Is NZ lagging behind in growing new protein crops?

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

Increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and new limits on the amount of PKE cows can be fed mean farmers need to plan well ahead to ensure they have enough food for their herds.

In the past many have been ‘winging it’ when it comes to feed planning, knowing they could dial up another load of PKE when need. With Fonterra’s new restrictions on PKE, that will no longer work.

Farmers will need to go back to basics, farming the way their fathers or grandfathers did; shutting up areas of the farm to make hay or silage and planting crops.

There are supplements other than PKE but how much can be fed must be carefully considered and forage needs to be provided as well.

Now is a good time to review the past year, consider what worked and what didn’t, and form a plan for the coming 12 months.

Available land

This includes working closely with feed supply companies such as our own. Maize is not a cheap crop to grow so we can’t afford to plant more than there is demand for.

Also, good quality land available for growing maize is getting harder to find as more goes into kiwifruit and avocados, so ordering well ahead and committing to contracts for supplements is vital.

We can no longer rely on stable weather patterns – 2017 and the start of 2018 has certainly taught us that.

The big storm in early January, which coincided with king tides, followed a very dry November and December. That was on the back of a wet spring during which maize crops struggled and some were even ‘pineappling’ which is when the plants turn blue-green and the leaves start pointing upwards. It happens in response to stress caused by too much, or too little water.

However, by early January high ground maize crops were looking good, while some in the lower, swampy areas were still struggling a bit.

Rain help pollination

The rain came at the right time as it helps the tassels to pollinate the silk. Each silk is linked to a kernel and everyone needs to be pollinated to form a full cob.

The rain also resulted in a drop-off of demand for supplementary feed and some farmers who had gone to 16 hour milkings were able to return to twice a day, thanks to good grass growth in January.

As if unpredictable weather and feed supply concerns aren’t enough, the primary industry in New Zealand can’t afford to ignore the threats posed by plant-based proteins.

Even the Foundation for Arable Research is signalling we should be looking at alternative crops to meet the demand for sources of protein other than from milk and meat.

In the past New Zealand has been a world leader in food production but we are at risk of going backwards, unless we move fast and adapt to new forms of primary production.

We have hay and some grass and maize silage available, also wheat, rye and barley straw once harvested. So order now as it won’t last long.


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