Friday, July 1, 2022

Reaching an understanding

Some blocks on Paul and Muff Newton’s Kaituna Ridges farm are so steep even Angus cattle can’t safely graze it.

Despite the vertical challenges, the Newtons’ north Marlborough property has the manicured look of a golf course, with outstanding spring pasture control from top to toe.

Everything about the farm is tidy. The woolshed, including the camp kitchen for tour groups, is spotless. Any weed that dares to rear its head is soon dealt to. The grubber is a permanent fixture on the bike.

A group of 40 toured the stand-out property as part of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Farming for Profit field day. It focused on understanding soil type, aspect and fertility in order to farm the land to its potential. As facilitator Greg Sheppard put it, it is about identifying the yield gap.

The group saw how an almost obsessive effort on controlling weeds on hills has kept rushes and heath species out and sheep production high. In 2011, Kaituna Ridges generated an economic farm surplus of $471/ha last year, almost $100 higher than the Economic Service Class average ($386/ha).

With a shift to mating hoggets this season and finishing cattle to prime weights, this is set to lift further.


The flood-prone Kaituna River dissects the farm. The LandVision mapping process identified the areas of flats that could benefit from increased nitrogen, while keeping within optimal leaching levels, and the soils where nitrogen application should be minimal.


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