Posted in Caring for air, land & water, Caring for animals

Plumbing the hills

The Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, spoke at the Beef + lamb New Zealand Environment Conference in February. During his speech he released a report on the economic evaluation of reticulated drinking water for stock. Read the Ministers press release.

Ministry for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy addresses the B+LNZ Environment Conference [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

[photo AgFirst]

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
  • increased drought resistance

And the financial analysis showed:

  • an average rate of return of 45% over 20 years
  • an average payback period of 3 years

If you want to read more see the links below.

Phil Journeaux and Erica van Reenan, 2016. Economic evaluation of stock water reticulation on hill country. A report for the Ministry for Primary Industries and Beef + lamb New Zealand.

Economics of stock water on hill country. Information leaflet.

New report shows benefits of investing in stock water systems. Press Release.


Posted in Conferences

Let’s go to Caroline Bay again

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.


Last day of the Conference at Caroline Bay Hall, Timaru [Photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Research papers

* Moot DJ, Bennett SM, Mills AM, Smith MC. Optimal grazing management to achieve high yields and utilisation of dryland lucerne. 

* Moot DJ, Mills AM, Roux MM, Smith MC. Liveweight production of ewes and lambs grazing a dryland lucerne monoculture with or without barley grain supplementation. 

Amongst the plantain at Riverholme Pastures, Pleasant Point [Geoff Ridley]

Fields RL, Barrell GK, Moot DJ. Premature mammary development in ewe lambs exposed to an oestrogenic lucerne pasture. 

* Roach CG, Glassey CB, MacDonald KA. Key pasture and milksolids production indicators from two Waikato farmlets differing in inputs, stocking rate, pasture allowance and nitrate leaching. 

* Rendel JM, Mackay AD, Smale PN, Vogeler I. Moving from exploring on-farm opportunities with a single to a multi-year focus: Implications for decision making. 

Schon NL, Gray RA, Mackay AD. Earthworms stimulate pasture production in sheep and beef systems: their economic value.

* Smith LC, McDowell RW, Cosgrove GP.A comparison of nutrient losses to waters following pasture renewal by cultivation or direct-drilling.

* Morris NJ, Smith MC, Mills AM, McNeill MR, Moot DJ. Insect populations of six dryland pastures grown in Canterbury.

Lucerne for ever, Rock Farm [Photo Geoff Ridley]

Hardwick S, Ferguson CM, McCauley P, Nichol W, Kyte R, Barton DM, NcNeill MR, Philip BA, Phillips CB. Response to clover root weevil outbreaks in South Canterbury, Otago and Southland; the agricultural sector and government working together.

* Hendriks SJ, Donaghy DJ, Matthew C, Bretherton MR, Sneddon NW, Cosgrove GP, Christensen CL, Kaufononga S, Howes J, Osborne MA, Taylor PS, Hedley MJ. Dry matter yield, nutritive value and tiller density of tall fescue and perennial ryegrass swards under grazing.

* Judson HG, McKenzie S, Robinson S, Nicholls A, Moorhead AJE. Measurement techniques and yield estimates of fodder beet in Canterbury and Southland. 

* Mills AM, Smith MC, Moot DJ. Relationships between dry matter yield and height of rotationally grazed dryland lucerne.

Ferguson CM, Barton DM, Philip BA. Clover root weevil tolerance of clover cultivars.

* Hutchinson KJ, Scobie DR, Beautrais J, Mackay AD, Rennie GM, Moss RA, Dynes RA. A protocol for sampling pastures in hill country.

Derrick Moot on lucerne, Rock Farm [Photo Geoff Ridley]





Posted in Science policy

A web of intrigue

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.

Velvet leaf (Abutilon theophrasti) in a fodder beet crop [photo Beef +Lamb New Zealand]
Velvet leaf (Abutilon theophrasti) in a fodder beet crop [via Beef +Lamb New Zealand]

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.

[from National Farming Review 2015]
[from National Farming Review 2015]

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.

Posted in Science policy

Expand your mind, change your world

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.

Tell me more about my research investment

Beef + Lamb New Zealand invests in R&D that strives to meets the needs of farmers and the sector. Some of this research was presented at AgInnovation in Palmerston North last month. All of the presentations are available on the Beef + Lamb New Zealand website but here are those that are part of our research investment.

Hyperspectral Imaging Technology and its Use in Agriculture, Professor Ian Yule, Massey University


The Seven Wonders of Plants that May Change Our Hill Country, Kioumars Ghamkhar, AgResearch

A variety of clover species and hybrid for use in the breeding programme [photo Geoff Ridley]
A variety of clover species and hybrid for use in the breeding programme [photo Geoff Ridley]

Management of Californian Thistle by Mowing and Biocontrol, Mike Cripps, AgResearch

[photo AgResearch]
[photo AgResearch]

Ewe Longevity and WastageDr Anne Ridler, Massey University

[photo Massey University]
[photo Massey University]

Why Body Condition Score? How Much Do I Feed to My Ewe to Get it to Gain a Unit of BCS?Dr Nicola Schreurs, Massey University

Nutrition of Hoggets in Pregnancy and Lactation to Maximise OutputsDr Rene Corner-Thomas, Massey University



Posted in Science policy

Deconstruct to reconstruct

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.

