Farm trial tracks emissions, profitability

Farm trial tracks emissions, profitability
Mid Canterbury farmer Nick Hoogeveen is taking part in a DairyNZ project involving 12 farms across New Zealand. The Partnership Farm Project is analysing how changes on farm can reduce emissions and nitrogen leaching and the resulting impact on profitability and productivity.

Carew-based farmer Nick Hoogeveen’s dairy farms are part of an 18-month long DairyNZ project seeking to understand how changes on farms can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen leaching and the resulting impact on profitability and productivity.
Nick’s farm is one of 12 farms across New Zealand taking part in the Partnership Farm Project, modelling 44 different farm systems.
“Basically the last eight seasons of the farms’ financial and physical data have been analysed and a series of recommendations to achieve the objectives have been given. We will be implementing some of the lower cost options,” he explains.
For example next season Nick will increase the cow numbers at the peak of the season then lower numbers from March onwards when there is more risk of leaching due to slower grass growth, meaning less nutrient absortion by the plants.
He will also not spread artificial nitrogen in May for the same reason.
“We are focusing on using less fertiliser and bought in feed supplements each year while maintaining profitability.  Last season we bought in 800kgDM/cow feed and this season we are in track for about 550kgDM with the same level of production. We have reduced artificial N by about 50kg/ha and have used more Ammo rather than straight urea to capture some synergistic response between the nitrogen and sulphur that makes the nitrogen more effective.”
The farms’ irrigation system has also had some changes with an automatic pulse that shuts on and off and new nozzles resulting in water being applied more evenly with the aim of reducing leaching
.Nick also plans to increase plantain when re-grassing from one kilogram of seed per hectare to four kilograms due to the plantain’s ability to reduce N leaching as when cows eat it the result is less nutrient rich urine.
Plantain roots also lock more nitrate into soil and in doing so prevent run-off into waterways.
Farm trial tracks emissions, profitability
Nick and wife Demelza farm in an equity partner-ship with three farming families.
A farm manager is in charge of each of the farms – Katoa Dairy, a 212ha effective unit with 715 jersey friesian cows and Wainui Dairy, a 238ha effective farm with 805 cows.
The first farm has a 60 bale rotary shed and the second farm a 50 bale rotary.
Nick has always been a big believer in being an early adopter of new technologies and is willing to trial technology from emerging companies to fast track its acceptance in the rural sector.
He is currently involved in a Farmote trial measuring pasture growth on his farms.
The farms also utilises Harvest, a wireless telemetry system that monitors a number of key aspects in real time including soil moisture and temperature, milk silo levels and temperatures and effluent and irrigation pond levels.
His interest in science and technology is not surprising considering he has completed a three year trade certificate in farming, went to Lincoln University for four years completing a Bachelor of Commerce in Agriculture majoring in rural valuation then finished it off with a post graduate diploma in human resources and information technology.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Technology will help the rural sector to deal with environmental issues going forward and it’s about being proactive to help the industry.”
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