The evaluation of reticulation was funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, MPI, MBIE and Te Puni Kōkiri. All up it involved 11 case study farms around the country.
All the farmers who took part thought their investment was a good decision. They found they were better able to cope with drought as the availability of drinking water gave them more flexibility to effectively use all their available pasture. This, in turn, resulted in improved stock numbers and stock performance.
Reticulation has the environmental benefit of reducing pressure on waterways by providing stock with another source of drinking water. The availability of drinking water meant that waterways, wetlands and dams could be fenced off. It also meant farmers could plant riparian strips and protect regenerating bush.
Being able to fence dams has the animal welfare benefit of preventing stock either getting stuck in dams during dry periods or drowning.
Overall the benefits were:
an increase in stock units per hectare
an increased animal productivity
better grazing management
greater pasture production
better environmental outcomes
greater ability to implement farm environment plans
Timaru turned on a couple of sunny days for us back in November for the New Zealand Grassland Association’s 78th annual conference. It was held at the arts & craft styled Carolyn Bay Hall and it felt straight out of the 1920s.
Now that Christmas and the New Year are over its time to go back and dig through your copy of the Journal of NZ Grasslands. Did you notice that of the 28 research papers presented 14 were cofunded from the sheep and beef levy. And of these ten came from the Pastoral 21 research programme (marked with an *). These papers are listed below and linked to online copies.
One of the government’s National Science Challenges is called “New Zealand’s Biological Heritage” or just Bioheritage. It is about biodiversity and biosecurity.
One of the things that Bioheritage is looking at is biosecurity network intervention. Hey, pay attention as I can feel you nodding off.
Stopping it before it starts
What it is about is trying to work out if weeds, pest and pathogens spread in any predictable way – like a spider web or in network fashion. If you can predict spread then there is a chance to prevent it.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand went to a workshop a few weeks ago to look at how people accidentally help to spread them. The goal of the research is to describe the networks and model them. Then to armed with this knowledge to either contain or slow the spread of pests.
What we need to know
Some of the questions that will be investigated are:
Do different networks have specific characteristics help to spread pest and does understanding this help identify where interventions could be applied?
Is there any relationship between how a pest spreads through a network and the likelihood of establishment at a node?
When networks span across management boundaries, like regional government boundaries, is it possible to know a coordinated multi-stakeholder response is required?
How will the number and distribution of nodes change over time, and what are the consequences for spread of a pest?
How can an understanding of networks help focus surveillance efforts?
The research team will develop a work plan over the next year, using feedback from this workshop and other end-users. Beef + Lamb New Zealand is planning to stay involved with the project and assist it where possible.
It’s always interesting to ponder great tag-lines. A really great one goes beyond the organisation that employs it and can speak to the reader in a much broader way. The magazine New Stateman’s tag-line ‘expand your mind, change your world’ is about being open to new information.
One of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s priorities is to deliver knowledge that drives farm performance. And one of the ways we do it is through AgInnovation – a conference on the latest areas in science, information and technology innovation. Certainly an opportunity to expand your mind and hopefully change your world.
Did you see the internet article about deconstructed coffee? Apparently a café in Melbourne is offering deconstructed coffee, that is, a beaker of coffee, one of milk and one of hot water so you can mix it to your own taste. We were talking about it in the tea room and I thought the whole point was to go to a café that constructed good coffees. Anne Nelson, our website manager, said that there must be a blog in this. And she was right.
Greater than the sum of its parts
Scientific research is about the deconstruction of a system to understanding how the component parts work. In farming we have lots of component research. We have lots of data and information. What we tend to lack is the knowledge of how to reconstruct the farm system using the new information. We also often don’t know whether good looking results from component research will scale up to whole farm systems and hold true.
Paralysis of adoption
There is also a huge amount of ‘component’ knowledge that has been and continues to be generated from research. The complexity of all the possible interactions of the components results in paralysis of adoption. Something that we try to overcome with our Beef + Lamb New Zealand farming advice and resources.
I have been thinking about podcasts. And because of my background in botany the idea of “explosive dehiscence” of broom and gorse pods came to mind. Standing by a patch of gorse on a hot day and listening to the pods explode and fling their seeds. And I thought that this might be a metaphor for a podcast – the explosive release of the seeds of knowledge that then grow like weeds.
For those who haven’t listened to podcasts before Aaron provides detailed instruction on how to do it.
The pictures here are from the AgPest website that Beef + Lamb New Zealand co-sponsors. AgPest is a free tool to help New Zealand farmers and agricultural professionals in decision-making regarding weed and pest identification, impact and management. Well worth having a look at.
And if you are really keen and want to know more about how our woody weeds spread, including “explosive dehiscence”, have a look at:
Have you heard? The Johne’s Disease Research Consortium is coming to an end. To mark the end their will be a day of research presentation followed by a cocktail party in Wellington. If you are keen to come contact Kaylene.Larking@beeflambnz.com
What is Johne’s Disease?
Johne’s disease is a chronic, contagious and sometimes fatal infection of cattle, sheep, deer, goats and wildlife. The pathogen involved is a bacterium, called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis or the short hand – MAP. It’s estimated to cost New Zealand $40-88 million a year in lost production.
All the facts you need to know
Beef + Lamb New Zealand have published some factsheets to help farmers manage Johne’s disease in their flocks and herds:
At the Symposium Paul Muir and Nigel Bicknell talked about their cull cow research. Traditionally beef cows are used a lot on sheep and beef farms to manage the quality of pastures on hills. That is they clean up the rubbish. But as the weather has become more volatile and pasture growth more variable it means that farmers need more flexibility in their systems.
Hooray for cull cows
Step to the front cull dairy cows. They can be picked up cheap in early winter and graze rubbish pasture over the winter. They can then be used to manage the spring pasture surplus and then sent to slaughter when the schedule is looking good.
An important point they noted was that the cows are usually in poor condition when they arrive and need to be fed well for the first few weeks and gradually make the transition to the hills.
Paul noted that the cows in this photo “were carryovers – had been fed for 6-9 months longer, got in calf and then sold back to the dairy industry. But they started out in poor condition and it shows what they can do [when managed appropriately]. There are normally producing is 300-400 kg ms and when they are not milking it has to go somewhere”.
This was some of the information that Massey University’s Farmer Learning Group were exposed to at their field day at Riverside farm in the Wairarapa this week. The groups focus is on growing alternative forages and how to manage them.
During the morning farmers formed distinct rings in the paddock while they contemplated how to get the best out of their lucerne pastures.
The advice was that a paddock in this shape needed to be spelled until late May or early June then grazed off when the plants will have stopped growing. Grazing off would help to prevent the over wintering of pests and diseases.
The plantain had been hit by grass grub. But as one farmer said there is a cost of ownership of a fodder crop and that is you have to: