It was a pleasure to be invited to present a paper at the National Conference on Biological Farming Systems in Rotorua recently. The Conference endeavoured to cover an extensive range of current practices and ideas that could be classified as ingredients in what is called modern biological farming. There was a group of dedicated company […]
Today’s highly productive cattle need more and better feed, and reducing the herd size makes more feed available per animal, reduces costs and often results in more milk solids overall.
The Environment And Farming – Farmers can be forgiven for feeling pressured by government, processing industries, banks and falling profits to increase production, and then feeling got at by councils, the urban public and international markets because of real or perceived environmental damage.
“Sustainability” is the dairy industry’s “in” word for 2013. Prior to Christmas Fonterra announced that it was making sustainable dairy farming its no.1 priority. The company said its new strategy identified three key areas where it wanted to make a difference.
We’ve got a real squeeze going on. We’ve seen the profit margins on dairy farms going down quite significantly in the nearly four years since the [NZ Dairy Industry] Strategy was launched.
A recent headline bemoaned the fact that farmers might no longer be able to use DCD. The article went on to say that dairy farming had lost one of its best tools as it had been having good impact environmentally reducing both nitrate leaching into waterways and greenhouse gas emissions.
Successful farming is about business performance, and best business practices do work on all aspects of NZ farming. Everything from fertiliser practices to increasing carbon levels and even “grass grows grass” is best assessed using robust measures of profit.
Feeding stock through winter and on into calving or lambing is critical for so many reasons. It is usually cold and wet, days are short, there isn’t much sun, and feed is tight but stock need more of it. At this time of year I often get phone calls from farmers ringing in desperation, looking for cost-effective ways of getting more energy into their cows and ewes. We can help of course, but our members plan these decisions months ahead based on the most profitable feed available which is invariably grass and the most profitable stocking rate.
The ‘need’ to increase production that has been drummed into our industry for the past three decades is seductive because it sounds sensible, and all the technical and financial support services are geared to promoting more intensive production systems. But in reality the payoff to farmers is disappointingly small, and I talk to many who are driven to despair.
Many farmers have read the signs of chemical over-use and are heading down an alternative path towards pastoral sustainability using soil fertility measurements that take the guesswork out off fertiliser recommendations, stocking rates, lambing, calving and drying off dates.