Fertiliser expenditure is usually the largest outgoing after mortgage payments, which are currently lifting to levels not seen for close on thirty years.

Fertiliser costs have already risen dramatically, particularly that of manufactured imported high analysis products.

With a drop in the cost of international shipping a significant reduction could be expected however historically prices have declined far more slowly than they have risen.

This means that without cutting fertiliser inputs there will be, for some, serious pressure on farm profitability, the difference between costs and income, this season.

The question for many will be how little fertiliser can be applied this autumn without risking lower levels of pasture and crop production.

It’s a question there’s no easy answer to because of the number of factors involved.  Historic inputs which are reflected in soil test figures are important.

In situations where higher than maintenance inputs over many years have been the norm not applying fertiliser this autumn is unlikely to significantly reduce pasture growth over winter and early next spring unless there is a reliance on synthetic nitrogen.

The other factor often disregarded is the physical structure of the soil.  With over 5,000kgN/ha held in the top 25cm of most pastoral soils there’s no shortage of nitrogen.

Its availability for plant uptake that’s the issue and the amount and depth of crumb will largely dictate the amount plants can utilise.

As a rule of thumb the areas of the farm that are softest produce the most feed.  Compacted soils with poor root penetration grow the least and are slowest to recover in autumn.

There’s a low-cost long-term solution that all farmers, particularly where magnesium is an ongoing requirement, should consider.

Golden Bay dolomite has several unique qualities that make it worthy of serious consideration.

It is a powerful soil conditioner improving pore space in heavy clay-based soils while adding a little stickiness to light sandy soils.

Containing both magnesium and calcium carbonate an autumn application of typically 250kg/ha reduces the amount of lime that is required to maintain soil pH.

Magnesium helps with uptake of phosphorus by plants reducing the likelihood of growth being limited by  a lack of phosphorus between now and next summer.

Beneficial soil biology, earthworms along with microbes, respond positively to extra calcium and regular small inputs help with the digestion of dung, old root, and litter on and near the soil surface.

Dolomite has been regarded as an expensive form of magnesium, primarily because of the cost of cartage from Golden Bay, however much of the magnesium oxide used as an alternative comes from China, considerably further than from Golden Bay.

Dolomite need only be applied once a year, with autumn being ideal, to provide 12 month protection of animals from a magnesium deficiency.

The message from long term dairy clients is that cows down behind hedges at 5 in the morning have quickly become a thing of the past.

The requirement for dusting breaks on a daily basis is largely eliminated, as is the necessity to add large amounts of magnesium chloride or sulphate to drinking water.  Heavily dosed drinking water is unpalatable increasing the likelihood of animals drinking from puddles, and production being limited by a lack of clean fresh drinking water.

Dolomite is a natural product originally laid down on the floor of the ocean over millions of years.  With land movement it has become compacted and able to be mined in the same way as ag.lime.

Because it is finely ground the improvement in overall animal health is rapid with first time applicants noticing an improvement in pasture palatability within a month of application.

For a cost delivered to property call 0800 436 566 (0800 4DOLOMITE).

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