Thursday, July 7, 2022

Complementary farming

The Sisam family operation on 4300ha is a stand-out property in the Bay of Plenty. So when it opened its gates for a field day in February farmers welcomed the chance to see inside and hear from the operation’s key players. Richard Sisam is managing director and also supervises the 817ha of dairy units (four units, totalling 2240 cows) while brother Bruce supervises the 2200ha of sheep and beef units. The operation is one parcel of land, 10km south of Whakatane, and also includes 640ha of pine trees. It is owned by the wider Sisam family and run as a company with a board of directors and a management committee.

The sheep and beef business comprises two units of 1100ha each, running a total of 5500 mixed-age and two-tooth Romney/Finn/Texel ewes, 1650 hoggets, up to 1600 bulls, 800 steers and heifers and 230 carry-over dairy cows.

There are also 500 dairy heifers from the dairy units grazed on the sheep and beef units from April 1 to March 31. A further 200 cattle are grazed on, including dairy heifers and Taurindicus breed bulls.

The field day focused on dairy/beef integration and was jointly run by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ). Given the Sisams’ dual operation and the crossovers they take advantage of between units, it was an ideal venue.

Richard says there are many examples of where the lines between dairy and beef blur or where conscious decisions are made to favour one unit ahead of another.

“For instance, no supplements are used within the sheep and beef operation. Instead, spare silage and hay from these units are moved across into the diary operation. Also grazing on adjoining sheep/beef areas is made available to the dairy herd as revenue stock is sold. This is a far better use of feed when meat schedules are falling and feed supply is limiting on the dairy areas.

“It can also be difficult to have sufficient stocking rates in spring to utilise all the grass if winter grazing for dairy cows is made available on the sheep and beef areas. We graze the beef block in early winter with dairy cows then fill that area with up to 500 autumn-born calves purchased in the early spring from a regular pool of farmers.”

Targeting liveweights

Richard says a lot of dairy farmers do not know what their youngstocks’ liveweights are. “They feed them extremely well so they’ve got it covered. But if you’re getting into heifer grazing, you need to know.

“This summer has also highlighted the risk some sheep and beef farmers are exposed to. If they are 100% heifer grazing there’s no contingency for a summer like this one. We’ve got beef stock we can sell early or we can take heifers off the flats and put them onto the hills or feed them cut silage. We have options. Others won’t.”

The field day included an LIC presentation, which stressed the importance of setting heifer liveweight targets and a complementary workshop which covered the expectations and benefits of a detailed contract when heifer grazing.

Presentations can be sourced by contacting Erica van Reenen at Beef + Lamb NZ, Erica.vanReenen@beeflambnz.com.

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