Photo Gallery - Holistic Management


June 6th 2024 Marlborough Curious Cockies, Renwick, Marlborough

We visited two contrasting properties with both running multiple enterprises.  The smaller property ran livestock, crops and grapes but had also tried farming people with a maize maze to capture the summer market.  They had shifted from dairy grazing to breeding cows to allow more opportunity for crops, particularly cereals and seeds but are also aware relying on harvesting contractors is a serious limitation.  They had a strong vision for the property coupled with a family history going back 180 years.  The second property, livestock were second fiddle to grapes but still had to stand on its own finances.  The strong wine brand has been the backbone for developing stock water and fencing to improve effectiveness of hill country grazing management.  This investment is to create a particular theme for the property’s branding which products included woollen apparel and high end meats to add to various wines.  An interesting reality about the power of branding was customers live by brand values, they don’t care where the product is from. 


May 28th 2024 Aorangi Curious Cockies, Methven, Canterbury

The group visited a cropping property where they are working towards a more environmentally friendly cropping programme.  The challenge is moving in that direction when there isn’t any financial reward and yields are inconsistent.  Seed production is more challenging using regen than forage production.  Seed treatments are more beneficial for production than anything that comes later.  The toy of the day was a sifter for Johnson-Su compost.  Targeting delivery of nutrients will be their focus as inputs costs rise.  Then visited a dry stock operation trying many different treatments including commercial biological brews, seawater, bitterns and electromagnetic gismos.  As an ex-cropping farm soils were compacted, no earthworms, and a stalled nitrogen cycle.  Their attitude was if they apply everything, they won’t find what their limiting factor is.  Animals graze whole plants to the soil surface often compromising pasture recoveries.  Last summer the dry stock property held 25% more moisture than the family dairy land next door. 


May 2nd 2024 Central Curious Cockies, Cromwell, Otago

Visited a couple of iconic properties.  The first was about to celebrate being on their property 100 years.  Tenure review forced them to rethink traditional methods.  They started with a governance board and began making changes, primarily subdivision, fertiliser and pastoral development.  Their mantra is keeping things simple regarding livestock management.  In recent years they’ve diversified into horticulture as part of an investment strategy.  The second property championed drones to reduce labour.  They also worked with soil conditioners for nearly a decade and were experiencing good results.  They were very much traditionists in other respects.  There were just starting to explore how to tap into passing recreational tourists to fund community services.


April 30th 2024, Southern Curious Cockies, Balfour, Southland

It’s surprising how many farmers that consider themselves conventional are doing innovative things.  The group visited a farm exploring crossing dairy breeds to find their ideal animal; smaller, good production and invisible in the mob (no problems).  An interesting conversation explored the difference between BW and following pedigrees when choosing breeding stock.  This difference makes a significant impact on production, however, a high producing, low BW herd will always be second fiddle to a high BW, low producing herd in the sharemilking game.  We also looked at a property where grazing management had wobbled causing a lot of mature feed and discussed management options to get on top of that.  We had a good look at Kiwitech trough systems as stock water was an issue. 


April 23rd 2024, Canterbury Curious Cockies, Waipara, Canterbury

Today the group visited sheep and beef properties working their way through a dry autumn.  Both were leasing from families, successful with winter crops, trading livestock classes, getting stock water sorted for higher flow rates and staying away from alternative fertilisers.  One admitted all development and trading costs came from cash flow, hence no interest to pay.  The other had diligently worked through an array of on-farm fertiliser experiments to find accuracy and reliability.  There was debate over whether lucerne or raphno was the better crop to lift summer production.  Upon asking older members of Curious Cockie Club what would they change 20 years ago, all mentioned adding interventions such as genetics, crops, trees.  None spoke of changing management.  Both farmers spoke of fodder crops saving them, and despite both admitting grazing management issues neither were exploring how to fix them.  How often do farmers use “safe” industry interventions instead of questioning and enhancing their own skills and judgements? 


March 26th 2024, Aorangi Curious Cockies, Ikawai, Canterbury

Visited a long time organic farming couple who sell all their own produce.  The realised early on they needed a market driven business as their small property did not have the scale to chase intensive production.  They tried a number of enterprises till they settled on pastured poultry.  In feeding their own grain through chickens, they return 20-30 tonnes of nutrients (Overseer) which is more than they could purchase, thereby being self-contained.  One chook took a shine to one of the group – pictured.  The second property had gone through a massive development programme to realise more from irrigation and better quality pasture double stock units within 8 years.  They dropped rearing hoggets to run dairy grazers because they return more while making it easier to destock during tough times because no emotional connection to genetics.  The nature of soil structure makes cultivation troublesome so they are now switching drills to also prevent lifting rocks.  A decent stock water system has been the backbone of success to date.


7th March 2024, Northern Curious Cockies, Tangowahine and Ruatangata, Northland

Spent time today with a farmer who brings hard business experience to farm management meaning if it doesn’t make money, its gone.  In purchasing an adjacent property to his dairy farm, we looked at infrastructure investment, primarily drainage and stock water to lift the property’s performance.  We discussed options for worn out and pugged soil, alligator weed control and pasture mixes.  A trial with AgResearch found 4ha of bananas would deal with all effluent but couldn’t find a way to make it pay.  We visited another property to learn about the lime quarry there and how they mixed lime with fertiliser products to create blends for clients.  Then an enthusiastic talk about kiwi which are an incredibly hardy animal.  This property has a strong population as the owners shoot stray dogs which are the biggest predator for adult birds.  Stoats are the greatest predator for chicks.  Stoats are targeted with 1080 in bait stations rather than aerial drops.  This changed my view about the poison.  Bait stations target rats and possums which stoats eat reducing their avoidance of bait stations and minimising poison in the environment. 


5th March 2024, Waikato Curious Cockies, Hamilton, Waikato

Today the group visited a couple of innovators.  One dairy farmer decreased his fertiliser use by 2/3 only for his production to increase by 30%.  He simply put standard soluble fertilisers in water and applied them every 14 days.  Won’t get that idea from MPI or fert reps.  Getting the basics right was important.  Opening spring round was 70 days and didn’t drop below 32 days for the milking season.  He wanted his cows eating “silage” grass as it was better for them.  The second property was focusing on genetics to shift a 400kg cattle beast to the works instead of a 700kg.  This increases turnover, achieves improves feed efficiency, and complies better with environmental and winter weather considerations.  Both were focusing on longer pasture recoveries between grazing, over 30 days.  Both believed best to work with what pasture you have rather than chasing production with new pastures.  Neither into crops as soils take five years to recover from maize.  Not sure either would ever be acknowledged by the industry.


28th February 2024, Central Curious Cockies, Ranfurly, Otago

Visited a driven entrepreneur focusing on deer and the unfair advantages they can bring compared to traditional sheep and beef.  While they work hard on traditional animal performance around venison and velvet, that’s not where all the opportunities are in the high country.  Taking advantage of rugged landscapes to farm people and their hobbies (whether weapons or cameras) allows farmers to capture the appreciating gain of trophy animals.  It also exposes farmers to business thinkers and thereby access to resources traditional operations struggle to find.  Then to a cropping farm supplying poultry and bread industries by taking advantage of the high sunshine hours of the Maniototo.  The focus here being precision based farming with irrigation, agrichemicals and fertiliser.  Beef livestock grazed across half the property providing another income stream.  While costs have inflated, the variability within gross margins for traditional grains appears to be the same as it was when I was a student 30 years ago. 


27th February 2024, Southern Curious Cockies, Catlins, Southland

Saw a dairy farm today where the sole focus was EFS/kgMS.  This focus has moved them away from traditional practices to; once-a-day milking, being fully self-contained, no calf meal, no urea (10 years) no ryegrass (cocksfoot better for them), fully solar so no electricity expenses, closed herd for 10 years and other innovations.  They’ve not used teat seal and dry cow therapy for several years.  They reason why milk high somatic cell count cows that require teat sealing and dry cow when getting rid of them earlier reduces milk contamination, allows more grass for healthier animals and no animal health bill?  Also visited a property on the wild southern coast.  In another life the owner used to sell meat directly to ex-military wanting a carnivore diet.  Now building a business around 200 beef cows while taming rushes, swamps and flax.  With DoC as a neighbour, cows fight wild pigs for grass.  Infrastructure investment is key to reduce labour and deal with southern coast weather.  The problem when buying a property is that fences and tracks are often rated at zero meaning properties that look cheap seldom are. 


20th February 2024, Hawkes Bay Curious Cockies, Dannevirke, Manawatu

The Hawkes Bay Curious Cockies had a day on monitoring.  They visited a couple of dairy farms, both milking once-a-day.  The first was regenerating its soils after being hammered by nitrogen use.  Animal behaviour and performance was now improving after a five year journey.  Production was the barometer for this business, even more important while being organic and limited to what supplements can be used.  The second property was all about biological controls for plant weeds.  We focused specifically on thistles as cinnabar moths had already done their work and ragwort had largely disappeared for the season.  We were introduced to the Green Thistle Beetle, Thistle Receptacle Weevil and the Vagrant Twitcher.    Farmers having the time to stop and notice what is happening to plants is undervalued.  Like most things in farming, if you don’t do it yourself, somebody will offer a service and costs you don’t need.


12th February 2024, Marlborough Curious Cockies, Rai Valley, Marlborough

The group visited the greenery of the Rai Valley in stark contrast to most of Marlborough currently.  In visiting a couple of dairy farms, both heavily involved with wetland restoration projects.  The funding for these projects has sped up progress by years.  Both properties were conscious of their nitrogen use and were mitigating issues by applying it in moderation.  Both had released dung beetles as part of catchment activities.  The group was introduced to a great example of looking at returns per grass kg eaten as a way of identifying good profitable complimentary enterprises.  The role of production forestry as an additional income source was also explored.  Forestry can be a useful succession option, something to start early.


8th February 2024, Canterbury Curious Cockies, Rakaia Valley, Canterbury

The group visited a couple of properties in a challenging environment.  Both businesses are improving meat production while retaining robust wool production from merinos.  Tenure review and becoming freehold created financial freedom to move away from traditional management.  Both farmers are focusing on efficiency of time management to fit in their wider industry roles.  The big difference was where each farmer was in their journey.  While both were questioning practices and management, it’s time on the land observing and experimenting that creates a quiet confidence about what works.  The ability to explain how livestock stimulate biodiversity and improve ecosystem services in this kind of landscape is something both farmers needed more confidence in.  Don’t get that from FEP workshops. 


28th November 2023, Canterbury Curious Cockies, Waipara, Canterbury


Checked out two properties of contrasting sizes but both looking at how to make a dollar.  The smaller property was using small parcels of land as a way of expanding land area without paying for it which comes at a cost for optimising grazing management which can influence fertility transfer.  Livestock breeding focuses on higher fertility shedding sheep to pump out more lambs with less cost.  Dropping wool allows ewes to have more lambs and pump more into them.  The larger property direct marketed meat and other products.  They were becoming more specific about targeting consumers with money, the retired.  On-farm they are going back to basics, doing more with less.  An important factor here was getting staff involved with management, like researching options for capital items like machinery.  Both properties had diversified to reduce risk but were now focusing on worked best for them.


2nd November 2023, Hawkes Bay Curious Cockies, Waipukurau, Hawkes Bay

Visited an organic dairy farm proving the value of organics.  The owners previous life in banking highlighted production systems had little impact on profits.  Profit is always down to the farmer.  High input systems increase risk, hence why they look so attractive in good years yet they always have issues compared to low input systems which do much better in poor years.  Right now, income down 25% but WFE down 50%.  Efficiency comes before production.  Took a number of years to have courage to switch to organics but once crossed over positive results materialised within a year.  By year two, stress gone as finances stacking up.  Challenged regen guys about having a foot in each camp as agrichemicals can only knock pastoral and cropping ecosystems out of balance.  Conventional system underwhelming as simply decide production you want and then work backwards.  Makes every year look good but doesn’t prepare you for unexpected.


27th October 2023, Aorangi Curious Cockies, Geraldine, Canterbury

The focus today was genetics.  The first property is part of Beef and LambNZ trial into breeding low input rams.  A strong focus was intestinal worm resilience which is measured by growth rate.  Not a single ewe has been drenched for 23 years.  Clovers are best for assisting lambs to deal with worms.  With methane, ration doesn’t affect high emitters.  Dags account for 95% of flystrike, even on shoulders.  With the second property, focus was cattle.  Carcass weight is everything as don’t get enough premium for marbling.  Rib is key, rump has no relevance.  However, a conundrum is processors don’t want back fat but commercial operators do because they want cattle to groom pastures for other livestock classes.  Bought a dairy farm to have cows that earn cash while carrying stud embryos.  Both properties looked to spread risk by focusing on multiple livestock classes for cash flow.


26th October 2023, Central Curious Cockies, Middlemarch, Otago.

First property was an intensive lamb finishing place integrated into a larger organisation with its own supply chain for market premiums.  While the focus had been around optimising business performance, they were now starting to look at ways of improving shelter to stop soil erosion and help lengthen growing season into the dry.  While chicory was core for finishing branded lambs, the majority were finished on lucerne and mixed pastures.  They use deferred grazing to strengthen pasture longevity.  The second property had a long family history in the area.  Tenure review allowed the business to take new directions by freeing up capital.  Water is a huge issue and investment in storage is ongoing for their success.  Culled ewes hard to get rid of feet problems.  Interesting conversations around production and finishing lambs, but also how locking up land was decreasing biodiversity in instances.  Ongoing issues with DoC were mentioned with both properties today. 

25th October 2023, Southern Curious Cockies, Balfour, Southland

Visted two contrasting properties.  The first an organic dairy farm where the business plan has been to minimise inputs to lift ROI.  They’ve invested in hay making implements that require smaller tractors to run, hay dryer to reduce various issues around silage and composting barn to recycle nutrients.  They believe their cow breed also costs less to run because it needs less sugar in winter.  Halter has been useful but timing of collars may have affected conception rates.  Comfortable with a lower production system so future challenges will be whether the reductions in premiums will be enough to keep things on-track.  The second sheep and beef property demonstrated the benefit of mature shelterbelts in a howling northerly.  Investing in infrastructure early has allowed them flexibility now to spend time with kids.  Had an interesting discussion around riparian management comparing stream banks under completely different management.  Without grazing woody weeds have dominated creating a fire risk before falling in and clogging up the waterway. 

3rd October 2023 Waikato Curious Cockies Matamata and Tirau

The group visited an organic dairy which also sold it’s own milk.  They were early converters to organic.  Fonterra doubled the payout for organic milk the day they signed marketing contracts meaning they’ve had a challenging journey in creating a product that has stood on its own merits without any advertising.  They’ve found Halter really useful but will question its role as price climbs.  As the next generation expands into horticulture on the home farm, milking is likely to move elsewhere.  At the dairy/beef property we visited next we learned about growing cattle with lower emissions.  Secret was optimising growth rates at younger ages thereby optimising turnover.  No Wagyu here because they take so long to grow out resulting in higher emissions.  Pasture fed dairy beef will replace bobby calves and come at the expense of sheep and beef.  An interesting observation was measuring success of maize crop by cob weight, up to 440grams/cob with 2.5 cobs per plant instead of using DM weights.  

17th August 2023, Hawkes Bay Curious Cockies, Waipawa, Hawkes Bay

The group visited two research trials, one looking at pasture species and the other focusing on grazing management.  The pasture trial is looking at different pasture mixes to determine which provides better resilience and production for the local area, particularly for drought.  They include a very diverse mix, plantain and white clover and ryegrass and white clover.  An important factor for drought resilience will be soil carbon levels which they are measuring down to 60-cms.  They plan using E-Shepherd to create more flexibility with multiple daily shifts.  The second trial is comparing set stocking and adaptive grazing at the same stock density to see if moving animals faster at the same stock density influences pasture dynamics.  Due to wet conditions stock density was lowered to prevent soil damage which changed the grazing regime for the winter months.  Research has already documented a difference in dung distribution of the two grazing practices with set-stocking showing a distinct “camping” dung pattern compared to grazing practice that moves livestock faster through breaks.  It will be interesting to see how these dung patterns affect the distribution of fertility over time.  Both projects are still too early for pasture results to be shared. 


July 4th 2023 Canterbury Curious Cockies, Oxford, Canterbury

The group enjoyed visiting a group grafting away at building their dream hill country property.  The struggle to find a system that works was made clear as its taken them 10 years to realise in their environment its better to take their profits from stock early.  This means their breeding stock have a free run for flushing and lambing by not competing with younger stock.  Fencing is a priority over fertiliser this season, smart because the return on fencing outlasts fertiliser by years.  Creating other enterprises which bring the public on to the property isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and despite the juggling that goes on managing groups and their expectations, the income from them reduces risk.  The second property had been farmed by the same couple coming up 60 years.  However, covid proved devastating for them as livestock companies ignored their situation to shift stock burdening them with huge feed bills.  In this industrialised world, the problem with being a small commodity farm is it leaves you at the end of the cue for labour, marketing, and finance. 

June 29th 2023, Central Otago Curious Cockies in Wanaka and Cromwell, Otago

The group visited one of the few properties in its valley focusing on farming through deer mostly, with cattle and sheep.  Their motto is to keep up with regulations as that increases property value so they invest in planting and fencing, something they’re especially mindful of due to public access along their boundary.   They enjoy a close relationship with SFF and their scenery brings marketing opportunities for the company.  They also experiment and found a bio-active fertiliser dealt to grass grub.  Also on the dance card today was a carbon zero orchard where electricity is replacing all fossil fuel technologies such as vehicles, fertilisers and agrichemicals.  Even humans will be replaced by self-driven tractors with Gopro cameras linking every tree’s QR code with its productive behaviours.  However, still need humans for picking…

June 27th 2023, Southern Curious Cockies, Otautau, Southland

Visited a property renown for trying many different things including being one of the first composting barns.  Finding the right carbon source for bedding is challenging, despite forestry at their doorstep.  Then there’s the old question of building a barn and then needing to autumn calve to utilise and pay for the asset; did the financial gains reduced the workload?  And why is it you can spend years spraying ragwort, but it goes after a single peppering?  How come the professionals can’t explain that?  The riddles of farming are never ending.  Then we visited with a couple who stumbled into an enterprise which appears to have the enviable ability to significantly grow from its own cashflow.  They’ve come from a line of different farming enterprises early in their career.  Dairy offered the security of simplifying business operations but that came at the risk of being in a cooperative.  The new line of business reduces that risk.


June 15th 2023, Waikato Curious Cockies, Paeroa and Te Aroha, Waikato


The group visited an interesting property in that they set stock sheep and cattle all year round.  They swap where each graze every six months.  The farmer found as he intensified production, labour became a critical factor.  So reducing labour and simplifying everything made more money for him.  This wet season allowed him to rest paddocks over summer instead of capitalising on more stock purchases but dry seasons are a challenge.  Then the group visited an organic dairy looking to develop beef herd to take advantage of their run-off block.  They were dealing with high soil levels of zinc due to previous owners dosing for facial eczema.  There was also the issue of so few dairy staff having experience of System 1 or 2 and how to create awareness of what make sense with lower input production.


June 13th 2023, Northland Curious Cockies, Dargaville, Northland.


The group today visited the Northland Agricultural Research Farm which is undergoing a SFFF trial using three dairy herds to find out which pasture systems can handle warmer conditions.  The Low Emission (no N pasture) trial surprised with up to 50% clover over summer and this season was more profitable than “Current” practice trial due to a combination of better grazing management, a lower milk price and high fertiliser prices.  However, the Alternative Pasture mix trial (75% of pasture in cocksfoot, tall fescue, clovers and herbs and 25% in ryegrass and kikuyu) has been the most consistent to date in terms of production and profit regarding the challenging weather conditions.  All pastures succumb to recent flooding except kikuyu and had to be resown.  Then we visited sand country farmers who had practiced organic farming for 18 years and their multi-species pastures have proven more reliable over time.  Both properties are struggling with grazing techniques which maintain diversity of pasture mixes but the second farmers commented in moving from dairy to beef, pastures became more diverse due to less intensity.


June 7th 2023, Hawkes Bay Curious Cockies, Marton and Grasslands, Massey, Manawatu

The group visited a Wiltshire stud that could trace its origins to the first Wiltshires brought to NZ in the early 1970s.  The owner’s family bought them to get into the T-grade carcass market in the early 80s.  That led into performance recording to ensure traits were of value to the NZ market.  Using DNA techniques is the next step.  The group also visited the GHG methane laboratory which provided a great stimulus about nutrition, greenhouse gases, and animal performance.  Understanding an artificial rumen is a collection of glass jars in an enclosed oven helped highlight how the process of measuring rumen chemistry is fraught with compromises compared to the real thing.  For example, rumen walls absorb gases, massage the paunch and is buffered with a regular supply of saliva whereas glass jars don’t do any of these activities.  What’s also interesting is they need the initial rumen liquid from a real beast as its impossible to create it in the lab artificially.  The frank discussions we had were enlightening and entertaining as scientists grapple between their expectations and reality.


