Below are monthly articles and small excerpts, to read the full article please click on the blue heading.
What will be the change kicker? - May 2017 - Peter Burton
It was interesting to receive a phone call from a retired economist recently. He rang to say that the point made in my latest article that farmers were not to blame for the practises resulting in environmental degradation, instead fault lay with the advice they received, in his view “hit the nail on the head”.
We discussed a number of aspects related to this issue particularly the loss of soil carbon as a result of excessive fertiliser nitrogen applications and agreed that the continued loss of production that resulted could not continue much longer.
Fewer cows is not the answer - April 2017 - Peter Burton
Two reports just released reviewing New Zealand’s environmental performance, (OECD and GLOBE NZ) have both called for a substantial reduction in animal livestock numbers.
Prime Minister Bill English has stated that the Government has no intention of demanding the one third cut called for in the reports.
It's easy to throw stones - February 2017 - Peter Burton
When everyone in the farming industry is either hurting, or at least feeling like it might be their turn soon, it’s easy to let rip and at the moment the dairy industry resembles a barn door and therefore an easy target.
What’s important to remember is that the dairy farming industry is made up of individuals, with families, and they are all affected to a greater or lesser degree by continued criticism.
It's all about power - January 2017 - Peter Burton
Rachel Stewart’s recent column on the Advertising Standards Authority decision, on the Greenpeace TV advertisements, should be taken seriously by famers, because the Authority is simply reflecting what the majority of people believe.
It’s an argument that DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and Fonterra can’t win and to continue to tell their members and customers, the public at large, that they’re wrong, just makes them look out of touch, and somewhat daft.
What you may not already know - December 2016 - Peter Burton
A popular belief at present is that a concerted push to reduce the environmental pressure of intensive pastoral farming will mean less pasture grown, resulting in decreasing total farm production, smaller factories and associated infra-structure, fewer dollars being circulated, a decline in economic activity, with communities as a whole suffering.
In essence, there is an acceptance that present pasture and farm production can only be maintained through the continued degradation of soil.
Why it won't make any difference - November 2016 - Peter Burton
The official report states sheep are the likely source of the campylobacter contamination of the Havelock North water supply.
For those that believe dairy cows are the source of all contaminants in our groundwater it just doesn’t matter, they will continue to berate individual farmers and the industry as a whole.
Why physical integrity is key - October 2016 - Peter Burton
Fundamental changes in soil fertility practice are already underway, and people are finding their way into one of three camps.
There are those that understand common usage doesn’t necessarily make any practice the best option and are embracing new technologies, or are busy canvassing all their options in preparation for change.
Summer surplus - the measure of success - September 2016 - Peter Burton
The official advice has been to arrange calving in July, in order to maximise milk harvest before the end of December. This points up a lack of faith in summer pasture production.
Yet by discounting the value of summer growth, the potential available from one third of the lactation period is largely ignored. But long term growth figures from the major dairying areas (with perhaps the exception of Canterbury) do not support the concept of unreliable and slow summer growth.
Are we seeing the death of science - August 2016 - Peter Burton
“Where’s your replicated peer reviewed research?” It’s been the question asked endlessly in recent years of those operating on the fringes of the conventional fertiliser industry.
It’s essential to appreciate that there are no long term trials on any of the widely used fertiliser products being sold today, with the exception of Sechura phosphate rock from Peru, which was being used in the 1980s.
The rules have changed, and changed again - July 2016 - Peter Burton
Last month’s article headed, ‘The rules have changed’, started with, ‘the European Union has just refused to grant Monsanto a new license for Glyphosate’.
On the 29th June in the UK’s Guardian there was an article headed, Controversial chemical in Roundup weedkiller escapes immediate ban, followed by, Glyphosate, key ingredient in Monsanto’s bestselling herbicide, has its European licence extended for 18 months despite warnings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) it is ‘probably carcinogenic’.
The rules have changed - June 2016 - Peter Burton
The European Union has just refused to grant Monsanto a new license for Glyphosate. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, it signals the start of a fundamental change in agriculture worldwide.
Sufficient people worldwide have taken action (protests, petitions, and submissions), which will result in a seismic shift in farming practises. The desire by consumers to eat meat and vegetables grown from soils ‘uncontaminated’ by weedicides, pesticides, and heavy metal residues will continue to change the way food is produced.
