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Farming: Do you have a “grazing coach”?

07 Mar 2019

There is a new game in town, and it has had a boost from a visit by one of its guru’s, a South African farmer, with an eye to improving farmers’ profitability. 

It goes by several names, which is confusing, if inevitable.  “Regenerative Farming”, “Mob grazing”, “Holistic pasture management”.  They are all variations on a basic theme - that the health of the land, of the animals on it, and by extension, of the human consumers of meat, will be improved over time by using natural farming methods.  Growing animals in harmony with the land rather than over-fertilizing and over-stocking.

Four groups of farmers have formed under the Red Meat Profit Partnerships (RMPP) in Otago and Southland to study regenerative farming. They combined together to bring Ian Mitchell-Innes here to take part in two-day coaching workshops with the RMPP groups.  While he was here, he did two “pasture walks” on farms describing his mob-grazing principles and these pasture walks were open to the public.

Pasture coach

Mono-culture is an anathema to the regenerative farmer.  Rye grass is de-emphasized with the introduction instead of 15 to 20 different legumes and grasses over-sown onto the pasture with the hooves of animals used to trample the seed into the soil for later germination.

After suitable resting periods, large mobs of stock are moved in and only allowed to graze the top one third of the swarth.  Another third is trampled into the soil to build mulch and the last third is left to re-generate.

Sounds simple, but its not that easy.  For a start, the practitioners insist that every piece of land has to be treated differently.

Ian Mitchell-Innes, the South African guru, spends his time helping interested farmers develop grazing plans for their individual paddocks and animal requirements.  It is all about individual grazing plans, not a one size fits all approach.

The emphasis for Ian goes in this order:

  1. Reduce costs and improve profitability for dairy, sheep and beef farmers
  2. Improve the quality of the grass being fed to animals
  3. Improve the quantity of grass being grown on farms

Ian has left the country but for any farmers that are interested, you need not despair. There is a grazing coach based in Milton, Otago called Siobhain Griffin. It was Siobhain that coordinated the Pasture Walks with Ian over the past two weeks.

Siobhain’s business is called Next Level Grazing and she can be contacted on 020 4086 3855 or next.level.grazing@gmail.com

lan is back here in November 2019 and if you contact Siobhain I am sure she will help you in one way or another to get you involved.

This surely is food for my heart.

Keep asking great questions …

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