Pastures new could boost dairy dollars

Pastures new could boost dairy dollars



A doubling of the annual rate of pasture renewal could inject much needed extra income into the hard-hit dairy sector this season.

In a timely initiative, the Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust (PRCT) launched a new campaign. 10% Pasture Renewal, in Wellington last week.

Trust chairman Murray Willocks said it was sensible given the immediate challenges for dairy farmers.

 “We appreciate the challenge they 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 said he applauded the trust’s “front foot” initiative 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 suggested dairy farmers could earn an extra $30,000 of income for every extra tonne of drymatter/ha they grew 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.

The 10% Pasture Renewal campaign was based on stirring patriotic pride among farmers who had a natural affinity for pasture and productivity and the profitability it could provide.

Project manager Tim Wood said the campaign championed pasture to its rightful place in New Zealand’s farming systems.

Wood said the campaign focused on key facts and statistics which displayed the benefits of pasture renewal.

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

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

The Thomsens 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 for the heifers.

He calculated if they hadn’t done the regrassing they would be carrying only 350 heifers instead of 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 is expensive to do but it costs you more in the long term if you don’t do it,” Thomsen said.

As part of the 10% Renewal Campaign, the trust website,, featured a series of case studies for farmers to find out how others dealt with pasture renewal on a large scale and the greater returns it generates.

The trust is an independent entity comprised of 14 agribusiness companies, including NZX Agri, working to increase the rate of pasture renewal in NZ. The trust’s key focus is to communicate why more frequent pasture renewal is a beneficial investment for NZ farmers.