Wednesday, 24 October 2012 14:26

Trees go as Landcorp ups dairy cows

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SEVERAL HUNDRED hectares of one-year-old pine trees are to be mulched to make way for pasture and then herds of dairy cows. The reason: the low cost of carbon credits and the higher returns from dairying

The development is just out of Taupo on land owned by Wairakei Pastoral and managed by Landcorp. According to Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly, about 1000ha, including land recently planned in pines, has been laying fallow waiting for clarity on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Kelly says with the price of carbon being so low, the company has decided to buy overseas credits and convert the land as quickly as possible to pasture for dairying. Landcorp presently manages six dairy farms in the Broadlands area for Wairakei Pastoral.

The initial development will involve converting land which is adjacent to those farms so that the land can be ‘bolted on’ without incurring any additional major capital cost – such as building new dairy sheds. Already bulldozers and other heavy machinery are on the site clearing and chipping stumps, bulldozing small logs into pits and finally mulching the remaining small sticks into the soil in preparation for sowing grass. 

Fescue and ryegrass are used and great care is taken to plant seed at a time when the best strike can be achieved. Fescue has a narrow sowing season – between the middle of February and the middle of March – whereas ryegrass has a wider sowing band. 

Landcorp farm business manager Alan Bullick says it can take 12-18 months before cows can graze the pasture and even then care has to be taken not to graze it too hard. “We start off in the first year by running 1.9 cows per ha. The next year we step it up to 2.1 and the following year up 2.3,” he says. 

When the land is fully converted it is excellent dairy land, but Bullick believes there are lessons to be learned from previous conversions. He says taking shortcuts doesn’t work and cash has to be spent at the start to get the land properly prepared; this includes the use of lime and super.

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