Demo farm project explores optimal establishment method and seed mix

Craw 4 February 2015

After five years improving the quality of pasture on their cultivatable land, Banks Peninsula farmers Annabel and Hamish Craw are turning their attention to their uncultivable hill country.

Photo courtesy of Country-Wide

UPDATE: Year 1 results and project background (PDF)

Using the Beef + Lamb New Zealand demonstration farm model, the Craws are embarking on a three-year trial that will explore the optimal spraying-out method and pasture mix for about 200ha of their 420ha property at Little Akaloa.

The couple farm in partnership with Hamish's parents Sue and Alistair. The operation – Longridge Agriculture Limited – was bought in 1994 and, over the past 20 years, the Craws have invested in a major subdivision development, increased soil fertility, expanded the water reticulation and undergone a pasture development programme on the cultivatable country. They winter 1600 ewes, 750 ewe hoggets and 130 cows, as well as a small number of trading cattle. The sheep are Longdown maternal composites, with rams purchased from Chris and Jane Earl's stud at Scargill.

Farm policies are geared around maximising the number of lambs processed directly off the property, rather than having to sell store. Between 50 and 60 per cent of male lambs are processed at a current weaning weight 33kg. The target weight is 35kg-plus and the goal is for all lambs to be away by the end of February at a minimum of 18.5kg carcase weight. In this way, Craws can build up good autumn feed covers and
optimise their March to December growth season – all with an eye to setting up for a successful lambing and high lamb growth rates the following spring/summer.

"Our goal is to get away from being exposed to the store market for lambs and take control of how and when we market our lambs to maximise profitability and efficiency," Annabel says.

About 70ha of the property is cultivatable, with 200ha being medium hill country typical of the region. It is native/improved pasture, dominant in cocksfoot; the predominant legume is white clover, which can be susceptible to clover root weevil. The balance of the farm is steep hill country and native bush.

It is the medium hill country that is being targeted for the demo farm project. The Craws' goal is to improve annual production from 5tDM/ha to 8tDM/ha, while also lifting the quality, from 10mjME/ha to 11mjME/ha. It already performs adequately, growing out replacement ewe hoggets, but they believe there is potential for it to be more valuable to the operation.

"We've always thought about how we could improve this area. The demo farm model gives us a way of getting into it, ensuring we following a good process and enabling us to bring in expertise to advise on each part of the trial.

"The principle was that we didn't want to use a cropping system to do it and we wanted to utilise the legume base that's already there – and just add extras."

Annabel says the country is also not suited to break fencing – neither practically, nor environmentally. "A wide range of pasture varieties have be chosen that are suited to the climate of the farm and can be grazed without the need for break fencing. Although herbs and grasses are included, the mix is dominated by legumes."

The scientific trial kicked off in spring 2014, with treatments replicated four times in small-scale trial plots. Work is being overseen by AgResearch scientist Ray Moss and includes two P21 seed mixes. (P21 is a pastoral sector collaboration focused on boosting farm productivity, while lessening environmental impacts.)

Two spraying-out options are included: a spring glyphosate spray, as a chemical top; and a spring Gallant spray, as a full spray alternative. Secondary spray treatments may be made in autumn to ensure optimal conditions for seed application.

Treatments and seed mix details

Treatment Spring 2014
activity
Autumn 2015 activity Seed mix
Control Existing vegetation,
graze normally
- -
Chemical top only Spray with
2L/ha glyphosate,
graze normally
Second spray
with glyphosate
(if required),
no seed
-

Chemical top
Legume mix
Spray with
2L/ha glyphosate,
graze normally
Second spray
with glyphosate
(if required),
sow legume mix
White clover – 6kg/ha
Red clover – 4kg/ha
Sub clover – 9kg/ha
Plantain – 3kg/ha

Chemical top
Legume/grass mix
Spray with
2L/ha glyphosate,
graze normally
Second spray
with glyphosate
(if required),
sow legume/
grass mix
White clover – 6kg/ha
Red clover – 3kg/ha
Sub clover – 9kg/ha
Plantain – 3kg/ha
Ryegrass – 7.5kg/ha
Cocksfoot – 6kg/ha
Full spray
Legume mix
Spray with
0.75L/ha Gallant,
graze normally
Second spray
with Gallant
(if required),
sow legume mix
White clover – 6kg/ha
Red clover – 4kg/ha
Sub clover – 9kg/ha
Plantain – 3kg/ha
Full spray only Spray with
0.75L/ha Gallant,
graze normally
Second spray
with Gallant
(if required),
graze normally
-
Full spray
Legume/grass mix
Spray with
0.75L/ha Gallant,
graze normally
Second spray
with Gallant
(if required),
sow legume/
grass mix
White clover – 6kg/ha
Red clover – 3kg/ha
Sub clover – 9kg/ha
Plantain – 3kg/ha
Ryegrass – 7.5kg/ha
Cocksfoot – 6kg/ha
Glyphosate
P21 grass/lotus mix
Spray with
glyphosate
Second spray
with glyphosate
(if required),
sow P21 grass/
lotus mix
White clover – 1kg/ha
Red clover – 3kg/ha
Sub clover – 3kg/ha
Lotus corniculatus – 1kg/ha
Lotus uliginosus – 0.7kg/ha
Perennial ryegrass – 7kg/ha
Cocksfoot – 1.5kg/ha
Phalaris – 1.5kg/ha
Prairie grass – 8kg/ha
Glyphosate
P21 legume mix
Spray with
glyphosate
Second spray
with glyphosate
(if required),
sow P21
legume mix
White clover – 2kg/ha
Red clover – 3kg/ha
Sub clover – 2kg/ha
Plantain – 0.5kg/ha
Chicory – 0.5kg/ha
ProGibb
Grass eradication
No seed
Spray with
Gallant and ProGibb,
graze normally
Repeat Gallant
spray (if
necessary),
no seed
May apply seed in Year 2

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