May 25th 2023, Aorangi Curious Cockies, Methven and Maronan, Canterbury

The group visited a cropping property weaning itself off agrichemical which has been a challenging journey for the owner.  With so little research looking into that space there was a robust conversation about the value of farmers conducting their own research in hap-hazard ways, particularly when seasons have been so variable.  And then how do you compete with successful cropping systems that externalise impacts of agrichemical residues?  Best way forward is small groups of farmers with common interests to share ideas among themselves.  The second property has a large pasture egg production enterprise.  Originally, they were for moving behind dairy cows but with the costs of setting up the business and labour, that has been shelved for the time being.  One thing they plan doing is using electric netting to create lanes to concentrate manure more evenly on their current site.  Chickens were originally considered to reduce pasture pests.  Cheapest way of beating pests is eating them.


May 16th 2023, Southern Curious Cockies, Kennington and Waianawa, Southland

The group visited the BioActive Soils factory at Kennington to hear about their products and the impact they are having on crops and pastures.  Their products are fish based and use a variety of driers and bioreactors to create their line of solid products.  About half the finished product is enzymes, the rest being their food.  One farmer in the group has used their product down the chute instead of broadcasting and achieved very good results.  The property we visited were over-wintering 1300 cows on crop and pasture.  They’re in their first season of trialling multi-species crop but have yet to establish how the biomass compares to their monoculture of kale.  However, one benefit has been it costs less than half the price of kale.  Their long term goal is to be all grass wintering.


May 4th, 2023 Canterbury Curious Cockies, Cheviot, Canterbury

Visited a farmer today focusing on creating an animal that not only fitted his landscape but was bringing wool back to his district.  By developing ¼ Breds that can pump out a 75mm staple in six months, shearing twice a year can be profitable with the right wool contract.  After two wet summers he knows feet are sorted, next is improving resilience to intestinal worms.  We then visited a member of the group just before he went off to a dinner to collect an award for prime beef.  But tucked away was an example of his ingenuity designing a silvopasture with many different deciduous trees.  Being on a northern slope, the lanes it created allowed better grazing control, reducing turf grasses like browntop and encouraging tuft grasses like cocksfoot.  The combination of shade and pasture species should increase resilience for drier summers when they return.


April 13th 2023 Hawkes Bay Curious Cockies, Carterton, Wairarapa

Visited a property where stock water was the limiting factor in moving things forward.  Can’t slake the thirst of 400 steers with 15mm pipe.  Also host decided not to use any high analysis fertiliser for 7 years and to date things still going strong.  The debate over set-stocking verses rotational grazing came down what are you trying to achieve?  Repairing damage usually requires moving livestock.  Then visited a property that had no fertiliser or lime for 35 years.  They specialise in growing stud rams and ewes on low octane feed, the complete opposite of industry practice.  Even in a normal dry season, triplet lambs with reach 40kgs liveweight by late January and late weaning with the main ewe flock averaging 155% lambing to the ram.   An interesting moment was jumping the fence to compare soils from an intensive grazing property.  Despite the pasture being a multi-species mix, the soil was less friable and had active grass grubs, something completely absent from our host’s soil and mature pasture. 


March 2nd and 3rd Central Curious Cockie Club, Ohai, Mossburn, and Kingston, Southland

The Central Curious Cockies visited an iconic southern station to get a grasp of farming at a very large scale.  The focus was to simplify systems and develop better communication between staff which highlighted the challenges of large operation to changes in culture and management systems.  Then checked an amazing smaller property with nearly every paddock surrounded with hedgerows of flax and trees making it ideal for possible tourists with a cycleway nearby.  Again, they were aiming to create simple systems requiring less labour as they aged.  The last property was switching to cropping from dry stock. Moving though large scale development associated with changing land use was complicated by the potential for a lot of new neighbours very quickly.  Wildings pines on their hill country was another concern.  No matter their size, all of these business were looking at simplifying systems as complicated systems only breeds costs.


February 28th and March 1st Aorangi Curious Cockie Club, Balclutha, Otago

The group headed south to check out three iconic farmers in South Otago.  The first property grabbed our attention with rainfall declining 20% in ten years on a rolling average and the use of a coal pit to put trace minerals back on the land.  The next property was looking at how to become more self-contained and exploring the value of silvoculture and even pondering the idea of grazing dairy cows and sheep together.  Another property was focusing on simplification of grazing and production systems to optimise lamb growth when grass available and then dumping stock to allow the property to recover over the rest of the summer.  All properties were focusing on profit because banks value cash over biological capital.


February 27th 2023, Southern Curious Cockie Club, Manapouri, Southland

The Southern Curious Cockies ventured to Manapouri today to look at a couple of interesting properties.  Both had gone through significant changes regarding grazing management with one saying it had lifted pasture production by 20%.  We also saw ingenuity at its best with biological brews using everything from cray skeletons to rice.  We saw a completely different grazing management with long/tall pastures which was reducing fertiliser use while maintaining profitability.  The dropping of ryegrass for fescue, hogget mating and winter crops was producing a welcome bonus for the farmer, all paddocks being available in spring.  That reduces risk.


February 23/24, 2023, Waikato Curious Cockie Club, Normanby, Opunake, and Whanganui

The group visited three properties to explore different systems.  One dairy without fertiliser and agrichemical with record beating production for many years was pouring money into feeding its cows.  The group was left shocked about the financial reality of that.  Another property had a horticultural enterprise growing seeds for eating.  Drought had shifted their focus to ensure better livestock enterprise resilience by dropping cows for steers.  Another property was trying collar technology and assigning landscape designers for in-paddock shelter lines.  Their stories of the attitudes of DairyNZ and dairy in general towards organic dairy producers were hilarious even though DairyNZ use them as a case study demonstrating the business value of organic production. 


February 20th, 2023, Hawkes Bay Curious Cockie Club, Dannevirke, Hawkes Bay

This week this group was to visit a property that was leading the way with insects as biological controls for pasture weeds.  The devastation from the recent storm meant the day was cancelled but I visited the property anyway because this is the time of year to see was the farmer gets so excited about.  A huge grass grub and porina attack two years decimated pastures so now thistles and ragwort are in plague proportions.  With four insects attacking ragwort and at least two more predating thistles the farmer was confident that within 3 years these weeds would be below 5% of the area now.  Observation skills are important with these insects as identifying age and stage of plant growth is useful because plant predation occurs at different stages and ages.  In addition, an understanding of what management and conditions causes these plants to establish and thrive is also useful.


February 14th, 2023, Canterbury Curious Cockie Club, Hawarden, Canterbury

The group visited North Canterbury to check out a couple of properties where the owners are quite savvy about what they focus on.  Both have long established that season determines stocking rate, not the property.  Many farmers struggle with this idea.  That said, one will purchase feed, the other would rather destock.  Both also are into systems that minimise labour where minimising mobs is key, one will put all classes of livestock in one mob to graze grass, the other minimises stock classes and uses crop and silage to target nutrition.  Both are happy to spend money, one by measuring productive traits such as DNA testing, the other infrastructure such as fence and water.  Both were figuring out ways to help children buy their way into the family farm either through purchasing smaller blocks of land or backing start-ups.  As a result, the day offered a range of ideas to deal with a number of common farming family issues.

December 8th, 2022, Waikato Curiosity Club, Okere Falls and Paengaroa, Bay of Plenty

The group revisited a property that operates without electricity so the technologies for fencing and especially stock water were of interest as energy costs rise.  They were trying higher grazing residuals and deferred grazing with dairy grazers to find what suits the property and pushing feed further into summer.  A second property visited had the notoriety of having grass and good stock when others were struggling.  We found they were happy to defer grazing and ration that out in February.  With the current wet conditions, they were happy to trample grass instead of eating it.  Deferred paddocks are chosen at random and they are not the same paddocks each year.  They also buy spring silage to get through dry autumns.  An important contribution to farm income was from their kiwifruit orchard, the management of which is contracted out. 


December 6th, 2022, Northland Curiosity Club, Te Kao, Northland

There aren’t many large sheep operations in Northland so visiting a property that has 8,000 is a novelty.  Too much Poll Dorset influence reduces lamb survival by reducing skin thickness.  We quickly learned barbers pole worm is particularly challenging as it strikes during lambing making oral drenching difficult.  Two-tooths in particular, are susceptible at this time.  Ticks seem to be worse on soils with low pH.  Geese always arrive in paddocks the day before livestock.  Weed wiping rushes significantly lifts pasture production.  Bulls rotate around cells anywhere from 40-60 days depending on time of year.  All bull calves are kept entire and added to the bull system.  Beef bulls much easier to manage than Friesian bulls.  Made an interesting observation regarding the spread of mangroves in the harbour which has accelerated with fencing it off from grazing.  Prior cows would graze mangrove saplings and keep them in check.


November 24th 2022, Aorangi Curiosity Club, Tekapo, Canterbury

For a change of scene, the group visited the Mackenzie basin to look at lupins and biological controls.  The first property was an education into lupins and its ability to thrive in cold, dry climates with high aluminium soils.  Management of alkaloids is avoided somewhat by grazing during flowering when they reduce significantly.  Sheep eat lupins more readily than cattle.  The other property had introduced a variety of insects to combat weeds, mainly horehound and broom.  There too lupins were pivotal where they harvested them and spun them elsewhere but on better soils lucerne played a greater role.  The photo shows the impact of lupins to produce feed and sequester carbon versus DoC land.  As only green plants can sequester carbon, makes you wonder how committed DoC is to addressing climate change.


November 22nd, 2022, Canterbury Curiosity Club, Waiau, Canterbury

The group visited Waiau to look at a couple of local properties.  The first farm was to check out various enterprises the family was involved in and recovery from the earthquakes.  It appears to single biggest impact was building a laneway to allow trucks to move deeper into the farm to collect livestock from a central point.  The farmer saw the energy crisis as an opportunity to provide fuel for commercial pellet burners.  The second property was moving away from cropping and the high price high risk model to more reliable production markets such as grass.  Looking to build soil structure and using multi-species mixes.  With council focus moving beyond Overseer as the only tool for environmental compliance, the farmer saw the future being more equitable as communication changes deliver more insights into farming operations. 

November 17th 2022, Central Otago Curiosity Club, Cromwell and Luggate, Otago

The first property this group visited was moving a mob of 6,000 mixed aged ewes (including hoggets) and lambs three times a day from tailing to weaning.  Running such a large mob eliminated electric fencing thereby reducing labour units compared to before when splitting 5ha paddocks into four and running smaller mobs to achieve a similar grazing regime.  Each shift takes about 30 minutes and is followed by a mob of 400 cows and calves also shifted in sync.  The afternoon visit focused on carbon forestry and other enterprises that could be associated with it.  It provided the group with options beyond planting pines such as silviculture.  The drop-trap for harvesting rabbits also interested the group, although things can get exiting when opening it up and coming face to face with a feral cat or ferret.


November 15th 2022, Southern Curiosity Club, Winton and Woodlands, Southland

The southern group had an informative day with two property visits. The first visit was a Wiltshire breeder pointing out how meticulous recording was proving Wiltshires to be of productive value – even without flushing achieving 165% lambing this season.  Through documenting traits, Wiltshires are now outperforming Coopworth-Texel crosses on the same property under the same management.  The second property was a vegetable grower specialising in parsnip and carrot crops.  Length of lease is a limiting factor, getting longer term leases very important to cash in rewards with regenerative soil management – ideally parsnip needs seven years between rotations.  Organic parsnips had brix of 12, whereas conventional was half that.  Carrots have topped PGG Wrightson blind tasting event.  Focus is to reduce chemical use by 90% by replacing with biological inputs.


November 7th 2022, Hawke’s Bay Curiosity Club, Omakere and Elsthorpe, Hawke's Bay

The property we visited today has forestry to thank for many advancements.  About 20% of the property is in forestry and occupies county that would normally run about 7su/ha.  Therefore, forestry is a centrepiece of the operation.  Carbon capture is also proving to be a financial windfall and they now are connecting all the shelterbelts and wooded areas through planting poplars to claim carbon credits.  The second site visit was that of a grazing trail which is exploring how changing pre-and post-grazing residuals influence a range of impacts from animal health and performance to soil nitrogen and phosphorous loss.  The trial will include alternative fertiliser products.  The group will be having conversations around livestock density and grazing management to guide the project.

September 29th 2022, Northland Curiosity Club, Hikurangi and Kawakawa, Northland

Today visited an organic dairy farm which had survived the very wet season by winter milking that left higher pasture residuals, thereby delaying onset of mud by six weeks compared to normal winter practice.  We also visited a bull farm that had great examples of different grazing management of kikuyu but had been saved by the mild winter allowing kikuyu to grow all the way through but this will delay the emergence of productive spring grasses.  The warm wet winter meant keeping heavier animals on hillsides and younger stock on the best country to stop pugging.


September 27th 2022, Waikato Curiosity Club, Maihiihi and Wharepuhunga, Waikato

Today we visited a couple taking over the family farm and grappling with confidence around how to be rewarded for contract grazing and improving grazing management.  The group had several suggestions for this couple to consider as they continue to develop their business.  Then we visited a property which had pioneered growing Paulownias and milked a very productive small dairy herd.  An interesting conversation focused on using these trees to secure carbon credits while soaking up excess nutrients as despite much official interest, no initiatives have ever ben caried out in New Zealand to check out its suitability.    


August 25th 2022, Aorangi Curiosity Club, Maungati, Canterbury

The group visited a corporate farm to look at wintering and preparing for spring.  They no longer do multi-species crops for wintering as they don’t yield.  Diverse pasture for finishing young stock works really well.  A strong focus is figuring out how not to pay for nitrogen and stay off the inflation cycle and make lambs grow as fast as possible, up to 400gs/day with irrigated country pumping out 65 lambs/ha.  Placed strong emphasis on feed supply with dates as trigger points to act one way or another.  Constantly emphasised regen farming is not about saving costs but investing in soil, therefore was trying a new fertiliser product which is bioactive. The group hosted a local nursery to learn more about native riparian species for planting.  With all the wet weather recently, finding out which species can handle a flood zone was high on the list.


August 24th 2022, Central Curiosity Club, Roxburgh, Otago

Visited an interesting boundary in central Otago.  One farm was growing crossbreds and relying on winter crop and lucerne stands to push production along.  Dry autumns were compromising winter crops and lucerne stands were running out of puff within a decade.  They were doing a lot of experimenting and this season are considering mating on turnips.  A point of interest was 20ha of pines to offset carbon costs.  The other property was running merinos and their focus was fencing and water infrastructure to gain better stock control rather than fertiliser to grow feed.  The group felt their irrigation block had more potential for horticulture rather than finishing steers.  The contrast in management reflected sheep breeds. Growing animals for meat rather than wool pushes a lot of actions resulting in short term gains.

July 6th 2022, Central Cockie Curiosity Club, Wanaka and Cromwell, Otago

The theme today was alternative enterprises with the group visiting a property expanding into agritourism where the owner knows his true unfair advantage, the view.  Never looked to farming groups for inspiration but other community groups to get ideas.  Now runs New Zealand’s only private bike park with 50kms of track.  His focus is how to find enterprises that he can lease land too so he can share his view with the public.  The second site was a worm farming operation that sells worm casts and composting worms.  It recycles all the local food and orchard waste.  Using this process can save businesses like abattoirs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in dump fees plus they can make an income.   


July 5th 2022, Southern Cockie Curiosity Club, Wyndham and Mokotua, Southland

The group visited a couple of interesting properties.  One runs 12,000 ewes in one mob over the winter.  The purpose was to improve labour efficiency with some gateways 20m metres wide.  Been doing all grass wintering this way for 47 years.  Only one paddock of crop for hoggets.  The property could probably run more stock because of all the supplement made and current grazing practices probably limit summer grass production.  The second property was in the swamp flats (peat soils over gravels) experimenting with establishing diverse winter crops by strip till with and without spraying.  Soil properties are primary focus so using forbs to improve aeration and drainage.  The dry summer/autumn reduced yields but a warm June has helped with feed production.


June 30th 2022, Hawkes Bay Cockie Curiosity Club, Dannevirke, Hawkes Bay

The day ended up focusing on porina/grass grub control.  The first property was challenging due to its terrain.  They began changing practices after getting conventional advice from a top firm to repeat all the things that had got them in trouble plus find $400,000 to fund it, and this was government funded drought advice!  Instead, they destocked, drops inputs, and changed their grazing.  At the second property which experienced bad grass grub they built 24 bird boxes in 30 minutes to erect in paddocks for starlings.  This activity addressed many issues; removes starlings from nesting in sheds to their food source (eat grass grubs), reduces potential for tractor fires, reuses old drench containers, plus uses mates to help out!  We then went on to see a home made strip till machine to direct seed pastures without spraying. 


June 28th 2022, Aorangi Cockie Curiosity Club, Oamaru, Otago

The group today visited a couple of very interesting properties.  The first was a highly efficient dairy unit that basically uses no urea yet livestock manage to produce milk solids a staggering140% of their liveweight.  They do it in such a way that Fonterra does not give them any sustainability credits despite their extreme nitrogen efficiency highlighting how Fanshawe Street ideology, not evidence drives Fonterra’s sustainability regime.  The second property was dealing with several challenges including how to loosen high magnesium soils without cultivation.  Another interesting idea was composting dead livestock using sawdust. 


June 16th, Waikato Cockie Curiosity Club, Mangatarata, Waikato

The group visited an interesting hill country property in northern Waikato where we got a run down of animal health problems plaguing Waikato as pastures come out of drought this time.  While they’ve been using fertiliser, animals are far more accurate in their placement of nutrients than Fletcher aircraft and they don’t dump cadmium on the house roof!  They will be doing more grazing with electric fencing to even fertility across the property and look to reduce mob numbers to one or two to grow more feed and prioritise own dairy heifer for when feed is short. 


June 13th and 14th, 2022, Holistic Management training, Opotiki, Bay of Plenty

The northern group’s turn to met for the final time and learn holistic planned grazing with the insights from Siobhan Griffin.   A review of finances and ecosystem process plus context checking.  With planned grazing we explored optimal recovery and strategies to deal with spring surpluses in advance as this is when most farmers lose control of feed quality.  Some participants stayed the following day for a session with Falkirk Genetics founder Ian Walsh to learn about frame and function with livestock genetics. 


June 8th and 9th, 2022, Holistic Management training, Owaka, Otago


The southern group met for the final workshop on holistic grazing planning which I taught with Siobhan Griffin.  The group practiced checking contexts, reviewing landscape function and how tools influence function to create outcomes beneficial for the farmer.  Siobhan brings her own observations of adaptive grazing which dovetails into Holistic Planned Grazing using the chart and spreadsheets.  Comments included “never disappointed when I leave”, “context checking brings greater robustness to making choices,” “easier to make decisions with others and keeping on track,” and “coming away with strategies for spring was really enjoyable.”


May 31st 2022, Canterbury Cockie Curiosity Club, Mt Somers and Geraldine

Canterbury group visited an interesting deer operation learning various aspect of deer production.  Prior they had tried many enterprises including cashmere goats, rearing calves, malting barley and other ideas.  Always looked at property design to improve efficiency and options, for example when an irrigated deer enterprise fell over they quickly converted to irrigated dairy.  The second property was a low input operation running Wiltshire sheep and angus cattle.  We looked at accounts to discuss options for increasing income and reducing expenses.  Always a challenge to reduce the three Fs; fertiliser, feed, and fuel.


May 16th and 17th, 2022, Holistic Management training, Cromwell, Otago

Southern group got together to go through the Holistic Financial Planning techniques.  Now starting each session with checking contexts so they are becoming more familiar with the process and how it can be used in a multitude of situations.  The financial principles are simple, pay yourself first and then learn how to shift money within your budget to cover what needs investing and developing.  As always, we visit a property or two while in the area which allows insights into contexts when checking through decisions.  In this group too there are some major decisions being considered using the context checking process. 


