Susan and Mark Dyer have been involved in pasture focused groups for a number of years, with Tiller Talk being their most recent pursuit. Here’s what they have to say about being involved in the programme:
“Tiller Talk has given us the confidence to make informed decisions with regards to pasture management to maximise pasture growth in a really challenging year.”
“When you can look across at your paddock, grazed after the neighbours paddock, and it is recovering better after the rain due to hitting target residuals, compared to overgrazing, it really shows how far we have come in learning the different aspects around pasture management.”
Some of the key learnings and application on farm included:
- Pasture renewal – looked at individual paddock performance to help make pasture renewal decisions. The couple also looked at grazing dates (in the shed) and pasture density (while walking the farm) in addition to paddock total DM yields.
- Mark and Sue used DairyNZ’s Forage Value Index (FVI) this year to help select cultivars best suited to their farm.
- They have valued being able to trial new things, based on feedback from other farmers, as well as from their agronomist.
“One thing that they are keen to look into was no tillage, based on discussions around soil structure and cultivation.”
- The couple have been more proactive, particularly through looking at profitability of all options to help make informed decisions.
- Increased confidence in their feed budgeting through the growth rate monitoring, and confidence in decisions they make.
- Susan and Mark learnt about calculating crop yield for better feed allocation
- Rotation length changes:
“This year we stayed on a 24-day round (longer round than previous springs) to be able to grow more grass (3 leaf stage principle) and drop more supplements. We found that as a result of this, pasture kept its quality for longer.”
- Pasture growth rate monitoring has enabled them to drop paddocks for silage early and maintain high pasture quality through spring, early summer.
During the Tiller Talk Programme, Mark & Susan were 50:50 sharemilkers at Te Aroha and part of the DairyNZ Tiller Talk programme formerly known as Agriseeds Grass into Gold.
They joined the programme in 2014. At the time Susan was looking at ways to increase their net profit per tonne of dry matter (DM) feed. Since then, they have been monitoring pasture covers and crop tonnages more closely.
“When the stakes are high, you have to be on the ball and committed to monitoring and implementing pasture policy,” she says.
“The challenge is to be onto it and in control because if you don’t things can get out of hand and you lose control. Being part of Tiller Talk gives us greater confidence in making decisions for our business, farm and the animals. Our focus on grass is the key to that.”
Mark says the benefits of the programme have been huge – he joined after tagging along to a field day.
“Tiller Talk is about monitoring growth and keeping an eye on whether paddocks are performing or not. When you run a pasture-based system, it is crucial to get it right.
“We don’t claim to always get it right but we learn as we go and implement that going forward.”
Susan and Mark have decided to move away from hands on farming this year to pursue other avenues.
They are currently taking some time to focus on their children’s final years of education, as well as taking a well earnt break.