Soil health the root of superior pasture for cows
A "spade square" is not an official measurement, but it can tell a farmer a lot about the health of his soil. Ashburton dairy farmer Vernon Whyte has seen some pretty sad soil in his time. Just five years ago, regular soil digs on the Whytes' 297ha farm would rarely uncover more than one to two worms per spade square.
"The phosphates we used were treated with acid, which was obliterating soil health and destroying the micro-organisms found within the soil," he says.
"We were struggling with poor animal health, and the resulting vet bills; the cows weren't getting enough minerals into them."
It was clear that spreading solids and working to a fertiliser programme set by a fertiliser company, using a large amount of phosphate, and lime every third year, was not ideal. Whyte purchased a Tow and Fert sprayer five years ago, which he tows behind a small ute, and he hasn't looked back.
lnstead of applying fertiliser and minerals separately, he mixes all of his minerals - including a liquid fish fertiliser, magnesium sulphate, lime flour, sodium, zinc, copper, selenium, and a cobalt multi-mix - in the Tow and Fert.
"We're now digging up 30 to 40 worms in a spade square; the soil biology has improved and the micro-organisms have been restored," he says.
Whyte follows the cows with the Tow and Fert, adjusting the mix inside according to a programme.
"Four days after the cows come out of the paddock I go in with the Tow and Fert, usually spraying in the evening to avoid the evaporation you get in the daytime," he says.
He uses a maximum of 25 TKN (Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen) per round, almost half of what he used in the past - a positive bearing on environmental plans and compliance. A round varies from 18 to 30 days, depending on the time of the year, and the Tow and Fert is used on each paddock about nine times per season.
Whyte says using the Tow and Fert and his fertiliser programme didn't create more grass growth, but what it did do was far more important than grass quantity, especially when 980 cows are partaking.
"We grow no more grass that the neighbour, but we grow quality grass," he says. "l foliage test for mineral content and my cows are eating high quality feed. Like humans, for cows to stay in good health they need to eat nutritious food.'
The Tow and Fert is unique in the field of fertiliser application. A tool that manages entire fertiliser and nutrient programmes, it allows farmers to reduce their fertiliser costs, application costs and vet bills substantially. lt fixes nutrient deficiencies by applying smaller amounts evenly to the pasture rather than under or over-dosing through typical methods.
The Tow and Fert's patented features include in-tank mixing, agitation and recirculation. Whyte was impressed with the efficient and easy-to-use application method of the Tow and Fert.
"The Tow and Fert is absolutely fantastic," he says. "lt's a trouble-free machine."
For more information on Tow and Fert please visit www.towandfert.co.nz
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