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Friday, 10 February 2012 09:30

Pasture software innovation

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"Pasture management is where the farming system starts," says Morrinsville dairy farmer Johan van Ras. In the order of things it comes before animal health because if you haven't got this right, your business can't perform.

"Grass is your bread and butter, and it's the cheapest form of food so you've really got to monitor it," van Ras says.

And a new software tool means that he's now able to do this more quickly and easier than ever before.

Dairy farmer cooperative, LIC, is adding an extension to its MINDA suite of farm improvement products called Land & Feed Basic.

It's a free tool for recording pasture covers and creating a feed wedge, and will be available to farmers later this month.

Van Ras has been one of a small group of farmers who have tested the programme on their farms and says he's delighted with it.

"Poor quality pasture, or not enough, impacts on production and that affects profitability so understanding where your farm is at is really important.

"You need a feed wedge to know what you need to do to get it right and to make decisions, because if you get it wrong, then you'll have to buy-in more feed."

The majority of New Zealand dairy farmers use MINDA to improve their herd's performance, and LIC's general manager of farm systems, Rob Ford, says it is a logical extension to provide farmers with tools that make it easier and more efficient to monitor their grass growth.

"Farmers want to manage every aspect of their farm operations; they trust MINDA to manage their herd records – now it does their land as well.

"With MINDA Land & Feed they can quickly see how each paddock is tracking and which are growing, which aren't, and all compared to pre and post-grazing targets.

"They just need to add data from the last farm walk, and MINDA does the rest avoiding all the time normally taken to collate and interpret the data."

It's this ease which has van Ras enthusiastic about Land & Feed – and what's to come.

"It's really simple to use, I just scanned in an aerial picture of my farm, marked all the paddocks and it was ready to go," van Ras says.

"Now after every farm walk with my plate meter, I just plug in the pasture cover readings for each paddock, and it's all recorded, and I get a feed wedge which shows me if I'm hitting the target line and where I need to be for grass cover.

"I can just look at the feed wedge and I know what I need to do with specific paddocks like applying urea, slowing down the round, or nothing."

MINDA Land & Feed Basic is the first of a suite of pasture management tools coming to MINDA.

A 'Pro' version will follow later this year with more enhanced tools for planning, forecasting and feed budgeting, and then MINDA Map will also be added to provide a detailed visual of the farm.

MINDA Land & Feed joins another recent addition to MINDA - MINDA Milk - on the new web-based platform at www.minda.co.nz.

Van Ras says having this information in MINDA makes farming easier, and being web-based means he can share it with others and log-in from anywhere with the internet.

"It's best if it's all in one system, so you can make better decisions based on profit; and if I can use it on my iPad then that's even better."

MINDA Land & Feed Basic is free for all MINDA customers and available from February 21 at www.minda.co.nz or on MINDA Home

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