Adapting to the market key strategy
Constantly adapting to industry changes and being open to trying new crops has been the key to success for the Taggart family of North Canterbury.
Farming 730ha between Oxford and Cust, this season the family is investigating the potential for growing sunflower seed after a trip to Europe got Roscoe Taggart, who manages the family farm, interested in the possibilities of the crop.
Their cropping operation is ever changing and sees them growing a wide variety of crops including cereal crops such as wheat and barley and seed crops including grass, white clover, radish, beet and Chinese cabbage.
“People ask me what we grow and I always say ‘whatever we can get a contract for’,” says Rosoe. “We are always looking for alternative crops options.”
Working in with the arable business is a smaller sheep and beef operation, which sees them finishing up to 5000 lambs and 100-200 cattle each year. They also have 1000 breeding ewes.
The sheep have moved from a Coopworth base to Texel. For the past three years Romney Texel replacements have been purchased with the Inverdale gene, which increases lambing percentages.
From scanning at 170-180% this season they are scanning at 200% so the outcomes look positive.
Roscoe says that last season they had five sets of quadruplets and one set on quintuplets. Although large numbers per ewe are not ideal twins or triplets would be the aim, he says.
The only downside is that a sheep with the Inverdale gene cannot be breed with another with that gene so replacements need to be bought in each year but the economics of producing more lambs far outweighs this cost.
The long term plan though is to possibly eliminate the ewe flock entirely and put that land into cropping. About half the farm was purchased just five years ago so the family is still developing it.
This area of the farm is peat soils and quite swampy so they have been installing Novaflo drainage. Once dried out sufficiently the soils have been excellent nutrient rich producers.
For example where the family used to yield seven to eight tonnes of wheat per hectare on dryland areas of the farm on this peat soil they are producing 10 tonnes plus.
Once this area is irrigated they expect this figure could rise to 14-15 tonnes.
Each member of the family owns some of the land that makes up the overall farming operation including Roscoe, his parents Murray and Gina and his grandmother Barbara and grandfather, also called Roscoe.
Later this year Roscoe will marry his partner Gracie Fraser who will also join the family business. His grandparents purchased the farm, his parents installed irrigation and Roscoe aims to leave his own mark on the land.
He is keen to pursue more precision agricultural methods, managing inputs and outputs and increasing efficiency. A recent purchase is indicative of his aims, a tractor and drill with GPS tracking and auto steer for more efficient and accurate work.
“We have no intention of finishing everything and just being happy with it,” says Roscoe.
“We’ve always got to be pushing for more efficient ways to do things.” He has also recently taken on the role of vice chairperson of arable for Federated Farmers North Canterbury.
He says he is keen to help bridge the divide between urban and rural, engaging people with agriculture again.
“When you go overseas people really value their agricultural industries. In New Zealand at the moment there is a lot of negativity towards farmers. We have to work to change that so people understand what it is farmers really do and the contribution they make.”
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