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Full Circle: Old Goldmine to new Goldmine

By Customer Stories

Cam and Kayleigh McKay.  Round Hill, Southland. 
200 Ha – 125 Ha effective.  Dry stock farmers

Cam and Kayleigh have come into farming via a traditional path – Cam worked in dairy farming for 10 years and met Kayleigh, who originates from England, on the job.  “We were in neighbouring accommodation, we met and started dating on the same day and have been pretty much inseparable ever since!”  They now have a gorgeous 4-month-old baby, Arthur and have been farming together on their drystock property near Riverton in Southland for a year.

The property has a rich history, having once been the site of a goldmine.  Subsequently it was used for goldmining tours and hosted a small museum put together by Cam’s grandfather.  The farm is built on predominantly gold mining tailings and swamp land, and it was pretty run down when Cam and Kayleigh came onto it last year.  

“We prioritised stock water first up and then got into some fencing and pasture renewal.  We’ve been pretty aggressive in our developments.  Cashflow is key so we’ve taken on grazed animals on a monthly payment basis to help with that.” The property is currently running 170 R2 dairy replacements, 100 R1 dairy replacements and 100 Wagyu x cattle for First Light.  

As it was a bare bones block with low natural fertility and very limited historical fertiliser inputs, Cam and Kayleigh’s approach was to view it with a totally open mind.  Kayleigh led the charge, investigating different approaches and looking at what was happening both here and overseas with innovative farming practices.  Particularly interesting was the rapid advancements in biological farming. Eventually, Cam got on board too and was impressed with what Kayleigh had found.

We just wanted to grow a lot of feed without negatively impacting the environment.

Cam McKay

Cam and Kayleigh’s continuing online research threw up fish hydrolysate as a recurring theme in the success stories from farmers in the States and Australia who were using progressive, balanced farming practices and they became intrigued.  Focusing on strengthening soil health utilising a more biological approach could deliver the sustainable results in plant, pasture and animal health that they were after.  A quick search in New Zealand resulted in Cam contacting Fish IT who turned out to be 30mins up the road from their Round Hill property.  

“I’m keen to farm by observation”, says Cam.  So, while he is definitely interested in and embracing regenerative farming, he doesn’t see their farming practices being necessarily limited to just that.  “We want to build our soil health and are basically looking at and trying different things to see what works”.

Hamish McCallum, from Fish IT, took Cam and Kayleigh to visit some farming clients, including large scale dairy farmers who are utilising Fish IT to successfully grow high quality and quantity of feed with much lower traditional inputs.

“We were totally blown away. Meeting like-minded people who were having great results doing what we were thinking about doing just gave us the confidence to take a leap.”

Since then, Cam and Kayleigh feel like their mindset has really changed.  A holistic management approach means everything feels much more organised.  “Our paddocks are all set up, we know what we are doing each day, and everything has a purpose.  Our need to use sprays has gone down and we are figuring out what works”.

The McKay’s have re-pastured 1/3 of the farm so far and have trialled seed mixes recommended by Pastoral Improvements.  The multi species “Reboot” which has gone in over 12 hectares has been phenomenal. 

“We didn’t spray out, just ploughed and direct drilled and have since applied 30 litres per hectare of Fish IT”.  The results have been outstanding.  “We are at day 62 and have estimated we have grown 6 tonnes per hectare.  It’s just going crazy!”. 

 “We hope to apply Fish IT over as much of the property as possible, probably 3 applications per year. This should increase the microbial activity in the soil to the levels we need.”  “Basically, we want to create an oasis!”  laughs Cam.  

By focusing on the wealth beneath their feet it seems like they are well on their way to turning this historical property into a new goldmine.  We’re already looking forward to checking in with Cam and Kayleigh to see how they are getting along later in the year.

We are at day 62 and have estimated we have grown 6 tonnes per hectare. It's just going crazy!

The soil under the crop is loamy and pliable and retaining good moisture content.  “It’s just amazing to see the healthiness of all the tucker – it’s just so thick!”.

Cam and Kayleigh have also applied Fish IT to about 30 hectares of their existing pasture – most of which is relatively new grass (3-4 years old) and have been really impressed with the results compared to the non-applied paddocks. 

“I would say it has completely turned around” says Cam, “it didn’t go to seed as early, the clover came through faster and it’s a healthy dark green colour”.  They got two extra grazings out of the paddocks over the season and say that the animals utilised the pasture better leaving an even residual post grazing. “The animals loved it too and shined up quicker than the other mob”.

It’s fair to say the McKay’s are pretty excited about the future on their block.  “We want to keep working with Hamish (from Fish IT).  We’ve just connected, and he’s really become someone we can lean on”.  They have dug some holes and been impressed with the mycelium visible in the soil and the improvement in the soil structure.  They plan to continue to pursue farm development and soil health using Fish IT and the multi species approach.

Big Plans for South Canterbury

By Customer Stories, Field Outcomes, Soil Health, Sustainability

Sam Clearwater, Clearwater Contracting

If you need something done, ask a busy person.

We met up with Sam Clearwater and I think it is fair to say that this expression embodies the work ethic of Clearwater Contracting quite well.

Sam runs a fertiliser application contracting business out of his base at Peel Forest in South Canterbury with a focus on the application of liquid fertiliser to get results above the ground in pasture growth and below the ground with emphasis on improving biology in the soil to deliver sustainable results.