A way up for pastoral farmers - May 2016 - Peter Burton
Do you realise that the amount of carbon in your soils affects how much they produce?
A very readable and informative paper on soil carbon produced by the Bay of Plenty Regional Authority in 2011 contains the following passage, “Most pastoral soils in New Zealand are generally considered to be rich in organic carbon so large increases in productivity are not expected by adding more organic matter.
Kiwi ingenuity provides genuine alternative - March 2016 - Peter Burton
We’re all aware that nitrogen is one of the essential elements to get plants to grow.
What some farmers don’t seem to realise is that there is already tonnes of it in our soils, not to mention it being a major part of the air around us. The only hitch is that this soil or air nitrogen needs a bit of help from nature to make it suitable for plants to use.
Everyone's responsibility - February 2016 - Peter Burton
In the latest the latest Rural News, February 16, there’s an article headed Everybody’s Job, which begins with, “Dairy NZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle says dairy farming’s reputation with the public matters.
Mackle says the industry’s standing with new Zealanders and its markets impacts the ability to operate profitably and successfully.
“We have to invest in our reputation as we would in any other asset that underpins our competitiveness,” he says.”
Permanent pasture is for a reason - February 2016 - Peter Burton
The pasture on New Zealand farms has long been famous for its clover/grass mixture, and much of our agricultural economy has succeeded on it.
But somewhere along the line the scientific reasoning behind it has slipped from memory, and along with that seems to have disappeared the idea that pasture is permanent. These days we not only have rotational grazing, but rotational pasture renewal as well. This practice not only disturbs the soil life at regular intervals, but comes with considerable cost as well.
Why smaller farms can thrive - January 2016 - Peter Burton
Although dairy and lamb prices will inevitably rise sometime, most projections indicate no marked improvement during the next twelve months.
Keith Woodford, in his recent predictions for farming, suggests that the number of smaller family operated farms will steadily decline. However we’re not so sure.
Keeping carbon in the ground, not in the air - December 2015 - Peter Burton
The environmental debate around intensive pastoral farming and fresh water quality is gaining momentum, and people are rapidly taking positions, with the “don’t blame me” lobby seemingly gathering popularity.
Two things worth bearing in mind are, that a supply of clean fresh drinking water for both humans and animals now and into the future is non-negotiable in this country. Nothing less is acceptable and rightly so.
Something old, something new - November 2015 - Peter Burton
The financial situation that dominates activities of the farming community right now is not new. In the late 1980’s the dairy and sheep industries were in similar straits, compounded by interest rates of 15 – 20% at that time.
In one sense it was easier to handle then, because the hole being so deep, and money so expensive, there was little an individual farmer could do; it was just a case of box on and hope for the best.
How much nitrogen is too much? - October 2015 - Peter Burton
The rules of the dairy game have changed, and will change again. As one farmer recently stated “the pressure is relentless.”
For years the supposed demand has been for increased production, regardless of cost, the health of the soil, and the welfare of animals (despite the original request asking for increased ‘productivity’.)
Spoiling soil health to get production is dumb - September 2015 - Peter Burton
The argument that, if coming environmental standards are too tough, production from farms will necessarily decline, factories will close, people will lose jobs and the country at large will suffer, requires careful consideration and a broad-minded approach.
Embodied in that argument is the acknowledgement that, under current production models, with the focus on intensive dairying, the environment is deteriorating. At least the realisation is there. Few would argue that continued damage, particularly the effect on water quality, can continue indefinitely. It must stop at some point.
Low cost pasture - August 2015 - Peter Burton
Well volatility may have done its worst, but dairy farmers’ need to grow grass is more important than ever this season.
At a recent farmer meeting an accountant from a large nationwide accounting firm stated that for the last season the two most profitable dairy farmers on his books were those that applied the least amount of nitrogen.
Growing more pasture is the future - July 2015 - Peter Burton
The financial dilemma dairy farmers find themselves in, is only in part the result of reduced market returns. The other reason is the ever-increasing cost of producing a kilogram of milk solids, and that’s been ongoing for many years.
For dairy farmers to remain solvent and retain their equity in animals and land, more milk solids must be produced from grazed pasture. This means growing more pasture, and there is the ability to do that on virtually every dairy property in the country.
