Mike & Georgia Dewhirst – Dairy Farmers, Greendale, Canterbury

My guess is all dairy farmers believe they understand that grass quality and quantity offered to milking cows will translate to good milk production; the more grass the more milk, and the increase use of nitrogen to produce more grass to produce more milk.

But, how many dairy farmers understand the workings of the soil engine that grows this grass and the fine balance of NPKS minerals/trace elements and the symbiotic relationship between bacteria, fungi, ciliates, flagellates, protozoa and earthworms in the soil and the grass roots supplying sugars to feed the biota needed for strong grass production?

This farmer didn’t know much until I was introduced to Soil food web tests that measure the volume and ratio of biolife in the soil, and dig in the soil to count earthworms and to see how deep the roots go and observe how compacted the soil was.

On the basis of my first soil food web test (result-bacteria dominant soil) a strategy for my pasture and soil engine health recovery started. So began what has been a very interesting journey.

Fish hydrolysate; fish guts, skin, scales & bones prepared by enzyme treatment, supplied by Kypros at United Fisheries as Bio Marinus, became the main food ingredient for building and nourishing my new tireless bio workforce in the ground; the breaking down organic matter, digesting cow excrement, producing a great environment for N-fixing clover and releasing locked up minerals. The physical evidence of change became very noticeable in a short period of months; thick layers of worm-cast for example, more clover content in pasture without bloat problems, more milk and happier cattle.

As a result of changing our fertilizer/nutrient plan, the soil engine is developing more power every week. Everything above ground is benefiting from this. This is very satisfying.

Other points of interest we are following up are soil structure stability under irrigation, soil humus production for increased water holding capacity, we now have up to 4 tons earthworms/ha more than at the start, better quality of grass with a 30+ day rotation, and more things are becoming evident…

Happy Days!
Mike Dewhirst
Two dairy platforms of 215ha, support block 190ha, 1660 cows, 400 replacements.
2nd May 2016