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Published: 2010-10-08 00:00:00

Te Awamutu dairy farmer Graham Smith says he got heaps out of a farm advisory visit he won as part of the AgResearch and Environment Waikato-sponsored Ultimate Six Pack prize at the national Fieldays this year.

“I’m going to change some of my farm management practices based on what I’ve learnt,” said Mr Smith, whose property is in Wharepuhunga Rd.

His comment followed a free on-farm environmental consultation by AgResearch scientist Bob Longhurst and EW sustainable agriculture coordinator Bala Tikkisetty.

“I really appreciated the way they shared information. It wasn’t down your throat,” said Mr Smith.

He said he appreciated the fact he was offered a menu of topics he could choose to learn about.

The highlight for him was digging up a lump of soil and doing a shatter test on it to determine such things as how the soil is draining and whether it is compacted.

That had provided information to help him look at management practice changes and to be able to monitor soil condition for himself on an ongoing basis.

“It’s all relevant to me and my system. That’s what’s good about it.

“Getting taught how to do the testing properly has certainly given me the confidence to use what I’ve learnt going into the future,” said Mr Smith.

Another highlight was having a pond storage calculator assessment done on his effluent storage requirements. This is a new tool which is due for widespread release in the region by Environment Waikato later this year. It takes into account factors such as herd size, local rainfall and farms’ individual characteristics and soil type when calculating how much storage they need.

“It’s shown me that I will need to put in more storage over time,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Tikkisetty said EW was keen to work with farmers generally to help them improve environmental performance. “Each farm is different but there’s a range of useful information available from us that can help farmers make choices appropriate to their individual circumstances.”

Mr Longhurst said: “We were also able to take Graham through his nutrient budget using the OVERSEER software and this identified that nitrogen efficiency on the farm could be optimised by improved management of fertiliser N, benefitting his bottom line and lowering his environmental footprint.”

Apart from the free on-farm environmental consultation, Mr Smith won native trees, vouchers for his farm and family, and a gourmet basket. Also, Hill Laboratories supplied a free 12 month subscription to Intepasture software and testing results generated by All Paddock testing.