May 5th 2022, Northland Cockie Curiosity Club, Kaeo, Northland

The group checked out a couple of previous Northland environmental award winners.  The first property drew on over 30 years experience grazing various classes of livestock, mostly bulls.  Had no qualms about selling off breeding herd at the top of the market cycle.  Grew mostly R2 steers and heifers so steep hills were reserved for wet periods to protect flat country.  Second property focused on growing R1 bulls using kiwitech cells.  Had designed grazing movements to ensure taller pasture was always below livestock when grazing hills to capture any disturbed sediment.  There was a discussion about using banana trees to soak up nutrients from sediment traps.


May 2nd and 3rd 2022, Holistic Management training Atiamuri, Waikato

Northern group met for the third time to explore processes and techniques of Holistic Financial Planning.  The surprise is that it’s not an accountancy course, instead it presents strategic tools to explore spending and investment behaviours in farming businesses.  Knowing where to look for unfair advantages, knowing where to find money within your own budget for reinvesting in the business, and figuring out how to enlist others to assist with your journey are all part of the course.  Revisiting contexts and checking real actions and decisions can bring sobering realities as some in the workshop found out. 


April 27th and 28th 2022, Holistic Management training Owaka, Otago

Southern group met for the second time within a month to learn about the role of context in making choices and how to check whether choices are taking them in the right direction.  One of the interesting outcomes with this group is that all men have the same personality profile.  To them it’s a surprise you can consider broader impacts beyond just the focus of a decision or action.  To discover this process alerts you to possible problems so they can be dealt with quickly and before issues arise.  To some this is almost relief.  A visit to the local cemetery is always a must during this stage of training to focus on reflection.


April 4th and 5th, 2022, Holistic Management training, Owaka, Otago

A southern group learning more insights about managing holistically by exploring the role of ecosystem processes and how they work.  This information is missing from B&L and DairyNZ Farm Environment Plan training.  The group learned they could forecast weed issues as a result of reading soil surfaces as well as other important indicators such as rainfall infiltration.  Then what impacts tools such as technology, fire, rest, and grazing can have on benefitting landscape function within brittleness status.  Here the simple exercise of deciding where pasture plants are on the species succession continuum brought forward insights of potential problems and what proactive grazing actions farmers might engage in to either prevent or address them.


March 28th and 29th, 2022, Holistic Management training, Mangarara Station, Hawkes Bay

Second workshop for this group covering creating context for checking decisions.  The group did a variety of exercises to discover what is important for quality of life, how to experience and deal with change, especially unchosen change, how to improve communication in group setting and how to bring structure to decision making in groups like families.  Many commented they had found something new about themselves during the exercises, others were introduced to new perspectives to challenge their status quo.  It’s a pleasure to see people now enjoying workshop challenges and helping each other.  They’re starting to see a broader perspective of how actions on farms impact beyond any immediate goal or objective. 


22nd March, Waikato Cockie Curiosity Club, Rotorua, Waikato

This was a day full of surprises.  The first property went through their gross margin on producing beef for direct sale.  The conversations that stirred highlighted many of the restrictions the meat industry puts in place for small producers.  We talked about how to change the traditional accounting equation away from income-costs equals expenses to gain emotional equity in creating a cash surplus.  The second property was a dairy run off.  The property was chosen for its pumice soils, great for winter drainage.  They run a nurse cow enterprise where mastitis cows from their dairy farms raise up to three calves before sold.  One of the challenges was no connection to power supply.  Tucked away in a little gulley were vacuum pumps and a water wheel pushing out 40,000 litres a day to a gravity fed system.  By tapping into a constant spring source there are no problems dealing with variable flows, even during the big rain event of the past couple of days.


17th March 2022, Aorangi Cocokie Curiosity Club, Cave, Canterbury

Our first property produced an interesting challenge.  Brassicas had only grown in patches and in lines which appeared to have no rhyme or rhythm.  Upon digging through the surface at one site we found soil completed dominated by fungi hyphae where a hay bale had been.  It seems the wet summer had created patches of fungi dominated soil which allowed brassicas to dominate.  The second property was a wealth of knowledge and inspiration about running a grazing business without crops and hay making.  Finding ways to work with nature and using science to determine root causes of problems and finding livestock health solutions not endorsed by authority.  Genetics were key to create animals that could thrive not only in their cold climate but produced offspring that thrives down country.  An insightful day.


8th March 2022, Northern Cockie Curiosity Club, Kaiwaka, Northland

The group visited a small organic dairy farm with a long family history.  Having started organic conversion five years ago they are enjoying experimenting with low input techniques.  The biggest improvement is animal health and behaviour, both contributing to lower operating costs.  Being a smaller operation time management is challenging.  The other operation was a large sheep and beef property, very profitable, excellent infrastructure, very good relationship between owners and manager, even paying for conservation efforts out of cash flow.  Like many local farms, summer crop completely failed and laid bare issues associated with large areas of monocultures, primarily opportunity for erosion.  Their long term aim is to release kiwi on the place.


3rd March 2022, Southern Cockie Curiosity Club, Riverton, Southland

Visited a stud sheep breeder involved with low emission sheep trying to keep his clients ahead of emission taxes expected in 2030.  What’s interesting is that the whole methane tax is loaded on to livestock farmers, cropping farmers get off scott free despite the array of high emission chemicals and carbon depleting practices they employ.  This will be the legacy of research focusing on one side of the ledger, never looking at practices which sink carbon other than trees.  The second property was looking into practices they can do to reduce carbon emission while building soil carbon.  The complete switch from high intensity to a business more in tune with its resources has been an exercise in dealing with one’s ego.  Dropping winter crops for bale grazing will pay dividends, especially on peat soils.


1st March 2022, Central Otago Cockie Curiosity Club, Tarras, Otago

Today’s properties were testimony to business skills of farmers in a challenging environment.  One property was optimising its access to water by generating stone fruit enterprises and tap into a whole new line of business away from traditional sheep and beef.  Here land development costs and crop management risks are reduced by investors and management companies while still retaining land ownership.  The other property were fine wool merino growers where they manage production and marketing themselves.  Pastoral lease has no land security these days primarily due to government agencies corrupted by ideologies rather than evidence.  Loyalty of clients was a strong driver in past and current attempts to secure market premiums in growing a unique product. 


24th February 2022, Canterbury Cockie Curiosity Club, Oxford, Canterbury

The property we looked at today really highlighted many problems associated with unreasonable bureaucracies.  For example, flooding had sent down hundreds of tonnes of shingle and sediment, but not one stone that settled in their paddocks can be used for infrastructure like repairing laneways.  By law they must dig holes in their paddocks to find enough stone to fix flood damage.  Stock water is the weak link preventing them increasing stock density to stimulate soil biological processes in summer, reducing any possibility of growing cattle numbers and grazing at higher stock densities.  Despite a wet summer dung pats still not breaking down reflecting poor mineral/carbon cycle, possibly humates to unlock biology.  Looking at alternative income streams such as bees and hunting. 


22nd February 2022, Hawkes Bay Cockie Curiosity Club, Palmerston North, Manawatu

The group visited two quite different properties.  The first converting to organic status to graze heifers for organic dairy farms.  They were trialling multi-species pastures with success although admitted difficulties is assessing feed value/rationing of summer crop that included taller plants such as sunflowers resulting in lower than ideal liveweight gain.  The group visited an established dairy property was enjoying the gains of having a settled and great team.  Their focus is optimising livestock performance which ear tag technology was helping with regarding identifying milk fever and heat cycling for improved outcomes.  AgResearch scientists Alec MacKay and Gerald Cosgrove joined the group which will be involved with observing conventional verse regenerative grazing trials at Mangarara Station.


14th and 15th February,2022, Holistic Management Training, Mangarara Station, Hawkes Bay

First Holistic Management course of the year.  Covered ecosystem processes and how to work with them.  The group found they understood pastoral ecology better, linking theory to practical experiences many had on-farm, awareness of what they were looking at in paddocks and what it meant for production, options for influencing landscape function to take advantage of what nature provides for free, how simple it is to diagnose ecological problems and to find solutions.  The group here doing biological monitoring, observing how soil surfaces are first sites of change and what it is telling them about production.  At the end many felt they had more pieces of puzzle linking ecology and farming and left empowered and inspired to try things.  Many moments of critical thinking and robust conversations.


16th December 2021 Southern Cockie Curiosity Club, Owaka, Otago

This group visited a couple of interesting properties at Owaka.  One is transforming into a technosystem with 10 paddock/ha, using stock density to even pasture performance and soil fertility using a range of livestock classes.  The other has been developing hedgerows for many years using New Zealand natives and trying to create an effect where animals do not park all their fertility at the fence line.  Over 100 species have been used from hebes to beech trees, many probably have value to livestock, as well as bees.  We also covered cattle carcass characteristics and finding an animal that suits your management is really the key, although it takes a few years with crosses and hybrid vigour to find that out. 


7th December 2021, Hawkes Bay Cockie Curiosity Club, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

Today farmers visited two properties surrounded by quite different circumstances.  One on the outskirts of town leased from developers old cropping and set stocked ground which with bull grazing has developed a vibrant pasture with only stock water and fencing to keep farm working expenses low.  The second family planted over 300,000 trees over 30 years on their organic property to change the climate without dropping stocking rate.  In fact you could argue stocking rate has increased due to all the deer now on the place.  Unfortunately due to the favourable season we didn’t see how the property contrasts with neighbouring ones but we did get to see how dryland trees produce different ecosystems in their understory compared to rainforest trees. 


2nd December 2021, Waikato Cockie Curiosity Club, Te Aroha, Waikato

The group visited one of the most dynamic organic farms in the country.  This farmer proves the only qualification you need to be a great farmer is a drivers licence!  Observing 40 years on the same property brings so many benefits, like “knowing” how much to feed your livestock instead of calculating it daily.  Trees were the group’s focus and the benefits they bring pasture; shade, moisture, insects, all of which stimulate the environment more and lower costs.  Production figures weren’t even mentioned because as every farmer knows they seldom reveal the whole picture.  Just like regulations are never a book to farm.  Farmers in the group were impressed with clean pasture of high quality, grazing crops leaping out of the ground, and confidence of the farmer sharing his observations and experiences with what is now called regenerative farming.  Confidence, like trees, grows over time by linking outcomes to choices made.


18th November 2021, Aorangi Cockie Curiosity Club, Geraldine Canterbury

The group visited two properties near Geraldine. We visited the last organic dairy farm in Canterbury which will cease to exist by the end of the season. Herd production is good per animal which has been helped in the past year with some very good multi-species cover crops. However, with their winter milking property there is a plan to create an enterprise where Fonterra pays them to lower its carbon footprint. Phil Gray from the NZ Soil Foodweb lab joined us to explain various aspects of soil biology, primarily around bacteria: fungi ratios in the paddock. Then on to a traditional sheep and beef property finishing wagyu cattle. They’ve made some changes to grazing management including rotating ewes and lambs earlier. They’ve had good success with various multi-species mixes including using a ryecorn mix for finishing 2 year old wagyu.


16th November 2021, Central Cockie Curiosity Club, Naseby, Otago

The group visited Naseby to look at a property with a proud family history going back to 1920s. Unlike many properties in the group this one consisted of a series of blocks from hills to plains. A big contributor to success was investment in infrastructure with lanes and sheep yards within 30 minutes of any mob. Battles with DoC and LINZ to keep a summer grazing syndicate alive were also explained really highlighting a lack of communication and respect by government agencies. The Maniototo pest control Inc explained how their organisation emerged from changes to the pest industry, how it works and is funded, and which control methods for pastoral pests are the best; an example of how farmer control creates a successful venture.


9th November 2021, Canterbury Cockie Curiosity Club, Cust, Canterbury

The group visited a commercial composting facility today and we learned they make their money buy transporting and storing green waste, not the compost.  To prove it the financial value of nitrogen in their compost per tonne was three times more than its price.  No wonder they can’t keep up with demand, especially with urea at $950/tonne.  We also visited a property refining their spring grazing management running all their sheep in one mob (including rams!) to simplify grazing management.  The slow spring pasture growth necessitating lower than desired covers meant an early drench for lambs but overall livestock were looking good and the group commented on how the pastures have improved since previous visits.  Also being trialled was a batt latch for sheep which was working well and had also caused a couple of surprising observations about grazing management. 


2nd November 2021, Southern Cockie Curiosity Club, Clarks Junction, Otago


The theme for today was large mob grazing (greater than 10,000 su), how to make it work and whether there were any pitfalls.  The property we visited only did it in the winter months and the main reasons where to better prepare pastures for spring, even fertility across paddocks, and significantly reduce labour and cost of wintering.  A water system that could keep up with demand was essential, as was good fencing, both of which were being replaced.  Conversations earlier in the day highlight hay better for winter hogget performance than balage, using large mobs to stimulate pasture responses worked well, and annual crops can easily last an additional six months for grazing, especially if pasture base has little bare earth.


12th October 2021, Hawkes Bay Cockie Curiosity Club, Norsewood, Hawkes Bay

The group was challenged today to join a research opportunity into grazing management and see what impact a change would have on long term grazing trials at Ballentrae research station.  Apparently Ballentrae production is down some 10-15% from 30 years ago so they are looking curious about alternative ideas capturing the passion of livestock farmers.  We then visited a property that holds huge potential in helping farmers see what is possible with soil and grazing techniques.  The group touched on a lot of grazing management and soil fertility ideas.  The point of all these techniques and practices is to help farmers realise there is no one answer, and while one idea might get you started there is no guarantee it will solve your problems.  The story we heard today was one of building the soil up first before introducing biology because the other way round didn’t work for this property.  It’s taken 20 years and you can be sure if the opportunity came again it would be done differently. 


3rd August 2021, Central Cockie Curiosity Club, Patearoa, Otago

The group heard from Thomas Bird from Catalyst Performance Agronomy speak on technologies for monitoring soil moisture and nutrients, both computer software and soil probes.  Thomas also shared some ideas about ideal plants for pastures in Central Otago.  The property we visited is in the process being returned to the family after a 20 year lease.  They’ve been experimenting with regen cover crops for livestock feed and been happy with results and now looking for cheaper options.  Exploring the use of solar to run irrigation, fertigation using both natural and synthetic products, and building a beehive business.  Staggering the return of leased land has been useful to grow into the business by providing lease income to have cashflow.  Lifting soil moisture infiltration will continue to be a focus as the business grows.  The wide range of enterprises planned for this property are testimony to the energy being invested into this family’s future. 


29th July 2021, Aorangi Cockie Curiosity Club, Waimate, Canterbury

The group visited a couple of properties exploring winter grazing practices.  The first property was where the farmer admitted he should have tightened up his grazing earlier in the dry autumn but the uncertainty of working with autumn born calves (then 12 months old) caused him not to listen to others.  As a result he was now feeding out which reduces profitability of these livestock.  The second property was moving to multi-species winter crops as part of permanent pasture mixes.  It was the first time the first 130 calved cows hadn’t required one antibiotic but cow liveweight appears lower.  The situation raised a couple of interesting questions: Can you speed up what you want plants to do – in this case deal with compaction, by simply ripping?  Another question associated with all the different breeds on the property (10) was whether downsizing the milking herd and raising and grazing own calves was an option? 


29th June Canterbury Cockie Curiosity Club, Rangiora, Canterbury

Another group getting off the ground on one of the coldest days this year.  We visited a local farmer who specialty is trees, mainly eucalypts.  The group drew on forty years of experience about what trees suited this part of Canterbury as the property had over 700 species at one stage.  He had also been determining which species deer found palatable.  He was also trialling shelterbelt trees that were slow growing but wouldn’t need side trimming in years to come.  Not trees are the same, those best for stopping hills sliding are not ideal for preventing river erosion.  


15th June Aorangi Cockie Curiosity club, Pleasant Point, Canterbury

Another group reforming after RMPP with a focus primarily on grazing, but also soil health and measuring performance of business.  The property we looked at was trailing several things including sainfoin pasture mixes, mixing biological brews with common fertiliser as humate products appear to give the best results.  Was even considering putting PKE in a brew because whenever its fed to livestock, their subsequent dung is covered in fungi.  The group also checked out a site planted in natives and other trees to check out what grows in the area.


June 10th Hawkes Bay Cockie Curiosity Club, Waipukurau, Hawkes Bay

Another group reforming after RMPP with an emphasis on grazing, soil fertility, and financial performance.  The property we visited has been experimenting with different grazing techniques.  They were very happy with the results up to the dry when they destocked completely.  Upon reflection they felt keeping a mob over the dry spell would have helped developed greater confidence with the techniques.  What’s important here is the willingness to try something that’s big enough to see a difference but small enough it doesn’t make a difference at least to the bottom line.  Practicing techniques when the pressure is off creates a lot more confidence in such techniques when the pressure is on…


June 3rd 2021, Waikato Cockie Curiosity club, Atiamuri, Waikato

Another meeting of farming people keen to learn about issues affecting their business and lifestyle.  Their focus will be diversity and carbon, plus grazing and livestock performance with a number of other ideas.  Today we visited a dairy property to check out their pastures and what their next plans were.  Their animal health is $20.00/hd verses regional average of $117.00/hd.  Grass grub one of the biggest problems as the property is still emerging from its time as a forestry block.  Next season they plan a 30 day round in spring, 45 days by November, then longer into summer.  Is willing to trial tail painting as a cheaper way to determine which cows are dry.  Also will plant any summer crop with perennial grasses and clovers. 


1st June 2021, Northern Cockie Curiosity Club, Dargaville, Northland

Another new group forming with participants from my two RMPP groups in Northland.  This group will focus on biodiversity, grazing management and profitability.  Today we visited a dairy property experimenting with multi-species mixes.  The multi-species mixes in cropping ground suffered compared to pastoral ground, the first being grazed only once since November, the other 6 times.  The seed mix cost over $500.00/ha so again another reason why farmers should be trialling on a small scale first.  The group will meet again in October to review grazing practices.


27th May 2021, Southern Cockie Curiosity Club, Matarua, Southland

Again another new group venture with reminder of RMPP groups and working toward getting B&LNZ funding.  This group's interests will focus on....  Today the group visited a smaller organic sheep and cropping operation.  There was plenty of feed so plenty of opportunity to take advantage to of changing stocking policy; have less breeding stock and more trading.  A grain mill on the property has potential although it needs more investment to optimise opportunities.   


25th May 2021, Central Otago Cockie Curiosity Club, Cromwell, Otago

Today was part of a new venture involving farmer groups from RMPP combining to form curiosity clubs; groups of farmers interested in learning about ideas to give them confidence to do things at home.  My role is coordinating activities and networking.  Today we visited a property still working through challenges of regen farming and happy to show us what hasn’t worked.  What they have been successful at is changes in soil structure as evidenced by improving moisture infiltration rates but still have a long way to go.  Infiltration rates were so bad water would run off the terrace down to the woolshed near the main highway.  How many other properties experience this and do nothing?  At least they identified their compacted soils and decided to find ways to improve infiltration and retention.


31st March 2021, Canterbury Foothills RMPP Action Group, Halswell, Canterbury

Stacking enterprises is something every farmer is interested in to optimise labour and capital investment.  However few realise that successfully stacking enterprises requires creating services for the business’s centrepiece by either utilising scrap resources from the centrepiece or reducing inputs.  It draws on the permacultural principle of multiplicity where any one action must draw from multiple sources and produce outcomes to multiple beneficiaries.  The group visited with the Beatties to check out their many enterprises which commercialise native or near native species and benefit from their adaptations.  


29 & 30th March 2021, Regenerative Farmers Marlborough RMPP Action Group, Hawarden & Waiau, Canterbury

This postponed tour finally happened where the group visited three distinctly different and successful properties.  One property had been ravaged by earthquakes 5 years ago.  One of the most important statements here regarded the speed of recovery.  Within a month they had over $100,000.00 bill for repairs but after that decided to split the farm into four and focus on repairs from cash flow over the next four years thereby staying out of debt.  Another property focused on 80kg plus ewes to deliver big lambs for rapid weight gain and all the juggling of liveweight classes and supplements to make that happen.  The final property was looking to the landscape to create a business system that suited its limitations to keep investment minimal but ran the risk of possible succession options. 


26th March 2021 Regenerative Ag West Otago RMPP Action Group, Crookston and Kelso, Otago

The group was looking at winter crops today and visited two properties to check out their practices.  The first where the farmer had a long cropping history demonstrated great crops and a willingness to explore different techniques to establish crops without glyphosate.  There was also a realisation older ryegrass pastures required more mechanical intervention to maintain quality than multi-species mixes.  We then looked at a property challenged by being on a flood plain.  They worked on their dairy cows needing 10m2/day for winter feeding.  Their multi-species mixes resulted in costs of 2.9 cents/kgDM compared to 4.0 cents/kgDM with monoculture kale.  Fodderbeet stuffs the soil for 2-3 years therefore moving away from that.  Found that adding 70kg oats with full rate of perennial grassland multi-species mix reduced weed pressure.  


