Challenging the status quo

Pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the square were common themes at last week’s Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farm conference in Queenstown.
Monday, 8 July 2019

Innovation farmers past and present gathered to hear updates on the current projects and discuss the issues challenging the sector.

Amongst the projects updated, were establishing and utilising legumes on uncultivable hill country on the North Island’s east coast, running a legume-based, high-performance bull finishing enterprise, maximizing triplet survival, virtual fencing on a Waikato bull beef operation and an in-paddock cattle weighing system.

In a departure from the normal B+LNZ Innovation Farm structure, three farms along the east coast have joined forces to look at different aspects of establishing and utilizing legumes on their hill country. Gisborne-based Rob and Sandra Faulkner, Hawkes Bay farmer Peter Swinburn and Richard and Becs Tosswill from the Wairarapa, have all explored different ways of increasing the legume content of their hill country pastures.

All have had successes and failures, but all are sold on the benefits of getting more clover into their system to drive production and built resilience on their dryland sheep and beef farms.

Further south, Matthew and Shona Tayler were grappling with the challenges of running a high-risk- but high rewards- bull finishing system on their Southland farm, while the Marlborough-based

Dawkins family, were in the final year of refining a system that maximized triplet lamb survival. The Dawkins will also be trying to address an abortion issue, despite having a full vaccination programme in place.

Waikato bull beef farmer Neil Aitken, outlined how virtual fencing works, but challenges with the technology has caused some delays getting the project underway.  He was hopeful to get the fences up and running in the near future.

Rangitikei farmer Roger Dalrymple was working with Massey University engineers to build a portable in-paddock weighing crate for cattle. Roger finishes a large number of cattle and having the ability to weigh cattle in-situ would have numerous benefits, including highlighting which forages cattle were growing fastest on and selling animals once they had hit their target weights.

A field trip as part of the three-day conference put the Innovation Farmers in touch with Central Otago farmers who have challenged the status-quo to build their businesses.

Willie Scurr and Joanna Jones grew up together as neighbours in the Cardronna Valley. The pair joined forces to buy their respective family farms and run the business as a single entity with the support of their spouses. The business structure drew on their individual skills- Joanna as an accountant and Willie as a farmer-and included income from tourism and a snow farm.

Well-known South Canterbury dairy farmer Alvin Reid and his wife and daughter had set up the Cardronna Distillery using their collective business acumen and capital generated from the sale of dairy farms.

At Tinwald Farm on the outskirts on Wanaka, the group heard from innovative ram breeder Andy Ramsden and Andrew Bendall and Mark O’Connor from Headwaters about their breeding programme and Te Mana lamb.

With a number of Innovation Farm projects coming to a close, B+LNZ is looking for farmers interested in trying unproven or new-to-market technologies in their businesses.

Innovation Farmers will be supported by B+LNZ, AbacusBio and appropriate subject matter experts.

Find out more

For more information on the Innovation Farm programme, contact your local B+LNZ Extension Manager or go to https://beeflambnz.com/your-levies-at-work/innovation-farms