Altering the way you operate to meet your goals

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

Fickle weather is certainly a challenge this year. Soil temperatures have been the lowest we’ve seen for a very long time in September and October. They were sitting at about 10 degrees Celsius here at the usual maize planting time – ideally it should be around the 14 degree mark and rising. So we didn’t start planting as early as normal, we held off for about a week and it still wasn’t what I would call warm!

Grass growth has also been slow because of this and there are still people feeding out.

Showery weather has also stopped us getting things done. We’re here in late-October, waiting for the ground to dry out so we can finish cutting silage and plant more maize. It’s interesting given that weather forecasters predicted average rainfall for this time of year and equinox winds that could dry out the ground too much. This is now forecast for November, with predictions of slightly windier and slightly dryer-than-normal conditions but with normal temperatures developing.

Six weeks after planting, maize farmers will need to give it a kick along with a Nitrogen boost. Obviously people using effluent on paddocks may not need to do this, or might not need as much. Using dairy effluent is always a saving while being a good way to utilise the resource.

Farmers will also be side-dressing and monitoring plant populations for insect damage and weed issues. Sometimes pre-emergent sprayers don’t activate as well in very wet or very dry conditions.

A follow-up post-emergent weed spray will be required in most situations. This is the same with turnips, and winter crops. Keep monitoring for weeds and insects, spray as required and make sure to apply N six weeks after sowing.

Plantain for winter?

I’d predict not as much winter cropping will be done this year, with potential for the freshwater policy proposals to come in, pugging and N leaching, and with the emphasis on Southland farmers in the last few years. One farmer I spoke to believes he’s well within the limits for the proposed legislation as he feeds plantain to his cows in winter along with maize silage. Feeding maize silage helps dilute dietary protein, as it’s a low-protein food stuff, which helps reduce nitrate leaching in cow urine. He’s not concentrating on a small area either. This is something people may want to look at going forward. Some say ‘it is all too hard to aspire to the proposed policy’, but it’s about altering the way you operate to meet your goals and the proposed new legislation.

On another note, last month Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, who has been vegan since 2017, launched Neat Burger – an international vegan burger restaurant. With the likes of him getting on the bandwagon, vegan and plant-protein based diets are gaining traction around the world. And he’s got a big audience with 13.2 million Instagram followers, and 5.6 million on Twitter, so it’s more likely our younger generation might pick it up; and there’s likelihood we will have future generations of more vegetarian or vegan eaters as some countries become more affluent.

Meat demand

But, in saying that, a lot of people want to stick with eating meat, so there will still be worldwide demand for good quality cuts of meat. Traditionally, patties are ground meat of cull cows, which is what the plant-based protein products are replacing. There could be an issue there, but the average beef farmer producing good quality beef and good quality cuts of meat should be okay.

More and more, consumers are wanting to know where their food comes from and how it is produced, known as food provenance. This is always good for NZ farmers as people like our clean, green image. Farmers need to focus on ‘quality in, quality out’. They need to be aware of what feed they are putting in and at what time, to make sure they get the results they’re after.

Feeding animals

We’ve got the breeding sorted, so now farmers need to learn the feeding aspect of animals. We have to start feeding them the right quality feeds with good starch, high energy and low proteins. Maize silage is ideal. It’s got the grain for the starch and energy; and it’s low in protein so helps reduce N leaching. If it is harvested and processed at the right time it will serve farmers and their stock well.

We are currently taking orders for maize silage to be delivered in March from Rotorua and Tauranga areas. We can also supply grass silage, averaging 11.9 ME so far this year, and hay and straw to anyone who is in need.


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