It’s looking like 2023-24 will be a tough season for many. An El Nino year, increased operating costs, and lower commodity prices make for challenging times. However, as I’m a glass half full type, having a tough season every now and again can be helpful as it assists with focusing the mind on efficiency savings, strategic capital investment, and rationalising paid services that provide no value. There’s nothing like a break-even situation for streamlining business operations.
Benchmarking farm performance against peers is a great way of driving efficiencies, tools such as FARMAX Dairy Monitoring Systems (DSM) provide an extremely useful means of supporting this process. Laura Bunning who is Primary Insights FARMAX Elite accredited user, has recently set herself up to provide this value-add service for Dairy farmers, so if you want to know more about how to optimise your farms profitability give her a call.
When it comes to irrigation and nutrient use there’s a few simple things you can do to drive efficiencies.
For nutrients a focus on overall soil nutrient status and in particular the use of Nitrogen provides a double benefit – optimising operating costs while lessening the farms environmental footprint. For pasture maximising the potential of clover is key. This means balancing the soils nutrient status including ensuring sufficient sulphur is present given this is a limiting factor for stony soils. Using nitrogen tactically is also key. This means thinking about the response rate prior to applications, particularly as the season progresses. What benefit will I get from this application? Forage crops should also be soil tested before planting and the quick N-test used as the crop develops (at 12 weeks) and nutrients applied accordingly.
For irrigation one of the main considerations is making sure everything is working as it should and continuing to check this monthly. This means walking the irrigator and visually checking for stuffed sprinklers (the sprinklers account for +70% of irrigator performance). A few blocked sprinklers can greatly impact the amount of feed or crop grown, which will then need to be replaced with more expensive supplements or is for cropping farms is lost income. For pivots pay particular focus to the outer third as that’s over half the area irrigated.
Another consideration for irrigation is ensuring you have a reliable irrigation monitoring system; running irrigation unnecessarily costs money and not running it at the right time loses money! If your soil moisture sensor doesn’t add value, i.e., the readings make no sense then get them sorted so they do, or alternatively stop paying a subscription fee for no reason. Yes, I know having a sensor ‘ticks the box’ for the Farm Plan auditor but I’m of a mindset that if the technology adds no value to the farm, then stop paying for it and find another option that does!
If you need a hand with your nutrient or irrigation management then phone Andrew, Cindy or Laura to discuss how we can save and make you money or join us in person at one of our free irrigation or nutrient workshops this spring. Check out the event listings on our website for more information on dates and locations www.primaryinsight.co.nz. You’ll also get a certificate of attendance that satisfies your Farm Environment Plan irrigation training requirements.