Magnesium - Cinderella of NZ Agriculture - May 2015 - Peter Burton
“We can no longer afford to think in terms of N P and K; we must include S and Mg.” This statement is from an article titled, Magnesium – Cinderella of NZ Agriculture, written 50 years ago by M.R.J. Toxopeus a scientist at the Ruakura Research Centre.
The continued application of superphosphate containing more sulphur than phosphorus, and the inclusion of elemental sulphur where necessary, has largely attended to sulphur requirements since then, but little has been done to address magnesium deficiencies.
Why dolomite in autumn saves time and money - March 2015 - Peter Burton
In the past, when dairy income has been tight, withholding autumn fertiliser has been seen as a valid means of containing costs.
But is it a sound option? Farmers that spent less on feed last spring, without reducing animal numbers, are reporting fewer cows in-calf than usual. Empty cows are a real extra cost that will impact negatively on next season’s production.
What they don't want you to know - February 2015 - Peter Burton
It’s hard to believe, given the amount of fertiliser involved, but based on verifiable figures permanent pasture production here in New Zealand has steadily declined since the late 1970s/early 80s.
Not new information, it’s been stated and published before, while the rebuttal has been an unconvincing, “the measuring is done differently now, so the figures don’t relate.”
More product for less cost - January 2015 - Peter Burton
The required Nitrate N leaching levels that dairy farms will have to meet in future will be calculated by Overseer, and the model at present assumes that all urine contains the same concentration regardless of the type of feed eaten.
To meet the allowable leaching levels the focus will need to shift from overall milk production from ever expanding herds, to fewer cows/herd, and maximising individual cow production.
Why spring's been less of a challenge for some - December 2014 - Peter Burton
As one farmer client stated “this spring has been a challenge”, and he’s referring specifically to pasture growth over the last three months.
In the cooler areas of the Bay of Plenty, and the pattern by most accounts has been similar country wide, there’s been a few warm bright days, interspersed with yet another band of buffeting chilling souwesterly winds.
Lower payout unmasks the real problem - November 2014 - Peter Burton
The simple remedy for a lower dairy payout is to produce more kilograms of milksolids, but in nearly every situation that works only if the extra is generated from pasture.
To produce more from pasture an increase in the total amount grown is required. And the unpalatable truth is that annual pasture production is on a steady decline and has been for the last twenty years.
Enjoying family gatherings - October 2014 - Peter Burton
A report of Dairy NZ’s recent annual meeting quoted Dairy NZ director Alister Body as saying that he was apprehensive about going to social gatherings knowing someone might “have a go” about dairy farming.
Chief executive Tim Mackle was also quoted as saying that the industry acknowledged it used to be naive but that was years ago. “We have moved on from the time when we were damaging the environment unashamedly. We know what we are doing now and are continually trying to improve how we conduct our business.”
A near perfect start to the season - September 2014 - Peter Burton
A welcome dollop of warm rain has activated spring. It’s as though a switch has been flicked, perhaps not for everyone but for those areas that experienced a dry frosty August spring growth has erupted.
Accelerated growth has also brought a dramatic change in farmer mood, from one of increasing nervousness to relaxed calmness. The early part of the season is underway and grazing routines and conservation plans can now be activated.
Is science missing the point? - August 2014 - Peter Burton
Our experience of late is that if data is not from a science fraternity initiated project, collected by trained technicians, and evaluated by scientists with the same belief systems then the information is Invalid.
Our focus has been on measuring pasture growth rates and Nitrate N under grazed pasture on intensive dairy properties applying total nutrient programmes where fertiliser N for the last ten years has been almost entirely replaced by increased beneficial fungi and bacteria activity.
What old cars and urea have in common - July 2014 - Peter Burton
My love of cars and enjoyment of driving stems from the exquisite sense of freedom achieved as a result of purchasing my own vehicle as a teenager. Summers of picking up hay provided sufficient money for the restrictions of push bikes and unreliable bus services to be released.
At that time a new car entering the neighbourhood was a special event, but it was the smell that indelibly etched itself into the memory. New cars of 50 years ago had a unique pungency of fresh polish, new rubber, and hot oil quite unlike any today.
Why tweaking the old doesn't work - June 2014 - Peter Burton
We read with interest the results of pasture and farm performance at Lincoln University and the Ruakura Research Station when fertiliser nitrogen inputs are reduced.
Where fertiliser nitrogen is used as the driver of pasture growth logic dictates that when less is applied growth is reduced, and from the figures we see that is the result.
