Future farm a testing ground

B+LNZ's Future Farm Lanercost will be used as a testing ground for tools, technologies and management systems to help sheep and beef farmers future-proof their business.

In Livestock5 Minutes

B+LNZ’s Future Farm Lanercost will be used as a testing ground for tools, technologies and management systems to help sheep and beef farmers future-proof their business.

The organisation’s general manager, farming excellence, Dan Brier, says B+LNZ has considered how the 1310ha North Canterbury hill country farm can best be utilised to help levy payers and has come up with five focus areas reflecting the challenges and opportunities facing sheep and beef farmers.

These are drench resistance, environmental management, virtual fencing, low methane genetics and accelerated genetic gain.
Brier says the immediate focus will be on managing a farm with drench resistance and using B+LNZs farm plan as a tool to build a better business. The near future opportunities include looking at how virtual fencing can be used on a hill country farm, low methane genetics and accelerated genetic gain.

Dan says with all these, the impact on the whole farm system will be taken into account and while for example drench resistance has been diagnosed in sheep, cattle will play an integral part in the parasite management programme.

The use of virtual fences will be of particular interest to cattle farmers, as this technology is likely to play an increasingly important role on hill country farming systems, particularly as farmers are required, through environmental regulations, to exclude stock from waterways and wetland areas.

Dan says virtual fences could be a more cost effective and practical alternative to fencing and while they have been trialled in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, they are unproven in this country’s terrain and farming systems.

He says a typical hill country sheep and beef farm, Lanercost will be an ideal testing ground for this technology. It will allow farmers to assess if virtual fences could be a solution for their farm.

“Over time, the goal will be to find farm production and profit opportunities for virtual fencing.”

The first virtual fencing collars are scheduled to be fitted in August.

Dan says by trialling and demonstrating the use of new technologies, such as virtual fences, and management systems on Lanercost, B+LNZ levy payers will gain an understanding of what might and might not be appropriate for their individual businesses without taking financial or production risks.

There will also be opportunity to consider adopting and adapting outcomes of work to suit different farm and management systems.
“Through our extension work and communication channels, we will keep farmers up-to-date with what we are doing on Lanercost, how we are doing it and most importantly what is working and what isn’t.”

He says it was about trialling new technologies and management practices on a commercial, hill country sheep and beef farm. A farm with all the usual climatic and economic challenges common to all farmers.

Five focus areas 

  • Farm plan: Demonstration of use and application of a farm plan, specifically using B+LNZ’s farm plan and demonstrating how it can be used as part of a total farm management plan. It will also align with the New Zealand Farm Assurance plan (NZFAP) and NZFAP Plus requirements in time.
  • Drench resistance: Drench resistance is a huge concern for the sheep industry in particular, with triple drench resistance having been identified on an increasing number of sheep farms, particularly in the North Island. Drench resistance has been identified on Lanercost so the farm will be able to help farmers as the management team address the issue with the help of experts.
  • Low methane genetics: Lanercost will use low methane rams over a portion of the flock to see how the low methane sheep perform on the farm when compared to the existing genetics.
  • Artificial breeding of sheep: Using a few high merit sires widely in a flock or herd is one way to increase the rate of change of genetics. Simple artificial breeding technologies which don’t require surgery will be used on the farm’s ewe flock.
  •  Virtual fences: Alternative to fencing.