NZ Dairy Summer 2021

| 5 nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Hayden Ussher & Gillian Dalley Virginia Wright Hayden Ussher and Gillian Dally met over 20 years ago when they were both working in Cust, just north of Christchurch. Hayden was on a dairy farm while Gillian was working on a sheep and beef farm. They were taking a year off together and travelling overseas in 2000 when Hayden’s parents contacted them to offer them the opportunity to take up a 50/50 sharemilking position on Hayden’s third-generation family farm in Fernside, just out of Rangiora. “They’d had a manager on the farm for fifteen years but they wanted to free up some capital from the business, so we had the opportunity to buy the herd and the machinery and so on which meant they could go and do what they wanted to do,” says Hayden. Hayden and Gillian always knew that they wanted to expand and knew there were other blocks neighbouring the homestead farm that were likely to eventually come up for sale. When the first of these came available only two years later in 2002 they were able to buy it with Hayden’s parents, Chris and Dave, coming in as guarantors to help secure the loan they needed from the bank. They ran the new 40 hectare dairy farm in conjunction with the 64 hectare homestead farm they were already 50/50 sharemilking. By then Hayden and Gillian had already initiated significant changes in line with their wish to farm in an environmentally sustainable way. The original 64 hectares of heavy, peaty ground had been townmilking 220 cows, running two herds and calving twice a year, not least as a means of sustaining winter revenue. Hayden and Gillian switched immediately to seasonal milking and started the soil and herbage testing regime that accompanied their decision to move away from using conventional solid fertiliser. “What the testing showed us was that our soils have about 150 years worth of phosphate in reserve in the soils so we looked at how we can unlock that reserve and start using it,” says Hayden. “We reduced our usage of nitrogen and phosphates by around 90%.” Hayden doesn’t believe that the phosphate his parents and grandparents put on was excessive, but the 10% or so that wasn’t taken up by the plants each year remains available to be used and that’s what they plan to do. Hayden and Gillian have now been working closely with Magnify New Zealand and their local rep Scott Hobson to manage their use of fertilizer for 20 or so years, and while they always wanted to be environmentally responsible it was their financial situation that kicked their decision-making along. “There was a huge dairy downturn after we bought that first block of land and we ended up in a financial predicament,” explains Hayden. “We had to reduce costs and increase our profit to keep the bank happy and one of our biggest costs was we had huge lameness, huge mastitis problems and quite high empty rates. We looked at why that was happening and felt that a lot of it was coming from excessive usage of nitrogen and high potassium levels in our soils.” They didn’t simply trust their instincts though. Biological fertiliser regime nets results With the pressing twin need to increase productivity and improve animal health to significantly reduce costs they trialed various liquid biological fertiliser regimes on 25% or 30% of their land until they settled on Magnify. “We trialed them against each other and against conventional forms of fertiliser so we didn’t just blanket the farm. We measured growth rates and did pasture herbage tests measuring protein, and energy and everything else that was in the pasture as well.” After a couple of years working with Scott they were also able to meaningfully compare their somatic cell rates, lameness and empty rates with what they’d been under their previous conventional approach. All three indicators were significantly reduced and the cost of animal health went down with them. “We’ve adapted to Scott’s way of thinking which is less conventional, and even though we’ve got a stocking rate of only 2.7 or 2.8 which is considered extremely low we’re still making more net profit than we used to with more cows. “ I grew up conventionally farming and when I was studying that’s what you learnt to use was urea and super-phosphate so it wasn’t until we had to reduce our costs and did our research that we questioned things. Like yes, you put urea on the grass and the grass grows but that grass isn’t always the best for cows.” Hayden and Gillian now farm 130 effective from 145 hectares of a mixture of heavy and light lands having purchased more blocks as they came up. They use a standard rotational grazing system but they pay a lot of attention to the protein levels in their pasture and use nitrogen as a finely calibrated tool rather than a blanket application. “Protein reflects the amount of urea or nitrogen used, and high protein causes problems in the stock,” says Hayden. “We put on between 35 and 45kg per hectare of nitrogen a year and Canterbury now has a limit of 190kgs per hectare per year, while in the past there were high-use farmers putting on up to 300 kgs per hectare per year.” It’s safe to say that in this case less is more when you look at what’s happening to their bottom line. “What the testing showed us was that our soils have about 150 years worth of phosphate in reserve in the soils so we looked at how we can unlock that reserve and start using it.” SPECIALISING IN: • Pump – Sales, Breakdowns, Repairs & Servicing • Plumbing, Upgrades, Spouting & Maintenance • Drainlaying, Soak Holes & Stormwater • Irrigation – Farming, Lifestyle, Residential, Golf Courses • Effluent Solutions – Dairy Farms, Septic Tanks & Drainage Fields • Water Purification – Filters, Softeners, Reverse Osmosis & Ultra-Violet • Blocked or Broken Drains, CCTV Inspections & Insurance Work • Gas – Hot Water Systems & Electrical Works Pump Services has been serving the Canterbury and West Coast communities for over 15 years GET IN TOUCH 24 hour breakdown service: 0800 786 793 • 332 Flaxton Road, Rangiora, 7400 Rangiora & Canterbury: 03 313 3444 • West Coast - Buller: 03 732 3678 WE HAVE A FULLY QUALIFIED TEAM OF: • Pump Technicians • Drainlayers • Plumbers • Electricians • Gas Fitters Available 24hrs a Day The cost of animal health reduced significantly when Canterbury couple Hayden Ussher and Gillian Dally switched to liquid biological fertiliser. 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