Last season Leo Donkers and the team at his family-owned Camden Group embarked on an ambitious plan to regrass the entire 800ha of the milking platform across their three pivot- and spray-irrigated Te Pirita and Bankside dairy farms in just three years.
It meant taking out a third of each farm last season, sowing half the regrassed area in perennials and the other half in short-term Italian ryegrass to give quick feed and to get two chances to spray out native and old grasses that had invaded some pastures.
This season another third of the farms will be taken out, but last year’s Italians also need to be sown in permanent pasture.
That means 40% of the milking area will be resown between now and late December.
Is it a gutsy effort or madness? Leo says it’s neither.
“It’s a calculated response to what we were seeing onfarm in terms of our increasing use of bought in supplements just to achieve the same production. We couldn’t afford not to do it,” he says.
He thought the same last season when the programme started.
With last season’s experience and analysis of the numbers he’s even more adamant despite the dramatic slide in the milk price this season.
“The regrassing we started early last season paid for itself in less than six months – on that score we’re already in profit,” Leo says.
Camden operations manager Terry Kilday, Agriseeds pasture systems manager Graham Kerr, and Leo have worked through last season’s pasture records and the results are there to see.
Top of the table calculations – planning was essential and monitoring is showing the advantages of the big regrassing programme.