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Partnership Beefs Up The Eyeball Test With No Cost To Farmer

Media Release
17 October 2012

Partnership Beefs Up The Eyeball Test With No Cost To Farmers

Hamilton, NZ - Leading farm management software provider Farmax has partnered with Beef + Lamb New Zealand to give farmers a free sward stick and instructional package that will improve the accuracy of pasture cover eye appraisals and help farmers with their seasonal pasture management.

While it might look like nothing more than a simple plastic ruler, the sward stick is as accurate as a digital pasture probe. The calibrations on the Farmax and Beef + Lamb New Zealand sward stick were developed and based on extensive research by AgResearch scientists.

“A sward stick is what we recommend for assessing pasture cover on sheep and beef hill country. No other technology can handle the contours. It’s an excellent tool for developing a farmer’s eye assessment and checking if it is correct. While it may be small, it’s a really important tool in the pasture management toolkit,” said Farmax technical specialist Steven Howarth.

“Eye assessment supported by a sward stick is an accurate method that enables farmers to start considering their different seasonal pastures. Combined with a farm management system like Farmax, farmers can accurately manage their covers to support the stock they have now and determine if there is enough feed to get through critical periods such as winter.”

Hastings farm consultant John Cannon has been in the business for 15 years and works with more than 30 farmers a month, many with very large farms. He said sward sticks were particularly helpful for standardising pasture assessments between consultant and farmer.

He also said the sward stick was essential for anyone learning to do eye assessments or starting to use a farm management software system.

“There might be some differing opinions about pasture cover based on your eye assessments – the sward stick standardises them so there is no guess work. You simply chuck it in the front of your bike and take it with you around the farm. It’s simple to use, accurate, doesn’t require a lot of training and it helps you become a capable pasture assessor in a very short period of time. Best of all – it’s free.”

Hildreth Romneys’ farm manager Mark Thomas is one of John’s clients and has used a sward stick for more than 10 years.

Hildreth Romneys is a 600 hectare farm with120 paddocks and more than 6000 animals ranging from mixed aged ewes to trading cattle. Mark appraises pasture growth daily throughout the year, and once a month he uses a sward stick to check his appraisals are accurate before entering his pasture cover data into Farmax.

“One day six of us were discussing the farm’s pasture cover, each estimating how much we thought it had. There was 800 to 900 kilos difference between some of the estimates. To get an accurate reading we used the sward stick. It was really interesting to see how far out some of the estimates were, and that’s why the sward stick is invaluable.”

He said nobody wants to run out of grass, and getting pasture growth right was one of the simplest things a farmer could do to improve their production, and make more money.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand general manager Farm, Richard Wakelin said the organisation was committed to delivering tools and services to farmers that help them make good decisions on their farms, and the sward stick was particularly useful for assessing pasture covers.

The free sward stick package contains two sticks and an instructional CD. To get a package contact Farmax on 0800 327 629 or 07 981 5056.


Farmax technical specialist Steven Howarth with the free Farmax and Beef + Lamb New Zealand sward stick

Click for big version.


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