic' results
Growing good fodder crops requires forward planning, farmers learned at a Farming for Profit field day at Craiglochart in the Waihopai Valley.
Farming for Profit facilitator Greg Sheppard said about 40 farmers attended the field day at the property, farmed by Richard and Anna Laugesen on Thursday last week. The focus was on advance planning for fodder crops, identifying which crops and stock classes would give the best return for the environment and addressing soil fertility.
The Laugesens decided they would finish lambs on Goliath rape then worked backwards to identify sowing dates, Mr Sheppard said. They staggered planting between mid-September and mid-October, so they could rotate lambs to target crops when they were most nutritious, to maximise weight gain.
When lambs had finished the last third of the crop, the first third was ready to stock again, Mr Sheppard said.
Last year the Laugesens flushed two tooths on pasja brassica, which increased their scanning potential by 20 per cent.
Keen to repeat this result, this year they have sown four terrace-paddocks in a mix of pasja and short rotation ryegrass and last week sprayed out a fifth ready for planting.
These paddocks would be grazed over summer then shut up for flushing mixed age ewes in February-March; a critical time for achieving high scanning percentages.
Traditionally, Craiglochart sold lambs store in late November, Mr Sheppard said.
In September last year the Laugesens installed a Roto Rainer irrigator, gravity-fed from a 90,000 cubic metre dam, converting about 65 hectares of undulating, dry old river-terrace, with rocks through it, to valuable pasture.
The irrigated area has grown red clover for seed, barley under contract to the dairy industry, and fodder crops for flushing ewes and finishing lambs.
The Laugesens could now flush and mate ewe hoggets and two tooths on the irrigated area, leaving the better hill country free for older ewes.
Thirty-five yearling heifers were also mated on the flat and 110 rising one-year steers grazed on saved winter Italian ryegrass.
"What they have achieved is fantastic, utilising a relatively small area of flat and addressing their limitation, water, to improve overall production," Mr Sheppard said.
Blenheim veterinarian Peter Anderson, of The Vet Centre, talked about health conditions that stock could experience on fodder crops related to sulphur and nitrate fertiliser use, plants' maturity stage and whether they were conditioned to the new feed.
Mr Laugesen said he had enjoyed opening up the farm for the field day.
"My wife and I have been pretty focused over the last few years so it was great to host the Farm for Profit field day, to give people an insight into the operation and receive their feedback," he said.
A highlight was a drive to the high point of the property for a view of hill country that had been fenced over the previous winter.
Participants noted the property's freedom from weeds such as broom, gorse and barberry.
NEXT FIELD DAY
The next Farm for Profit field day in Marlborough will be held at Paul and Muff Newton's property near Havelock on Friday, November 23.
To find out more contact Greg Sheppard, 0274 349 340; firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Marlborough Express