25th March 2021 Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Development RMPP Action Group, Milton, Otago

The group visited a leading innovator Rick Cameron and Siobhan Griffin and Rick’s son Ben to check out what is happening on the family farm.  We saw 1800 ewes behind a single wire, something deemed impossible by many farmers.  The trick is to have animals fully fed which means leaving slightly higher residuals all of which agrees with research.  We then checked out free choice mineral trailer where livestock ca help themselves to nutrients when they need it.  A pasture walk revealed dung pats literally exploding apart due to wildlife and as yet unexplained just whether birds or something else was disintegrating them. 


24th March 2021 Cen Gen RMPP Action Group, Drybread and Gimmerburn, Otago

Getting started in the regen path is challenging at the best of times because now everybody is an expert with all sorts of advice money can buy.  Today we saw the tale of two properties both trialling multi-species pastures and crops.  A big lesson is to keep within a budget as there are no get rich quick schemes in regen.  Even the overseas experts all mention it takes more than one season to see results.  We saw that today with a property taking its time making development of native country; firstly fence and water, then pastures and grazing management, especially the use of supplements to create herd effect on native pasture.  The farmer’s aim is to create pastures that can survive for decades rather than years.  Many of the management practices used were designed to reduce labour and inputs over time so the next generation can finish setting up the property.


23 March 2021 Southern RMPP Action Group, Riversdale, Southland

Today the group met a passionate organic dairy farmer to hear about technologies he is investing in to improve farm performance as a result of a 10 year contract with his dairy company.  His focus is to lift omega fats in milk and does this with a 60-70 day round which also resulted in 6% empties, insanely opposite to industry best practice.  In spring he will use a hay dryer to capture pasture nutrients to ensure quality using a grass only system and remove balage and associated costs from the operation.  Then we visited an environmentally award winning hill country property focusing on improving hill country grazing through strategic use of livestock classes producing feed when neighbours have none.  The hill country gains will see an increase in cattle numbers.  An interesting observation is succession from tussock to scrub testifying how grazing is stimulating the landscape. 


18th March 2021, Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa & Pasture Managers RMPP Action Groups Matamau and Ashley Clinton, Hawkes Bay


Occasionally two groups come together which creates the opportunity to broaden networks and access new perspectives.  The drama when starting out with regen farming is gaining confidence that things are moving in the right direction, a problem when you are impatient and your only reference are previous activities which have proven to be disappointing.  Fresh eyes and experience help address concerns, provide insights into what to look for, and create opportunities for new friendships.  Today’s conversations were largely around creating confidence for those new to trying different grazing techniques.  It’s important to experiment and continue to refine observations through conversations with other farmers.  The way to do that is small groups where everyone feel safe to participate.


17th March 2021, Central Hawkes Bay RMPP Action Group, Ashley Clinton, Hawkes Bay

Phyllis Tichinin joined the group to demonstrate the role of hair patterns on livestock coats and what they indicate about livestock performance, health, and behaviour.  This lead into a discussion about the art of livestock husbandry and how modern agricultural training misses many of the clues about livestock that have meaningful impacts on bottom lines.  In the afternoon we visited an organic property running chickens, sheep and cattle.  Investing in time and motion practices are really important for chicken operations not only for reducing labour but also environmental benefits for pastures.  The biggest challenge is marketing eggs as often the biggest customers do not sign contracts.  This lack of certainty limits the amount of leverage to invest in such enterprises meaning grazing remains the most stable income source.


March 15th 2021 Ruahine Rutbusters RMPP Action Group, Turakina and Kimbolton, Manawatu

This group has a great diversity of enterprises and today we visited a property growing pears and highlighting the possibility of such trees as a source of stock food.  An interesting highlight was stabbing old fire hoses for use as soaker sprinklers for irrigation.  We also visited a dairy property converting to organic production.  They milked half their herd with robots and the rest through a rotary shed.  A challenge they were having was renovating pasture direct drilling seed without herbicide, especially cocksfoot dominant pasture.  They were trailing a number of different approaches including setting mowers to mulch the crowns of old cocksfoot plants but to date surface cultivation had proven most successful. 


March 12th 2021 Te Moana a Toi Action Group, Marotiri, Waikato

Today Mark Anderson joined me to talk to this group bale grazing and his experiences changing production management away from intensive farming.  We then looked across a dairy property making changes in their pasture management including experimenting with multi-species pastures.  Similar to yesterday, they’ve been able to keep higher covers on the runoff block producing the best R2 heifers since starting farming here.  Pastures there are not ryegrass dominant so higher covers easier to work with.  Still wondering how to incorporate into milking platform so planting new species.  Due the dry they dried off early so are looking for a fresh start next season.  An interesting conversation occurred around measuring farm health and are the simplest cost effective ways farmers could go about that. 


March 11th 2021 Regenerative Ag Waikato RMPP Action Group, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty


Today I was joined by dairy farmer Mark Anderson from Clinton to talk to this group about bale grazing to see what value it might create for farmers in this area.  A quick calculation suggests its unlikely because the cost of hay is too expensive.  The property we visited was full of surprises; the group was impressed with the amount of grass and pasture diversity without sowing.  Their chickens graze pastures three days behind dairy cows.  Their egg business collects scraps from eateries which they use to breed maggots to feed back to the chickens.  Longer grazing recoveries have pushed roots deeper into soil eliminating grass pulling and drawing up nutrients from below their soil test depth.  They put all young stock in one mob and use batch latches to shift twice daily.  Their challenge is to get spring grazing right to capture the wave of growth going into summer.


March 9th 2021 Regenerative Ag Kaipara RMPP Action Group, Aranga, Northland

Today we checked out the efforts of Kaipara Kai in researching what potential crops could benefit Northland farmers.  Crops such as sweet corn, pumpkin, squash, red onions and others that could bring diversity to an operation.  Furthermore, peanuts, cowpeas, mung beans, and red peanuts are all possible forage legumes as well as crops.  There is a potential future partner here for researching forage options of such crops.  Earlier in the day we visited a property where changes in grazing management have made pasture management easier.  The farmers are aware of their shortcomings and looking forward to trying things differently next year.  They are also branching into perennial crops to discover whether they can create an additional enterprise. 


March 8th 2021 Holistic Soils RMPP Action Group, Whangaruru, Northland

Sometimes farmers are too busy to notice the one thing they need is time management skills.  Not a single one of my RMPP groups has asked for a time management expert and yet a lot of farmers would benefit from techniques that allow them to do more with less.  When money is tight knowing where the greatest returns are for investment is key to move businesses forward.  For example, want to grow more grass? - invest in fence and water to control grazing of what you have, not bring more land into production that you can’t manage.  Today this theme emerged from the farm visit where pastures were reverting to gorse.  Best to leave steep hills and concentrate on easier country with better stock control.  This is when knowing where to look in the business budget to shift funds around to address issues is also useful instead of going to the bank. 


March 5th 2021 North Canterbury Carbon RMPP Action Group Waihaorunga and Makikihi, Canterbury

Today the group visited a master in fencing creating low cost infrastructure on rocky and thin soil landscapes.  Using mainly technology from kiwitech, permanent fencing costs have been reduced by $10.00/metre meaning a saving in fencing costs of at least $1.2 million.  Ingenious low cost gates and very small gauge wire to date has produced a robust fencing layout ideal for intensive grazing systems.  Just when we thought we’d seen it all with fencing the next farmer was hanging electric polywire on chicory which was enough to stop 220 bulls breaking out over a 70 metre break.  Here we also heard profit skyrocketing beyond $1200.00/ha because the system is simple.  The efficiencies of shifting large mobs of bulls multiple times per day more than covers cost of labour.


March 4th 2021 Regenerative Ag Aorangi RMPP Action Group Fairlie and Albury, Canterbury

One of the biggest frustrations in life is unmet expectations.  Today we saw that with farmers leasing properties while trialling regen.  The inability to invest for long term gain is probably the biggest limitation in leasing.  How much fertiliser, crop, fencing and water do you invest to make a lease pay?  Labour is often the limiting factor in discovering whether intense high density grazing can replace all those other inputs because it’s considered expensive in New Zealand hence replacing labour with technology but that has its own risks.  So while these farmers we visited would say they’ve had a positive experience with regen techniques, like many they are still working out rate of return on investment.  What is clear in discussions today is how wagyu cattle do not fit these properties as expectations around performance simply increase risk.


March 1st 2021 Mid South RMPP Action Group, Geraldine and Pleasant Point, Canterbury

The group visited two properties experimenting with multi-species crops with mixed successes.  Much of the discussion around these crops focused on sowing depth and the possibility of broadcasting smaller seeds and planting bigger seeds to address establishment.  On one property we saw cattle licking soil under the fence line, a behaviour which may have been influenced by the excess protein diet the animals were eating.  So while many farmers get the idea of diversity of species, few realise how diversity of maturity is also important.  Grazing practice was also discussed focusing on mob size and number of shifts because reducing mob numbers is key to better labour efficiency and lower costs.  As mob size increases, especially with bulls multiple shifts per day must also increase to reduce behavioural problems.  Deer on the other hand are another challenge… 


19 February 2021 Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country RMPP Action Group, Otematata and Makikihi, Otago and Canterbury

The group checked out a progressive property which a number of interesting features; 130% lambing with merinos for a starter.  While irrigation has proven to create a stable business environment, an early grazing trial involving high stock density overnight was still showing its impact 6 years later.  Yet for such an inexpensive intervention nothing had been done since.  The gravity fed hydro unit driving the two pivots took the group’s interest as such technology has cheap operating costs; it cost less to water 200ha of pivot than 26ha of K-line.  Wool markets were driving environmental awareness and management practices on the property.  We visited another property to look at a mob of 250 R2 bulls being moved.  This is a spectacle farmers have to see for themselves, particularly how quiet animals are and therefore much easier to handle and easier on infrastructure.  Reducing mobs reduces labour and costs thereby creating efficiency.

17 February 2021, Regenerative Ag West Otago RMPP Action Group, Outram, Otago

Today I took grazing coach Siobhan Griffin to meet two new farmers to this group to build their confidence with grazing practice.  We visited a dairy run off where the use of multi-species fodder crops was the initial focus and their synchronisation with monocrops and pasture development.  Annual crops are not the only way forward as a focus on grazing perennials can also provide benefits.  We also visited a hill country sheep and beef property where we talked more about the strategic use of grazing, especially at this time when feed is not limiting business.  It became clear during the afternoon a change in grazing practice would lift stocking rate in conjunction with a simpler farm system.  Instead of spending money to bring more land into production, a change in grazing practice would lift stocking rate without increasing overhead expenses like debt.  

16 February 2021, Southern RMPP Action Group, Crookston, Otago

The group heard from organic consultant Glenn Mead about his career and the role he has in helping farmers converting to organics.  The biggest issue is getting farmers past the substitution of one input for another instead of understanding ecological principles and working their own techniques to achieve them.  In the afternoon we visit a dairy farmer who converted his sheep and cropping farm to organics over 20 years ago but dropped organic status to purchase a property and needed to convert both that and his home lock to dairy to pay for it.  What we saw was owner and manager on the same footing exploring regen techniques to work their way back to organic status.  They were experimenting with various techniques to maintain summer pasture quality as well as techniques around reducing chemical application for establishing multi-species crops and pastures. 


15th February 2021 Cen Gen RMPP Action Group, Luggate and Cardrona, Otago

Infrastructure ended up being the theme for today.  The two properties we visited really highlighted the pivotal role it plays in creating flexibility.  The first property had moved ahead with irrigation but increasingly fencing was becoming the dominant infrastructural feature to control rabbits and also do more with cattle which always requires water.  Cultivation was something they were trying to avoid because of the soil’s propensity to blow away but are looking to increase pasture species.  The second property was concentrating on cropping but it too needed a water supply to utilise cattle effectively.  It was becoming clearer that a traditional sheep breeding flock was not currently sustainable in this location and moving to various trading systems may suit the growth pattern better.  They were also exploring other enterprises to supply local produce and strengthen cash flow. 


12th February 2021 Pasture Managers Hawkes Bay RMPP Action group, Patoka, Hawkes Bay

This group heard from grazing coach Siobhan Griffin about grazing planning and observing what’s happening in the paddock.  The challenge is unlearning what we know to be true and recognising when results are not producing the outcomes desired.  As observed, it’s cheaper and less labour to put up a well-timed electric fence than to sit on a tractor topping.  The property we visited has long been an example of the potential of regen farming.  Their soil organic matter is 11% in the topsoil and 0.5% at 1 metre depth.  As carbon levels increase so nitrogen holding capacity rises.  They’ve recorded a 70 tonne/ha increase in soil carbon followed by a 5.8 tonne/ha increase in nitrogen without adding any nitrogen fertiliser.  It’s great the science community is starting to take notice with these figures.


11th February 2021 Central Hawkes Bay RMPP Action Group, Masterton and Greytown, Wairarapa

The group visited a couple of interesting properties. The first a breeding hill country unit experimenting with a range of new ideas from multi-species pasture and crops, alternative fertilisers, grazing management, all stemming from unmet expectations with high analysis fertiliser.  While the property has excellent infrastructure stock water appears to be the limiting factor for any further utilisation – an interesting point considering the numbers that came up later.  The second property classed as a finishing property on river stones meaning easy wintering of heavier stock.  We saw bulls grazing at a density of 750hd/ha on deferred grazing and it’ll be interesting to see growth rates as dung was indicating declining protein.  The farmer here claimed installing more troughs increased pasture production from 8,000 kgDM annually to 11,000 kgDM.  If true it demonstrates pasture production can be influenced by things other than fertiliser.

10th February 2021 Regen Farmers Wairarapa RMPP Action Group, Carterton, Wairarapa

The group this morning heard from Clinton dairy farmer Mark Anderson about his bale grazing technique.  Through his costings he made the argument that bales grazing costs about $18.00/hd/wk whereas as a feedpad for the same period was around $30.00.  He was seeing significant changes in soil properties where bales were planted with pasture production having greater resilience for both wet and dry conditions.  In the afternoon we visited an organic dairy milking 510 cows on once a day proving a low input system can be very profitable.  The farmer put this down to not chasing production and therefore not easily tempted by quick fixes thereby reigning in bad spending habits.  His point was clear; the majority of profit comes from simply spending less than earnings by not listening to everyone coming up the driveway.

9th February 2021 Ruahine Rutbusters RMPP Action Group, Palmerston North and Halcombe, Manawatu

This particular group is probably the most diverse group in terms of farming operations.  Today we got a look at an alpaca farm looking to create a meat business and even tasted their wares.  While the business model is still a work in progress the property itself was impressive with all the native tree plantings.  We then journeyed to a small sheep and beef property looking for ways to extend grazing into the dry.  The use of multi-species for this role was discussed as results have been patchy.  Although the best multi-species crop yielded 14,000kgDM over 12 months, not all are as successful.  The trick with perennial mixed pastures will be how to manage grazing to keep diversity.  The strategic use of deferred grazing is crucial to achieve that.

5th February 2021 North Canterbury Carbon RMPP Action Group, Oxford and Leeston, Canterbury

The group today was thrilled to meet a dairy couple doing multi-species crops on a large scale.  The statement that summed up the couple’s experience was they would never go back to fodderbeet; the cost comparison alone was enough with fodderbeet costing $2,500.00/ha while the multi-species cost over $300.00/ha.  The summer rains have certainly stimulated growth with multi-species as a kale crop planted at the same time had barely produced half the dry matter.  We then visited an organic property where the farmer was looking to simplify things after decades of growing many different crops.  His focus is growing for human health market which is booming with covid but harvesting crop to factory deadlines compromises soil function.  Undersowing of crops with pasture species produced opportunities to graze stock and create a break in the cropping rotation.  Tactile learning today, chewing Echinacea root makes mouths numb.  Maybe our host was trying to shut us up…

4th February 2021 Regenerative Ag Aorangi RMPP Action Group, Waimate, Canterbury

The group heard from Clinton dairy farmer Mark Anderson about his journey into regen farming.  In particular how his grazing practices began to change and the use of multi-species crops for pasture renewal and his use of bale grazing.  The financial implications are still a work in progress but combined with once a day milking, farm working expenses are coming down now in such a way to pay off debt.  In the afternoon we visited a property that is trying various regen techniques, from using European dual purpose breeds, no fertiliser on multi-species crop, focusing on 3-4 leaf stage for grazing.  Like many on this journey, current farm use of agrichemicals was the catalyst to change.  They use a number of consultants to help with soil fertility, crop management, and grazing management. 


3rd February 2021 Mid South RMPP Action Group, Windwhistle, Canterbury

This group visited neighbouring properties to look at their efforts with new practices.  One emergent insight for the day was how important grazing management is in influencing everything else about pasture and soil function.  Change grazing on hills and legumes like lotus appear without seeding.  Perennial swards had much better soil structure than those paddocks cropped with winter feed.  Experiences with fewer and bigger mobs was also discussed with what worked for livestock performance earlier this season.  Also part of this conversation was multiple shifts per day from mid spring and what they might try again next season.  What couldn’t be denied on the day was the impact of multi-species crop on cattle performance; fat animals, shiny coats, ideal dung, and litter covering soil surface all good signs that harvesting such crops is beneficial.

29th January 2021 Te Moana a Toi RMPP Action Group, Mamaku, Waikato

Today the group met Dean Martin to learn about his experiences working with multi-species pastures and crops.  A constant message was that cultivating annual fodder crops for pasture does not pay.  While Dean does stitch in species from time to time, his big focus is grazing management and finding livestock genetics to suit what he does.  He is now crossing Australian Whites over Wiltshires for faster weight gain.  Out in the paddock we saw high stock density grazing, multi-species winter crop and pasture chickens.  These are all means to stimulate fertility but the question was asked why take land out for a winter crop when it didn’t suit the property growth profile which is over summer, could a different livestock class better suit labour supply and reduce business risk as well? 

28th January 2021 Regenerative Ag Waikato RMPP Group, Port Charles, Coromandel

When you are at the end of the road, running a business has a lot less options and therefore farmers focus on importance of cash over credit to survive.  The group saw a classic example of this today; no new enterprise is considered unless it can grow from its own cash flow.  Therefore enterprises must be able to work on almost no capital inputs including minimal infrastructure.  For example, the seaweed enterprise we saw doesn’t own or lease a boat.  While this limits business scale, it creates greater flexibility by lowering breakeven point, something to consider in these times of uncertainty.  A useful advantage being at the end of the road for a seaweed enterprise is the rural delivery van always has plenty of space for a back load.  Otherwise any other inputs have to be part of a closed system including fertility.

26th January 2021 Holistic Soils RMPP Action Group, Kawakawa, Northland

The group today visited a property demonstrating a lifetime of farming experience is not required to be an excellent grazer.  Two years after purchasing the property their grazing management kept pastures vegetative for longer going into dry spells than neighbouring properties.  Today with Siobhan Griffin the group learned the importance of plant form to identify when livestock should be grazing a paddock rather than biomass, something a little more challenging with kikuyu than C3 grasses.  Grazing strategies were discussed to reduce compaction on river flats while maintaining a dense pasture sward along riparian areas.  Also grazing strategies to encourage kahikatea seedlings rather than totara seedlings in native forest remnants. 

25th January 2021 Regenerative Ag Kaipara RMPP Action Group, Dargarville, Northland

Spent the day with grazing coach Siobhan Griffin introducing farmers to adaptive grazing drawing on her experience dairying in New York State where she changed from a New Zealand grazing system to adaptive grazing which improved pasture and livestock performance.  Siobhan demonstrated the impact of her coaching on farmers throughout New Zealand showing pastures growing more grass just from a change in management.  During the interactions we found out during the day how farmers were allowing pasture species to emerge through kikuyu grass.  We also talked about the limitations of annual multi-species crops in the north.  The day ended with a discussion focusing on the next steps this group will take on a journey of marketing their own meat.


14th December 2020 Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Blenheim, Marlborough

This afternoon we heard from Matt Oliver, the Marlborough District Council’s soil scientist about the new fresh water rules.  The group commented how easy it was to get questions answered and make a connection in council before getting on with a project.  It left them feeling more confident about any future plans.  Understanding the rules apply to cattle, not sheep, how wetlands are defined verses a waterlogged paddock, and what you might need to know before starting any earthworks with a digger could save a lot of heartache.  Like many regional councils MDC had pulled away from their farmer base over the last 30 years because in their case the wine industry has been its focus.  These new rules are demonstrating to MDC they need to be spending more time with other farmer ratepayers. 

