Shooting for 10%


Shooting for 10% pasture renewal

Regrassing is a key influence of farm performance and the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust (PTCT) is launching a new campaign encouraging farmers to renew 10% of pasture annually.

A 2009 BERL report showed sheep and beef farmers renewed only 2-3% of pasture annually, and dairy farmers just 6-7%.

Speaking at last night’s launch of ‘10% Pasture Renewal' in Wellington, PRCT chairman Murray Willocks said it was a timely initiative given the immediate challenges for dairy farmers.

 “We appreciate the challenge they (dairy farmers) face this season. We’re not expecting the trust’s message of increasing pasture renewal to be responded to immediately by every farmer.

“But we know growing more pasture is the lowest cost form of feed for all livestock, so it makes real sense to do more,” Willocks said.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, who attended the launch, said he applauded what he termed a “front foot” initiative by the PRCT to focus farmers attention on growing more low-cost feed, harvesting it efficiently and maximising sustainable production from their herds and flocks.

He noted recent work produced by DairyNZ which suggests that dairy farmers could earn an extra $30,000 of income for every extra tonne of dry matter/ha they grow before Christmas.

“The returns on pasture renewal are impressive, ranging from 10-35% return on investment. We’ve got to remind farmers that pasture is the best form of feed they can grow because it is the most cost efficient,” Guy said.

PRCT project manager Tim Wood said the campaign champions pasture to its rightful place within New Zealand’s farming systems.

Patoka farmers Hugh and Deidre Thomsen have learned the value of pasture renewal.

The Hawke’s Bay couple, who run a 100% dairy support operation along with their sons Greg and Hamish, began a regrassing programme eight years ago when they realised their old pastures were not meeting their heifer grazing targets.

The Thomsen’s implemented a regrassing programme and aim to renew 40ha of pasture annually.

Hugh Thomsen said the young grasses helped them achieve the required weight gains.

“Otherwise we are really pushing to hit those targets with the carrying capacity we have.”

Thomsen said they were able to pay off the investment within two years and get a better return off that grass with a shorter grazing rotation time for the heifers. 

He calculated if they hadn’t undertaken the regrassing they would only be carrying 350 heifers as opposed to the 700 they comfortably carry now on the home block.

“If we didn’t regrass on the home block we would only be grossing $800/ha as opposed to $1600/ha. The initial cost is around $760/ha to put new grass in.

“It (regrassing) is expensive to do but it costs you more in the long term if you don’t do it,” Thomsen said.