Dave Swney now has a greater awareness of pasture pest pressure and likely impacts on the farm. Dave worked with his local Tiller Talk group, DairyNZ facilitator and agronomist to find out how big the issue was (populations of pests in the soil /pasture) on the farm. Black beetle was found to be a major issue, as well as some level of soil compaction identified in parts of the farm. The high black beetle populations would explain the big persistence issues they have and the reason they’ve got to regrass the same paddocks every 2 or 3 years.
In addition to the lessons around pasture pests, Dave also learnt the following.
- Dave is more inclined to go out and measure pasture now (weekly vs every two weeks) even though it can be hard to do, being part of Tiller Talk has ‘forced’ him to do it and helped him to understand the benefits of having regular data.
- Another benefit has been that it has encouraged him to train his 2IC on how to do the pasture measurements and use the data and now his manager is asking for the information and making decisions on where the cows go.
- Through conversations with DairyNZ staff and an agronomist, Dave has gained knowledge about different pasture species.
- Tiller Talk has driven him to calculate his pasture and crop eaten, which allows him to measure progress each year.
- Though the Tiller Talk programme Dave identified which paddocks were poor performing.
- Dave has also started to record paddock grazings, which has allowed him to rank paddocks based on yield. He is than able to use that information to make regrassing decisions.
“We have had some big disappointments with paddocks renewed only two to three years ago, weeds replace sown species very quickly – I am reluctant to touch our older paddocks which perform relatively well,” says Dave.
In Dave’s opinion, the biggest opportunity on the farm is to improve the pasture renewal process, especially around the establishment of tall fescue. He is looking forward to bouncing ideas off other farmers around the topic.
“We are trying to do quite a few things with our regrassing programme, using tall fescue and trying different methods of establishing clover and chicory in the mix,” says Dave.
“I want to continue to improve pasture species to allow us to increase home grown feed. Our target is to maintain pasture and crop eaten at 14t DM at least.”
This is Dave’s fourth season as a contract milker on his family’s farm near Te Awamutu. This year (16/17) they have taken on a small winter milk contract so will continue milking through winter.
As a former DairyNZ consulting officer for Northland and Waikato, pasture was an area Dave was passionate about – this enthusiasm has continued in his on-farm role.
“I’d like to build on my knowledge and learn more about endophytes, and appropriate round length for our system. It will be interesting to see what others are doing.”
“Our main focus is summer management – when it starts getting dry, it’s our most difficult time of the year; that’s where the turnips bring value to the system, when we have very poor grass growth,” says Dave.