Cliff Bayliss had been farming, “man and boy”, for around 30 years when he started to question the methods he was using.
“I began to realise using chemical fertilisers wasn’t right for the soil or the animals,” says Cliff, who from the age of 10 helped with the milking on his family’s farm at Cambridge.
Then some 30 years ago, and against the trend, Cliff and Maureen Bayliss moved to a method of biological farming on their 270ha farm near Raglan.
“I guess I have always been a bit of a greenie,” says Cliff. Although he does admit that, in line with most New Zealand farmers, he and Maureen used superphosphate fertilisers and 245T on their farms in the past.
However, Cliff’s instincts and observational skills told him the soil wasn’t flourishing – there was an absence of worms and he felt his livestock were not reaching their potential.
He initially used fish fertilisers and now consults with Gerald Lane of Kiwi Fertiliser for advice and the supply of the inputs his pasture needs.
“Once we stopped using chemical fertilisers, I started to notice a difference in our beef animals, and to my eye and taste, reckoned they were producing superior, healthier meat, but I couldn’t prove it.”
Tracey’s proof (side head)
Maureen and Cliff’s daughter Tracey, who grew up on the couple’s Brookdell Farm, was to provide that proof.
After five years overseas working in investment banks and telecommunication companies, Tracey returned to New Zealand and a career change. She studied at Elite International School of Beauty Therapy, gaining national and international qualifications in beauty therapy and electrolysis. She went on to open a beauty therapy clinic in Raglan in 2005 and another, called Lime Spa, in Hamilton.
Consciously aware that healthy skin and hair – and outer beauty – was only possible if the inner body was healthy, Tracey took a keen interest in diet.
“However, I’d not made the connection between healthy, nutrient-rich food and the soil until I saw a video about chemical fertilisers and their impact on soils,” says Tracey, now the mother of six-year-old Brooklyn, who of course loves her grandad’s beef.
Tracey tackled her dad about fertilisers and was astounded to learn he hadn’t used chemical fertiliser for 30-plus years. “I grew up on the farm and enjoyed the life but really didn’t understand what was going on. When dad told me he thought his beef was more nutritious because of the way he was managing the soil, I decided to find out if we could prove it was.”
High omega levels (side head)
Tracey had meat from Brookdell Farm tested by AssureQuality and the results showed that the meat has high levels of health-giving Omega 3s and 6s and beneficial saturated animal fats.
Continuous analysis shows the beef also has higher levels of many trace elements compared to shop bought beef. “Grandad’s Beef is rich in iron and zinc and more Omega 3 and Omega 6 within the optimum ratio of 1:1. Results from the heavy metals tested in the soil also show that our levels are on average 72 per cent lower than those required for organic farming.” Brookdell is, however, not a certified organic farm.
That led Tracey to establish Grandad’s Beef, to market and sell beef produced on the farm to supermarkets, restaurants and online to the public.
“We wanted to share our great meat with other consumers and also help ensure the family farm remains financially and environmentally sustainable.”
My Kitchen Rules (side head)
Grandad’s Beef, thanks to the quality of its meat and Tracey’s marketing skills, is proving a success, with the meat now available in a number of retail outlets and restaurants.
In July this year ‘My Kitchen Rules’ judge and executive chef for Nourish Group, Gareth Stewart, who oversees 11 restaurant kitchens, visited Brookdell Farm. He wanted to see where the Grandad’s Beef, which now features on the menus of his Jervois Steak House restaurants in Auckland and Queenstown, Euro Restaurant in Auckland and Pravda in Wellington, is grown and brought with him four other top Auckland chefs.
For Tracey and Cliff it was a chance to explain the biological farming methods and the aging process which contribute to the great-tasting, healthy beef. “Our meat is aged on the bone for a minimum of two weeks.”
Gerald from Kiwi Fertiliser isn’t at all surprised that Grandad’s Beef tastes so good and is nutrient-dense. “The farm’s soils and pasture are excellent, even now, despite the exceptionally wet conditions we’ve had all year.”
Grass sugar levels (side head)
A test hole Gerard dug in mid-September revealed a reassuring number of worms, despite the heavy rain, and a brix test of grass sugar levels (not ordinarily carried out during winter) showed a reading of five. “That’s pretty good for this time of year and considering the low sunshine hours there have been.”
Gerard uses regular soil tests and analysis (through Kinsey Agricultural Services USA) to make accurate recommendations for product and quantities required for optimum soil health. Nitrogen, sulphate, phosphates, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, boron, iron, manganese, copper, zinc and cobalt levels are tested, along with pH levels and humus content.
Proof that the farm is not leaching nitrogen is confirmed by tests of its waterways, carried out this year, which show pristine clear water that is not only good enough to swim in, but good enough to drink.
Tracey is so impressed by what her parents have been able to achieve through careful management of the soil she wants to see others have the opportunity to make the switch.
Biological producers (side head)
“It wasn’t easy for Dad. There was very little information around, other than doing things the conventional way, and I think many other farmers may be reluctant to do anything different for fear it will mean a drop in production and income.”
That’s why her next project is to form a not-for-profit biological producers’ body with consultants qualified to help farmers make the transition from chemical to biological fertilisers.
“The process of conversion will take around three years and will begin with a range of tests of soil and livestock to set the starting point. Consultants will make recommendations and support the farmers as they transition, taking further tests along the way.”
Tracey has applied for funding through the Sustainable Farming Fund to assist in setting up the body she hopes will help bring about farming practices which produce healthy, nutrient-dense foods, while also helping improve water quality and enhance the environment.
To find out more about Grandad’s Beef visit www.grandadsbeef.nz