10th December 2020 Cen Gen RMPP Action Group, Lake Hawea, Otago

Today this group visited a property dealing with effects of isolation of location and from a likeminded network.  This iconic property has been influenced by holistic thinking for 20 years.  They aim to get the basics right and as a result of improved pastures are now considering shifting away from super fine merino.  A change in the cattle:sheep ratio may also be on the cards to reduce labour.  Grazing coach Siobhan Griffin and partner Rick Cameron also joined us and provided a range of observations and considerations which kept the group amused and inspired.  They were greatly impressed with the pastures they saw that are building a solid foundation for what is yet to come. 

8th December 2020 Te Moana a Toi RMPP Action Group, Upper Atiamuri, Waikato

This afternoon the group visited one of the characters in regen dairy farming.  Miah Smith didn’t believe in regen until he did a cover crop and watched his pumice soil change significantly over a number of months.  Since then his fertiliser bill has dropped to a third, animal health bill is around $12.00/hd, and is fully spending his time on how to keep more money in his pocket.  An example was simply letting his winter annual crop regenerate without any intervention.  He’s now grazed those paddocks three times compared to his cultivated pasture which is now full of fat hen.  As a result he’s going away from winter crops as shutting the gate is much cheaper.  He’s aiming for a 40-50 day round in January but is exploring options other than PKE to make that happen. 

7th December 2020 Regenerative Ag Waikato RMPP Action Group, Upper Atiamuri, Waikato


The group heard from self-taught farm landscaper Wayne Douglas about history (mostly English) of creating treescapes and the many roles of trees.  While originally it was about aesthetics, today there is much more functionality being brought to this art.  Trees are used for feeding bees, fodder for livestock/wildlife, shelter/shade, enhancing soil conservation including shifting fertility, improving biodiversity, producing timber, and lifting the human spirit.  For livestock trees combined with herbal leys can address a range of health issues such as gastrointestinal, skin/fibre issues, respiratory, diseases of female reproductive and udder issues, and parasitic problems.  The hill country property we visited allowed the group to discuss various means of using trees and where they might be placed in such landscapes for various roles.  Very few farmers ever consider doing landscape plans, whether using professionals or simply conjuring one up themselves as a map of their future farm yet they provide a great road map for the business and family succession. 

4th December 2020, North Canterbury Carbon RMPP Action Group, Springston, Canterbury

This afternoon the group visited a local dairy operation basically working on organic principles.  Haven’t used urea in 6 years, they’ve focused on diverse pastures and keep round length out to 30 days, brix at 8-9 for pasture, much higher for silage.  They practice deferred grazing from mid-February to June for winter feeding.  Found red clovers don’t last as long as white clovers but are happy for chicory to flower.  They are aiming for less winter crop and moving to all grass.  Irrigate on a 12 day round putting on 60mm at a time which allows them to cut silage every three weeks.  Found homeopathy easy to work with, sometimes takes a little longer but gets good results.  The experience even has them thinking of leasing out their farm and going north to apply their learning to a truly organic dairy in the Waikato.

3rd December 2020, Regenerative Hawkes Bay FB Group, Kahuranaki, Hawkes Bay

I was invited to join in the day with this as we visited a property in its start-up phase of regen techniques.  The afternoon focused on grazing and multi-species to stimulate landscape function.  With grazing and multiple daily shifts it was stressed you can do that and get great performance but it will limit other aspects of your business and life if done verbatim.  Same with multi-species crops and pastures; you can gain great results but it also comes with risks long associated with cropping.  An important message was to keep curious and try little projects to figure out what works best at your place. 

2nd December 2020 Regenerative farmers Wairarapa RMPP Action Group, Carterton, Wairarapa

This morning this group had a presentation from Barrie Ridler on his modelling programme which clearly stated its unfair advantage is creating multiple business options almost simultaneously from the one data set.  Many similar programmes require reloading data for each determining option.  The afternoon was spent at an organic dairy were the conversion appears to be easy.  Low operating expenses were put down to reduced input costs, especially synthetic fertiliser, once a day milking (for 12 years), no animal health bill, very low empty rate, using probiotic drenches, and reducing topping of pastures.  With costs low and organic payout 20% above conventional, farming is enjoyable.  Having great staff and collaborating with them was also making a large contribution to the success of the business.

1st December 2020 Central Hawkes Bay RMPP Action Group, Takapau, Hawkes Bay

Today the group visited a sheep and beef property undergoing a transition to better grazing management as a cheaper way to lift grass production and relying less on agrichemicals and traditional fertiliser.  Their focus is children’s schooling so the farm will take a back seat for a while looking to cut costs and improve basic management techniques that take advantage of solar energy capture.  Some simple changes to grazing management has already seen improvements in bull beef management.  Investing in fencing has improvement control over stock allowing barren faces to growth grass without sowing.  There are future plans for pond building and woodlots reflecting a renewed interest in farming and land management. 


30th November 2020 Ruahine Rutbusters RMPP Action Group, Kairanga, Manawatu

The group heard from Horizons Regional Land Management officer Ian McNab about the upcoming fresh water regulations.  It seems pretty clear they have a battle with central government too and are willing to work with farmers to clarify what works and what doesn’t.  Although the biggest hurdles aren’t from farmer collaboration but a legislation process that doesn’t recognise evidence.  We then visited an innovative dairy operation where they are trying to solve breeding issues with data collection technology through electronic ear tags.  When cows are in heat they stop ruminating and these tags pick that up meaning no tail painting, less silent heats, reduce AI servicing and semen straws, less pregnancy testing, and a range of other breeding benefits.   All this information is available by phone – pictured.

27th November 2020 Regenerative Ag Kaipara RMPP Action Group, Purua, Northland

The group started the day with a visit to a micro abattoir to see that in action and hear from the owner their vision for the meat industry.  With increasing pressures regarding livestock welfare and ethics of meat we heard about ongoing development of the facility design to reduce stress and create an atmosphere similar to home kill.  There are many markets for animal products particularly to help people recover from acute injuries and with New Zealand devoid of many diseases infecting other parts of the world, an organic product line from NZ could be the pinnacle product.  In the afternoon we visited a large property where staff retention isn’t an issue, one member being there for 70 years.  They’ve been doing something right as kiwi have populated parts of the property.  They too are interested in trying new techniques as they look to find species and grazing methods complimentary for kikuyu grass.

26th November Holistic Soils RMPP Action Group, Omana, Northland

The group visited an interesting and dynamic organic dairy property nestled in the hills of Northland.  Their story moving towards alternative inputs starts with issues around bloat which were not addressed with conventional fertilisers, even lime increased bloat.  Family health problems also encouraged looking into alternatives.  Balancing soil minerals led to their cheesemaker winning awards despite only doing it for a couple of years.  They claimed their milk doesn’t separate and curdle in midday sun, its goes like cottage cheese instead.  They are big users of homeopathy which also made it easier to transition the property to isopathy.  They now have the lowest glyphosate levels of any Northland organic milk supplier.  Dung beetle activity was also impressive pictured.

23rd November Regenerative Ag Waikato and Te Moana a Toi RMPP Action Groups, Putaruru, Waikato

Today these groups had grazing coach Siobhan Griffin explaining Holistic Planned Grazing using the software that she created with partner Rick Cameron.  The software doesn’t do away with the grazing chart but it addresses limitations the original calculations do not explore to make the planning process of greater value to dairy farmers.  Instead of using annual or open and closed season averages, the software can accommodate monthly averages creating more flexibility for dairy farmers.  For many who attended Ian Mitchell-Innes’s courses last year, this workshop brought more insights and developed their understanding of recovery of pasture swards by focusing on plant form rather than biomass or pasture height.  Many farmers are engaging with Siobhan since creating the software allowing new observations and insights to align the process better with NZ farming culture. 


18th November, Windwhistle Discussion group, Windwhistle, Canterbury 

Beef & Lamb NZ Extension Manager Briar Hugget asked me to spend time with this discussion group as they were exposed to Siobhan Griffin’s observations on grazing management.  It was a chance to observe a different learning experience to my RMPP action groups which was a good reminder of the reality of working at a community level.  Discussion groups are much larger, often participants are neighbours and know each other well.  This brings a range of social issues and pressures which affect participation.  This group doesn’t use flipcharts or any writing activities which brings its own challenges summarising and clarify learning.  The reason is to create a safe environment for farmers to engage in their own way and ensure the group remains large by not placing perceived barriers to participating.  Activities have to be physical or visual and conversational.  And there has to be beer at the end of the day, often where ideas are re-examined.  The challenge for any facilitator is reducing barriers between discussing ideas and acting on them.


13th Nov 2020 Southern RMPP Action Group, Wreys Bush and The Key, Southland

The group visit an organic dairy property doing many things considered regenerative; taller grazing residuals, multi-species pastures, higher soil pH, and lower stocking rates.   They were looking to try new biological stimulants to help pasture performance.  The second property began changing fertiliser practices about 15 years ago.  This coincided with a shift away from ryegrass to cocksfoot/fescue based pasture to handle summer dry better.  Lucerne very useful in a mix here.  Another production limitation is a rock pan which can be ripped up.  High post grazing residuals important for resilience into summer.  Doesn’t do high intensive grazing with sheep and is working to reduce sheep and increasing cattle.  Low labour is a focus, reason why they don’t use their yards much.


12th November 2020, Cen Gen RMPP Action group, Kyeburn Diggings, Otago

Today the group were presented research studies by Dr Peter Espie on the impact of biological stimulants – especially humates.  It’s this research that challenges many of the industry beliefs around the value of biological stimulants for New Zealand farm production.  In the afternoon we visited trial sites for the research which are designed to be contractor size and grazed with livestock to reflect commercial reality.  Changing fertiliser had reduced surface ponding in paddocks during rain events.  On the same property we heard how tough 12 months with dry weather and covid had encouraged sweeping changes to grazing management, moving away from set stocking, creating fewer mobs, as well as multi-species winter crops and pastures.  The farmer was pleased with the production these changes were already making.


11th November 2020 Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country RMPP Action Group, Gladstone, Otago

The property we visited today has a strong focus on creating a story around caring; for the environment, livestock, and people.  We visited diverse cover crops as a means to crank starting production, there were many infrastructural projects being started to lift sheep numbers and wool micron for more flexibility.  They were trialling rubber ring and anaesthetic applicator for tailing as they see this will become necessary for markets.  Carbon emissions are important but to date they’ve focused on above ground biomass, not soil.  They plan to plant 10000 natives annually for next ten years.  What the group experienced is a property in the development phase of a huge shift in direction.  Will be interesting to see what has settled in five years time.

 10th November 2020 Regenerative Ag West Otago RMPP Action Group, Heriot, Otago


Stan Winter gave the group benefit of his 40 plus years soil and herbage testing highlighting and clarifying what farmers need and don’t need to know.  In the afternoon we visited a property clearly pushing their own limits.  They put all their growing beef cattle in one mob, over 950 and shifting them four times per day.  Already have 40% more weight gain than ever before.  On the guidance of Siobhan Griffin who was also with us today they’re watching pasture more closely basing decisions on time and plant form, not kgDM and ME.  They’ve started free choice mineral feeding and surprised with initial consumption of sulphur and magnesium.  The group was inspired with their courage to be this daring, admission it’s a steep learning curve and is eager to find out how this approach works over the summer.


4th November 2020 Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Awatere, Marlborough

The day started with a session with Cheryle Prew from Soil Foodweb reviewing soil foodweb tests and explaining the outcomes.  We then visited a property dedicating a paddock to trying out new things including changing grazing and monitoring soil fertility.  We were joined by Bruce Clarke of Kiwiseeds and Locky Hynd from Soil Matters to discuss paddock observations and management.  The group was pleased with the amount of grass they saw and condition of livestock considering rainfall stands at half this calendar year.  The property has huge potential with possibility of dams and other water features.  There is value in landscape plans but unfortunately the current farm environments plans promoted by regional councils lack any relevant ecological understanding other than fencing off areas. 


2nd November 2020 Mid South Action Group, Burkes Pass, Canterbury

This group invited Canaan Ahu from Agrownomics to join us for the day and explain soil properties and function.  We heard about the importance of bacteria and fungi in soil and the substances they feed off and how this makes nutrients available to plants.  The afternoon was spent checking examples where new cover crops have been planted on challenging areas of the farm to see what results have emerged, especially changes in soil properties where peds were now evident.  The group also took the opportunity to look at various pasture mixes being tried and the equipment being used.  They were also mindful of how subdivision would strengthen the operation as well. 


29th October 2020 North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Cheviot, Canterbury

The property visited today placed a strong emphasis exploring various avenues to improve farm business; diverse pasture mixes, different classes of livestock, planting poplars and willows, animal health and wellbeing practices, creating infrastructure to improve water quality, farm environment plans, marketing wool through various contracts, and running a sheep stud.  Documenting has been paramount to ensure progress.  Drought four years ago galvanised their actions; make decisions early; make one a week not 10 three months away.  Surround yourself with good people, especially at the kitchen table.  They are thinking of reintroducing more cattle as water infrastructure improves.  Because of the sheep stud, the commercial flock must as simple to run as possible.  One of the limitations of a stud flock with many lines is that mating time compromises ability to grow winter feed stockpile due to many mobs in autumn. 


28th October 2020 Regenerative Ag Aorangi RMPP Action Group, Methven, Canterbury

This afternoon this group was hosted by a prominent dairy farm willing to challenge common ideas in NZ dairying.  We spent most of the afternoon discussing the fertiliser trials conducted over several years.  One could argue the biggest impact hasn’t been fertility but grazing management.  There were many discussions between the group and our host reflecting similar thinking and appreciation of ideas, particularly financial incentives for sustainable practices.  A challenge to visit properties within the group was also suggested.  The host is looking to trial pasture mixes and change grazing by lifting pre and post grazing residuals.  They know their cows prefer pasture other than ryegrass/white clover. 


27th October 2020 Canterbury Foothills RMPP Action group, Cust, Canterbury

Today the group visited a property pushing their own envelope to see what really happens with management.  Being organic they are limited in options but were trying a number of things: all ewes, lambs, and hoggets in a single mob being shifted 4 times per day to push lamb growth and simplify grazing planning, observing impact of different stock densities to improve pasture biomass, trying different techniques to direct drill oats and barley to lift winter pasture growth, experimenting with free choice minerals as well as designing a cheap electric gate.  Despite recent years being challenging already what’s evident is increasing organic matter by 0.5% annually for the past two years.  Patience is an important virtue that our host believed needs more massaging for him to achieve more.


16th October 2020 Wairarapa Regenerative Farmers RMPP Action Group, Greytown, Wairarapa

With Integrity Soils coach Jules Matthews in the group the day was spent developing knowledge and understanding of soils, firstly with a VSA demonstration and then reviewing soil tests.  One of the strengths of the regen approach is helping farmers identify practical soil properties instead of just relying on numbers in a soil test.  This assists farmers in having a greater sense of control of their circumstances because it doesn’t require an expert to dig a hole.  Even the simple practice of rolling a ball of soil to determine whether it’s a silt or clay loam (pictured) connects farmers to the engine driving their business.  These kinds of hands on activities are essential to help farmers connect to their landscape.. 


15th October 2020 Ruahine Rutbusters RMPP Action Group, Eketahuna, Manawatu

This morning we had an excellent session on soils and environment with independent soil consultant Gordon Rajendram, someone who could read right across the range of soil tests presented to him to explain what was of value.  He solidly endorsed Eurofins over Hills as the preferred soil testing lab.  In the afternoon we visited a local property showing great skill with their grazing and livestock performance.  The group was impressed with the amount of grass, layout of the farm and livestock condition.  Soils primarily needed lime and showed plenty of promise.  Discussion around grazing allowed for an exchange of ideas some of which may be used on the property. 


14th October 2020 Wairarapa/Manawatu Lucerne/Clover RMPP Action Group, Martinborough, Wairarapa

There is a lot of confusion about what Regen farming is in New Zealand and what it means for New Zealand.  I led a discussion tonight with some farmers from my RMPP groups on how farmers get excited about Regen, what flips them to it, and what we are seeing in the paddock.  It is clear many farmers want to reduce their reliance on synthetic chemicals while others experience the treadmill of technologies railroading more expense in their businesses.  It builds on older research by looking at ecological relationships in assisting farm production by lowering costs.  It also encourages exploring how tools such as stock density, pasture diversity, and timing of grazing generate more capacity in their landscape to cope with climatic and market events rather than focus solely on liveweight gain efficiency.  The group came away knowing they had more in common with regen and that there are regen insights worth exploring further.


13th October 2020 Central Hawkes Bay RMPP Action group, Puketitiriri, Hawkes Bay

The group had a webinar on Sunday night with grazing experts Dean Martin and Hamish Bieski to explore grazing strategies in spring to grow more grass mostly by reducing mobs and rotating earlier.  Today the group visited a challenging hill property where they have created capacity despite using a low input system.  The grunt of their pastures was testimony to their skill as another farmer in the group noted he had sold cows and calves grazing the same length of feed yet the one we saw were fat and healthy.  Observations of pasture growth and not fearing deferred grazing lengthened pasture rotations and lifted flexibility to survive drought.  They could carry extra livestock knowing they would grow out of their feed deficient this spring without inputs.  This has created a mental freedom that doesn’t happen when railroaded into best practice by professionals that result in worse outcomes over time.


8th October 2020 Mid South RMPP Action Group, Makikihi, Canterbury

The group had a presentation from grazing coach Siobhan Griffin focusing on techniques to strengthen soil properties, drought proofing, and enhance livestock performance.  In the paddock we saw these things.  The group was surprised at how much feed there was despite moving mobs of over 100 bulls 6-7 times per day.  They saw how calm the R2 bulls were, how easy they were to move, how much they grazed before settling down to ruminate, and the condition on the animals was prime.  What was also surprising is that this has been achieved in less than 12 months and shifting was based on daily observations of livestock rather than a feed wedge.   Pasture diversity was also a feature but whether the owner was going to continue resowing pastures when grass was so plentiful remained unanswered.  The high post grazing residual was the most insightful feature of this grazing technique. 


5th October 2020 Cen Gen RMPP Action Group, Tarras, Otago

The group had Andrew Roy from Southern Humates join us for the day to explain what humates are, their importance and why they are a mainstay of regen farming.  The group then visited a local property trying an array of ideas including mixed pasture species, various fertiliser brews, and trough systems.  They were also in the midst of installing pivot irrigation and commented with their new information on soil function they believe border dyke irrigation would be more efficient in delivering water to pasture.  On the hill their biggest issue is creating enough carbon to hold soil, something their monoculture lucerne paddocks are failing to do.  This group is starting to ask questions around what is the root cause of problems they face.


25th September 2020 Regenerative Ag Waikato RMPP Action Group, Hoe-O-Tainui, Waikato

This group had a webinar with Southland hill country farmer Grant Weller who explained the constraints of his business and how he organises the grazing management of the property, especially regarding the cold winds which funnel through.  He made the comment parts of his property are getting colder not warmer which is changing how he organises grazing livestock.  The hill property we visited was doing well with grazing management and the group was impressed with both grass and livestock.  The farmer was challenged to makes some subtle changes to grazing management; to reduces mobs and increase stock density.  The drama in changing practices is moving away from habit to become deliberately intentional and finding support to maintain new habits and routines.


24th September 2020 Te Moana a Toi RMPP Action Group, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty

The group visited a challenging property today, not just in terms of topography but also fertility.  Group members that had been passing the place had noticed changes over the past three years so progress is being made.  The group spoke with grazing coach Siobhan Griffin to be reminded of timelines and expectations about what can be achieved with grazing management.  That led to discussions on the farm tour of using grazing to even fertility across the property.  The biggest fertility transfer farmers experience comes from lack of stock control creating stock camps.  With all the fertility in the gulleys and hilltops, fat animals come at the expense of fertile hillsides.  Such results emerge from habits so conversations focus on creating confidence to farm less with habits and more with intention. 


22 September 2020 Regenerative Ag Kaipara Action Group, Kai Iwi Lakes, Northland

The inability of ryegrass to perform in Northland was highlighted at the property visited today.  Two paddocks sown at the same time, one with a ryegrass mix, the other with a cocksfoot mix shown very different results with kikuyu easily dominating the ryegrass pasture 5 years later.  The summer dry kills off ryegrass allowing kikuyu to invade.  Chicory is used as a starter to direct drill into with cocksfoot and fescues but ducks are severe and their grazing and fouling knocks fescue and cocksfoot as well.  Keeping cover on the surface is paramount as these sandy soils can blow away so direct drilling is preferred.  Always has a mob or two for sale when grass gets tight.  Grazing management crucial as less intensively grazed pastures succumb to kikuyu more easily.


