A tool that looks deeper

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 07:44 05/12/2012

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Farmers should dig deep to find out what is going on beneath their pastures, says land management expert Lachie Grant.

The owner of Landvision spoke to 50 Marlborough farmers about whole-farm planning at the Beef and Lamb Farming for Profit Programme, hosted by Paul and Muff Newton on their farm south of Havelock last month.

Whole farm plans provided a strategic vision for a property and incorporate all aspects of the farm system, land resources and farm business, to help farmers reduce running costs and maximise productivity, he said.

"Whole farm plans help the farmers understand their farm and gives them the ability to make informed management decisions and make the most of their farm."

The plan starts with a land resource inventory (LRI) which takes a closer look at the farm's resource characteristics including the geology, soil types, slope, erosion and vegetation.

These characteristics are used to determine the land management unit (LMU) to help farmers understand what the land is best suited to and the limiting factors on production, he said.

"What we are trying to do is start thinking of farms, not as paddocks, but as land management units."

While second, third and fourth generation farmers would have an intrinsic feeling about the best practice for their land, factual information helped make informed decisions, he said.

Often a land resource assessment could provide opportunities to increase production and profitability.

For example, understanding the soil types and managing strategic fertiliser applications could maximise the farm business dollar spending and reduce the total bill, he said.

When mapping the Newtons' farm, Landvision discovered seven different land management units. With the right management plan, they would be able to increase their stock units by 800 units, he said.

The plan could also be used as a compliance tool to futureproof farms from changing political, social and economic demands by documenting the farm management techniques.

This documentation could also be used to fulfil obligations such as regional rule compliance.

New Zealand Landcare Trust regional co-ordinator Barbara Stuart said although sheep and beef farmers did not have the heavy compliance dairy farmers were facing, they most likely would in the future.

"Farmers need to be thinking about farming defensibly in the future, especially in the case of runoff into an estuary such as Havelock."

Keeping animals out of water, creating filters and buffers with a planting strip along waterways and documenting these measures, would help future-proof farmers against tightening legislation, she said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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