When less produces more - May 2014 - Peter Burton
It’s not run-off into waterways from pastoral land that’s the greatest concern it’s what’s coming out the bottom into aquifers that’s the major contaminator and the quickest and most effective way to stop that is to cease tipping it in the top.
Nitrogen constitutes 78% of the air that we breathe, the top 20cm of pastoral soil holds 5,000 – 15,000kgN/ha. There’s no shortage of the stuff, it just has to be used more efficiently.
Securing the future - April 2014 - Peter Burton
Beneath every long term successful business is a foundation, something that regardless of the inevitable ups and downs ensures not only survival but prosperity.
Underpinning the dairy industry is the steadily increasing demand for protein in the form of milk, cheese, and other highly nutritious protein products derived from pasture. It’s a strong industry and with competent management at all levels a rosy future is guaranteed.
Why accurate measures are essential - March 2014 - Peter Burton
For fertiliser products and programmes to claim they are backed by science the results must be consistent, predictable, and repeatable, and it goes without saying that they must provide measurable benefits.
There’s a further consideration and that is short term benefits at the expense of the longer term, essential when considering the environmental impact of any product.
A way through for dairying - February 2014 - Peter Burton
The Government appointed Commissioner for the Environment, has again criticised the government’s fresh water policies, saying they are inadequate for the maintenance of present water quality, and there is little in the national policy for fresh water management that would prevent the dire 2020 scenario in her report on water quality presented last year becoming a reality.
Amy Adams the Environment Minister rejected the criticism and said the commissioner seemed to be deliberately forgetting that every council will be required at a minimum to maintain water quality.
How competent farmers handle dry weather - January 2014 - Peter Burton
“Why is it that dry spells are no longer a bother?” It was a rhetorical question, more a case of thinking out loud and an answer wasn’t expected or required.
Pastoral farmers have no guarantee of rain on an as and when required basis and they enter the industry knowing that for best results they must work with the weather and develop strategies and skills that enable them to cope with fluctuations in pasture growth that occur every year.
Building something better takes effort - December 2013 - Peter Burton
It’s easy to criticise people, organisations and systems but it takes time and real effort to build something better.
The superphosphate industry has been heavily criticised for producing crude out dated product, the performance of which has required the short term prop of regularly applied nitrogen.
Ignoring it won't make it go away - November 2013 - Peter Burton
It’s been called the “elephant in the room”, and a “ticking time bomb”. The ‘it’ is nitrate nitrogen in ground water and there are several reasons why it’s so important and an issue that requires immediate attention.
The lead article in The Press on October 22nd carried a warning from Alistair Humphrey the Canterbury District Health Board medical office of health that “a baby could die if nitrate levels were not more tightly controlled…”
Bugs can't handle big clover - October 2013 - Peter Burton
An article on the development of clover by AgResearch published in November 2003 starts with following. “If there is one thing New Zealand couldn’t do without, it would have to be white clover.
While it doesn’t seem like an obvious one for the top 20 list of “essential survival items,” white clover-based pastures underpin most of New Zealand’s milk, meat and wool production in a quiet unassuming way.
Bigger clover and less bloat - September 2013 - Peter Burton
We grew up believing that clover caused bloat, and there was no substitute for horsepower when it came to Bathurst, with the way to increased horsepower being a bigger engine and more fuel down its throat.
I remember an experienced farmer telling me that adding potash to super was like increasing the octane rating of petrol, and more potash did indeed appear to grow more clover but the incidence and severity of bloat also increased.
Nitrate-N harmful to babies - August 2013 - Peter Burton
“Nitrogen in groundwater, in the form of nitrate, is monitored for health and environmental reasons. Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water have been linked with blood disease in infants (commonly known as ‘blue baby syndrome’).” Ministry for the Environment July 2012
The Nitrate-N levels currently in our water are not high enough to harm infants, however based on the same Ministry for the Environment document the Nitrate-N levels in our groundwater since 1995 have steadily increased.
Why all growing systems are essentially 'biological' - July 2013 - Peter Burton
Over recent times there has been much debate around the topic of ‘biological farming’. As little if any nutrient enters a plant without first going through a biological process, all growing systems regardless of the label applied to them are essentially biological systems.
The most important issue presently, and is the one at the heart of the debate around different growing systems, is the use of fertiliser nitrogen.
