Clovers a focus in Innovation Farm projects

The challenge of increasing legume content of uncultivable hill country pastures was a hot topic at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s recent Innovation Farm conference in Invercargill.
Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Two of the five current Innovation Farm projects are looking at ways of encouraging and establishing clovers on dryland hill country, with one of the projects incorporating three farms spread across the North Island’s east coast.

The other project is on Annabel and Hamish Craw’s Banks Peninsula farm. The couple – who is now in the fourth year and final year of their Innovation Farm programme – has trialled the use of chemicals to suppress native grasses and allow resident and introduced clovers to thrive.

The farms involved in the North Island project are in Gisborne, central Hawkes Bay and eastern Wairarapa.

Each farm has a different focus; the Gisborne farm owned by Sandra and Rob Faulkner is focusing on weed control, the Hawke’s Bay property – part-owned and managed by Pete and Suzanne Swinburn is looking at clover establishment while Richard and Beck Tosswill are focusing on the management of legumes on their Wairarapa hill-country farm.

Scientist Paul Muir is overseeing the trial work on all three farms. While they are all dryland hill country sheep and beef farms with large areas of uncultivable country, they are climatically different, are run under different management and stocking regimes and have different pest and weed profiles.

Having completed their first year of the Innovation Farm programme, all three farmers reported climatic challenges in the form of an extremely dry summer followed by an extremely wet winter. While this created some issues around spraying, sowing and management, all of had some success in establishing subterranean and or annual clovers.

This high ME feed will be used to drive ewe and lamb performance particularly in the early spring period.

Challenges the farms will be addressing over the three-year programme will include methods of establishment, grazing and re-seeding management and weed and pest control.

Field days on all three farms will be held in early October.

Other Innovation Farm projects include finishing cattle on lucerne, the use of technologies on a high performing bull-beef operation and the use of an extension model to support and lift performance on a Northland cattle farm.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Innovation Farm programme began in 2011 with the idea of supporting farmers who want to identify and trial tools and practices that result in real financial gains.

The projects showcase a narrow category of farming activity rather than taking a whole-farm approach.