21 September 2020 Holistic Soils RMPP Action Group, Taurikura, Northland

The group visited Murray Jagger’s property.  Murray’s involvement with kikuyu research goes back to the mid 80s when share milking with his parents.  Mulching became a management tool to reduce kikuyu thatch.  Murray reflected the push for later flowering ryegrasses, plus more endophytes, more silage has impacted on pasture longevity and livestock performance.  A pivotal moment for him was heifers breaking into a new ryegrass grass paddock where fescue was used to finish the last hectare or so.  Those animals only ate the fescue, never touched endophyte ryegrass.  2-3 years later still the same result.  His grazing message was simple; smaller paddocks, higher stock density, shorter rounds for kikuyu management.


15th September 2020 Tasman Beef and Lamb Farming for Profit event, Upper Moutere, Tasman

Was lucky enough to share the stage today with AgResearch scientist Alec Mackay whose long history of research has criss-crossed many topics that dovetail into regenerative farming.  It was great to hear him encourage farmers to monitor transects on their properties for soil fertility and promoting Graham Shepherd’s VSA technique.  An interesting fact he dropped was how fallen leaves of poplar trees lift soil pH.  A good chunk of the long term fertiliser trials he oversees at Ballantrae will end with the new road replacing the Manawatu Gorge highway.  The audience found he and I had a lot in common even when dissecting a couple of soil samples brought along for the day.  Strong concerns were voiced about how the term regenerative could affect NZ meat image overseas by pairing us with the state of US agriculture.


11th September 2020 Mid South RMPP Action Group, Cave, Canterbury

This group’s first meeting brought together families curious about regenerative farming and what insights it could bring to their business.  As with all the RMPP groups I’ve facilitated, the initial interest focuses on what is happening in the paddock; soils, plants, livestock.  Issues that appear more intimate such as finances and communication take a while to emerge in these groups.  As journeys into regenerative farming are often associated with personal discovery, it takes time for farmers to become comfortable to share their journey.  The property we visited are exploring new grazing practices and have bought a portable water trough to make watering cattle easier.  They are using pasture mixes to lift pasture performance and are happy with the results to date.


4th September Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa RMPP Action Group, Pirinoa, Wairarapa

Today the group had Tom Chisolm and Sandy Campbell from Ag Designs to explain techno-system design and production.  Drawing on a wealth of experience they explained the layouts for techno and how these create flexibility when executing grazing management.  The property we visited demonstrated a number of these advantages, such as being able to “see” the entire wave of growth across the platform from a single vantage point.  For the farmer techno system had improved grazing management skill by reducing labour, improving the ability to anticipate future feed supply, reduced stress by improving feed quality, and had shifted grazing planning focus from kgDM to area and days of feed ahead.  The relative cheap establishment costs and potential to move away from winter crop were also prized benefits.  The point was raised that no matter what system is run, it’s the ability of the farmer to make decisions that counts.


2nd September 2020 North Canterbury Carbon RMPP Action Group, Hawarden, Canterbury

The property we visited today is run by a couple who proudly say they’re not top performers, not perfectionists, and don’t mind what others think of their property.  Quality of life is their focus and that’s why they’re taking their son skiing tomorrow, a perspective they were introduced to with Holistic Management training more than 15 years ago.  While the group focused on livestock and pasture management, what they were exposed to is how to use a landscape asset to optimise opportunities for family experiences during the business/family cycle.  The trigger for this behaviour is their children’s teenage years when they will draw down on the farm and then decide later where they will re-invest.  Earlier we had fresh water policy maker and koura farmer Peter Wilson explore the value of regen farming in dealing with coming resource crisis.  He introduced Retrovation; recognition that agricultural history can be mined, not something to be forgotten and scorned.  Which historical ideas, technologies, and skills will become crucial if access to resources declines in coming years? 


25th August 2020 Regenerative Farmers Marlborough RMPP Action Group, Wairau Valley, Marlborough

Craigs Investment Partner advisor Jeremy Flood spoke to the group about off-farm investment and potential opportunities current uncertainties could provide.  That opened up discussion about the property we visited and whether marching of grapes up the valley could provide a cash cow to fund development.  And then there is the question of how much can you achieve on your own when finding and keeping the right labour is challenging?  Getting at root causes of problems can be a prickly issue, not dissimilar to the group digging up this gorse bush to look at root nodulation which by the way was very poor.  Is the solution management like grazing or an input purchased across the shelf?  Discovering the missing catalyst is often a journey for the person, this is how a farm becomes a reflection of the farmer. 


18th August 2020 Central Hawkes Bay RMPP Action Group, Waipukurau, Hawkes Bay

We visited a property that has managed to defy the odds after running 30% more stock units during drought and now having unexpectedly high covers this spring.  Paddocks that were defer grazed have not recovered as well as those hard grazed.  An important theme for the day was stock policy; having classes of livestock that suit land and labour rather than changing land and labour to suit livestock.  Keeping grazing systems simple is key for enjoyment.  The group also had a webinar with Aussie cattleman Stuart Austin who consistently emphasised executing grazing plans was key to reducing farm costs.  An important consideration is livestock frame of mind and how that is influenced by mob and paddock size; stressed livestock don’t grow. 


17th August 2020 Ruahine Rutbusters RMPP Action Group, Masterton, Wairarapa

The group enjoyed a fantastic day.  Firstly we had Greg Barclay join us by webinar to remind the group of what to look for regarding soil, pasture, and livestock health.  We then went on farm to look at a property which surprised people due to the amount of feed on the place.  Over the winter they squeezed all their livestock into two mobs and were now enjoying the greatest feed residuals for lambing in four years.  They were focusing on fencing to gain better grazing management.  An activity many in the group were keen to start was simply estimating the post grazing residual for at least mob daily for comparing the following morning to improve their observation skill.  Developing this skill is important to ensure what is left is in line with expectations so that their livestock grazing matches or improves their plan.


11th August 2020 Cen Gen Action Group, Heriot and Clinton, Otago

The group visited both Allan Richardson and Hamish Bielski to learn more about winter multi-species fodder crops and spring grazing.  Both bring a passion to their experiences, what they’ve learned, and why they are excited about the potential of farming.  Getting higher stock density was a common theme from both farmers, maintain strong livestock performance was also important.  Grazing planning and executing the plan were seen as key to driving success.  What is crucial is knowing what to look for when livestock grazing a paddock and how long they should stay for.  The group was also introduced to financial budgeting where profit is determined first then other expenses, another complete opposite to most currently do. 


10th August 2020 Regenerative Ag West Otago Action group, Heriot, Otago

The group today had a webinar with Hawkes Bay consultant Gavin Clements focusing on multi-species crops and pastures, what’s been working well in drier Hawkes Bay, what species have been really successful such as kale verse those that struggle in mixes such as lucerne and swedes.  Changing grazing management is key to success with multi-species mixes.  The property we visited are like many at the moment; where do we start? What do we do?  What if it goes wrong?  Monitoring is so important, especially gut fill as a precursor to liveweight.  Other monitoring such as digging a hole and looking at soil are post indicators; they indicate what has happened.  Stepping into the unknown is a scary thing and monitoring closely what is happening is critical for success.  If a new technique is not working as you’d like go back to what you were doing before.  However, running it alongside your old technique is important for comparison. 


7th August 2020 Regenerative Ag Aorangi RMPP Action Group, Maungati, Canterbury

Every now and then someone in my groups surprises everyone else with what they are achieving.  That happened today with the person with the smallest farming background proving farming experience prejudices progress.  The group saw first-hand how following a grazing plan created the three Cs: clarity, competence, and confidence.  By simply having a plan and then altering it as paddocks were ready or not was essential to get through what’s becoming a dry season.  A grazing plan (as opposed to feed budgeting) helped simplify management and allow personal confidence to grow.  In the paddock we saw outcomes from deferred grazing which surprised the most experienced heads, the regrowth was better than expected.  Grazing coach Siobhan Griffin emphasised the importance of monitoring; that while the plan created a routine, it’s in the paddock which creates pasture quality and quantity.


6th August 2020 Canterbury Foothill RMPP Action Group, Peel Forest, Canterbury

We had consultant Sean Bennet from Hawkes Bay join the group this morning to challenge us about what expenses create money for business but instead ended up looking at a bigger picture than business; what are you trying to do with your time and resources.  The opportunity for reflection is often something farmers are allergic to, let alone writing it down on paper.  The group enjoyed the experience and it’ll be useful providing the results don’t end up in a draw somewhere.  We visited a property up the Rangitata River to learn about the projects they were undertaking to improve their growing season in a windy cold climate, including multi-species pastures, intensifying their flat country, and trying to create opportunities to diversify income. 


5th August 2020 Regenerative grazing planning with Siobhan Griffin, Darfield, Canterbury

Spent this afternoon with Siobhan Griffin and farmers keen to learn how to manage complexity of grazing planning; from identifying all the wider issues they have to accommodate as part of grazing management to habits and routines to monitor their progress.  The NZ way of only looking at feed inventory limits planning skill and leadership and results in problems becoming surprises.  Siobhan and partner Rick have developed a great little programme to help with the calculations that suit dairy better than the Holistic Management process meaning a better fit for NZ farmer expectations.  Now comes the challenging part, keeping the planning process going and taking corrective action when things are not going to plan.


20th July 2020, Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa, Greytown, Wairarapa

Today’s meeting was a classic example of how groups build farmer confidence.  The property we visited is trying new grazing techniques and figuring out various soil matters.  A change in grazing increased stocking rate but soil shows classic compaction structure.  Technology and plants are options to deal with compaction.  I challenged the farmer to try a multi-shift trial for several days to see if that made a difference regarding patchy sward fertility and to pay for labour from the fertiliser budget as that was the intent.  We also did some planning.  For the second time members in this group focused on external issues such as production or environment issues, not quality of life or business or personal skills such as time management, and this was despite one conversation promoting hiring someone to do administration rather than shift livestock (which is what the farmer would rather do).  What got me into this whole game 30 years ago was a simple statement, “over 90% of problems on farms are not technical or financial, they are social”.  The closer we look at ourselves, the more problems get addressed…


17th July 2020, Making Regenerative Farming Work for You Event, Kaikoura, Canterbury


This event is testimony to the power of passion.  Sky Horton has become so passionate about regenerative farming she staged her own event.  Over 90 people turned up to hear three great stories from Tony Blunt, James Costello, and Hamish Bielski.  Once questions were teased from the audience, stories from farmers operations provided most answers.   A panel discussion covered the rest. Overall, the message was keep farming simple: Regen Ag is about landscape function and not what tool you use, spend money on addressing problems rather than treating symptoms, be disciplined when making decisions, and committed to actions, create systems, and if you lack confidence in your abilities then trial on small areas first. Building confidence is what farmers come to these kinds of events for.  It’s the story, not necessarily facts which help farmers challenge themselves to try new practices.


July 2nd 2020 Southern Action Group, Balfour, Southland

The group had Jesse Bythell from QEII Trust to talk about the do’s and don’ts of riparian planting: best to plant in three year cycles so you have time to plant and maintain your previous two years plantings.  We then visited a property long associated with exploring regenerative ideas for southern hill country.  An eyebrow raiser was they’ve thrown away all their soil tests; a great soil test doesn’t mean a change in production.  One thing that did make a difference was sowing earthworms 20 years ago but it took two years to see a functional shift in the soil profile.  With multi-species winter crops they are adding species to their mixes rather than starting with a huge number of species to keep costs lower.  Getting rid of winter crops is their long term aim as not sure they are worth the expense for income/dry matter generated.  Labour prevents them shifting mobs multiple times per day and summer pasture quality is easily lost if dropping paddocks out is mistimed.  The simple message for the day is Regen Ag is no quick fix…


July 1st 2020 Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Clinton, Otago

This group visited two Clinton properties to learn more about the role of grazing in Regen Ag.  Hamish Bielski is the country’s most prominent regenerating grazing advocate.  He constantly reminded the group stock density was essential for trampling ungrazed pasture and multiple moves with fewer mobs the key to livestock performance.   His mantra is not about utilisation of but building capacity with pastures.  There is no such thing as wasted grass.  The group then visited Mark Anderson using bale grazing as well as diverse winter crops to improve pasture performance.  Again, we have someone challenging need for winter crops believing bale grazing could replace crop due to the longer fertility impact of bales decomposing in paddocks, an impact that reputed to last six years.  The group saw how soil profile was deepening roots pushing into clay and turning clay brown.  Landcare Research scientists are now monitoring these changes.


June 30th 2020 Regenerative Ag West Otago Action Group, Milton, Otago

Today the group visited Rick Cameron and Siobhan Griffin.  Siobhan explained how holistic planned grazing works, how she transformed her dairy operation in New York State, and then how Rick has been trialling grazing techniques with insights from her operation.  Rick’s constant message all day is that grazing planning and monitoring are the only essential activities in regenerative farming.  Everything else is a distraction.  Most farmers and their professional advisers have no idea of what overgrazing looks like so the hardest thing for a farmer to do is admit they have spent a lifetime overgrazing; like a recovering alcoholic you have to admit to yourself first you have a problem.  Stock density appears to be a trigger to shift to higher fertility species along with appropriate recovery to optimise sunlight harvesting and pasture dry matter.  Only when farmers get on their knees to look at their landscape do they discover the secret to success.  There are no shortcuts.


June 29th 2020 RMPP Cen Gen Action Group, Cromwell, Otago

This newly formed group met for the first time today to set up plans and purpose.  The focus will be on regenerative farming and techniques will concentrate on soil health, pasture and grazing management, as well as input substitution or reduction.  Many are looking to be doing things differently and have been inspired by recent media stories.  The property we looked has started down this path trialling many different things to find out what works and to inspire young people to learn about different approaches to farming.  Often the first meeting is a day for people to discover what they have in common to create friendships and common interest to underpin future learning and encouragement to try new techniques. 


June 26th 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough and North Canterbury Carbon Action Groups, Avondale Valley, Marlborough

Both groups took the opportunity to listen to Cherryle Prew from Soil Foodweb.  Cherryle explained a range of soil health observations for both groups to consider.  One of the challenging ideas is that fungi:bacteria ratio isn’t reliant on soil pH: liming soil doesn’t necessarily make soil bacterial dominant.  In paddock Cherryle helped farmers see what to look for fungi presence.  Simply peeling through soil cubes to look for compaction, pans, minerals, and insects/bugs, all signs of soil function and health reinforces good observation skills and starts the monitoring process linking outcomes to management decisions.  Regenerative farming relies on outcomes.  While conversations focus on techniques, it’s knowing how to respond to what’s observed that’s the real secret.  When farmers do not understand feedback mechanisms and lack confidence in their abilities, this creates opportunities to be exploited by consultants.  


June 24th RMPP Canterbury Foothills Action Group, Kirwee & Glentui, Canterbury

The theme for this meeting was what has changed as a result of being in the group?  We visited two properties, both were playing with pasture mixes, trying to get an understanding of how they perform and secrets to success.  The group is standing in a ryegrass pasture with seeds stitched in from the previous cover crop, the majority oats with faba beans and teares without any fertiliser.  Sowing into growing pasture and volunteer crops was deemed successful although patchy.  Patchiness often is determined by organic matter and fertility, as seen around gateways and water troughs.  At the second property the discussion led to learning more about timing of sowing as moisture can come and go in a matter of days.  Again here too direct drilling cover crops to increase organic matter appears to have fertility and moisture benefits while reducing stones in paddocks. 


June 23rd 2020 RMPP Regenerate Ag Aorangi Action Group, Winchmore, Canterbury

The group visited a Winchmore property to check out the cover crops, lamb grazing and chicken pastured egg operations.  The farmer is a great believer in keeping things simple, something he reiterated several times over.  He’s not interested in fancy mixes for a number of reasons associated with being a cropping farmer.  He set up a trial area to switch to regenerative techniques.  He’s tried a number of different fertility regimes but has yet to find one that is cost effective other than foliar applications.  He’s found in changing systems years 2 and 3 are the most challenging as crops often do not respond as expected.  Has bought a new direct drill to sow more ground faster than a cross-slot and demonstrated that to the group.  Diversified into chickens and enjoying that challenge, especially opportunities Covid has created for them.


June 19th 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa Action Group, Piniroa, Wairarapa

The group visited a regenerative property grappling with new techniques for hill country grazing.  Like many farming properties starting on this journey, even the basics are a challenge like knowing what to observe regarding healthy soil and pasture function.  There is little information in the rural media about signs of soil health, especially the simple test of rainfall infiltration.  The importance of increasing post-grazing residual and benefits it brings are seldom presented.  Today the group heard from outspoken regenerative farmer Hamish Bielski telling of his journey, the different techniques he’s tried and how they might work in hill country.  The responses of those listening were an endorsement to remain curious and keep trying things on their own places to create their own story.  Regenerative is not about recipes but about using principles to figure out what’s best for the farmer.  That way you can create and perfect your own swing to hit the ball….


June 18th 2020 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Apiti, Manawatu

Today we had Richard Redmayne from Coastal Spring Lamb explain and describe his brand and how it developed.  Really highlighted how marketing on one hand is about relationships and the many different ways to remind customers of your product.  On the other hand it’s also about excelling at one thing and constantly lifting expectations about that.  Then we visited a regenerative dairy farm to look at pastures and grazing chickens in the rain.  We looked at chicken coops for smaller flocks (under 150 birds) and how they worked to collect eggs and protect birds.  The diverse pasture we saw was recovering from drought and a low production season.  The soil we looked at had good structure and drainage but it appeared roots were not depositing carbon as no colour change near roots. 


June 17th 2020 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group, Patoka, Hawkes Bay

This group experienced a triple treat today.  Firstly we visited a couple who have pioneered a regenerative approach, not just with their properties but their staff – how many other dairy farms target a 40 hour week for staff with 5 days on, 2 days off?  It’s unheard of.  We also had their fertility advisor show us how the soil is changing and what that means for fertility and water holding capacity.  The exciting thing is there is now enough data to start producing papers on what is happening including how deeper root systems access and use deep soil moisture.  And we were also graced with one of New Zealand’s last proper production economists who took great delight in what he saw because so much of his career has been arguing the value of such production systems for farmers, the environment, but in particular farmers’ bottom lines.  It is clear financial numbers stack up for regen ag if soil health improves. 

June 15th 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Waikato and Te Moana a Toi action groups, Te Aroha, Waikato

A great opportunity to pull together two groups to visit inspirational Gavin Fisher.  We had a masterclass in low input farming.  Gavin was adamant, the single biggest cost saver and profit maker for his dairy business was diversity of plants, both in and beside pasture.  Diversity brings resilience through changing soil biochemistry and fertility.  With so many hedgerows his dairy cows graze vertically having a 2 metre wall plus pasture; how would Farm Max value that?  Hedgerows keep pastures hydrated for longer and collect moisture from fog which increases with spider webs.  Trees included olives, pears, peaches, plums, honey locust, paulownia, walnut, and more.  As he pointed out financial figures are often fudged to suit a purpose; getting a loan or reducing tax.  The only real measure is environment; in this drought Gavin started feeding out 6 weeks after his neighbours.  The great one liner for the day was ask questions and question answers. 


June 12th 2020 RMPP Agribusiness Growth Group, Taumarunui, King Country

I was invited to spend time with a group meeting on a regenerative farming property.  A quick farm tour drew comments of the amount of grass and how well the property was recovering from drought.  Much of that is due to placing hoggets, two-tooths, and mixed aged ewes in one mob; the most effective, simple, and cheapest way to grow grass.  Putting young with older stock also provides an opportunity to identify culls early through density pressure.  The amount of mixed pasture also drew comments reflecting that grass provides options.  A number of the group were interested in the regenerative principles and how they apply to hill country which is naturally more challenging than flat country.  Simple techniques such as night/day grazing and deferred grazing provide many benefits to hill country properties. 

June 10th 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Waikato, Cambridge, Waikato

Today the group had Tracy Simpson from Homeopathy Farm Services to bring a different angle to livestock health.  One of the really useful aspects of Tracy’s work is ability to describe the symptoms livestock express when stressed.  The better the description, the more accurate the any possible solution.  The property we visited is trying a different grazing regime this winter; multiple daily moves to enhance livestock performance of heifers which was working well.  It was recovering well from drought compared to neighbours due to higher post grazing residuals.  The group was impressed but also questioned whether there were too many mobs.  They also challenged the amount of fertiliser used and wondered if investing in cheaper soil conditioners would assist with longer term goals regarding the property. 

