Friday, July 8, 2022

Where to start?

Stand a farmer in an extensive clean hill-country block and they will soon want to put a fence in.

Richard Laugesen has similar sentiments for the steep hill country of his Marlborough farm Craiglochart.

With recent energy focused on the flats, the potential for hill-country development is considerable. In fact it will be mandatory if Craiglochart is to continue its shift from being a store lamb property to growing lambs to prime weights. Around 20% of lambs are now sold prime at weaning.

There is a need for more fencing of the hill country, especially as multiple-bearing ewe numbers grow and better lambing country is needed. Richard believes fencing must come before fertiliser inputs, to capture the benefits of feed grown.

 

Much of the groundwork has been done by Richard’s parents Brian and Jenny Laugesen. Electrified fencing runs over much of the 1200ha of hill. Troughs off the Central Valley Water Scheme were installed in the 1980s. The main creek is reliable, even running during the horror years of 1997-98. A set of cattle and sheep yards were built out the back five years ago, which saves walking ewes, lambs and cattle 15km home.

“We tail and jet sheep in them but I haven’t managed to convince the conveyor contractor to drag them out here yet,” Richard said. “Negotiation is ongoing.”

Some blocks are subdivided to 60ha but Richard is not content with this. He is targeting 20ha blocks. The most recent seven-wire fence line cost $4/m plus materials.

The serious weed barberry has largely been eradicated by Richard’s parents. This was by scrub raking and painting stumps year in, year out. Matagouri is still scattered on many blocks, especially the wetter south-facing side. This has been targeted by helicopter spraying.

Comments at the recent Beef + Lamb Farming For Profit field day was that more fencing will be needed, especially as multiple-bearing ewe numbers grow and better lambing country is required. The 2600 ewe Corriedale flock is in the third year of being phased to a Wairere Romney flock. The rams were originally put over the two-tooths and the mixed-age Corriedales put to a terminal sire.

Lambing begins August 12 and pasture growth can be limited by slow springs, so winter saved feed is required. This can be done only through fencing.

White-flowering subterranean clover was present in some areas but being able to exclude stock to let it set-seed would increase its presence.

Which side of the hill to start fencing on (sunny or shady) came up for discussion at the field day, with Richard choosing shady first.

Greg Sheppard, facilitator of the Farming For Profit day, did a quick calculation to show that growing an extra 1500kg of drymatter over 600ha would allow another 1800 stock units. This could grow the property from a 5700 to 7500 stock unit business.

Richard believes fencing must come before fertiliser inputs, to capture the benefits of feed grown.

“The Wairau side is not fenced up enough to graze the extra grass grown.”

Older soil tests indicate pH at 5.5. and Olsen-P of 14 so fertility needs to boosted. Some of the better back hill country (300ha) received 150kg of Sulphur Super in 2010 but the priority has been fencing.

 

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