Pasture data key tool for grass focused Taranaki family

Great role models make all the difference

The Buchanan family of Taranaki are growing more grass and using it more effectively with their driver being sustainability and profitability on their 84ha Kiore Farm at Inglewood.
George, Leigh, and their son and contract milker Robert joined the Dairy NZ Tiller Talk programme 12 months ago and are one of its 19 key farms around the country, hosting field days on farm and providing the information gathered from their monitoring as they work to increase their profit through better pasture management.
“Growing more grass is probably our main focus,” George says. “And getting more production. But growing more grass so we have less imported feed.”
Grass growth has always been a focus for the Buchanans since they bought the farm and entered the dairy industry from sheep and beef in 2008.
The farm was in great shape when they bought it, and George and Leigh have continued to improve it by regrassing with new pasture species.
“I’ve always been a believer in trying to get the most out of what you’ve got,” George says. “We’ve got a certain amount of land here, and we need to be not too reliant on imported feed. We do import feed however, we have in-shed feeding.”
He says it all comes down to having the right pasture species, growing the right cultivars so feed is there at the right times of the year, and doing what you can to look after the grasses you’ve got.
“We are trying new species all the time, and we’re probably sticking to some of the tried and true ones as well,” he says.
“As we go forward, we’re going to get more data around growth rates and we’ll know which ones are performing well.”
Since joining Tiller Talk, the Buchanans have increased their pasture monitoring significantly, and have a better handle on what they are growing and when, which allows them to make more informed management decisions around making silage and drying off, as well as be more proactive rather than reactive.
Robert has been home for two seasons and since he came back, the Buchanans have increased their cropping, this year planting a three hectare summer crop of turnips as part of the regrassing programme.
“Through our monitoring of grass growth rates, we identify some paddocks that are poor performing, throw a crop in them and go back to pasture the following season,” George says. “It’s working well.”
This season the farm has produced 100,000kgs milksolids after calving 270 cows, a little off the farm’s be st of 110,000kgs milksolids which it produced two seasons ago thanks to very favourable weather.
“The past couple of seasons have been very hard work with wet springs then very dry in the summer,” George says.
“I think we’re well placed this year. Even though it has been a hard season, cow condition is okay and covers are very good. If we get a decent season as far as climate goes we’ll be fine – but you can’t beat the weather!”
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