For Blake, a key lesson from Tiller Talk has been around the soil structure. In particular, Blake ran a trial in some of his paddocks using an aerator to see if this would make a difference to the pasture yield and quality. For those paddocks that he utilised this technique, he has seen a large increase in the pasture quality and growth, and he reckons it is “worth its weight in diesel”.
Some other tips he has picked up include:
- Stitching up pastures for pasture improvement:
“You can’t always renew all paddocks that need work but stitching with a short rotation grass up can have a great short-term impact and buy you time to focus on the bottom paddocks.”
"We did 12ha permanent pasture because they’ve come out of crop, and undersown new grass into 30ha on performance growth per season.”
- Although there were no big shifts in action in the first season, Blake referenced an increase in understanding on technical aspects of pasture management.
- Blake has found it invaluable for the staff around being able to explain why they measure and how they use this information.
- A more in-depth understanding of why and how he can use the data more accurately – particularly around urea application, or increasing/decreasing supplements etc.
“As a 50/50 sharemilker, I want to be consistently around that $2 cost structure, and reduce my level of debt,” says Blake.
“I want to get the farm as profitable as possible and I know this needs to come through getting more value from grass, better quality and reduced wastage of pasture.”
This is Blake’s third season on the farm in Hedgehope, central Southland, which features a flat to rolling contour.
Blake is no stranger to setting and achieving goals having completed a building apprenticeship after leaving school and spending time overseas working and playing rugby. He still coaches and plays rugby for the Pioneer Seniors, based in Gore.
In 2008, in his mid-20s, he settled on a dairying career, working his way up the ladder to herd manager and latterly farm manager before turning his hand to sharemilking in Hedgehope.
In 2010 he was awarded New Zealand Dairy Industry's trainee of the year.
Blake is focussed on being as efficient as possible and that extends to effective time management.
“The number one key principle for us is being efficient in all parts of the business, from feeding the cows to the milking shed,” says Blake.
“You will struggle to see staff on this farm finishing after 5.30pm, even in busy times – it’s the way we like it to be.”
Blake likes to learn from others and looks forward to Tiller Talk starting and meeting other farmers in the area who are facing some of the same challenges.
“Our biggest challenge is wetness and pugging management – 35ha of the farm can get flooded – it happens most years”.
“We utilise pasture first, then add in the supplements if required. However, hitting target residuals can be challenging in spring when wet as there is no infrastructure to stand cows off
“We accept residuals of 1650-1700 but work hard to hit these paddocks hard next round or remove silage from these paddocks to maintain quality”.
“To me successful pasture management means having enough grass that you don’t need to supplement cows for 90% of the season and allocating right amount of feed."