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ForageMaster key to improving pasture selection

MEDIA RELEASE

DATE: 14 January 2005

ForageMaster key to improving pasture selection

New computer software that gives farmers the tools to select pasture and forage crop cultivars is another step forward to lifting farm productivity, says Meat & Wool New Zealand.

Identifying the best forage species for an individual farming environment is a continuing problem for farmers faced with the choice of 40 forage species and 250 cultivars.

ForageMaster is a new computer software programme developed by AgResearch and funded by Meat & Wool New Zealand that allows farmers the information they need to select the right forage and pasture species for their environment.

Meat & Wool New Zealand CEO Mark Jeffries says ForageMaster is an easy-to-use programme that allows farmers to identify from the vast number of species and cultivars available, the best seed mix options for their environmental and management conditions. "This tool will improve farmers' decision-making and assessment of the costs and returns for their property."

Farmers will have an opportunity to see ForageMaster in action at workshops being held by Meat & Wool New Zealand next month.

"Farmers have told us that they want independent information on forage selection and management. The workshops and ForageMaster software meets this need" Jeffries says.

"The workshops will look at calculating the costs and benefits of regrassing, which species and cultivar to sow, best establishment practices, and management of new pasture to achieve maximum performance and persistence."

ForageMaster workshops will follow a similar format to Meat & Wool New Zealand's Pasture Quality Workshops, and farmers attending the workshop will receive a ForageMaster CD Rom, a manual and a booklet on the principles of forage selection, establishment and management.

Dates and Venues for each workshop are below

Workshop Dates & Venues

North Island

Tangiteroria Feb 8

Maramarua Feb 9

Gisborne Feb 10

Dannevirke Feb 14

Waipukurau Feb 15

Masterton Feb 16

Feilding Feb 18

Taumaranui Feb 22

Bay of Plenty Feb 23

Mangamingi, Taranaki Feb 28

South Island

Blenheim Feb 8

Cheviot Feb 9

Rangiora Feb 10

Dunsandel Feb 14

Ashburton Feb 15

Cave Feb 16

Waimate Feb21

Ranfurly Feb 22

Lumsden Feb 24

Oamaru Feb 25

A must attend for farmers

Farmers have identified the importance of independent information on Forage Selection and Management. These Meat & Wool New Zealand funded workshops have been designed to meet that need.

What does the workshop cover?

The four hour interactive workshop provides best practice information gathered through years of research funded by levies and industry. It includes:

- Discussion with other farmers on how they select and establish forages.

- How to calculate the costs and benefits of regrassing and forage cropping.

- Which species and cultivars to sow including demonstration of the ForageMaster software.

- Best practice forage establishment.

- Management of new pastures to achieve maximum performance and persistence.

Farmers get a take-home package which includes:

- Booklet on principles of forage selection, establishment and management.

- ForageMaster forage selection software on CD-Rom and manual.

Why should farmers attend?

Forage cropping and regrassing can be highly profitable. This workshop provides best practice information on how to get it right.

The workshop has been developed and is delivered by independent parties.

The Cost:Benefit Calculator and ForageMaster forage selection software are exclusive to workshop attendees.

The workshop utilises a similar format to the Meat & Wool New Zealand Pasture Quality Workshops attended by over 2500 farmers.

The workshop maximises interaction and discussion time by limiting participant numbers to 30.

Most costs of developing this workshop have been covered by levy payers. It's a good way to capture a return on your levy investment.

Cost: Benefit Calculation Critical

With Meat & Wool New Zealand funding, AgResearch has developed a cost:benefit calculator for farmers. This is part of the ForageMaster Software that will be supplied at the workshop. The calculator allows farmers to select estimated costs and returns from a database or enter their own figures for a more accurate prediction of the potential return on investment from new forages.

ForageMaster Forage Selection Software

Workshop attendees will receive a copy of the ForageMaster software on CD-Rom. ForageMaster allows farmers to sort through the myriad of forage and pasture species available and pick the mixture most suited to their needs.

Users enter their soil type, soil fertility, the establishment and management that will be used e.g. set stocking vs rotational grazing. They also select the features most important to them such as drought or pest tolerance.

Users are also able to trade-off between the relative importance of forage yield and quality and rank the relative importance of production in spring, summer, autumn or winter. Having entered the information a preferred species list is provided to best meet their needs.

Finally the most appropriate companion species can be selected for the pasture mix and recommended sowing rates considered. ForageMaster also contains detailed technical information on each species including establishment and management recommendations.

Failed Renovation Expensive

Farmers invest anywhere between $300 -$1000/ha in establishing crops and pastures. Analysis suggests that about 12% of new pastures, and up to 20% of brassica crops fail.

Meat & Wool New Zealand funded AgResearch to monitor more than 250 new grass paddocks over a five year period. Information gathered included: establishment methods, soil fertility, ongoing species dissection, fertiliser inputs, grazing management and animal production recorded. This together with other industry research has allowed a best practice establishment module to be developed.

Managing for Production and Persistence

The final section covers how farmers can manage for both quantity and quality over the long-term. It includes "first grazing" through to maintaining production with fertiliser, grazing management and by minimising the environmental challenges such as drought.

Workshop Dates & Venues

The Autumn 2005 workshops are spread throughout the country and are timed for farmers to use the information for immediate decision making.

North Island

Tangiteroria Feb 8

Maramarua Feb 9

Gisborne Feb 10

Dannevirke Feb 14

Waipukurau Feb 15

Masterton Feb 16

Feilding Feb 18

Taumaranui Feb 22

Bay of Plenty Feb 23

Mangamingi, Taranaki Feb 28

South Island

Blenheim Feb 8

Cheviot Feb 9

Rangiora Feb 10

Dunsandel Feb 14

Ashburton Feb 15

Cave Feb 16

Waimate Feb 21

Ranfurly Feb 22

Lumsden Feb 24

Oamaru Feb 25

How do I book?

Each workshop runs from 1.00pm until 5.00pm and has a fee of $40 (GST Incl) to cover printed material, CD, and venue hire.

To register or for further information ring Carol Fletcher at AgResearch on (03) 325 9938 or email foragemaster@agresearch.co.nz

Early booking is recommended to secure a place.


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