Environmental, George Moss (Taupo)


2 min read

Key findings

Tokoroa Pastoral Ltd is a 70ha farm milking 175 cows. This page explores the effects of five different farming practices on the environment and profitability. The key findings show that while the farm is efficient, it's challenging to reduce environmental impacts without affecting profits. The best approach seems to be reducing the replacement rate, which slightly improves both the environment and profit. However, reducing imported supplements, while beneficial for the environment, tends to drop profitability. Making these changes requires skill, with a strong focus on managing the pasture and reacting to weather conditions. The farm's owner, George Moss, emphasises the interconnectedness of farming and the environment.

Tokoroa Pastoral Ltd is 70ha of Taupo deep sand soil type, milking 175 cows (2.6 cows/ha).

The farm operates at system 2, with 7% of the annual feed supply brought onto the farm. The herd is wintered on the milking platform. Rising two-year old replacements are grazed off on an adjacent support block. There is a strong history of high operating profits, even in low milk price years.

Tokoroa Pastoral modelled five different scenarios:

  1. Remove all imported supplement from the farm system. This reduced N-loss and emissions but decreased profitability.

  2. Reduce N fertiliser use from 138kg N/ha/year to 58kg N/ha/year. This reduced N-loss and emissions and decreased profitability.

  3. Reduce N fertiliser and remove imported supplements. A combination of 1 and 2 above. This reduced N loss and emissions and decreased profitability.

  4. Rear less replacements. Currently the farm rears 32% replacements of which 22% enter the herd and 10% are sold. This scenario is based on 15% heifers reared. This reduced N loss and emissions and increased profitability.

  5. Plant sidelings in pine trees. There is around 4ha of low producing pasture on sidelings (steep areas of the farm) that could be planted in forestry. The effective area of the farm was reduced from 70ha to 63.5ha. Cow numbers were reduced by 11 to a peak milk of 168 cows. However, stocking rate on the effective area remains the same. This reduced N loss and emissions and decreased profitability.

Key findings

  • Farms such as Tokoroa Pastoral, which are highly efficient, generally can only slightly reduce environmental losses without effecting profitability and the options explored in this case study demonstrated this.

  • Reducing the replacement rate achieved small gains in both GHG and profit and looked to be the best opportunity. This option relies heavily on reducing the not-in-calf rate and finding an alternative use for additional grass grown on the support block.

  • Reducing imported supplement is the option most likely to reduce GHG, but this tends to reduce profitability. When this option was combined with a reduction in N fertiliser use it made the largest gains in GHG emissions, with a small drop in profitability. This scenario does require the greatest amount of skill and increases the financial and climatic risk to the farm. Achieving production of 450kg MS/cow from a solely pasture-based system requires excellent pasture management skills and a strong focus on timely and decisive decisions in response to weather events.

“We have significantly reduced N usage over time, the whole farm soil tested, we soil test every season, provide proof of placement for nutrient management, try to optimise timing and restrict N applications to 30 units or less per hectare. We have improved the genetic merit of the herd, improved herd performance, restricted lactation length and purchased feeds and maintain a slightly reduced stocking rate. We are seeking further efficiencies around N use and pasture management. We are the environment, and the environment are us - in damaging one we damage ourselves.” 

- George Moss, farm owner

Change from current system Nil imported feed Less N fertiliser

Less N Fertiliser &

Nil Imported Feed

Rear less replacements Plant sidelings in pine trees
N leaching (%) -7% -20% -29% -2% -5%
GHG losses (%) -12% -8% -20% -3% -6%
Profitability (%) -5% -8% -10% +5% -12%
Last updated: Aug 2023
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