June 8th 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Kaipara, Te Kopuru, Northland

This group visited a property with a strong track record of quality livestock.  Along with a long association with Avoca Lime we heard the property’s history and how country was developed over 50 years from rushes and tea tree.  Being sand country, we saw examples of how easily erosion can become an issue.  Fencing is the backbone of success along with savvy fertiliser investment.  The drought created problems but the country was looking a picture emerging from it.  Diverse pastures would provide benefits from deeper rooting species thereby providing a longer growing season, especially in dry times.  A trial to explore how high stock density could create soil over sand would also be worthwhile.  The group is standing where the owner recalls crashing his four wheeler quad resulting in serious injuries highlighting how deceptive these sand hills are for vehicle safety. 


March 19 2020 RMPP Regenerative Action Te Moana a Toi Action Group, Opotiki, Bay of Plenty

The group visited a dairy farm where they have been ahead of the drought most of the season.  They have yet to feed out but do have supplies if the dry continues as deferred grazing on hillsides is an option.  They’re also in conversion to organic so dealing with production issues while they work their way through that process, hence currently grinding up old shelter belts for cow bedding.  They compost all manure and bedding waste and feed a worm farm to create humates to spray on pasture.  They’ve just secured funding for 2 km of riparian planting and fencing.  They’re also exploring mixed permanent pastures such as what to group is standing in looking at whether plants have recovered enough to be grazed.  The real disappointment for this group is the lack of local commitment by other farmers to participate.  The difference between discussion and action groups is action groups are for doing and documenting change not just talking about it. 

March 17 2020 RMPP Southern Action Group, Clinton, Otago

This group visited dairy farmer Mark Anderson for the second time to check out how his pastures handled the summer verse winter.  We visited a multi-species pasture that has doubled in species and increased soil carbon by 1.3% in a year.  It can now carry an extra ½ stock unit.  We visited the bale grazing site we looked at during the winter.  The diversity was evident with red clover and timothy emerging.  Mark believes its stack up financially with the cost per head of $7.00 verses $20.00 for a feed pad and $40.00 for grazing off farm.  What surprised the group was a lack of mosaic and mounds of uneaten hay in the bale grazed paddocks, the quality of pasture at 5,500kgDM and the fact pasture species could double in such a short time just by lengthening pasture recovery between grazing events.

March 16 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers West Otago Action Group, Wairio, Southland


The group spent the morning with Walter Jehne learning about the role farmers have in controlling climate change and what they can do to sequester carbon and change heat dynamics driving weather patterns.  In the afternoon the group visited organic farmer Shane Robertson at Wairio to look at the simplest production system.  He demonstrated how he used sheep to trample rank pasture in January to produce brilliant clover pasture in 21 days.  He explained how mature grasses were removed by livestock from pasture throughout the year.  The group was happy with his livestock and began to realise how his grazing system differed from their efforts at home to achieve better pasture quality, especially from mid-summer.  Conversations at the end of the day focused on recovery periods and stock density to achieve better pasture quality.

March 11 2020 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay action group, Patoka and Maraekakaho, Hawkes Bay

A double property visit today to look at trees in the landscape.  As the group commented, trees require a generational approach because that is how long it might take to figure out what is appropriate.  It takes a long time to establish trees, to water them and keep stock off them.  Trees with seed pods took the group by surprise as they provide an alternative food source usually by lifting either energy or protein when grass is below its best, similar to fruit trees.  Some taste like peas.  How they might be used strategically in a grazing rotation was also discussed.  Hedgerows compared to silvoculture (trees to graze under) was demonstrated along with how susceptible trees are to aerial spraying.  The role trees around dams was explored.  The view was their leaves contaminate water for stock to drink therefore other plants are a better choice around dams.

March 10 2020 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Pongaroa, Manawatu

With this area recently declared drought these red meat groups are providing farmers with company and reassuring them of their situation as well as what they can be focusing on next.  The property today had plenty to celebrate; dams were clean and so was the water, soil has great structure, livestock were excellent despite a tough couple of months.  Drought is an opportunity to clear the mind of distractions and focus on necessities.  Stock water and feed become a priority.  Areas set aside but not yet riparian planted are ideal for grazing.  So are roadsides if they can be fenced.  While these actions deal only with the emergency of drought, the group today also talked about habits and routines, time management, and decision deadlines.  Drought favours those who act early, those who destock when it’s green, and those happy to take their profit sooner than later.  So how do you get there?


March 3 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Clifton, Golden Bay

Weather didn’t play its part today but we could see potential with the property climbing over 450 metres within 3 km of the coast.  Soils proved to be very good structurally so continued investment with lime and grazing.  Supplying meat to local market was something to continue with as was exploring the role accommodation could play in realising income for further pasture development.  The challenges of a smaller property in a relatively isolated area with a very seasonal local market were laid bare however, a supply of labour through woofers could also prove to be an advantage for some jobs.  It was clear that being part of the group has lifted their confidence in trying things and gaining more information through discussion and making connections.  The great thing about small groups meeting regularly is how people help each other take advantage of what their situations have to offer.


March 2 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Tutoki, Tasman

Visited a sheep and beef property near Murchison run by youngest group member.  It has been a tough journey as the small hill country property was run down but provided his family with an opportunity to learn more about landscape development.  Over four years lime changed soil structure creating good aggregates to improve drainage and water holding capacity.  Magnesium pan is disappearing, wasn’t on soil test as below sample depth, therefore highlights importance of digging a hole to look at soil structure.  Fern has reduced due to lime and grazing pressure, clover has replaced buttercup in many places.  Where to invest (water, fence, fertiliser) when building up a run down property took most of the conversation as calcium is quickly stripped from soil due to high rainfall but expensive to apply and its rate of return is shorter compared to infrastructure.  An interesting observation is native ground nesting birds including weka and kea are visiting the property to graze pastures. 

February 28 2020 RMPP Canterbury Foothills action group, Windwhistle, Canterbury

Today this group got to see results of someone finding answers to questions that had been nagging them a long time, questions around using inputs and traditional management.  Looking over the fence and finding a network of supportive farmers resulted in a $1,500/ha drop in cost of fodder beet crop compared to last year.  The introduction of flowering plants has seen an explosion of bumble bees which compared to monoculture crops of swedes and beet are literally alive and buzzing.   Soil health has changed, plants stitched into pasture/crops appear to be germinating faster than anticipated.  Moving stock daily or twice daily has produced steady gains, lambs averaged 270g/d over a month during the Christmas period, the highest recorded.  Cattle are fat.  Doubts of choosing a different path have gone and farmer focus keeps getting simpler: how to get more from less …

February 26 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa Action Group, Admirals Hill, Wairarapa

Another dry property, another opportunity to discuss what to do in the dry.  The group looked at pasture and soil to learn significant signs of ecosystem health from soil surface.  Covered soils hold on to moisture much longer which prepares land better for receiving rains when they arrive.  Mid-afternoon in high 20s and there was still moisture from morning fog under pasture litter.  Probably the most significant conversation today had nothing to do with production but lifestyle; is a farm for you or you for the farm.  Droughts highlight just how hard it is to create a dollar.  To be burning out from doing hard yakka is an important discovery.  Stopping and reviewing your situation in company of friends stimulates possibilities of having and eating your cake too thereby creating a thrill of a new direction.  Emotional stages of chosen change are very different to unchosen change and for this group to experience both today lead to new understandings on how confidence makes things happen in life.  

February 24 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Kaipara Action Group, Arunga, Northland

The Northland drought has made it clear how important stock water is for the survival of a livestock operation.  Access to water is not a problem for this property but flow rate to livestock is.  There are plans to put in a bigger pipe and use portable troughs to address this.  In shifting to a single mob on a long round using temporary fence to split paddocks has paid dividends.  The group saw cows and calves in good condition, dung score indicated they were not short of protein due to prominence of red clover, and an amount of feed which certainly impressed those who have not tried moving to a longer round.   Another benefit has been improving estimating feed supply to demand.  For this family being involved with RMPP groups has resulted in a renewed enthusiasm for farming despite challenging conditions.  They feel they are in control.

February 21 2020 RMPP Regenerative Action Te Moana a Toi Action Group, Atiamuri, Waikato

The group visited a pioneering organic dairy to look at their diverse pastures and management.  They are focusing on building soil, creating diverse pastures, taking steeper land out of grazing into trees, and breeding their own line of cows higher in milk and interstitial fats.  An important principle in management is looking for answers from nature and history as many modern remedies create too much work and cannibalise profits.  A cornerstone of their focus is soil carbon which has increased on the farm in places by as much as 20% in the last two years.  Many of their ideas challenge modern practices responsible for legislating farming out of business and creating a straitjacket through a social license to farm. 

February 19 2020 RMPP Regen Ag Waikato Action Group, Eskdale, Hawkes Bay

The saying seeing is believing is a myth.  Lots of farmers want to see a local example of regenerative farming but until they can believe it works they don’t believe their eyes.  The group visited Dean Martin in the middle of summer dry to see his situation and hear his strategies for dealing with it.  Much of what he talked about is common sense; offload stock and slow down the rotation.  He was not combining mobs yet but he was shifting his beef herd of 250 head twice daily on to half hectare breaks to keep stock density high and fertility even.  To prove the value of his soil he dug a hole with a spade to show its dark colour and crumbly structure which he could not have done a decade ago.  No superphosphate here for more than 10 years.  He knows the first rains his pastures will spring into back life much faster than many surrounding properties. 

February 18 2020 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Eketahuna, Manawatu

Knowing where to start with farm development with little money is challenging.  Traditionally the practice of a big loan and hope rainfall and prices swing in your favour increases risk.  The cheapest option for growing grass is fence because the rate of return lasts longer than any other intervention.  The family the group visited realised fencing is expensive so instead they’ve simply bulldozed ridges to run temporary fences down so they can use the same resource in multiple places.  Getting stock density drives change because it lifts fertility and reduces woody weeds simultaneously.  It’s making sure every paddock has water.  With the dry the simplest strategy is destock, run fewer mobs, preferable one, and length rotation.  Changing winter grazing regimes has lifted lamb weaning weight here significantly testifying the importance of management. 

February 17 2020 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group, Wallington, Hawkes Bay

Farmers cringe when having action groups visit at the worst time but that’s often when conversations focus on plans and actions.  Most of us only ever learn from our mistakes because disappointment is personal in a way success is not.  There are two kinds of questions, what are you going to do next?  Secondly, what is/was the root cause of this problem?  Most groups focus on the first without addressing the second.  This dry spell is highlighting how observations and action are not aligning so farmers get caught out.  Despite the dry, the farmer we visited was on top of his situation: had a plan of moving livestock, a list of repairs to keep busy, and time for his kids.  Keeping farming simple (not necessarily easy) provides options and creates control for the farmer.  All that adds up to good mental health.  As he says, “With decisions up to us it is good to take responsibility and learn. These tough times are the best learning in my experience.  I’m much happier now that we make all the choices and not our old controlling farm advisor”.

February 13 2020, RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Gimmerburn, Otago

Today’s property visit was another example of a farmer doing their own thing and creating a result that surprises fellow locals.  It was the longevity of the pasture (6 years at 800 metres altitude, 350mm rainfall) combined with its production that impressed the group.  The grazing regime of longer recoveries and large mobs (up to 8000 animals) grazing a week at a time has contributed to this success.  Another pleasing aspect was use of low cost equipment and a simple approach to sowing out pasture from native requiring three years to create a result, not rack up debt for something in six months.  The dominant grass is cocksfoot with a few herbs and clover (foreground) compared to native (background).  For me, it's the genuine surprise among those in the group seeing these pastures that's the most pleasing aspect of the day.  The beauty of small groups is experiencing something together and then discussing how it differs from home.

February 11 2020, RMPP North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Albury, Canterbury

The group visited a long time pioneering family in livestock farming where the younger generation are taking over.  With a history of innovation with genetics, nutrition, and farm finance, visitors heard first-hand accounts of trying different ideas about fertiliser and livestock nutrition as the family sought ways to be profitable in very cold country – average year round temperature in main valley is 4C.  The story they heard was of constant monitoring with scientists and other experts to gain knowledge about what works on this property; as someone remarked they ran their farm like a scientist but still acted like a cowboy.  Biggest impediment to change is worrying about what to do next.  What this family highlighted is to look to the fringe, change a practice and monitor outcomes.  If you’re not getting results you want, look at what you have or haven’t done.  To achieve this also means changing your farming friends, find those that inspire and support your work. 

February 7th 2020 RMPP Southern Action Group, Wairio, Southland

The group visited long time organic farmer Shane Robertson at Wairio.  Shane is one of the most successful low input farmers anywhere and has learned to farm with what he has rather than spend money and increase debt under the short term allure that increased production increases profit.  Lower lamb growth rates don’t worry Shane because marbling he gets with his lamb is exceptional.  He has a number of pasture projects on the go, including stitching species into established pasture.  The group was impressed with how dense pastures were and how good stock looked.  Shane’s focus on topping less and setting the mower higher seemed to be one of the key management strategies.  He has no problem using deferred grazing.  Free choice minerals had the group’s attention where livestock choose their own minerals from a smorgasbord.  Here is another farmer who is committed to change but not outcomes so he can change systems and ideas when things don’t work so well.  It’s this kind of mind set that Farmstrong should be looking into.


February 5 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag West Otago Action Group, Kanoni, Otago

The group visited a property looking to reduce expenses and save soil.  Yesterday the district received around 150mm rainfall but erosion was most evident on neighbour’s cultivated new grass.  Here we saw value of direct drilling species and broadcasting after using a groundhog and while 95% successful in soil cover we discovered an interesting insight.  The photo shows a multi-species mix and impact of cover; in background swedes dominate yet in foreground beans and vetch dominates in the gateway.  It appears grass held enough moisture for beans and vetch to germinate yet where herbicide was used swedes dominate.  Could this be another possibility to winter fodder cropping without herbicide?

February 3 2020 RMPP Regenerative Ag Aorangi Action Group, Makikihi, Canterbury

After managing to navigate their way through South Canterbury fog after a 30+ degrees previous day the group discovered a little showcase of what courage can achieve.  Here we saw low fertility pasture where post grazing residuals were high, over 2000kgDM with bulls gaining 1.3 kg/day.  Saw 100 400kg bulls being shifted four times a day without bother at the equivalent of 160,000kg lwt/ha rocking between high quality feed (foreground) and low fertility pasture at the top of the photo.  What really surprised the group was amount of feed grown in four months since sown with multi-species grazing crops averaging around 150kgDM/ha per day, particularly considering how dry it’s been since Christmas.  For a number in the group, seeing these examples demonstrated what is possible and strengthened many of the messages from overseas experts promoting such ideas in recent webinars.

January 30 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Wairarapa Action Group, Napier

The group journeyed into the Hawkes Bay to visit Dean Martin.  What they found was surprising and inspiring.  The reviewing remarks highlighted this: “Olsen P doesn’t affect herbage P rates, Wiltshire sheep low maintenance and high yielding, sulphur reduces fly, good financial performance with low inputs, and diet to help my blood pressure”.  One thing that stood out to the group is how much Dean likes livestock; he happy to shift them any chance he gets and they don’t require much work.  Dean is also good at is acting quickly and decisively when things need to change.  He’s not locked into doing things a particular way as he now has confidence in his own abilities to bring things back into line when he stuffs it up.  The challenge for members in this group is discovering what personal biases they need to challenge if they want to do this at home.

January 29 2020 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough Action Group, Clarence, Kaikoura

First meeting of the year and into helping work on the paperwork to keep funding going.  Focusing on farm action plans to ensure things are happening on farm and that the group is contributing to ideas and confidence to give things a go.  The group saw excellent cover across the property, stock with good condition, and plans to move forward with family first.  Their focus is low input but know they are sitting on many opportunities to gain financially and environmentally.  They’ve locked paddock off from grazing for a year and found that to be beneficial when grazing them this year.  Important lesson, the practice of set stocking is not for this country.  

December 8 & 9 2019 AgOtago Pathways of Innovation Symposium New Zealand Agriculture 2050, Dunedin

I presented my views on the nature of Regenerative and Holistic Farming as an option for NZ agriculture which was generally well received by an audience of academics, industry reps and farmers at Otago University.  It good that OU is climbing into the farming space to create tension with Lincoln University as they have been so slow to react to what is snowballing in New Zealand.  While the divergence in perspectives on show was obvious and necessary, it was in the final comments of Beef & Lamb Director Melissa Clark-Reynolds where she raised the challenge of going beyond intellectual debate and recognise the vulnerabilities of everyone engaged in this moment of change; while the pen is mightier than the sward, the deeper connections linking people to landscapes can only be found through empathy from the heart.

December 5 2019 RMPP Wairarapa Regenerative Farmers Action Group, Kahutara, Wairarapa

This first meeting with an enthusiastic group of farmers quick with figures and facts and curious about what regenerative farming techniques have to offer.  We spent the morning gaining direction and purpose for the group and in the afternoon went for a quick drive to look at a couple of paddocks.  The discussions with a local regenerative soil consultant helped galvanise where theory and practice meet.  Digging holes to look at the soil created opportunities to talk fertility and grazing management.  

December 2 & 3 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Cambridge, Waikato

The last Ian Mitchell-Innes workshop with my northern groups has inspired dry stock and dairy farmers alike to explore changes in grazing practices to satisfy themselves of the benefits.  Many of the actions farmers pledged at the end of the workshop were around changing mob number and size, varying recovery times, and experimenting with balancing rations, and more.  We already have farmers lined up for Ian to return next year as his ideas resonate with many of the speakers in my groups’ webinars to support farmers keeping more money in their pockets by allowing their management to triumph over unnecessary technology.

November 28 & 29 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Darfield, Canterbury

My four Canterbury and Marlborough groups came together to hear Ian Mitchel-Innes for two days at Darfield.  Many of the comments at the end of the two days were: more fencing, working with protein/carb ratio more, just focus on the best half of the farm, increase stock density, bigger mobs, top paddocks if can’t get enough trample, cattle in front of sheep, and focus time management on getting it right over a smaller area.  Families appreciate the simplicity of practices Ian promotes but also that it’s not easy.  They now have a summer to try new practices with their grazing.


November 25 & 26 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Roxburgh, Otago

Members of three of my southern RMPP groups attended these two days.  As usual those who said they would stay for one day made it both days.  Ian’s compelling story of how to save money by investing in livestock management, especially grazing management resonates with so many farmers and is providing key information missing with much grazing advice.  The role of soil carbon to reduce risk and debt was outlined again.  Many of the farmers left pledging to reduce mobs, start rotating now from set stocking, and leaving higher residuals to grow more grass.  


November 12 & 13, 2019 RMPP Action Groups with Ian Mitchell-Innes, Elsthorpe, Hawkes Bay

Members of several North Island action groups attended these two days of simple techniques to lift grazing performance.  The focus is removing the top third of the plant to maximise post grazing residual and pasture regrowth as well as lift livestock performance.  Much of what was presented challenges current best practice by leaving more feed behind.  The principles of feeding are no different to that currently promoted but the frequency of moves to get optimum effect is challenging.  Many left with the intention of carrying out the practices so a network of farmers are now being organised to follow and comment on progress.


8 November 2019 Aorangi Regenerative Ag Action Group, The Levels, Canterbury

The role of cover crops and services plants provide dominated conversations on this afternoon.  Compaction is a common problem with cropping land and while farmers can spend money smashing soils harder, how can crops and mixes of plants be organised to address soil problems?  Furthermore, increasing root depth and organic matter throughout the soil profile were also areas explored as these are key to lifting water holding capacity.  The role of soil surface capping and its impact on crop growth through restricting water and gas exchange was also evident in a number of paddocks.  Observing these emerging signs and organising their disappearance with management choices other than technology is challenging.


6 November 2019, Canterbury Foothills Action Group, Ashburton Lakes, Canterbury

With this meeting, what started out as a quest looking into a triplet raising operation ended up focusing on livestock health and environment in a challenging location.  The question raised was whether the breed used was suited to the location because it required a raising enterprise.  What would happen if the profitability dropped?  Is there a long term breeding plan to strengthen the survival traits while maintaining the wool characteristics they enjoy?  Another issue explored was the potential costs to meet future environmental compliance.  With restrictions on tree planting, could now be the time to challenge that?  What benefits could shelterbelts and even silvoculture potentially provide? 


