Five focus areas identified for B+LNZ’s Future Farm

// Research

After a setting-up phase, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s first Future Farm will be focusing on five areas that reflect the challenges and opportunities facing today’s sheep and beef farmers.

Dan Brier, B+LNZ’s General Manager, Farming Excellence, says B+LNZ has considered how Lanercost, their 1310ha North Canterbury hill country property, can best be utilized to help levy payers future-proof their businesses.

They have identified drench resistance, environmental management, virtual fencing, low methane genetics and accelerated genetic gain as being topics that require greater exploration.

“The immediate focus will be on managing a farm with drench resistance and using B+LNZs Farm Plan as a tool to build a better business. The future opportunities include looking at how virtual fencing can be used on a hill country farm, low methane genetics and accelerated genetic gain.”

He says by trialling and demonstrating the use of new technologies and management systems on Lanercost, B+LNZ levy payers will gain an understanding of what might and might not be appropriate for their individual businesses without taking financial or production risks.

There will also be opportunity to consider adopting and adapting outcomes of work on Lanercost to suit different farm and management systems.

“Through our extension work and communication channels, we will keep farmers up-to-date with what we are doing on Lanercost, how we are doing it and most importantly what is working and what isn’t.”

“It is about taking our levy payers on the journey with us and trialling new technologies and management practices on a commercial, hill country sheep and beef farm with all the usual climatic and economic challenges common to all farmers.”

Five focus areas

  1. Demonstration of use and application of a Farm Plan, specifically using B+LNZ’s Farm Plan and demonstrating how it can be used as part of a total farm management plan, incorporating not only environmental and resource management, but covering every aspect of the business from human resources to biosecurity and business management. It will also align with New Zealand Farm Assurance Plan (NZFAP) and NZFAP Plus requirements in time
  2. Drench Resistance: Drench resistance is a huge concern for the sheep industry in particular, with triple drench resistance having been identified on an increasing number of sheep farms, particularly in the North Island. Drench resistance has been identified on Lanercost so the farm will be able to take farmers along the journey as the management team address the issue with the help of experts.
  3. Virtual fences. Virtual fences are likely to play an increasingly important role on hill country farming systems, particularly as farmers are required, through environmental regulations, to exclude stock from waterways and wetland areas. Virtual fences could be a more cost effective and practical alternative to fencing and while they have been trialled in the USA,  Australia and New Zealand, they are unproven in this country’s terrain and farming systems. A typical hill country sheep and beef property, Lanercost will be an ideal testing ground for this technology allowing farmers to assess if virtual fences could be a solution for their property. Over time, the goal will be to find farm production and profit opportunities for virtual fencing.
  4. Low methane genetics. An outcome of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium’s work has been a research breeding value for low methane sheep. This is a world first. These genetics will become more important through He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases, and as New Zealand transitions to a carbon neutral economy. Lanercost will use low methane rams over a portion of the flock to see how the low methane sheep perform on the farm when compared to the existing genetics.
  5. Artificial Breeding of sheep Using a few high merit sires widely in a flock or herd is one way to increase the rate of change of genetic. Artificial breeding technologies will be used on the Lanercost ewe flock, demonstrating the feasibility or otherwise of using these technologies to speed genetic gain in a commercial flock.