The FRNL principles applied are:
- Reduce nitrogen in cow diets, through growing and feeding plantain and fodder beet on the milking platform and support blocks
- Capture nitrogen during risk periods with catch crops and plantain
Some other strategies also applied were to
- Use lower N imported supplements e.g. lifted fodder beet and maize silage
- Reduce stocking rate
- Reduce N fertiliser
The expandable sections below cover experiences of our monitor farmers.
Fodder beet was used as a home-grown, low-N feed to fill the autumn and winter feed gap, reducing the amount of N passing through the cow. All farmers considered:
- Paddock selection - where possible the lowest performing paddock were selected to maximise the return of the cost of cropping
- Opening the crop faces to allow easy access; lifting fodder beet to create a headland and feeding on pasture.
- Acidosis - farmers used a transition plan with the goals of feeding between 7 and 10 kg/DM of fodder beet at dry off. Several also used supplements containing magnesium oxide to reduce the risk of acidosis.
- Regrassing - too many paddocks in crop can create a feed pinch the following spring, with too many paddocks out of rotation
- Back to back cropping - two farms noted that fathen was a problem in the second year of back to back cropping with fodder beet
Plantain is being used to dilute urine, increase N uptake from soil by plants and nitrification rate in the soil. A variety of approaches were used with plantain to establish, manage weeds and grazing rotation lengths. The farmers thought the below should be considered;
- Spraying out paddocks and direct drilling in spring/early summer was the most successful approach.
- In the Canterbury region, February is too late to try and establish plantain into existing pastures
- Weed control was an issue, as many sprays used will also kill plantain. The solutions considered were to spot spray, use a catch crop after fodder beet and direct drill plantain.
Catch crops were grown for a variety of reasons on the farms; reduce nitrogen leaching, increase yields and to control weeds. The farmers thought the below should be considered when thinking about catch crops;
- Selection of species; Choose a species or combination of species that will fit with climate, main winter crop, and farm system.
- Establishment of the crop; wet weather and soil type can delay establishment, especially following Fodder beet where cultivation might be required. On one farm, existing staff leaving and new staff arriving lead to a delay in organising the crop to go in.
- Harvesting vs grazing; wet weather can delay harvesting and regrassing. Options considered were to spray out and graze rather than harvest
Monitor farmer biographies
Follow the progress of the monitor farmers to help aid your own decisions to reduce nitrate leaching. Click on each farm below for more information.
The geographic spread of the monitor farms and range of systems represented means every farmer in Canterbury should have a farm they can identify with.
Grant and Jan Early
Grant and Jan Early are dairy farm owners from Mayfield. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Eric and Maxine Watson
Eric and Maxine are arable farmers from Wakanui. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Nigel and Ross Rathgen
The Rathgen family run a mixed dairy and arable farmers from Saint Andrews.
Brent and Maryn Austin
Brent and Maryn are arable farmers from Mayfield. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Peter and Joc Kinney
Peter and Joc Kinney are dairy farmers from Culverden. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Tony Coltman is a dairy farmer from Dunsandel. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Bill and Shirley Wright
Bill and Shirley Wright are sheep and beef farm owners from Cave. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Blair and Amie Kirkland
Blair and Amie Kirkland are sheep and beef farmer owners from Parnassus. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Sam Lovelock is managing a dairy farm for Ngāi Tahu Farming at Whenua Hou, Eyrewell. Follow the progress on farm and read updates as they become available.
Parekarangi Trust farm
Parekarangi Trust farm, Rotorua, straddles the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions and comprises a dairy and dry stock unit. The farm became a monitor farm in 2016.