[ from the New Zealand Listener, Gahan Wilson]
[ from the New Zealand Listener, Gahan Wilson]

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.

The perfect flat white

Over the last year we have been looking at the research that Beef + Lamb New Zealand have been supporting. There was a lot of discussion at the Hill Country Symposium held in Rotorua [April 2016]. And we have been talking to researchers about taking the information from component research and building it into farm systems research, and that is how we are reconstructing that coffee?

Perfectly constructed flat white [constructed by Mojo]
Perfectly constructed flat white [constructed by Mojo]

That is the aim. So watch this space.


Posted in Science policy

When the pods went pop on the broom

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.

Broom covered hillside [Martin de Ruyter/Fairfax NZ]
Broom covered hillside [Martin de Ruyter/Fairfax NZ]

Podcasts for farmers

Aaron Meikle, senior extension manager, is putting podcasts on the Beef + Lamb New Zealand web site. These are experts providing advice on a wide range of farming topics. They also include scientists, such as Dave Leathwick, talking about what their research means for farmers and farming. In Dave’s case he talks about drenching and worm control in sheep.

Broom flowers [photo AgPest]
Broom flowers [photo AgPest]

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:

Allen RB, Lee WG 2001. Woody weed dispersal by birds, wind and explosive dehiscence in New Zealand R.B. New Zealand Plant Protection 54: 61-66.


Note: “When the pods went pop on the broom” is from A Runnable Stag by John Davidson (1922)

Posted in Caring for animals

The JDR what?


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

The man himself
The man himself

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.


MAP [photo JDRC]
MAP [photo JDRC]

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:

Johne’s disease – management for New Zealand sheep

Johne’s disease – management for New Zealand beef cattle and dairy replacements

Some key points from the fact sheets:

Good practice for Sheep

  • Vaccinate lambs at 4 weeks or at weaning in high risk flocks
  • Blood test sheep showing signs of wasting and cull immediately if test positive
  • Maintain ewes in optimum condition assessing stocking rates and levels of nutrition
  • Where possible reduce the impact of stressful events (e.g. review timing of shearing and weaning)
  • Implement a preventative flock health programme (parasites, facial eczema, foot-rot, flystrike, pneumonia)
  • Isolate stock that are unwell

Good practice Cattle

  • Testing any animals with signs of Johne’s disease ASAP
  • Culling all Johne’s disease test positive cattle ASAP
  • Culling the most recent calves from clinical cases or high positive cows
  • Purchasing only healthy and JD test negative stock
  • Keeping all infected or suspect stock (including other species) away from calves and young stock and the pasture they graze on
  • Maintaining good overall herd health


Read more at the Johne’s Disease Research Consortium website

Posted in Conferences, Science policy

He marched them up to the top of the hill

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again.

From the Hill Country Symposium

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Hill Country Symposium and gave links to the important articles. I know how busy you are and that you haven’t had time to look at them all. So, I thought I would blog about individual articles over the next few months.

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.

The girls awaiting their hill adventure [photo Paul Muir]
The girls awaiting their hill adventure [photo Paul Muir]

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.

Back from the hills [photo Paul Muir]
Back from the hills [photo Paul Muir]

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”.

Read the whole paper:

Muir PD, Thomson BC, Ward KR, Bicknell N 2016. Cull dairy cows as a flexible tool for pasture control on East Coast hill country. Hill Country Symposium Grassland Research and Practice Series 16: 333-337.

Posted in Science policy

Getting the measure of your bench

Benchmarking is one of the most important things you can do. As James Burke said:

You have to know where you have been to know where you are going’.

So to know where we’ve been Beef + Lamb New Zealand publishes, each year, a Compendium of New Zealand Farm Facts. The new 2016 40th edition is now available.

2016.05.01 Compendium 2016

The lastest cool facts

Did you know that there are 19.2 million breeding ewes in New Zealand!

And that 45% of the national flock are Romneys.

Smug Romney [photo Graham Brown]
Smug Romney [photo Graham Brown]

And that 36% of the national beef herd are Angus.


Angus cattle [photo PHOTO NZ]
Flash mob [photo PHOTO NZ]

Compendium of New Zealand Farm Facts, 2016 40th edition

Posted in Caring for animals, Growing pasture

When dogs rule the world

Did you know that most farm dogs get fed once a day and that most common diet is a combination of dry food and homekill. Yet we don’t know much about the nutrient and energy demands of these essential members of the farm staff. You can read more about this at Massey University’s Working Dog Centre.

[photo Ross Patterson]
[photo Ross Patterson]

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.

A farmer ring in a lucerne paddock [photo Geoff Ridley]
A farmer ring in a lucerne paddock [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

Lucerne [photo Geoff Ridley]
Lucerne [photo Geoff Ridley]

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:

  • Spray out the grass
  • Spray for grass grub
  • Spray for plantain moth
A close study of plantain [photo Geoff Ridley]

Read more about the new pasture mixes for boosting sheep growth.