|Carbon Positive Farming
with Peter Burton
Functional Fertiliser Ltd
The cost of imported fertiliser products, particularly those containing soluble phosphorus and potassium have lifted sharply in price in the last six months and there is a strong likelihood they will again be more expensive in autumn.
After debt servicing fertiliser is usually the next biggest expense and when budgets are tight cutting fertiliser inputs is an easy, if misguided way to help balance the budget.
Although income from meat and milk look to remain strong over autumn the income is received after decisions on fertiliser inputs are made. With all costs continuously rising there will be the temptation to look for a cheap option.
The most productive soil fertility programmes are those with higher than usual base calcium inputs. The amount of calcium in an animal’s diet determines the size of the frame which dictates its weight, capacity, and ultimate value.
Clover is the bee's knees
As in all natural systems a good big one nearly always beats a good small one. There are exceptions, however it’s a useful rule of thumb.
Fastest growth rates are achieved by animals fully fed on clover dense pastures, without exception, due to clover being more digestible than other pasture plants.
This means that animals in their naturally allotted grazing times can eat and fully digest more kilograms of dry matter.
That dry matter often contains three to four times the amount of calcium with mature clover often containing more than 2.0 per cent calcium.
More calcium means bigger bones resulting in more meat and increased milk production, and the really good news is that calcium is the most abundant and cheapest nutrient available.
Optimum Growth Rates
All dairy farms, and many intensive fattening operations, also require magnesium on an annual basis to ensure optimum animal health and performance.
Golden Bay dolomite contains both calcium and magnesium in the carbonate form. It differs to aglime only in that instead of containing 30 – 35% calcium, 11% is magnesium.
An annual 250kg/ha application of dolomite provides 28kg/ha of magnesium, enough to ensure optimum growth rates of young animals, and minimal calcium/magnesium related metabolic disorders in high performing dairy cows.
It’s a remarkably effective insurance policy for all farms requiring annual magnesium inputs. Cows down behind hedges at five in the morning become a thing of the past relieving stress on already stretched operators and their staff.
It also provides a number of other benefits. Calcium and magnesium are removed from farms with every kilogram of meat and every litre of milk. Unless replaced regularly animal and total farm performance slides, imperceptibly at first, however by the time it’s obvious, significant income has been lost.
Loss of pasture production due to compaction over winter is a genuine issue on all farms and where severe damage has occurred total pasture production for the season may be reduced by as much as 50 per cent.
Dolomite is an outstanding natural soil conditioner helping repair damage reducing the requirement for physical aeration or cultivation.
Magnesium is also a carrier for phosphorus ensuring efficient plant uptake of this essential element. With the cost of suitable phosphorus steadily escalating reducing fertiliser costs by regularly topping up soil magnesium is a sound practice.
A 28-tonne truck and trailer load of bulk dolomite covers 112 hectare spread at 250kg/ha. On dairy farms this is best done annually, and on intensive fattening situations every second year is usually sufficient.
Because dolomite is a finely ground rock the release is steady over time and may therefore be applied at any time during the year without diminishing its outstanding impact on animal health in spring. For more information call Peter on 0800 4Dolomite (0800 436 566).