High Performance Farming Systems

September 2007
The Hawke's Bay High Performance Farming Systems programme commenced in 2004, with the aim of developing a greater understanding of the key drivers of productivity and profitability on both finishing and breeding ewe enterprises.

These are:

Feed Harvested (kg DM/ha/yr)

Cost of Feed Harvested (cents/kg DM)

Feed Conversion Efficiency (kg/DM/kg LWG)

Net Value of Product Sold ($/kg)

Two Focus farm groups meet during the year and concentrate on understanding the fundamentals of farming systems through the analysis of data collected on their farms

The monitor farm programme has traditionally focussed on individual farms thrown expert advice into the mix and looked for ways of improving production. The information and practises learnt on those farms has been disseminated via field days, open days and the like.

The concept was that farmers would be more likely to accept research they saw working on someones farm rather than taking advice directly from Ag scientists and consultants.

But Hawkes Bay farmers in 2004 told their regional reps that they wanted a programme that targeted particular farm systems rather than individual farms.

The decision was taken to look at breeding and intensive finishing systems. Research is undertaken on a group of different farms and the results of that research are reported back to the wider community.

Seminars for the wider farming community are then held to provide information on technical issues and to illustrate the key drivers of successful systems.

The Cloustons run a 640ha finishing property near Flemington. In a normal season they run 3,000 ewes, 1000 hoggets, and 600 dairy beef.

Tom says they felt that under the old monitor farm system the farm that was the monitor farm did well but the application of results to the rest of the community was not that flash.

The Cloustons favour the High Performance model and have been part of trials looking at winter management of soils for beef finishing, among other things.

Tom also says hes also been looking at feed budgeting for 2 year old bulls. He says that the available feed budgeting systems are OK for other classes but he believes there is a lot of variation for the two year old class. As a finisher hes targeting live weight gain and what he wants to know is How much do they need to grow?

The Dooneys run 1350 breeding ewes on a 285 ha property near Waipukurau. Their target research has been in increasing the efficiency of the breeding ewe flock. He, and Roy Fraser, believes that too much emphasis has been placed on lifting ewe lambing percentage. He says that at 150 % (in a good year) the bar has been raised high enough. They are now looking at other ways of increasing efficiency.

The Dooneys have been part of two-year programme looking at stocking rate, growth rates and lactation, all in the name of increasing ewe efficiency.

In practical terms theyve been weighing stock on and off the paddock, measuring pasture covers, lambing percentages and weaning weights.

Chris says theyve also looked at earlier set stocking; trying a system where ewes are set stocked up to 6 weeks before lambing.

As a result of these trials they are increasing the stocking rate and set stocking on lower covers.

The Dooneys have also been part of a N trial.

The idea was to test the opportunity to apply more N in autumn and late winter to lift ewe numbers wintered and set stocked at lambing.

They were aiming to test kgDM/kgN response rates.

There were three farms involved in this trial with two blocks per farm per treatment.

There were three separate applications.

- 70kg N in autumn plus 70 kg winter

- 40kg N winter

- Nil N

Results in 2005 showed that N responses were as expected but came through later. The economics were marginal and trial probably not suited for summer dry environments.

Four key outputs have been identified from the programme.

1. Farmers will be given the opportunity to learn and understand the key drivers of their farming systems.

2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be developed for both breeding ewe and finishing systems.

3. New contributing factors to the key drivers will be identified.

4. Systems will be developed for farmers to collect data and utilise in analysis of key drivers.

Feedback on the current crop of research projects is due to take place on August 15. Obviously the drought has had a big impact on some of the trials.