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Productivity on Northland farms can be high

Productivity on Northland farms can be as high as other regions: seminar

Do you find utilising pasture and maintaining pasture quality a factor limiting your production in spring? Do you struggle with the huge variation in spring production from season to season affecting profit and the sustainability of your farming business?

A number of nationally recognised farmers, consultants and researchers are participating in a seminar designed to address these issues. If you are a pastoral farmer or a rural professional, you will be challenged by our speakers and also be able to contribute your ideas to future Northland pastoral research.

The seminar, at Whangarei’s Barge Showgrounds on the afternoon of Friday February 18, is part of a Sustainable Farming Fund project, Northland Pastoral Extension, co-ordinated by the Northland Pastoral Farming Development Group. It is designed to help farmers improve their spring pasture and animal production by taking the right steps this autumn.

There will be three keynote speakers presenting the findings of research that is highly relevant to the Northland situation. Adrian van Bysterveldt from Dexcel will cover the principles of grazing management in terms of what impact grazing management has on spring production. He will also discuss the Lincoln University farm’s huge lift in production and profit from applying controversial grazing practices, which received some publicity last year. Mike O’Connor from AgResearch will present data from his Northland research that will illustrate the importance of good soil fertility, including strategic nitrogen applications, in improving our spring pasture production. Keith Betteridge, also from AgResearch, will discuss the impact of pugging damage based on trial work in Northland and elsewhere as well as highlighting opportunities to be considered for reducing our severe pugging damage.

While Northland’s springs are generally regarded as a constraint to production, two speakers at the seminar will present data suggesting that production can be as high here as it is elsewhere, by comparing Northland’s pasture and climate to Waikato.

In addition, a Northland dairy farmer and a sheep and beef farmer will outline their techniques for increasing spring production.

Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton is to open the event and will discuss the Government’s views on research for the pastoral sector.

Another important component of the day is the workshop, ”Identifying & Prioritising Research Needs For Better Spring Production”, where participants will have the opportunity to share their thoughts regarding what research is needed for Northland farmers to be able to grow their businesses in the short and medium term.

Formed in 2003, the Northland Pastoral Farming Development Group brings together representatives from the dairy, beef and sheep sectors, as well as service providers, suppliers and agricultural consultants. The group’s mission is “to grow the Northland pastoral industry through partnership and co-ordination.”

Farming is Northland’s biggest earner, bringing about $800 million a year in direct income into the region, but is believed to have potential to contribute even more.

The Northland Pastoral Farming Development Group is co-ordinating a three-year project to help increase Northland’s agricultural productivity by making research information more readily available to farmers.

The project is primarily funded by the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry’s Sustainable Farming Fund but has also secured support from NZ Trade & Enterprise and the private sector.

Development group chairman Laurie Copland says often, relevant research work has been carried out but farmers are not aware of it, or it has been published in a form which is not readily accessed by farmers.

“The sheer size of the industry means that even small gains in productivity could have a big dollar impact for Northland,” says Mr Copland.

Farmers, researchers and consultants interested in attending the seminar should contact Enterprise Northland.

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