Sunday, 01 January 2017 11:55

Good records vital for managing nutrients

Written by 
Alastair Taylor. Alastair Taylor.

With dairy farms’ nitrogen reports for last season now in the mail, farmers are being prompted to work as hard on this season’s recording as they do on producing milk.

Ballance farm sustainability services manager Alastair Taylor says these reports are a good tool for helping farmers to analyse their nutrient use and see what needs doing to improve nutrient efficiency. 

“We know from our records how much fertiliser we have sold to a farm, for example, but what we don’t always know is where it was used, or if supplies were topped up from another provider.  A farm might be feeding out silage or baleage from a run-off block, but not recording it as brought-in feed because to them it’s home-grown. The better the information provided, the better the accuracy and the value of the final report.”

He says individual nitrogen reports provide farmers with their nitrogen leaching risk and nitrogen conversion efficiency results, allowing them to compare their performance with other farms in their region.

And as controls on farming increase in, say, Canterbury and Waikato, the reports help farmers comply with local requirements.

“Even if you don’t do the formal recording, making a quick note about changes in stock numbers when they happen, or where you applied applications of fertiliser, all contribute to a better result.”

Taylor claims Ballance has been integral to the record-and-report cycle that dairy farmers signed up to under the Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord; and he says his is the only fertiliser company working with all accord signatories.

Every season the company gets extra staff to process data recorded by suppliers to Miraka, Tatua, Synlait and Oceania, and some of the data filed by Fonterra’s suppliers.

He says these reports help the dairy companies, farmers and their Ballance reps to find ways to raise nitrogen use efficiency.

“With many regional councils bringing in nitrogen and phosphate rules, and with both being fundamental to farm production, losses are a compliance challenge and effectively tip dollars down the drain. 

“Aiming for high maximum nutrient efficiency makes farming, financial and environmental sense.”

The Ballance website offers free resources for farmers interested in turning the data from their reports into action. 

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