March 2018

New Zealand farmers still rely on grass feeding for the majority of their production. So it is important that it is grown effectively and with the maximum amount of nutrient.
Product in product out. For a plant to have the correct amount of nutrients for optimal animal health their needs to be these elements in the soil which also need to be available. For example, NZ is deficient in cobalt and selenium, so these were needed to be added for stock health.
Stock maybe eating too little or too much of any particular nutrient. It is important that animals get a diet that is both filling and correctly balanced. This is called full feeding. Within the wider community there is a growing awareness of mineral imbalance and this is showing up in the farming community. For farmers it is important that herbage testing is carried out both on pastures and with their supplementary crops. We can not measure what we do not moniter. In conventional farming practices soils are used over and over again, often without nutrient-dense replenishment. Every time a crop or pasture is grown, it draws the nutrients out of the soil into itself. The plant uses the nutrients to grow. Then we get the benefits when the stock eat that feed. But if the nutrients aren’t replaced, or crops rotated, the soils are stripped of their minerals.
Farmers then tend to saturate their crops with chemical fertilisers. Some refer to them as unnatural for many reasons, one of which is that they don’t contain the range of nutrients essential for life. Fertilisers are primarily made up of three nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This means that there are still many nutrients missing
To apply these essential nutrients in small quantities at the correct ratio over the entire pasture or crop requires a precise system to be put in place. For example, to mix 1 kg evenly through a 1 tonne bag of solid fertiliser is very difficult, but if the same amount of product was dissolved in 1000 litres of water, that is the equivalent amount of water to solids we can guarantee with greater certainty that all of the water would contain some of the 1 kg placed in it. If this was then sprayed on the crop and every leaf got some of the element, then we would know that every plant would be receiving the element.
This leaf will be eaten by the stock, which will then deliver what they need for optimum growth. While finding the correct balance is important, and at times complicated or difficult to achieve, it is also rewarding as it will give better overall production. 
There have been times when I have noticed that the dung from the stock has been too runny or abnormally smelly. This is an indicator that their digestive system isn’t working to optimal capacity. In human terms they have a stomach ache and diarrhoea. As we all know, if we have these symptoms, things are not good. Usually our diet isn’t correct. For animals it will centre around protein and carbohydrate ratios. Too much green grass and not enough roughage, dry grass. Ill thrift can also be caused by a lack of or too much of any of the many elements which all stock need. We all would readily acknowledge the need for B12 or Selenium in the diet but for many of the other elements we may not be so aware.
When I started studying these with the help of Dr Jim Bruce-Smith it quickly became apparent that not only were ALL the elements important but also the ratio of these elements was equally fundamental. This lead us to look closer at herbage tests and look not only at good levels of all the elements but also at the balance of these elements within the diet of the stock that this feed was intended for. 
Hills Laboratory now have a programme that will give us a good idea of mineral excesses and deficiencies within the feed sampled. This saves us running our own calculations, which saves time and money. This takes away many of the elemental ill thrift problems associated with stock performance. Work I was involved with showed that extra weight gains could be achieved by foliar applications of a variety of elements. For example, lambs showed better weight gains and overall health.   
Fertilizer New Zealand has a product called ACTAVIZE that was formulated by a veterinary scientist for stock health. It provides most of the elements required for stock health and also has shown great results in pasture growth.
So why should farmers use such a product?  It will –

  • promote good grass and crop growth
  • improve the soil
  • promote a greater root system
  • put more elements into the plant
  •  produce a better animal.

For more information call us on 0800 337 869.