The thrill of soaring begins with conquering the fear of falling. Whether it’s as a kid jumping from a willow tree into the river, starting your first job, or regenerating your farm – it takes an act of courage.
It begins with defining what you want to achieve, and laying down a clear pathway is essential. Clarifying this pathway and taking the steps required is a more assured approach to success, than making abrupt changes, dropping some current practices, and expecting overnight results from giving up the “old way”.
So what does that sort of planning look like?
Assessing enabling factors to discover where to focus effort and resources is essential, – and, it’s unlikely you’ll find these factors where you were looking previously. These factors will occur within the 5 Ms – microbes, management, organic matter, minerals, and mindset. Quality diagnostics are key to avoiding unnecessary costs of time and resources.
Ok in theory, but how can this play out in real life?
It’s 2016 and Opotiki dairy farmer Shane is growing less and less grass, buying more supplementary feed in the form of imported palm kernel extract (PKE) and baleage produced off-farm. His single species rye grass pasture can’t sustain production through the summer, so he buys in more PKE and more baleage and feeds out in the summer too.
Every week another sales rep appears on farm with a silver bullet to take all his troubles away. Every offer and solution is input based without consideration to the underlying cause of any issue, or how one issue might compound another. Money pours out to other companies and 20% of production earnings are solely dedicated to buy feed to sustain the milking herd.
Is this the way the system is designed, others farming farmers?
The goal becomes to get control over results, have time off with his young family, and to produce awesome product without massive amounts of inputs.
Leaving him with the question. How do I get into an outcome based farming system? This research points him to regenerative/biological farming and Integrity Soils. Goals are defined and an action plan implemented.
Diversity becomes a primary tool, starting with diversity of pastures. Improved pasture production in combination with reducing cow numbers from 2.8/ha to 2.2/ha enables reduction then elimination of bought-in feed. Great results domino into place as input costs decrease, frequent visits from the vet become a memory and soils begin to come to life. A stand-off shed is built eliminating the need for sacrifice paddocks in winter.
Success is not total yield and cows/ ha, it is profit/ha and wellness!
The addition of a vermicast and composting operation incorporating approximately 7 tonnes of manure weekly, creates an on-farm nutrient resource in the form of black vermicast gold. These inputs also support the goal of diversity and increasing underground livestock. Animal health improves dramatically. The rate of cows not in calf decreases to an outstandingly low 4%, while bloat, lameness and milk fever are things of the past. However, continual re-assessment of enabling factors is essential to remain on course.
Diversity of enterprises is the next opportunity created. A 1.5 ha avocado block is planted and gullies and steep areas are planted in natives.
In 2018 Fonterra, NZ’s largest dairy Co-operative, started a renewed push to increase their organic production. The farm opts in, and is now into the 2nd year of conversion and receiving a production bonus payment enabling investment in a cow manager application to improve and monitor reproductive potential. The extra bonus, this planning tool enables is family time away from the farm.
Consider that farmers are the founders of civilisation and that the best farmers work alongside nature. Instead of altering the earth to suit a crop, they diversify crops to suit the earth and work isn’t work, but simply doing what needs to be done. The thrill of soaring is how life wants to be lived and laying out a planned pathway is the way to get there.
By Michael Cashmore.
Michael is available for coaching to help you achieve your landscape regeneration goals ad can be contacted by phoning +64 0272751112 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org