Central Plains Water came on line in 2015 and it’s been the catalyst for a shift in farm system when equity managers Thomas and Sarah Irving have been seeking ways to make the most from pasture.
Young parents of 2.5-year old Hamish and 5-year old Jono this is their eighth season on the farm.
The farm is made up of 122ha of owned land and a 56ha lease block across the road, which was converted and brought into the milking platform in time for the 2015-16 season, just before CPW water began flowing.
With more conservative return prices Thomas says he’s dropped bought-in feed down from 900kg -1t DM/cow to closer to 600kg DM/cow and sown 7ha of fodder beet on the platform as an autumn supplement to pasture.
“CPW’s been a game changer for us. I’ve got more confidence in the water now and that means I can probably be a bit more aggressive when it comes to the grazing plan because we’re more certain of growing the grass.”
“Before I didn’t have that confidence so I’d stagger dropping paddocks out and probably pasture quality suffered a bit.”
Thomas has a Diploma in Farm Management from Lincoln University and says he’s keen to really focus on learning more about the agronomy of his pasture plants as part of Tiller Talk and understand more about the how they grow, the conditions that maximise pasture production and what he can do to utilise as much feed as possible.
“It sounds like exactly what I’m after – expert advice and plenty of input and ideas to help me lift our pasture grown and eaten.
“We’d become reliant on supplements but we’ve changed that mindset and we want to harvest more grass – it’s the cheapest form of feed we have.”
Knowing that the group of five or six local farmers will be following his progress very closely (and helping) and that others will also be able to watch what he’s doing will add to the discipline around recording and monitoring a number of the factors relating to his pastures and business.
“It’s not just about me learning – I want to be able to share the knowledge I get from this with my staff and our grazier – I want to be able to pass it on further,” he says.
Thomas says while they monitor their pastures regularly throughout the season, doing a farm walk and using the information to create a feed wedge, there’s probably more information they could be gathering.
“That’s another thing I’m looking forward to about being involved in the programme – making better use of the tools we have that we’re probably not fully utilising now.”