The Approach

Sam explains “My background is organic dairy farming at Peel Forest in South Canterbury. We’ve been organic for 22 years now and this has driven my direction into liquid fertilisers. Fertilisers are a precious resource, and we need to utilise them as best as possible.  We need to be increasing our biology count in our soils tenfold and bio-stimulants like Fish IT play a big role in achieving that.”

It’s early days for Sam as he is transitioning from his family dairy farm operation to a contract application business – Clearwater Contracting – but he’s picking up new clients and is running hard at the opportunity.

“We’ve invested in a Tow and Fert 4000, which is an upgrade from the Tow and Fert 1000 we’ve been using for a few years on our own farm, and a tractor to tow it. The Tow and Fert allows us to mix multiple products together in liquid form which gives a much better uptake compared to solid fertilisers and the 4000 allows us to cover greater areas efficiently. Our customers may require a mix of urea, DAP and other fertilisers but in much less volume due to the benefits of liquid application. Using Fish IT gets biology into the equation and we get fantastic results”

A Key Concern

Sam’s biggest concern on the farms he visits is long term sustainability. Sam says “I see a lot of guys pouring huge amounts of potent fertilisers onto their soils. I get out and dig some holes and there’s no worms there. There are compacted soils, heavily bacterial dominant, which creates compaction. It’s concerning to see that. A change is required and through liquid application of appropriate recipes, we believe we can help that change.

“Fertilisers are a precious resource, and we need to utilise them as best as possible. We need to be increasing our biology count in our soils tenfold”

What’s Next

Clearwater Contracting are in a growth phase as they build their client base in South Canterbury. Sam comments “We want to see more clients and we want to see them carry on their success. We’re already seeing fantastic results and we want to take them further. We’re doing herbage tests and we will continue to do our Visual Soil Assessments as part of our on farm analysis. We continue this process with our clients to make sure we’re doing everything properly and help our clients succeed at what they they want to achieve.”

Sam continues “Success for me is two things.  We want to provide a decent, reliable service – the best service possible – and we want to help our customers achieve real sustainability. They’re at a serious turning point at the moment environmentally, and we want to help them get in front of the game. We want our clients growing as much grass as they can with little or no synthetic inputs.”

Sam Clearwater and Clearwater Contracting are on a mission in South Canterbury.  If you’re in their area, would like an assessment of your farm and are looking to liquid fertiliser as a path forward get in touch.

Marshalls reduce nitrogen inputs by 70% with Fish It

By All, Customer Stories

Georgie Galloway is the Farm Manager at Graham and Gail Marshall’s 160-hectare farm just outside of Invercargill, a livestock fattening operation that winters 1,500 dairy cows, raises 500 bull calves, and trade store lambs.

Before they started using Fish IT, the Marshall team applied 150 kg of urea three times per year to the kale crop, along with 450 kg of DAP.  They bought in supplementary feed for the winter.

One day, having gotten halfway through applying solid urea to a 5 hectare paddock before running out, Graham thought to himself, “Yep, I’ll notice that in 2-3 months for sure.” There should have been a big deficit in crop growth (on one side of the paddock). “We thought that it would hurt our production.”

However, 2-3 months later Georgie says there was no difference at all, the side of the paddock that did have solid urea applied had grown no more than the side that hadn’t.

Since using Fish IT our production of kale and grass has increased along with quality. We no longer need to buy in supplementary feed and the pastures have become higher in clover percentage that doesn't bloat stock.

Georgie GallowayFarm Manager

“So that was our main trigger for why we would look at something different.”

It was shortly after this that Georgie and Graham approached the team at Fish It.

The Marshalls apply Fish It in liquid form using the big spray nozzle of a Tow and Fert 1200. This system allows them to add other macro nutrients in liquid form in the same application.

The payback on the capital investment of the Tow and Fert was realised in the first year with savings achieved through lower synthetic inputs across the farm.

Less Synthetic Nitrogen

We have gone from using 450 kg of urea across the entire farm to 120 kgs in conjunction with 90 kgs of Fish IT.

Increased Feed Production

We used to make approximately 2,500 bales of hay on the farm, since using Fish IT that has increased to 3,000 bales per annum.

Cost Reduction

With the reduction in fertiliser costs from around $100,000 per annum, the Marshalls bought investment down to around $50,000 with more productivity.

“After we cut the grass for baleage we apply 30 litres of Fish It and 150kg of Serpentine Super 10K.  We no longer use urea on the grass.”

The Marshall farm has increased baleage production by an additional 500 bales per year and no longer need to rely on supplementary feed.

With the addition of Fish It we now use 70% less urea across the entire farm, we have better pastures, better crops, healthier animals and no need for pesticides.

Georgie GallowayFarm Manager

Looking ahead

The Marshall farm are an intensive farm operation that is three years into their Fish It journey.

The timing is right to conduct some further soil analysis to inform them on the soil structure and biology which will lead to further refinements in inputs to drive greater outputs.

We’ll follow these up in the next article on the Marshall farm journey.

Georgie’s Fish It journey

A shout out to our friends at Tow & Fert who captured the story of how Georgie has increased her production for wintering cows.

The Transition 3:21

Watch Georgie talk about the problem, the solution and the farms transition from synthetic fertiliser to Fish IT.

The Outcome 4:00

Georgie discusses the farms migration to a Fish IT lead land management strategy supported by smaller quantities of urea.

The Future 2:26

Georgie reflects on the future, on the lessons learned, observations and her expectations.