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A Nutritionists Holistic Approach: Grant Richards is on a mission to change farming for the better.

A Nutritionists Holistic Approach: Grant Richards is on a mission to change farming for the better.
A commercial nutritionist’s “hands on” approach to value adding on dairy farms with foliar spray systems.

As a commercial nutritionist and farm consultant I am often asked about the benefits of a dairy farm changing from a traditional solid fertiliser regime to a regime that is based around foliar application of products.

A table of what a typical farm can expect to see when this change is made and managed well.

An integrated foliar and granular fertiliser system means less acidic granular fertilisers are required. This allows soil pH levels to hold up better. When foliar fertilising, less lime is required to neutralise the added acidity per annum an all granular (SOA, DAP, Urea etc.) system would create. The neutralising value of lime application for some clients has been up to 1.5 Tonne of Aglime per hectare per annum 

Lime should be managed as a scarce resource and applied only when and where required. With optimum N fixation via the nitrification cycle being in the 6.0-6.4 pH range, excess acidic fertilisers are not helping clovers nor the environment. Options exist such as the Tow and Fert to foliar broadcast clover and N fixing bacteria to make innate nitrification more self-sufficient.  

Weed spraying should be done before applying clovers. Carbon conditioning and elevating agents can be applied also in a foliar form where carbon % and quantity are low or C:N ratio is low. 

Alternate plans to minimise the need for palm kernel and additional supplements on dairy farms are needed.  

Excess reliance on external feeds and market forces means the industry needs some urgent “re-set” critical thinking around supplementary feeds. With supply, logistics, pricing, pay-out volatility, compliance regulation barriers and other external factors it is necessary for farmers to find and implement more flexible options on farm to accommodate these growing dilemma’s and business risks. Foliar spraying is becoming an essential tool towards more on-farm self-sufficiency. 

Days In milk and cash are king!  

Growing grass faster and for longer are vital if this objective is to be met. Improving harvest outcomes in winter, early spring, summer and late autumn can be achieved with strategic foliar spraying especially when soil temperatures are less than 12 degrees, heat energy is low and soil temperatures are dry. 

Return on Investment: Can it work? A retrospective client case study

Strategic use of UAN, Liquid Urea, Liquid Sulphur, Gib Acid,Lime, salt and molasses featured strongly in this farms foliar fertiliser planning, as well as the vital $10 soil thermometer. As you can see from the figures in the previous table the payback on the investment in the machine was only 6 months. On-farm marginal growth responses were 6-9c/kgDM grown in the initial early days of measuring responses. That compared to PKE costs of 20-25c/kgDM at the time. Growth responses under low soil temperature (June, 8 degrees) were an additional 28kgDMHa/ day. 

Comparative and marginal DM costs

While all costs have ramped in todays terms, costs per extra kgDM grown are still 12-20c/kgDM for a 15-25 kgDM/Ha response. Compared to PKE and Soy hulls as grass/DM replacers, that are costing $45-55c/kg right now, the value add to your business of purchasing a Tow and Fert and growing more grass is easy to calculate.  

Home grown grass is the “bird in the hand”, whereas being at the mercy of all the external uncontrollables loses attraction quickly when you are growing more grass through foliar fertiliser application.  

The bottom line is: do your homework. Profit proof your farm system and enlarge your farm management toolbox to live above and beyond the weather, supply chains, and pricing so that these do not dictate and control your business.  

Do a worms eye view at grass level of the day to day operation and find out what the problems and issues are, is it animal health? is it poor soil health? or not enough grass being grown? Then take a birds eye view of your entire operation and look for ways that you can change your systems or your whole operation to achieve a different outcome and fix the problem. Finally be sure to search out integrationist experts who are independent of outside forces with a track record of helping as needed 

Grant Richards B.Ag.Sci (Massey) P.G. Dip Sci Nutr. (Otago) director of Newtrition Solutions is an independent animal and human nutritionist with 35 years of commercial experience.

Grant helps his clients to create a farm that is thriving for the animals, the environment, and the business. It is a holistic approach to farming that renders remarkable results when put into practice. 

Grant has a simple philosophy “Join the dots”. Simply put, this means when he meets with a new client he is looking for the causes of the problems they are facing and working through the processes to diagnose, treat, and fix any problems down on the farm. He is looking to join the dots to find the cause and then fix the problem. He is no ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ man and he keeps a very transparent and simple business model: he doesn’t sell fertiliser, or animal health products or anything else. In fact, Grant is simply your farm consultant and he will recommend what he knows will fix the problems a farmer is having.  


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