Being involved in Tiller Talk has allowed Brett and Ruth Steeghs to learn new things, as well as to reinforce ideas that the couple had learnt in the past. Examples of this includes:
- The programme reinforced a change in direction for the farm. Brett has been working towards a low-cost system to help maximise profitability and understanding the link between higher pasture production per hectare and profitability helped to drive action in this area.
- The Steeghs have had a big focus on rotation lengths – running slightly longer rounds overall.
- Spring Rotation Planner – “This year we actually stuck to it and made it a bit more realistic, and we saw the results from using it later in spring.”
- The Steeghs now have set of decision rules in spring.
For example with supplement use; if the post-grazing residuals are lower than 1400 kg DM/ha for more than 3 days in spring then we start bringing in supplements to ensure that we do not overgraze the paddocks and affect pasture regrowth. Likewise, if residuals are over 1500 for 3 days or more then we take it out.
- Deferred grazing – Brett has trialled using deferred grazing this year as an alternative to harvesting surplus for silage, instead pushing this surplus into summer. He has found some great benefits in pasture density from the natural reseeding.
- Cost of feeding supplement has been a big focus for the couple. Through the programme, and talking to other local farmers and experts, they have been made aware of the hidden cost of feed and are trying to set up a system where they don’t rely on imported feed.
- Growth rate data:
“This was info we were collecting anyway but having to send it weekly puts a bit of pressure on to get it done which is good. Good to look back in the spring to see what we were doing last year. Gives more confidence in the decisions we make this year.”
The couple have been 50:50 sharemilkers on a Mangakino farm for two seasons and are keen to be in the top 10 percent for farm working expenses and for pasture harvested.
To get there they must combat some challenging topography with 50 percent of the farm hill country, with an altitude of 500m.
“It’s always a compromise between the ‘camping spots’ which grow a lot and the slow growth in the sidlings on the same paddock,” says Brett.
Brett feels they could capture more of the whole growth potential and would welcome advice around managing these pastures.
“I want to be challenged in my thinking,” says Brett. “Tiller Talk will allow us to connect with more local farmers which is another positive.”
The couple both enjoy learning. Ruth, who earned an agricultural degree from Massey University, is from a dairy farming family while Brett is a former mechanic who is now into his third season. In his first season he won the 2015 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year title.
Pasture management is already top of mind for everyone on farm. Brett and Ruth, along with William Downs (another full time staff member), each do a weekly pasture walk on a section of the farm.
“We do have a good idea of which paddocks are behind in terms of growth – but I feel I have a lot to learn around pasture renewal and the suitability of different perennial ryegrass cultivars for this farm.”
“One of our biggest drivers going forward is doing as much pasture renewal as possible.”
“Our philosophy is do the basics well, pasture first, feed cows well and everything else flow on from there.”
“We go hard on residuals and make it a priority to keep on the top of it in spring so paddocks are well set for the rest of the season – it’s all about quality of feed offered”.