The 29-year-old manages pasture renewal on the Garshaw family farm. The paddock was initially part of a neighbouring farm which was acquired in 2009 and was severely underperforming.
The 1.5ha silt loam paddock is only five metres above sea level. It had very poor drainage, pugging was a constant problem and tractors would leave ruts in winter and spring.
“In winter it was almost impassable on foot,” says Robert.
The pasture contained little desirable grass, summer production was minimal and weed levels were high. Because it was close to a shed, in spring it was mainly used for calf rearing.
The paddock was humped and hollowed in spring 2013 and then was in maize over the 2013/14 summer before being sown by Robert in late April with Bealey NEA2, Kotare and Tuscan Clover.
The first two grazings were with young stock before being grazed with the farm’s herd of 440 jerseys for the first time in late August. It was then stocked with 48-60 calves for a month with a 16-day rotation with the herd from then on.
Judges in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty competition, run by the DairyNZ-led Pasture Renewal Leadership Group, said the pasture had very high and even clover content with a well-established proven tetraploid.
Passion for pasture
Robert took an interest in pasture management two years ago, purchased a seed drill and saw great results early on. He says this inspired him to keep going and he has continued to improve the farm’s pastures.
Robert said when it comes to good pasture management there is no silver bullet.
A key for him is to achieve a very high clover population which he ensures by sowing clover seed separately so as to not to sow too deep, or to suffer competition in the drill rows.
DairyNZ developer Sally Peel says this year’s entrants included a mix of dairy platforms, dairy support and grazier blocks from across the region and were of a high standard.
Te Aroha farmer James Booker won the category for best pasture of more than three years old.
AgResearch senior scientist, Dr David Hume, said the success of both Robert's and James’ pastures was established by good grazing management, careful pre-sowing preparation and correct choice of endophyte.
Each winner received $1500 of pasture renewal products and hosted a field day, giving an overview of the paddock and discussing the Forage Value Index, endophyte viability when sowing in dry conditions and the value of pasture renewal.
James Booker and his winning pasture will be profiled in May’s Inside Dairy.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2015