Innovative farm pasture management

Site visit: Packard Farm, Golden Bay

The Packard Farm, run by Wayne and Nicky Packard, is a sixth-generation dairy farm experiencing great success with innovative pasture management techniques. Fifteen years ago, the couple adopted the Albrecht Kinsey fertiliser system, inspired by local proponent Merv Solly, in response to an invigorated focus on animal and soil health. The shift has proven to be transformative.

Switching to mineral fertilisers, latterly supplemented with seaweed and fish biologicals for microbial growth, the Packards have completely eliminated imported feed and synthetic fertilisers, including nitrogen. Consequently, the need for weed control has been significantly reduced, now requiring only spot spraying. They have introduced a diverse mix of pasture vegetation – 16 species including clover, chicory, plantain, millet, and cocksfoot – transforming their grass paddocks into a virtual salad bowl for their cows. To maintain an optimal residual grass length of greater than 1600kg/ha of dry matter the grazing round has been slowed down, with cows not returning to paddocks for at least 35 days. Although requiring more effort from the farmers, this approach is resulting in a higher-quality feed that is rich in essential oils and nutrients.

Transitioning the farm – and traditional farming practices – has been a mind shift as much as it has been a practical one. A ‘newcomer’ to farming – “I’ve only been doing it for 35 years!” – has afforded Nicky the freedom to embrace her role as ‘key researcher’ with an open mind. Convincing Wayne to try out new techniques didn’t come easy, but after a few trials, tests and positive results, the couple took to alternative practices with more confidence.

The results of the shift has been remarkable. Dock weed appears to be ‘tastier’ – “The cows are eating it now!” Wayne remarks – there is a noticeable reduction in buttercup, and soil inspections are revealing a significant increase in worms – around 20-30 per spade square from around 2-4. The cows appear fuller, milk fever is a near non-event, and the farm has seen a 27% increase in milking efficiency.

The Packard Farm stands as a testament to the power of innovative, sustainable practices in modern agriculture. Wayne and Nicky’s commitment to improving animal and soil health has not only revitalized their land but provided an inspiration to others. Their dedication to agricultural excellence presents a legacy that will endure for generations to come.

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