Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Planning effort can be undermined by poor spreading


Today's farmers are quickly coming to grips with technology and there are numerous farm management tools out there to assist with the implementation of a soul fertility strategy.

Soil testing is used to establish soil nutrient status, programmes such as Overseer can assist in producing a nutrient budget and, by reviewing management practices, a nutrient management plan may be formulated. However, none of the benefits from investing in fertiliser are available until it is actually applied.

Many may not realise the value of an accurate fertiliser spread, or to put it in a way an accountant would understand, the true cost of a poor spread. It may seem obvious, but the closer the spreader is to applying the fertiliser at the targeted rate, the closer the pasture or crop will be at achieving the targeted response. Technology and management practices employed by your spreading company can have a significant bearing on the efficacy of your fertiliser and the return from your investment.

Spreadmark is the quality management system that the national groundspreading industry body has developed and which is administered by Federated Farmers for your benefit. To be a certified operator, you need to achieve certain standards in regards to training of staff, measuring machine performance under varying conditions, use of GPS for guidance and the implementation of good management practices. This standard provides you the best opportunity to optimise your fertiliser expenditure and independent studies have shown the benefits of this to be significant.

For example, when the milk payout was $8 the calculated production losses when applying one application of urea at 80 kg per hectare on moderately high fertility dairy flats with cows converting 15kg of dry matter to 1kg of milk solids could result in an $18.84 to $32.19 per hectare production loss. If the current pay out stays around the $5 mark, then the figure is between $11.78 to $20.12 per hectare.

If we ran a similar scenario with sheep, based on converting 12kg/DM to 1kg/CW, then if the schedule was $6, the loss or potential gain equates between $17.66 to $30.18 per hectare.

These are significant losses when extrapolated across the farm. Be sure to get the most out of your fertiliser by ensuring your spreaders are Spreadmark approved, are using GPS and managing their vehicles’ performance. Without it, all the effort put into nutrient budgeting, soil testing and using certified advisors will be undermined.

Fabian Kopu is Application Manager at Ravensdown.