What’s happening, or not happening right now on farms, is a result of actions taken over the last 6 months, therefore what occurs in spring is influenced by management over the next three months.
Some properties have little pasture cover, while others have sufficient feed for at least the next month and enough conserved silage or balage to meet animal requirements through until substantial pasture growth begins in autumn.
Management decisions made months ago is the reason for the difference. The notion that pastoral farming is just a series of ongoing random events that must be dealt with as they occur simply doesn’t gel with the best operators.
Elite farmers, those with production and profit figures others simply don’t believe, appreciate that they have the ability to plan and manage their operations months in advance.
Problems on these properties rarely ‘just happen’ and these farmers don’t start their days wondering what calamity may have occurred overnight. They’re interested in but not worried about what the weather will deliver and accurately forecast each season’s production.
Pastoral farming can be, and for a few is, a wonderfully satisfying, largely stress free and lucrative way of spending their time. Time off the farm is planned in advance, nothing untoward happens while they are away, and to a large degree the farm largely looks after itself.
The common factor isn’t the size of the property, nor is it the stocking rate. High levels of debt may sharpen focus and add an edge to decision making but the debt levels of this group range from none to highly indebted.
The one thing in common these operators share is they farm properties where soil health is outstanding. And that isn’t by chance, it’s because they’ve taken the steps necessary to create soil conditions that favour pasture growth.
A habit of these farmers is spending regular time in the paddock just watching and soaking in the atmosphere. There’s no substitute for sitting on a gate watching animals graze, kicking over cow pats, and chewing on a grass or clover stem.
It’s experience over many years that enables them to know almost instinctively what combination of ‘fertiliser’ inputs will work for them. I happened upon one of this group almost 25 years ago. He was keen to tell me that he grew a lot of clover over summer but didn’t have to deal with bloat.
He also said that he along with a small group of neighbours had no problem getting animals in calf, and calcium/magnesium related issues in spring were largely a non-event. I was keen to learn more and eventually the ‘secret’ was disclosed.
Each year in February or March they collectively ordered bulk dolomite from Golden Bay and applied it to their properties at 250kg/ha. They weren’t nitrogen users as the prolific clover growth over summer fixed more than enough nitrogen for maximum pasture growth.
Calving was set to begin just prior to the start of the natural increase in soil temperatures and per cow production was well above district average. It all seemed too good to be true, but since then the number in this group has steadily increased and although farming practises vary in detail, these operators are all very much in tune with their animals and land.
Dolomite from Golden Bay, the only dolomite currently available here, is from a naturally occurring deposit. Originally of sea bed origin it contains as well as 11.5% magnesium and 24% calcium, a wide range of naturally occurring trace minerals.
Because it contains both calcium and magnesium it doesn’t fit neatly into lowest cost nutrient programmes and these programmes are also unable to take into account the benefits of the steady improvement in physical soil structure that results from regular applications of this renowned soil conditioner.
Ideally soils are comprised of 25% air and 25% moisture. The air content is essential as virtually all beneficial soil organisms require a steady supply of fresh air. The pressure exerted by animal feet is considerable, and soil where animals are concentrated can quickly become compacted.
What grows above the surface of the soil is a reflection of life below and without the activity of earthworms and other soil dwellers compacted areas remain lifeless producing only a fraction of the feed grown on areas that remain well-structured and biologically active.
A report written in 2004 by Dr Graham Sparling one of New Zealand’s leading soil scientists contained the following passages, “For soil to be soil, it needs to have life, otherwise it’s just rocks and dust” and “It’s a sobering thought that our entire high tech world is ultimately supported by life in the top 20cm of the soil.”
Phone 0800 436 566 to discover whether dolomite will benefit your operation.