Without energy life does not exist, and the purpose of pasture is to convert energy from sunlight into food, providing the energy essential for human survival.
The conversion process is known as photosynthesis, whereby via plant leaves sunlight interacts with carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and other essential elements to provide the vegetables, grains, fruits, meat, and milk we require to be useful and productive.
There is much more besides however it’s a useful start point for this discussion. Without sunlight we cease to exist, and it is only the conversion of this energy via plants that allows our current civilisation to remain.
The testing process that is currently relied on to provide the nutrients that ensure both pasture and crops flourish largely ignores the energetic side of the equation with the assumption that when all essential elements are available plants and animals thrive.
Modern agriculture is based on many years of dedicated work by well-intentioned people and the volumes of research that have resulted has allowed us to progress to this point, however to go forward we have to evolve our understanding and farming practises.
The historic data is sound, providing the base from which we now progress. Where there is currently a disconnect lies with the industries that have developed from the outstanding work of scientists, thinkers, engineers, and farmers.
Over time we’ve come to expect simple answers and an easy fix for the things that haven’t worked as we’ve wanted, and that also has to change. Daily observation is a technique essential to sound farm management, along with the time to process, internalise, and make sense of what is seen, heard, and felt.
By making changes we can grow more, harvest it more efficiently, build top-soil, filter water and return nitrogen to the atmosphere. Financial surplus lifts as input costs reduce and those farmers already part of this movement become incredibly enthused by its simplicity.
Re-introducing the human factor and using existing science to put art back into farming is essential, and the systems already exist and have been in use by farmers for over fifteen years.
Both products and processes will be refined and made more efficient, however it is not necessary or helpful to try to re-invent the wheel.
We have had recent discussions with intensive dairy operators looking for answers to persistent calcium/magnesium related metabolic disorders and empty rates of 15% and above.
They know they must change but are so busy that only a quick fix can be considered, and frustration builds as it becomes obvious that a system change is required. Often a proviso that is put in place is that a reduction in animal numbers is not possible.
Recently I was told that an increase in pasture growth along with a reduction in animal ill-health issues and fewer empty cows was most welcome provided that the stocking rate of 4 cows per hectare could be maintained.
Four cows require approximate 45kg of DM/day of maintenance feed. Over 365 days that’s a total of 16,425kgDM/ha. Even if the property is growing that amount there’s no surplus so production can only be from bought in feed.
With annual N inputs of 300kg/ha that farm will be growing less pasture each year and the outcome will be an ultimatum from the bank, if not this season certainly within the following two.
On one hand this is not good, on the other it’s driving these systems rapidly to the point where fundamental change is essential if farms in their current form are to remain.
That’s one example, and where there’s one there will be another nine close to teetering. Few farms are selling and when sales do take place they tend to be at heavily reduced prices.
Farmers collectively have the solutions to their current predicament and leaving decisions to outside agencies hoping that somehow the answer will be forthcoming is not sound management.
For more information call Peter on 0800 843 809.