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Agronomy advice sees successful renewal of pasture on drystock farm

Agronomy advice sees successful renewal of pasture on drystock farm

Agronomy advice sees successful renewal of pasture on drystock farm

Growing up on a dairy farm in Taranaki and working holidays on a neighbour’s sheep and beef farm, Matthew Barclay soon grew an interest in drystock farming. Leasing two farms with his wife Hannah in Waverley and Hawera, Matthew appreciates the support and knowledge he receives from PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative Belinda Wilson.

The farm in Waverley is 110 ha of flat land making it ideal for calf rearing. The Barclays sell most of the calves at 100 kg while farming 100 Freisan bulls, winter grazing dairy cows and producing hay and grass silage. They purchase their milk powder and other calf-rearing supplies through the Whanganui PGG Wrightson store.

Four years ago, Matthew and Hannah leased another farm with the aim of adding to their existing equity, with the long-term goal of purchasing their own farm. “Te Rata has scale, allowing us to expand our drystock holdings; with rearing and selling stock the quickest way of building equity.”

In Hawera, Te Rata is a 740 ha sheep and beef operation wintering 2,700 mixed-age ewes, 750 replacement hoggets, 1,200 winter trade lambs, 260 mixed-age cows, 230 yearling cattle, and 110 2-year-old heifers. 

Matthew says conditions on Te Rata bring challenges, though he has found solutions. As the ground starts to dry after a wet winter, they kill the lambs to free up feed for the breeding stock. In contrast, when it seems like the pasture is growing too well, cattle are used to control the grass on the hills. This helps manage the grass for the ewes in preparation for tupping. Matthew notes their fertility is increasing year-on-year, with a 10 percent increase in rates this year.

Arriving at Te Rata, Matthew says most of the flat land was in old pasture, and with only 50 ha croppable, this was an issue. “As we have a grass system and do not bring in any feed, we needed to introduce new grass species to get the most out of the flat land.

Having sown chicory and rape each year for the past few years, we are now planting permanent pastures. Belinda’s help was instrumental in renewing this land.”

Acknowledging the ease of accessing useful resources through Belinda, Matthew shares the example of a recent event organised by her. Recognising local sheep and beef farmers wanted to learn more about forming animal health plans and managing the risk of drench resistance, Belinda brought PGG Wrightson Technical Expert – Animal Production, Jo Harris, to come and speak.

“If you do not have trained people helping or advising you, your business would not run as smoothly,” says Matthew. “This is particularly important when you’re a two-person band like myself and Hannah.”

“I rely on Belinda to sort out my orders. Often, I arrive at the woolshed the day after putting an order in and the product is waiting there. It also makes a difference that Belinda loves her job; she always turns up on-farm with a smile on her face, ready to go.”