The Turners aim to reduce their environmental footprint by identifying and managing critical source areas (gullies and swales) on farm and trialling infrastructure use to capture urinary N at critical times of year.
- Selecting paddocks and paddock setup are important to reduce soil run-off from winter crops.
- To spend time with staff so they understand the “whys” and the “hows” of the farm operation.
- Reducing cow and machinery movement will reduce soil disturbance.
Six years ago, Paul and Kayleen Turner converted part of Paul’s family property to dairying. The family had owned the property since 1947. A second dairy was built on the property in 2014 and the Turners aim to convert another portion of the property in the future.
The property is an extensive single block that ranges from flat to rolling to hilly.
The back of the property is heavier gleyed soils, the hill has a lighter rotten rock base and a smaller portion at the front is lighter free-draining soils. Managing the heavier soils in wet periods, especially in spring, can be challenging and grass needs to be eaten off the lighter soils before summer dry.
The climate can be challenging with dry summers and cold winters. Snow can fall in winter and early spring.
The Turners aim to reduce their environmental impact by reducing P and sediment loss to water ways and capturing urinary N before it leaches.
The Turners aim to operate a predominately self-contained system in terms of cow wintering, young stock wintering and young stock grazing with some purchased-in PKE, grain and molasses fed to lactating cows. They aim for farm working expenses of less than $3.20/kg MS.
Cows are started on the fodder beet as milkers at 2kg DM/day and eat 6kg DM in fodder beet by May end.
When the Turners first started grazing fodder beet they found that unless transition was carefully undertaken, it could result in cow deaths.
Over winter cows are fed a diet of 10kg DM of fodder beet and 4kg DM of supplement. There are always some cows that do not adapt, cows are checked daily by staff and drafted out if necessary and grass wintered. The Turners also find that by walking as a group of four to five people through all the mobs from mid to June end has proven successful in identifying cows not adapting.
“Fresh set of eyes”
The Turners have identified different soil types, topography and location of waterways on their property and used this information to define broad areas suitable to operate as milking platforms, wintering areas and young stock support blocks.
The Turners see the property as a long-term family farm where they want to work within their resources for long term sustainability. The Turners have gone through a significant period of growth and their focus is on consolidation going forward.
Protecting critical source areas
Swales and gullies are known as Critical Source Areas (CSA) where overland flow and seepage converge to form small channels of running water.
CSA protection methods
1. Crop selection
Fodder beet is selected to reduce the area of cultivated ground required. The Turners find fodder beet more consistent in terms of weight gain; Paul believes cows can put on one body condition score over winter.
2. Crop paddock selection, planting and set up
Within the wintering area, the Turners assess individual paddocks on soils, topography and location of waterways.
Crop paddock selection
Crop paddock selection is critical to minimise environmental risk. The Turners use their historical farm knowledge to complete an assessment and take care to pass this local knowledge onto their staff.
- Paddocks that are not close to waterways or too wet
- Excluding steeper paddock areas from being cropped. These CSA are fenced and not grazed to reduce risk of contaminant flow into waterways.
Crop paddock management
- Paddocks are set up to graze downhill to minimise overland flow, portable troughs are utilised on the breaks to minimise walking.
- Bales are set up on the breaks prior to winter using a digger with soft hands to minimise track damage on crops. Plenty of distance is allowed between bales to allow cow access.
- To minimise supplement movement using machinery, keep costs down and make transitioning easier, the Turners are trialling on one crop paddock, splitting half into fodder beet and half in oats and annual ryegrass. All other winter crop paddocks are fodder beet only.
Cows are back fenced and grazed downhill towards the CSA and have portable troughs in place to minimise stock movement and thus soil disturbance.
Reducing N leaching on farm
1. Crop paddocks post winter
Crop paddocks are sown into oats and short rotation annual ryegrass as soon as possible (typically six to eight weeks after winter grazing has finished). The Turners aim to grow as much feed as quickly as possible and potentially reduce nutrient loss from the crop paddock through uptake of nutrients by these fast growing plants
2. Wintering and calving pads
The Turners have been undertaking a trial with Environment Southland sustainability staff to trial the use of bunded rotten rock feed pads. The Turners had traditionally used self-feed pads for a number of years but now moved to a bunded option to minimise nutrient loss.
The feed pads are self-feed silage pads (whole crop and tetraploid pasture). The cows graze at the feed pads then have large paddock areas to lie. Slurry pits can be cleaned out and put onto pasture in dry conditions in spring. The Turners find the feed pads cheaper than winter crop. Pads have been located away from waterways.
The Turners also have calving pads to help manage wet periods in the spring.
Still trialling in their system
- Timing when to shut the oats and annuals up in the fodder beet paddocks – The Turners aim for 4,000 to 5000kg DM/ha. If the crops are too heavy, they will get high wastage during snow events.
- Grazing young stock on fodder beet – The Turners will be monitoring growth rates and consider what supplement needs to be fed to the young stock to achieve growth rate targets.
Paul and Kayleen Turners' farm