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OVERSEER® as a tool for the future of farming

OVERSEER® as a tool for the future of farming

With sustainability becoming an increasing focus for the rural community, tools such as OVERSEER® provide free support to help farmers better manage their farm nutrients.

While the model may have been on the receiving end of criticism for its use as a regulatory tool, as nutrient loss limits come in to effect, those farmers who get in and learn the software now will be at an advantage. Nutrient budgeting and farming within nutrient loss limits are not going to go away. Using Overseer for nutrient management will help you through this.

“Overseer helps to put the control of nutrient management back in the hands of the farmer,” explains Gordon McFetridge, Bay of Plenty dairy farmer and 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme winner for the region with parents, Dennis and Judith McFetridge.

“Overseer helps to put the control of nutrient management back in the hands of the farmer,” explains Gordon McFetridge, Bay of Plenty dairy farmer and 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme winner for the region with parents, Dennis and Judith McFetridge.

Using Overseer, farmers and advisors capture personal farm data to create nutrient budgets, calculate maintenance requirements and nutrient loss. Regional councils and dairy companies require farms to have a nutrient budget in place, which is easily achieved using Overseer.

The software can also be used to model scenarios, allowing farmers to see the potential impacts of a range of activities on farm.

“Sometimes it is difficult to tell what kind of impact the activities on farm are having on the environment. Overseer helps to take away some of the guess work because you can model what you are doing and change the status quo as required to get a better result,” says Mr McFetridge.

“If you were considering a project such as a wintering pad, you can capture the details into Overseer and see what impact this would have on nutrient losses to the environment, in particular around loss of nitrogen and phosphate.”

Mr McFetridge says that with the help of an advisor, like a Ballance representative, to work through the initial scenario, Overseer is intuitive to navigate and use.

“Sometimes you don't want to have to get your specialist in to make small adjustments. I wanted to be able to do it myself. I felt like I needed to know how to use it.”

“It isn’t time consuming either. You can use it as much or as little as you need. If you are not changing anything on farm you wouldn’t be using it on a regular basis.”

Ballance Area Sales Manager for the Bay of Plenty, Terry Harding, says that the benefit of someone like Gordon who knows how to use Overseer is that it makes the conversation between nutrient advisor and farmer easier, and more can be achieved during the meeting.

“We can easily discuss the fertiliser plan and the restrictions of farming within limits. Gordon understands the numbers and the regulations, and we can discuss how to reduce nitrogen and phosphate losses and improve nutrient use efficiency to make his business more profitable and sustainable.”

Mr McFetridge says that Overseer is also a great benchmarking tool.

“It fits in with the suite of tools we use as another way we can benchmark our performance year on year, like you do with your finances. When you are farming you could just drift along and not really know where you are heading. You could make a lot of slip ups. The more you can measure and monitor, the better the business will run.”

Overseer - available free at - is jointly owned by the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand and AgResearch.


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