Sound agronomy advice leads to improved yields
A carefully considered cropping and pasture programme has allowed Farm Manager, Jamie Ward, to grow his own feed on Otanepae Station, choosing Agricom’s SovGold kale and Titan 5 lucerne for their tolerance of dry conditions.
Otanepae Station is a sheep, beef and dairy grazing operation owned by Waipapa Trust. Comprising of flat to rolling country, Jamie runs 6,500 ewes, 2,000 replacement hoggets, 453 beef cows along with fattening 10,000 lambs. He also trades 700 yearling cattle and winters 1,400 dairy cows to support Waipapa Trust’s three dairy farms.
Aiming to kill lambs at between 18.5 to 21 kilograms and for his yearling cattle to reach over 350 kg by early December, Jamie works closely with PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative, Darryl Jones, to plan for the coming seasons crops.
“Darryl and I drive around the farm, identifying the paddocks to be used. We then decide on a plan on what to plant, taking into consideration what might be required in two to three years’ time,” says Jamie.
Determining when to sow can be a challenge, as highlighted by Jamie. “Last spring, we had 140 mm of rain just after we’d sown our crops, so we had to re-sow a portion of them. If we don’t sow in October, when there’s enough moisture in the soil to support growth, the crops will fail as it gets too dry.” Currently planted on-farm are Agricom varieties of kale, lucerne, oats and ryegrasses which are rotated to allow for a spray programme to help control weeds.
“We grow 130 hectares of lucerne, which is cut for feeding ewes and lambs over winter and as supplementary feed for dairy cows. For winter grazing for our dairy cows, we grow 85 hectares of kale, producing 15 tonnes per hectare last year. After two years the kale paddocks are re-sown into ryegrasses while we use oats as a break crop for the lucerne,“ says Jamie.
Agricom’s ryegrasses, Asset, an Italian ryegrass, and ONE50, a perennial ryegrass, have returned good yields allowing Jamie to use them to break feed the cattle. “In winter we still have cattle feeding on good covers of ryegrass compared to areas with native grasses which have little to feed on.”
Jamie values Darryl's effort and contribution, particularly monitoring crops during the season. With Jamie busy managing the farm, it leaves him little time to do this, so Darryl monitors for pest pressure, determining if a spray is needed and its timing.
“Over the years Darryl has gained a good understanding of my operation, so in spring and summer it’s not unusual to get a call from Darryl saying he’s checked the crops and everything’s looking good or there is a pressure point and this is the solution. If I ever have a problem, he’ll always get back to me quickly with a recommendation.”
Looking ahead, Jamie wants to build upon the success of his cropping and pasture programmes and acknowledges he’s always open to new ideas. “If Darryl makes a suggestion, and it fits within what we’re trying to achieve, we’ll give it a shot."
”Find your ‘Darryl’ on the back page of the Rural Diary.