Improving drainage during winter - June 2013 - Peter Burton
Having recently returned from time in the South Island, the benefits of farming in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty become very obvious.
Our climate is generally better suited to intensive pastoral farming. Apart from the West Coast rainfall is more plentiful and is spread more evenly throughout the year.
Why soil fertility is much more than just a mathematical equation - May 2013 - Peter Burton
If soil fertiliser requirements was just about putting soil test numbers into a spread sheet that spat out a nutrient recommendation which was both effective and efficient, life would be very much simpler.
There would be little if any discussion on the merits of different products, whether liquid fertilisers replaced solids or are best used in conjunction with, or whether the cheapest form of nutrient provides better value than a higher priced product.
Why nutrient inputs demand a rethink - April 2013 - Peter Burton
There are a number of certainties we all live by and right now the two that spring to mind are: future weather patterns cannot accurately be predicted, and dry spells are eventually followed by significant rain.
A philosophy that we adopted years ago and is the basis of all sound long-term wealth building programmes is that buying quality results in a much better long term outcome than buying the cheapest.
Nutrient balancing after the rain - March 2013 - Peter Burton
There are positives after the dry spell, as well as money to be saved. We often talk of compensatory growth after a prolonged dry spell, and this is nearly always the reality.
The first lot of rain after this dry will turn paddocks green, everyone will relax a little, however it’s not until the second lot arrives 10 to 14 days later that grass starts to really grow.
Why the time to feed supplement is after the rain arrives - February 2013 - Peter Burton
Regular measures over a number of years from properties where nutrient programmes are based on DoloZest and CalciZest, show rapidly growing spring pasture to be around 20% dry matter, which is why what appears to be quite large volumes of pasture can be devoured in a short space of time by hungry stock.
Dry summer pasture can be a little over 30% dry matter, with most of the available feed within 10cm from ground level.
Predicting pasture performance - January 2013 - Peter Burton
On a recent trip I had the pleasure of visiting two dairy farms with very expensive plant and buildings, fastidiously managed with the goal of maximising production by removing or at least minimising the impact of as many variables as possible.
Production on a per cow basis was outstanding and the owners and operators we met rightly proud of their operations
Better quality with higher production - December 2012 - Peter Burton
There is a widespread misconception that improving the quality of what we grow and produce from the land will result in lower volumes. This argument is used by supporters and users of conventional growing systems to justify a regime that increasingly struggles with the speed and magnitude of the changes now required.
The production of a healthy plant, animal, or person is always greater than a less healthy one. So too with soil, healthy well-structured biologically active soil will always produce more than a semi-sterile, compacted piece of dirt.
Why models are not all bad - November 2012 - Peter Burton
We have spent the last twenty years focused on soil fertility particularly fertility under grazed pastures and there are still times when parts of the picture are cloudy, sometimes even decidedly murky.
For an individual farmer or general farm consultant to be able to decide on the quantity of nutrient to be applied this spring, particularly deciding on whether the phosphorus input, should it be required, be applied in the form of rock phosphate, locally made single superphosphate, or perhaps DAP requires a great deal of information and a sound understanding of soil and plant requirements.
How improved soil structures lower fertiliser costs - October 2012 - Peter Burton
One of the functions of a healthy soil is the recycling of nutrient for plant uptake, and as soil becomes more efficient at holding onto nutrients the requirement for costly fertiliser input reduces.
The ability of soils to retain applied nutrient is based on a number of factors with good physical soil structures perhaps the most important, and physical soil structures can be measured accurately using Graham Shepherds Visual Soil Assessment developed here in New Zealand.
How fertiliser Nitrogen applied now may cause your land to devalue in the future - September 2012 - Peter Burton
I was approached recently by a dairy farming family passionate about their farm and dedicated to the dairy industry. Their concern was the steadily escalating cost of producing milksolids and the rapidly declining amount paid for them.
Specifically they were concerned about the cost of their fertiliser programme which included the cost of urea. Although they said those costs were not rising rapidly they had drawn a link between fertiliser and what seemed to be declining pasture production.
Why the Support of Others is Important When Making Changes - August 2012 - Peter Burton
There is one question nearly every child asks prior to their first day at school, “what if the other kids laugh at me?”
And that’s normal, and sensible. We all like the support of our peers and learning is fastest when there are others to bounce ideas off.
