Thursday, 27 February 2014
I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Steve and Heather Wilkins, who farm near Athol in Southland. Their farming business, Wilkins Farming, is large and very diverse, including cropping, diary, sheep, deer, grain handling and a farm shop. It was fascinating to see how all the different enterprises and family members worked together harmoniously. Steve was under considerable pressure as his own Nuffield report, on the “synergy between cropping and diary” was due to be handed in the day after I visited, so thanks for making time for me.
Steve checking some grass seed
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Saturday, 8 February 2014
|The Octocopter ready to fly|
Water Trough management
As sheep are lambed outside and spread over the whole farm there is a twice daily need to check water troughs for leaks. Previously this took someone on a quad bike 2 hrs and involved opening and closing numerous gates. Now with a pre planned mission the octocopter can check all the water troughs on the 460ha property in 20 mins, without leaving the farmyard. The octocopter has a camera fitted to it which can send a live feed to a pair of googles worn by the pilot, and also record the flight footage to be review on the computer later. Any problems are quickly identified and can be solved, with minimal disturbance to the sheep, which is another benefit at lambing time.
The octocopter has the ability to photograph a field of sheep. The image is then processed on a computer and the individual sheep are counted, again without disturbing the sheep or having to go to the field. It will be possible to differentiate between ewes and newborn lambs in the future simply by the number of pixels the sheep or lamb covers.
Monitoring grass growth trends
This application has the biggest potential to improve productivity, as if you can see if your grass growth is trending up or down, by looking at the dry matter (DM) available, this makes the decision to move sheep from one field to another more informed. Through the use of image analysis these trends could be observed quicker than by visual inspection of the field, reducing over and under grazing pasture.
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Monday, 3 February 2014
|A Felfie near Timaru, New Zealand|
After leaving Hugh's I kept heading south in the search of a record breaking Shropshire lad. It always takes longer to get from A to B in NZ than planned as there are lots of places to stop and while away a few moments.
Friday, 31 January 2014
I caught up with Michael who did his Nuffield last year on future arable technologies, which is similar to my study so I was keen learn about his findings and see his farming operation. Michael farms with his brother and father, near Winchester in Canterbury. They grow wheat, barley, ryegrass, potatoes, carrots and forage maize, across their 800 ha farm.
The carrots are grown for juice for the Japanese market. Michael formed a joint venture company with another local grower Pyegroup and setup a carrot washing business, and washes 30,000T per year. The carrots can yield up to 110T/ha during the winter, and are much bigger than normal carrots. The whole process can be seen on a youtube video, Carrot Washing.
Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Eric was an early adopter of VRI (Variable rate irrigation), because of the way his irrigators were set up there was 8 ha (20acres) of overlap on his farm, which is now eliminated by using VRI. A great example of using precision farming to manage variability was highlighted in a field which straddled the old river terrace that has now been levelled off, but is still treated as two fields but with no physical boundary. The top of the old terrace was a heavier soil type and had a crop of peas, which were nearly ready to harvest, whereas the lighter soil below the old terrace was growing forage maize.