Quality trumps quantity

Better soils
with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite

Fonterra will be using a tiered payment system for milk next season. It is about time incentives for quality milk were paid, just like they were pre-Fonterra.

Unfortunately, the top tier for the highest quality milk only reflects the seasonal standard pay-out. The other three levels are at a lower level to reflect poorer quality milk. It’s taken Fonterra 16 years to start showing an inkling of leadership, but they introduce disincentives, not incentives for quality. How about showing some initiative and rewarding quality? After all, quality milk is required to manufacture certain products.

It would have been bolder to ban PKE as the goat industry has, but since Farm Source, a Fonterra owned subsidiary is the largest importer of PKE, the bob-each-way approach has prevailed. We are a trading nation and should not compete at the bottom end of the market with commodities.

We need to produce high-quality goods that command a premium. It is well-known that PKE in particular alters the structure of the fat in the milk. That precludes butter and cheese making. PKE also negatively affects the cows’ health. In short, it shortens cows’ lives. A European study declared the NZ Dairy Goat Co-op to be the best producer in the world of quality infant formula.

Futile action

Chasing production can be a futile action. It has a high probability to increase costs. Finding out what influences profit is a far better course of action. Once you have the answers to that equation, production follows. Farms should be returning six to 12 per cent return on total investment.

At Kiwi Fertiliser, we consistently promote actions that improve quality. It all starts in the soil. Without a balanced soil, quality just cannot happen. But who has been paying for quality? Fortunately, when quality is targeted, quantity follows along with superior stock health, fertility, reduced vet bills and reduced chemical application to pastures and crops.

Those on our programme for a few years are not bothered by facial eczema, even when the neighbours are. They are not bothered by pests, and they are not bothered by mineral deficiencies or diseases, or low conception rates. The bottom line is improved and farming becomes a pleasure, not a struggle. It is working with nature at its best.

Top of game

We have been told that Miraka has two lists; one for farms with the best production, and the other for the lowest somatic cell count of the milk produced. Kiwi Fertiliser services six farms that supply Miraka. All six farms are on both lists. The moral of the story is clear. If you want to produce top quality milk, (or meat, fruit, grain or vegetables) pick up the phone and call Kiwi Fertiliser. We are only too happy to help you to get to the top of your game.

Grandad’s Beef is a Kiwi Fertiliser client. They have been farming for 36 years and only use natural fertilisers. Grandad’s Beef produce and market biological and sustainable beef. The meat they market has superior taste and very healthy Omega 6:3 ratios of 1:1, as measured by analysis. Grandad’s Beef sells to leading restaurants in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Queenstown. They will need to find other suppliers as they grow. www.grandadsbeef.nz

It’s really very simple. Cows are designed to consume pasture. The reality is if you want to make profit; stop buying production. Use the urea money, the PKE money, the herbicide money, the animal health money to get off the not-so-merry-go-round and fix the soil. It all starts there.

Isn’t it ironic that one fertiliser company is advertising the benefits of applying selenium when superphosphate applications have been implicated as a cause of selenium deficiency in sheep and cattle in parts of NZ (Andrews et al., 1968)?

Superior hay

Some decades ago, I was asked by an older farmer if I knew how to make hay in April. My response was that I couldn’t even make hay in March. The reason for this was that NPK pasture was of too poor quality to be able to dry down while the weather or location was marginal. Now, with biological methods, making hay of superior quality in a four-day window, and silage in a two-day window is completely possible.

When the farmer and the contractor both know what they are doing, superior pasture and other crops can be baled for silage or hay within the two to four days required. The key is to grow quality forage. When the phosphate, calcium, magnesium and boron are at luxury levels in the plants, the plants are packed solid full of sugars, not water.

They dry down quickly. When stock eat the forage, baled or not, they respond with extra weight gain or milk, and they eat less of it. There is less wastage. Even the calves can be weaned onto high-quality balage without complaint.


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