Even as adults when contemplating or making changes from the accepted ways of doing things we like to discuss them with those closest to us.
Growing More With Less Fertiliser Nitrogen - July 2012 - Peter Burton
What if the increasing quantity of nitrogen fertiliser being applied is resulting in declining pasture production?
Generally since the 1960’s an increase in pasture growth has been achieved by increasing the levels of all the major growth nutrients. And not applying fertiliser will result in low fertility plant species again dominating pastures with maximum pasture production of around 10 tonne/ha annually.
Reducing the Workload in Spring - June 2012 - Peter Burton
There is a school of thought that dolomite should not be applied in situations where soil calcium levels are near ideal because dolomite as well as containing 11.5% magnesium also contains 24% calcium.
In theory that appears sound, however the reality is quite different. In situations where soils have been limed this autumn it is almost inevitable that plant available magnesium levels will have declined.
Quality and Quantity in the Same Basket - 21st November 2011 - Peter Burton
Making Use of Farm Information - 17th August 2011 - Peter Burton
A farmer recently provided a set of test results of soil taken from his property. The Olsen P figures, the only measure of phosphorus reported, ranged from 35 – 70 with the median being 44.
With the Confidence Interval of 5 ± 2 for the Olsen test, the area with a test figure of 35 may contain no less phosphorus than that the area with test figure of 70.
If we add to that information the fact that all areas had received much the same amount of phosphorus over the last twenty years, then the median result of 44 may be a more relevant figure. Historic soil test results and accurate phosphorus input during the time between the tests also helps make sense of test results.
Enhancing Natural Systems - 6th July 2011 - Peter Burton
A genuine question by a dairy farmer client was recently asked. “ If hundreds of kilograms of nitrogen per hectare are required to grow our pasture each year and we are only applying 20kg/ha as fertiliser where does the rest come from?”
The Future of Soil Fertility - 15th June 2011 - Peter Burton
One of the great advantages of working with family owned and operated farming enterprises is the historical perspective they are able to provide and of late there has been an increased discussion regarding pasture production now compared to the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Those of us that have had the privilege of being involved in pastoral farming for that period of time or longer are aware that although total farm production, particularly milk solid production from dairy farms, has increased significantly since 1980 this does not necessarily reflect a similar increase in pasture production.
An Hour in the Paddock - 19th May 2011 - Peter Burton
At 3.15 in the afternoon a high producing, and still milking, herd of dairy cows were contentedly grazing a fresh break of pasture. Content because most were simply standing and grazing with jaws working at single speed, close to 50 bites per minute. Overhead conditions were cloudy, with brief chilly showers, and just the odd patch of direct autumn sunlight.
A high fibre high-energy supplement had been fed out yet pasture was preferred. Admittedly the haylage was not the best quality this herd has dined on but certainly good quality filler.
Change is Challenging - 18th April 2011 - Peter Burton
With a reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus leaching required, and regulation imminent, many in the rural community have concerns. Fundamental change in any system when forced by regulation is at best messy.
An acceptance that change is necessary, the resources necessary for seamless change, and a reasonable time frame in which to implement, are prerequisites for fundamental change in our farming systems to occur.
Dolomite - Providing a Foundation - 10th March 2011 - Peter Burton
Dolomite because it typically contains 24% calcium and 11.5% magnesium, both in the carbonate form, has a liming (pH modifying) effect when applied to soil.
As a result beneficial soil life is stimulated. It is very difficult to measure beneficial soil microbes as we don’t know a great deal about what is there or what ought to be there and by the time the counting process is underway populations will have changed.
Reducing Nitrate Leaching - 17th February 2011 - Peter Burton
The water we presently have is the only water there is. Water can be treated and filtered in all manner of ways however as clean fresh drinking water is crucial to our long-term enjoyment of life, good health, and ultimate survival, maintaining the quality of it is the best option.
There is genuine and well founded concern by some farming leaders regarding the survival of intensive dairying in the sensitive lake water catchment areas of the Bay of Plenty. The nitrate leaching levels that will need to be met will be markedly less than present.
Decision Making Simplified - 14th January 2011 - Peter Burton
The rule is simple, feed magnesium to cows prior to calving and calcium after, or is it? We grew up with the knowledge that feeding magnesium prior to calving helped with the release of calcium from the animals own reserves.
As cows got older and bones hardened calcium availability declined and the likelihood of metabolic disorders increased.
