Aaron shares some of the key lessons he has learnt from Tiller Talk:
- He now understands how to get improved new pastures which is something he has struggled with in the past due to the soil type, and has been changing practices to suit pastures.
- “We made some changes to our grazing plan to try and look after our pastures better through summer (adjusting rotation length) and in a normal dry summer these would work well but in a wet Feb there was not as big a benefit.”
- Calculating pasture and crop eaten for the season, allowed him to compare year-on-year and monitor performance.
- Pasture renewal:
“We are now looking at annual dry matter (DM) production, pasture density and potential of paddock to help identify those paddocks that need renewing. In January, I sit down and look at total DM yield per paddock to help pasture renewal decisions.”
- “Tiller Talk has increased my confidence to pull out supplements where required, as a result of what we have learnt about ryegrass growth (2019). We’ve monitored leaf stage a lot more.”
- The conversations we have had encouraged us to consider the balance between more DM yield and pasture quality.
- “We have trialled different things throughout the programme as a result of what we’ve learnt, including amending rotation length in spring in particular, trialling pre-graze mowing.”
Aaron’s team includes Daisy Higgs and Melissa Davies. Supplements imported to the farm last season represented 790 kg DM/cow, mostly fed during summer and winter/early spring.
This couple have another 50:50 sharemilking job in Tahuna where they milk 250 cows on 80ha (effective), up until May 2019.
Aaron is focussed on getting the most out of homegrown feed.
“Bought-in supplement should only be used in a deficit. If you can grow more grass and utilise it, it’s the most profitable way,” says Aaron.
“I want to have less importance on bought-in feeds and be more self-sufficient. I want to be less reliant on outside factors.”
Raised on a Waikato dairy farm, Aaron studied a Bachelor of Agricultural Commerce at Lincoln University and spent time in the sporting industry before returning to dairying and setting up a sharemilking company with friend John Assen in 2009. Aaron and Sarah won the Dairy Industry Awards Waikato Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year competition in 2015!
The farm is highly susceptible to summer drought and pasture supply is an issue. He is looking forward to bouncing ideas off the agronomist and farmers in the group to make the most effective use of crop and bought-in supplements while hitting the targeted grazing residuals at all times.
Aaron’s goals are clear: be as profitable as possible through increased production per cow; this must be achieved by growing more feed on the farm and decreasing supplement use. Working towards an enjoyable work environment and upskilling staff is also a priority for Aaron.
“For me maximising pasture production and utilisation is the key to our profitability. The further I can refine my management the greater benefit for us, our farm owner, and for the dairy industry,” says Aaron.
Monitoring pasture growth has always been a priority for Aaron as he grows his business in the dairy industry.
Weekly farm walks through spring are a must, measuring covers going forward as well as monitoring residuals left behind. “It’s the only way to know what the covers are before you can see it by eye. You can make decisions a week earlier than you would without measuring.”