Frano Staub, General Manager of Theland Purata Farming, needed to guarantee availability of winter feed for the contract milkers on the company’s nine Mid-Canterbury dairy farms, and selecting the SureYield™ fixed price crop management model to grow fodder beet for winter grazing took the risk out of that process.
Frano says that in 2019, Purata decided to engage with an independent agronomist to manage 3,800ha of effective dairy pasture area across nine farms and two support blocks, which were grass-based systems at the time, and Catalyst Performance Agronomy (formerly Wholesale Seeds) was selected.
Discussions took place between Frano, and Derek Thelning and Patrick Davis from Catalyst about the security of winter feed for Purata’s 13,000 MA cows plus young stock, and it led to the decision that introducing fodder beet crops onto each of the farms, totalling 363ha, would secure the feed required without overly compromising the stocking rate or effective area of each farm.
Purata dairy farms operate as level 2 production systems with a stocking rate of 3.7. Fodder beet is fed to MA cows in late lactation (autumn) and during winter. In winter, the 13kg average diet that Purata feeds daily comprises 8kg of fodder beet, 2kg of silage and 3kg of straw per cow.
“With the size of our operation, and contract milkers to manage across nine farms, going onto SureYield simplified the process to secure our winter feed on farm; we set yield and budget targets for our fodder beet crops, agreed on all elements of planning before the beet was planted and had a single point of contact (with Catalyst) right the way through.” Frano says.
And, the results of the 2021-22 speak for themselves; an average yield target of 24.8T dry matter was set for the total 363ha of fodder beet and Catalyst exceeded that target with a result of 27.7T DM.
Senior Catalyst agronomist, Derek Thelning, managed Purata’s crops for the entire season and says there were some key factors that enabled him to exceed the yield target.
“Managing any fodder beet crop requires careful attention to detail in all areas, whether it is groundwork, fertiliser inputs or weed control timings. In this instance, SureYield gave [Catalyst] an additional level of control to make the call ourselves around its management start to finish. This was a big factor in achieving the result we did.” Thelning says.
For Frano, there were other benefits to operating on the SureYield model than simply exceeding the yield target, and that included:
- a guarantee of an exact amount of available feed across all nine farms for at least 61 days across winter,
- the requirement that the paddocks for next season’s crops were off the grazing round by 30 September, and groundwork was completed to a uniform standard
- the cash flow benefits of equal split payments across the season
Patrick Davis, Catalyst CEO, says that the parameters of the SureYield model was a key factor for Frano Staub and the Purata board members deciding to introduce fodder beet into their farm system.
“For someone who has not done business with Catalyst before, having the yield target and budget in writing, and the contract in place, can provide them with that additional peace of mind.” Davis says.
“Now, a season later, given the stellar results we achieved for them on SureYield, the Purata team now has that confidence we can grow exceptional fodder beet crops for them. They have since decided to end the SureYield agreement and opt into our partnership service tier.”