From October, three North Island East Coast farms will be trialling the use of annual and perennial clovers to help realise the productive potential of their uncultivable hill country.
The farms are part of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Demonstration Farm programme, which seeks to identify tools and practices that improve farm profitability.
The outcomes of these clover trials will be used to establish best-practice management guidelines and will be shared with the wider farming community through field days and regular reports.
Simon Glennie, from AbacusBio, who has an advisory role with the Demonstration Farm programme, says the demonstration farmers will be seeking to determine how clovers could lift the productivity of their hill country, and to understand the impact they have on their whole farm system.
He says the farmers are already growing legumes and plantain on their cultivatable country and having seen the benefits of these forages, are now aiming to establish them on their uncultivatable hill country.
In a new Demonstration Farm initiative, all three farms will be working together on the same project – although each will have a different focus: one will be looking at establishment methods, another at management and a third at how the farm system can be adapted to fit the requirements of annual clovers in particular.
Glennie says the programme includes carrying out basic plot trials: looking at establishment methods, measuring dry matter production, and looking at variables such as sowing dates, species and weed control methods. The plot trials will be upscaled to farm system level, where the farmers will be looking at the timing and methods of establishment, associated weed and pest control, and grazing management.
At a farm-scale level, dry matter production will be measured and compared with alternative forage species, but will also be measured in terms of livestock production – including carrying capacity, ewe productivity and lamb liveweight gains.
Glennie says one of the challenges with the clovers will be management around re-seeding. Through the programme they are hoping to determine when and how often to shut the clovers up to allow for re-seeding to occur.
The participating farms are spread along the East Coast, from Gisborne south. While field days will be held on each of the individual farms, results from the other farms will also be presented.
Glennie says the project is piggy-backing off similar work that has been carried out in other parts of the country, including a Sustainable Farming Fund project on Wairarapa’s Castlepoint Station.