More integration between livestock
Summer dry and winter wet, Golden Flats farm is a mixed sheep and cropping operation located a few short kilometers from Balfour in northern Southland.
Murray and Ruby Baird purchased the 550ha farm in 1981 when Murray was just 19 years old.
The couple’s son, Jeremy returned to the farm five years ago and now manages the operation, working along side his parents – who remain heavily involved on a daily basis.
Jeremy bought 50 hectares from the home farm, leasing a further 270 hectares from the neighbour.
The entire operation is run as one unit. Jeremy’s integration into the family farm has extended to the purchase of machinery, about a third of which has been jointly purchased.
While purchasing his own tractor, the family collectively purchased seed drills, fertiliser spreaders, sprayer and a chisel plough.
“It makes the purchase of higher spec and new equipment more affordable for all of us and we’ve moved into GPS technology and section control for spreaders and sprayers. That’s delivering significant savings on fertiliser and chemicals – making sure the chemicals are going where we want them to and not in the creek.”
After collecting a BCom Ag. from Lincoln University, Jeremy gained experience working on a Canterbury farm before doing a few seasons working around Australian stations.
He says that the contacts gained during his time at Lincoln have proven to be a major benefit. He says the communication and information sharing with people now in diverse roles from farming to banking has been invaluable.
Intersected by SH96, the farm is flat and can be traversed by tractor. Jeremy says the farm is about 50/50 livestock to cropping.
“We’ve got just under 2000 ewes and they’re run on my parent’s farm. We graze about 400 dairy heifers on the leased block. We get them as calves in December, and graze them right through to mating and then they go home to have their calves. We graze hoggets over the spring on the lease block.”
Once the hoggets are gone, the lease block is shut up with surplus grass sold as silage. Jeremy says they typically collect 160 tonne each year.
The farm grows about 200ha of winter wheat, 80 hectares of spring barley, 50 hectares of autumn barley, 36 hectares of oats and 30 hectares of peas.
Jeremy says that all the wheat is grown for the dairy feed market, supplying about five different feed mills.
While a yield of eight tonne/ha can be expected from the older winter wheat, the better crops will produce 12.5 – 13 tonne/ha.
The farm aims for 9-10 tonne/ha for autumn barley and 8 tonne/ha for spring barley. The oats are all grown on contract to Harroway and Sons, with an expected yield of 7 tonne/ha.
“The peas have changed a bit this year. We used to grow white peas but we couldn’t get them this year so we have a mix of garden peas and maple peas for the export market.”
Recently everyone’s breath was held tightly when an unprecedented November snowfall dumped 4 inches of powder on 50ha of crop, flattening it.
“We sat there for two hours in the shed not knowing what to do,” says Jeremy.
“We phoned the agronomist and he came and had a look. No one could tell us what was going to happen for a couple of days and then it all stood back up again.”
Murray says that the area is frost prone with late frost affecting flowering in both winter barley and winter wheat.
Peas have also been affected in the past. Drought is the next challenge with a decent drought occurring once every 7 years, which can be reasonably relied upon.
“We plant a variety of autumn and spring crop to mitigate against drought,” explains Murray.
“The autumn crops do the majority of their growing through the spring when there is reasonably reliable rainfall and just have to finish off during the months when it’s getting a bit drier. Whereas your spring crops can get quite severely impacted by drought.”
Jeremy says that, despite the snow, this season is looking alright with a lack of disease pressure so far through the season.
The farm has come through a reasonable winter with low rainfall and good crop survival.
Going forward, Jeremy’s vision is to move from a fixed livestock and fixed cropping programme to a more integrated regime.
“I’d like to see the cropping enterprise helping the livestock enterprise financially and the livestock enterprise helping to get better yields for the cropping.”