Hay and Silage Paddock Fertiliser - 7th December 2010 - Peter Burton
We receive calls and emails from customers asking what they should apply to hay and silage paddocks after harvesting. There are a number of factors to consider before reaching an answer.
The potassium content of pasture is typically around 4%, with phosphorus around 0.4% or one tenth that of potassium. Potassium is the element removed in the greatest quantity and therefore the nutrient most commonly replaced.
Applying Simple Logic Can Provide Answers - 7th November 2010 - Peter Burton
The logic is sound but could the premise be wrong? Nitrogen is an essential growth element as are calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and a number of other elements.
The absence of one or more will limit growth, however does simply applying more of any single element necessarily increase total growth over a twelve-month period?
The Importance of Mycchorizal Fungi - 13th October 2010 - Peter Burton
With fundamental changes now taking place in the way in which soil fertility is viewed there is an increasing demand for nutrient programmes that deliver at least as much pasture production without the need for regular applications of fertiliser nitrogen.
These programmes already exist and are practised widely throughout New Zealand. They are based on information and experience gathered over decades of work here and overseas.
Clover the Best Option for Summer - 20th September 2010 - Peter Burton
Pasture provides the lowest cost feed and thirty years ago we were told that it was a total feed, nothing else was required.
It became apparent, particularly during spring when wet and cold dominated and each minute of direct sunlight was savoured, that increased energy made available to stock was rapidly devoured and often resulted in improved performance.
At that time there was no easy measure of plant energy nor were there any well-publicised techniques for increasing the amount of energy able to be converted by plants. Pasture can vary markedly in energy from one property to another depending on nutrient inputs and management.
Improving Soil Drainage Naturally - 20th August 2010, Peter Burton
Drainage is the topic uppermost in many farmers and growers minds right now. The rainfall during the last few weeks has exceeded the ability of a number of drainage systems.
The rain has been relatively warm, sparking quite strong growth, with soil temperatures even in the coldest areas of the Bay of Plenty regularly exceeding 10°C.
An average daily soil temperature of 10°C is the temperature required for nutrient availability high enough to provide increased pasture growth.
Easing the Pressure at Home - 11th July 2010, Peter Burton
One of the most notable benefits from the DoloZest and CalciZest based soil nutrient programmes is the reduction in mud and pasture damage during winter.
The ability to stand heavy animals on pasture during periods of heavy rain with little soil damage is due to steadily improving physical soil structures resulting from regular applications.
Enhancing Natural Soil Systems - 19th June 2010, Peter Burton
The concept that natural systems tend to wellness is for some difficult to understand and comprehend when so much of our work in any farming system is based on preventing illness and dealing with unwanted pest and disease.
Fear is a very strong emotion that drives much activity. It seems that taking action to prevent something undesirable that may or may not occur is a stronger motivator than taking action to enhance desirable outcomes.
The Importance of Soil Humus - 13th May 2010, Peter Burton
Humus The more or less stable fraction of the soil organic matter remaining after the major portions of added plant and animal residues have decomposed. Usually it is dark in colour.
The Nature and Properties of Soils 13th edition Brady Weil
A simple field test comparing the colour of the topsoil under a long-term existing fence line with the same depth of soil from a representative sample of a grazed area indicates whether a soil is gaining or losing humus/carbon, or relatively neutral.
Enhancing the Performance of Dolomite - 13th April 2010, Peter Burton
Dolomite mined at Mt Burnett near Collingwood comes to the North Island via a number of routes. In the 1950’s dolomite was transported from Tarakohe to Wanganui using a scow. Scows are relatively small flat-bottomed vessels capable of being grounded on the beach, loaded, and floated off at the next high tide.
More recently most of the dolomite has been trucked the 40km from the mine near Collingwood to Tarakohe where it was loaded into barges and towed to the Port of Wanganui.
With the almost inevitable increase in the price of conventional fertilisers, many long-term pastoral farmers and horticulturists are attempting to evaluate the claims of companies offering more eco-friendly, sustainable, and cost-effective products.
There is likely to be an element of truth in the claims made by all sellers of ‘fertiliser’, however as there is no single product that meets all nutrient requirements there are two questions that can be asked.
Experience provides a unique perspective. Regular nitrogen fertiliser use and the feeding of high-energy supplements are recent developments in dairy farming, little contemplated or used prior to 1990.