Ramblings of the GM - August 2016




July 2016



2015-16 Lime Sales

We didn’t really have a great sales season this year, probably for obvious reasons. I don’t really have too much to say on this topic as I know we are all looking at our costs with the current state of farming. That is certainly one positive aspect of a downturn; we critically look at our businesses and cut costs where we can, and get rid of any wastage. Usually a better, more efficient operation pops out as a result, and when markets pick up things look rosy. Hopefully this is the case this time too.


One thing I would say is please be careful with your lime and fertiliser applications. Be cost effective, but don’t do “nothing”. Soil pH and soil fertility is very important for a farming operation and you can quickly find yourself in a very poor situation if you do little or nothing. When it comes to soil fertility (and yes, even with AgLime) a “little and often” approach is always much better than a “nothing then heaps” one.


Here at ABLime (on the farm) we use the ABLime Blending Plant team to blend the fertiliser and lime together (a service we offer to our customers) and spread it all at once, it makes things really easy on the farm for our October fertiliser application. You should check it out.


The other thing you should check out is the quality of the lime you are using. Last time I spoke on this topic, I made direct comparisons between ABLime and some of the other competing lime companies. I got myself in a bit of trouble. One of the others was quite angry that I had said what I had, so this time all I will say is, please make sure that your lime is the best quality stuff available (i.e. ABLime’s) because at the moment most of Southland’s lime prices are very similar. You might as well get the best bang for your buck.


Nitrogen Applications

During part of my new season financial budget process, I budget the dairy farm (along with the other operations we have). In the early days of the ABLime farm operation I was talked into using Ballance Agri-Nutrients AgHub software. This software seems to be a bit of a “love it” or “hate it” thing. I am in the “it can be really useful” camp. I have my farm map, weekly pasture cover results, weather station data, fertiliser plan and applications, effluent applications (with GPS), herd weights, milk production, water usage, and soil condition all automatically loading into it.


When I was looking at the budget/plan for the 2016-17 season, I was really trying to cut some cost out of my fertiliser budget. I came across a really interesting thing in my AgHub data. I compared soil temperature (from the soil temperature probes I have with the weather station) to the pasture growth rates from the pasture meter readings.


Now you are going to say that I am stating the obvious, but I can guarantee that a great majority of you are doing what I have done in the past. I apply nitrogen as soon as I can physically get on the paddocks in the Spring (in one case even with a helicopter when we couldn’t), because generally for the second round I need grass. But I have changed my plan for this year. Scientists and other people in the know always tell us that grass slows down and stops at low soil temperatures. I knew that to be the case but never really listened. Interestingly though in review, my AgHub data here showed me that soil temperatures did not rise to above 9 degrees until the 3 October 2015 on our farm last year. I had been growing about 25-30kgDM/ha on the farm up until that point. On the 5 October and subsequent weeks after that, for a bit, my growth rate rose to between 50-75kgDM/ha.


So in this year’s nitrogen plan, I have tried to grow some testicles. I’m going to drop my nitrogen applications until soil temperatures hits 9 degrees. It will take some steel to remain firm on this. I can absolutely guarantee that my farm consultant will try to get me to apply nitrogen before this point, because that is always the plan. But why would I, the grass doesn’t need it until then, and I think it is a waste of money. I am going to give it a go, because I can assure you that both my financial budget and Overseer budget looks heaps better because of it.


Winter Shutdown Progress

We haven’t actually got a lot of maintenance to do on the plant this winter. We are again this year just replacing a few basic wear parts, and some conveyor belting. One of our crushers needs a bit of work on its rotor, and we need to replace a small section of one of the rotary kiln driers. We will easily be ready to go again by the middle of August.


Social Media

ABLime has recently become a presence on Facebook, although quite a minor player. When it comes to soil management, soil fertility and fertiliser, I get a few very interesting articles across my desk (quite a lot of junk too though). Some of them really help some of my own farming decisions here. I thought that you may wish to read them too, so we are going to just put up (post) the odd article. If you wish to see some of them search us out on Facebook, and “Like” our page if you want to see more. If you don’t like what you see, do nothing and we won’t pester you.




Yours sincerely,





Steve Smith

ABLime - General Manager