4 November 2019, North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Waiau, Canterbury

This meeting involved visiting two properties, both dealing with the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake.  The first on rolling hill country using a low input approach.  The biggest changes to influence production were liming and genetics that suited the landscape and management system.  Compaction appears to be a problem so recent investment in a Keyline Plow intrigued the group.  The second property was on broken hill country ravaged by the 2016 earthquake.  Controlling woody weeds on hillsides by minimising chemical use was a large part of the discussion. Decisions here focused on what area to plant trees, which to retire, and which to focus on grazing.  Both properties were using multi-specie pastures and working on grazing regimes to optimise livestock performance and pasture longevity.


1 November 2019 Regenerative Ag West Otago Action Group, Clinton, Southland

The group visited a property pushing boundaries of post-lambing management. As seen here this mob of 700 ewes with 1100 lambs plus cattle rotating through pastures being moved twice daily is a practice requiring a level of management beyond what most in the group had tried to date. The purpose of moving twice daily is to leave longer residuals to hasten grass growth once spring heat arrives. The trick is to keep livestock constantly full so they are only interested in grazing top half of plants each shift. The stock density of 40,000 kg lwt/ha verses 900 kgs lwt/ha for set stocked mob allows greater utilisation of all plants, not just best plants. These animals will be compared to another mob set stocked for lamb growth rates and pasture production. This is similar to research at Ruakura in the 60s but never developed. It will be interesting to see if anyone in the group will follow this up further…


31 October 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Riversdale, Southland

The group started with a webinar exploring software technologies and the minefield of programmes and packages.  Most were using such programmes for compliance, but to use them as business tools has many benefits.  The afternoon was spent visiting a techno-system on a property that’s had no fertiliser for 15 years.  The grazing system was adapted to create greater flexibility with each mob’s rotation length to address soil and pasture issues.  We were joined by a local soil consultant backing this path and showed us how the soil was changing.  His explanations linking soil to plants and livestock nutrition demonstrated a solid understanding of regenerative farming principles.  Many of the insights and observations he offered came from a long career in fertiliser and realising much advice from that industry has not benefited farm production for the long term. 


30 October 2019 RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Tarras, Otago

The group visited a property at Tarras only to be inspired further by what they saw.  We knew about multi-species they were using but not extent of impacts.  We saw horehound disappearing simply by direct drilling multi-species into those areas.  We saw burnt out lucerne stands being reinvigorated by drilling in multi-species.  Soil colour was different between paddocks due cocktail crops, worms were reappearing in soil.  They were also trying bale grazing to increase organic matter on northern slopes.  While RMPP insists farmers in its groups to list their KPIs, maybe its their PPIs (Pre-Profit Indicators) that we should be measuring as farmers in the regenerative farming are already demonstrating.  Even a couple of Maniototo farmers are planting sunflowers this season, maybe neighbours will notice?


22 October 2019 RMPP Regenerative Farmers Marlborough, Ward, Marlborough

After a year we’ve finally got this Marlborough group up and running.  After a morning exploring direction and purpose for the group at the Ward Hall we visited a local property to check out efforts at being regenerative and stumbled upon a gem.  We looked at multi-species fodder crops, checked out pristine unfenced waterways, looked at home bred bulls, discussed what to do with burned out lucerne pastures, and how to invigorate dry northern faces using grazing and livestock.  The property hasn’t used any fertiliser in 15 years and what the group saw was both surprising and pleasing to the eye as well as inspiring.  There is no way you could have guessed all this was happening from the roadside and is testimony to what can be achieved by a couple with vision and patience. 


18 October 2019 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group, Te Pohue, Hawkes Bay

One of those meetings full of surprises.  The group enjoyed the unexpected company of multi-species pasture guru Dean Martin, mentor and friend to the property owner.  The main management focus has been fencing for better stock control but established shelterbelts were very impressive.  One particular challenging area is prone to woody weed invasion so a long conversation explored options without using chemical.  While most of meeting focused on pastures, grazing, and livestock systems, this property has diverse income streams including accommodation, paintball, outdoor adventures and hunting, as well as a unique use for a retired shearing shed, a decent size man cave for hosting stag parties and such.  Themes which emerged from conversations considering free choice minerals, trialling multi-species mixes, have flexible selling policies, more knowledge on pre and post grazing residuals. 

17 October 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters, Dannevirke, Hawkes Bay

Visited a local dairy farmer who’s been in the regenerative farming game for over a decade.  His journey started with buying a farm where production collapsed in the first season and having to deal with banks that thought them so risky they basically doubled their interest rate.  Main focus has been soil health and balancing cations, lifting soil carbon levels, to create rich, dark topsoil, notice even the cows were interested in learning more...  No surface moisture in paddocks despite 40+ mm of rain the day before, no mud.  He experiments with once and twice a day milking in and around breeding season.  His focus now is to move completely away from applying nitrogen. 


15 October 2019 RMPP Regenerative Farming te Moana a Toi, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty

This group has emerged from several local dairy farmers wanting to learn alternatives to current dairy practice. Joining them is a number of dry stock farmers including one on the day.  The group exercises help everyone understand that while they operate different enterprises they have more in common than not.  Then during a lull in the storm we had a look at diverse pastures and residues cows were leaving behind, observing which plants they were grazing and how low they grazed.  Dug holes to check out how topsoil was changing due to more organic matter from higher residuals and deeper rooting plants.  The group was happy with cow condition and impressed with all the calves in with the cows. 


14 October 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Waikato action group, Ataimuri, Waikato

We met at a property experiencing soil changes surprising its owners.  Our guest speaker told us about a project conducted some 15 years ago showing dairy cow health declined across the Waikato as management focused on yield at the expense of all else.  This confirmed the work of Ruakura scientist Dr Arnold Bryant who conducted pasture trials in the 70s and 80s focusing on longer residuals and rounds.  The farm tour allowed us to see first-hand how soils were changing but also challenges of moving dairy cows to longer rounds with higher residuals.  Some 12 years from forestry, soils are changing from pumice yellow to deep chocolate brown due to multi-species mixes and seaweed soil conditioners, particularly on campsites and flatter areas, hillsides always take longer.  We spent time discussing what could be done to even out fertility using cows.


2nd October 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Kaipara action group, Kaipara Flats, Northland

On a stormy day we visited two properties in the Warkworth area.  Firstly we visited a local sheep breeder who spent many years developing worm resistant sheep often astounding academics with his genetics.  There were long conversations on how to stimulate sheep immunity by environmental stress, in this case by grazing swards to very low residuals.  In the afternoon we spent time with a family who were investing resources into planting waterways and steep hillsides to create a picturesque property while optimising livestock performance through pasture renovation.  Their Listen to the Land focus resulted from mistakes of maximising livestock performance more than decade ago and the fallout that had environmentally and socially on their family.

12th September 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Aorangi, St Andrews, Canterbury

This group took the opportunity to explore services pasture and crop plants provide to strengthen soil function; rainfall absorption, water holding capacity, reducing erosion, feeding soil health, transferring nutrients from below soil sampling depth, lengthening growing seasons, changing carbon/nitrogen ratios, and so on.  We then had discussions in the paddock exploring options and plans with multi-species crops and pastures to build such functions.  The farmers in this group are all starting to learn regenerative farming so exploring ideas together allows them to discuss pros and cons stirring curiosity to give things a go because only by pushing themselves and challenging one another can farmers learn from their mistakes.


9th September 2019, RMPP Regen Ag Waikato, Huntly, Waikato

The group’s second meeting included a webinar with grazing consultant Siobhan Griffin which the group was very receptive to, including several points about when and where to graze to lift residuals over time.  One discussion focused on encouraging bird life through grazing tall pasture and another on the benefits of deferred grazing instead of cutting silage.  The trip around the property was shortened due to the weather but we saw enough of multi-species summer crops to get benefits for the operation.  We also stopped at a composting site and discussed the benefit of that with fertiliser to pasture production.  The group will be reviewing farm actions at the next meeting.


5th September 2019 Eastern BoP Dairy Discussion group, Opotiki, Bay of Plenty

I’ve been speaking with several farmers in this group over the past few years and now had a chance to meet them.  All are dairy farmers trying to figure out how to bringing regenerative farming to NZ dairy.  Many of them have been weaning themselves off nitrogen (hence these worm farms) , trying pasture mixes beyond ryegrass and white clover, ignoring BVs when it comes to genetics, and challenging other aspects of dairying including longer rotations and creating soils to improve water quality.  The group is keen to have a similar format to Red Meat groups in how the group functions.  The reason they’ve asked me to help is access fresh ideas that DairyNZ simply ignore.


28th August 2019 RMPP Regenerative Ag Kaipara, Pouto, Northland

This group took time to review its direction and purpose before exploring management techniques that assist with making decisions and monitoring direction and progress.  Much of this focused on corrective action; bringing direction and progress back into line when going off track or when overwhelmed.  The afternoon was spent visiting three properties in the red sand country of northern Kaipara peninsula.  Conversations focused on diverse pastures and how to shift from annuals to perennials plants, grazing management, and possible enterprise opportunities with the road likely to be sealed to the southern end of the peninsula.  The group ended its day pledging farm actions as a result of the discussion. 

August 22nd 2019 RMPP Regenerative Ag West Otago, Heriot, Otago

This was the group’s first meeting so morning was spent sorting the extension plan. The afternoon was spent with Allan Richardson looking at multi-species winter fodder crops and pasture renovation. The group was impressed with crops they saw and lack of mud in spite of recent rain and snow. Group members came away greatly enthusiastic about these regenerative farming practices. This reaction is similar to my other groups where evidence of what these techniques can do plus enthusiasm of the farmer, in this case an organic farmer, inspires courage to use these techniques. I’ve also challenged group members to ask Allan’s RMPP group to visit them next year to continue discussing how to evolve these ideas.

August 13th 2019 RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Action Group, Kyeburn Diggings Otago

This group met with John Barnes of Fertilizer New Zealand to explore soil health and soil conditioners and fertilisers.  There was a good discussion around the role of microbes, whether to grow them or import them, as well as how to apply them through plants or animals.  John sponsors a scholarship at Lincoln University and through that association is now gaining the trust of academics to explore various aspects of soil biology function.  The afternoon was spent on a local property discovering how pasture production is increasing through changing the fertiliser regime in a challenging climate.  We also saw examples of alternative income streams tapping into the unique tourism potential of the high, dry plateau of the Maniototo.

August 7th 2019 RMPP North Canterbury Carbon Action Group, Cust, Canterbury

We had Tracey and Steph from Homoeopathic Farm Services provide an entertaining and insightful morning exploring alternative health remedies.  The group was surprised at the range of issues that could be treated by homoeopathic remedies and several have pledged to use them in their farm action plan.  The afternoon was spent exploring options to continue to lift pasture and livestock performance cheaply on a run-down property.  The group was generally happy with what they saw considering the season.  Experimenting with different stock densities to lift fertility was one option considered.

August 6th 2019 RMPP Canterbury Foothills Action Group, Mt Somers Canterbury

The group spent the morning with Sarah Barr from Coach Approach Rural to talk through issues around succession planning.  The group got emotional side is of greater importance than the financial side and that starting conversations early improves transparency helping to prevent inflated expectations.  The afternoon we spent with Regen ag farmer Simon Osborne looking at pasture and soil structure.  Practical observational assessment like digging soil, doing an infiltration test, looking at a brix test are simple techniques to get a feel for outcomes from your management.  The group ended the day talking about farm actions they were considering as a result of our guest speakers.


August 1st 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Garston, Southland

This meeting addressed the issue of diversification, particularly looking into tourism opportunities.  We visited Tom O’Brien and the Welcome Rock brand he and his family are developing.  They’ve built tracks on the farm for hiking and biking, got consents from DoC to offer accommodation in restored huts along a water race originally design for mining.  The view was even more spectacular with the recent snow fall and this hut was the first skiing hut in Southland, built prior to Coronet Peak.  The group was impressed with how the Welcome Rock business is progressing and the opportunities they are potentially creating for the whole community. 


July 25th 2019 RMPP Aorangi Regenerative Ag, Albury, Canterbury

The group had a good look at winter crops and livestock growth rates.  I mentioned some f the examples on properties in Canterbury, Otago and Southland where farmers are moving away from monocultures to multi-species.  We talked about how that could happen, how could a farmer set up a small trial plot which could be as large as a paddock, who could they go and see.  During the afternoon we had Justin Geary explain some basics around cash flow and budgeting, as well as his take on how the banks are going to behave in coming months and the state of the property market regarding sales and leasing. 


July 24th 2019 RMPP Top Soils, Darfield, Canterbury

Helped out with this group of cropping and livestock farmers.  The focus was primarily around soil health, checking out penetrometer readings, soil infiltration rates, and soil carbon.  My role was to explain the value of RMPP funding to the group and as a result the group has decided to register with RMPP.  Farmers still do not fully understand just what an amazing opportunity it is to be able to have funding to reach experts anywhere in the world on topics the group is interested in. 


July 23rd 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Masterton, Waiarapa

Today we spent an afternoon traversing Waiarapa hill country looking at outcomes of pasture mixes in the rain.  Conversations focused on grazing residuals, stock density, and recovery length, as well as fertility as evidenced by the presence and size of pasture species.  There were a number of instances where the diversity of species sown was reflected in the pasture sward.  We also talked whether sward height with new pastures could be higher as bare soil was common in some places.  Bruce Davison from Australia spoke to the group on the value of worm farms.


July 22nd 2019 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action Group Hatuma, Hawkes Bay

The group spent the morning on a webinar presentation from Next Level Grazing director Siobhan Griffin who explained how she changed her New York dairy from a kiwi grazing enterprise into a tall pasture grazing operation and the benefits she saw with livestock and pasture.  The afternoon was spent on a local property exploring questions around grazing and tall pasture management, especially understanding residual levels through the year.  The challenge for this group is setting up experiments at home for them to play with different stock densities and recovery times and observe outcomes.  Instead of worrying about making a mistake, they need to get on with making mistakes to learn from them.


July 4th 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Heriot, Otago

The group visited organic farmer Allan Richardson and Avalon Organics to look at his winter fodder crops.  To be fair it’s been a very kind season to date with unseasonably high temperatures but the examples were saw were perfection, note the litter in foreground of the photo as the group walks past R1 heifers.  It’s a tragedy that not a single policy maker is interested in conversing with farmers producing these outcomes thereby reducing sediment movement.  Allan also showed us how quickly he was getting regrowth on grazed multi-species crops which will provide tucker for hoggets in spring when they easily compete with pregnant ewes. 


July 3rd 2019 RMPP Dryland and Hill Country Maniototo Action Group, Palmerston, Otago

This group had a good chat with Brent Irving from Rabobank about issues around succession and its planning, alternative ways to farm ownership, and a discussion about what consequences might happen if the Reserve Bank increases the level of equity banks need to hold.  We also visited a property to look at the challenges of hill country development after pines including fertiliser and pasture seeding.  Also discussed where the property fits into the greater family business and where to from here if they want to make this home or a stepping stone for something bigger.


July 1st 2019 RMPP Canterbury Foothills action group, Windwhistle, Canterbury


The group did the RMPP Taking Ownership of your Financials workshop and enjoyed how the facilitators adapted their presentation to fit the time available.  The ability to take home calculations and look through own financials was well appreciated.  “If you can measure it you can manage it.”  The afternoon was spent most looking at winter fodder crops and in particular a diverse mix of kale, turnip, tritcale, daikon radish, crimson clover, lupin, and others.  Hearing about the experiences growing the crop encouraged others to start thinking about this idea for next season.  The crop grew well despite a dry summer. 


June 24 2019 RMPP Regen Ag Waikato action group, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

The first meeting of this group involved establishing direction and purpose and building an extension plan.  We then visited a local property and had quite an experience looking at a number of observations resulting from a change in management.  The property has a history of sheep overgrazing but a dozen years of different thinking has removed weed pressure, including gorse and ragwort, increased pasture production, and reduced the need for supplements.  A number of grass species including prairie grass have appeared despite never been sown due to longer recovery and taller pasture.  We also saw an interesting trick to electrify standard fences without the need for insulators.  The group was surprised about what can be achieved without a cheque book.


June 21 2019 RMPP North Canterbury Carbon Action group, Lincoln, Canterbury

The group had an interesting day.  It started off with a presentation exploring human health and the problems associated with the impact of the pharmaceutical industry on current practice of medicine.  Then the group joined ODPG and Quorum Sense networks to visit with Professor Pablo Gregorini and research and management teams at Lincoln University’s Ashley Dene farm to come up with ideas for changing the management of 150ha of dryland to regenerative farming.  It’ll be fair to say of the many ideas put forward will be challenging for the current management team.  However, one comment bringing the two sides together and endorsed by Ashley Dene manager which is simply that farmers want management that is cheaper. 


June 17 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters Action Group, Eskdale, Hawkes Bay

The group focus for this meeting was drawing on the experiences of Dean Martin and his attempts to drought proof his property.  As he said, “I threw away all the training I got from Lincoln (University) on quality to focus on quantity” because keeping short pastures meant selling too many livestock when prices were depressed.  He does whatever he must to get length on his pastures coming out of spring going into summer to get through the dry.  The group discussed seed mixes, how, when, and what to sow, and grazing management of diverse swards and how sward composition changes as a result of grazing. 


June 13 2019 RMPP Southern Action Group, Clinton, Otago


The group visited two properties at the leading edge, one sheep and beef, the other dairy, both challenging accepted norms of grazing and pasture management.  One is looking at doing the unthinkable; putting ewes, lambs, and cattle together in a single mob after lambing to grow more spring grass.  This type of action takes real courage in a community where everyone fears what the outcome will be.  The dairy farm we saw bale grazing where cows are simply fenced to eat hay bales and the dung as seen in the background shows the level of stock density.  Research shows this practice good results for improving soil structure and pasture production.  Will be watching both later this year to observe outcomes. 


June 5 2019 RMPP Kaipara Regen Ag action group, Mamaranui, Northland

The 4th meeting of this group looked at kikuyu management and alternatives with consultant Murray Jagger.  As a result it was made clear perennial ryegrass is not for Northland, better to work with kikuyu grasses and those that compete with or compliment it.  The group also had Steve Erickson from Chaos Springs run a Q & A session on composting for commercial farming operations.  On the property we visited we saw advantages of mulching kikuyu and use of specific pastures for growing bulls.  We heard they might run 30 or more mobs of bulls.  From a Holistic Management perspective I challenge this type of production system for family farms because that number of mobs cannot provide much quality of life for the farmer.  Bulls caused trouble when bored.  I’d be exploring larger mobs and shifting multiple times daily or another enterprise.


May 24 2019 RMPP Canterbury Foothills action group, Hawarden. Canterbury

First fully sponsored meeting of this group, we confirmed more of the extension plan and how to load farm actions online.  Visited two operations to focus on simplicity in farm management.  James Costello uses early weaning backed up with balansa clover to drive lamb growth rates to catch pre-Christmas premiums.  David Fincham uses organics and environmental pressure to create a sheep that require less labour – no drenching, vaccinating, footrot, shearing, crutching.  The group felt an important lesson was getting systems in place early to get long term benefits.


May 22 2019 RMPP Central Hawkes Bay Action group, Elsthorpe, Hawkes Bay

In the second meeting with this group we concentrated on firming up action plans for each farmer.  We then had Dean Martin share his experiences planting and managing multi-species pastures.  Dean’s experiences to combine multi-species and holistic planned grazing was creating a more resilient farm, especially dealing with summer dry.  This was followed by a tour of Greg Hart’s farm looking at areas that had changed since changing to holistic planned grazing.  Greg has found greater flexibility since shifting away from conventional grazing practices.  The group spoke of changing grazing practices at home to keep covers longer.


May 20 2019 RMPP Ruahine Rutbusters action group Bulls, Manawatu

Another first group meeting setting up farm action plans and extension plan.  Once finished we visited local forester and farmer Denis Hocking who has a passion for trees.  He showed how trees reduce erosion in sandy country, challenged the group about economics of trees verses livestock, and the value of different trees.  His focus is understanding land forms and creating vegetation and production systems that suited soil function.   Trees as income earners on poorer soils, but also of value to livestock (shade) and amenity value (also lifts property value) made the group wonder about planting trees in areas on their own farms.


May 16 2019 RMPP group Regen Ag Aorangi, Lincoln, Canterbury

This group’s first meeting to focus on direction and purpose.  Once the morning was done looking at group work, we visited a local mixed farmer at Leeston to learn more about soil health.  We learned the trigger point was buying bigger machinery to pulverise soil because soil was becoming more compacted every year using conventional methods.  A switch to no-till eventually produced results and then moving away from synthetic chemicals in recent years and replacing with biological stimulant and multi-species cover crops is proving so far to be beneficial to soil and cheap for profiteering from crops and livestock.


May 13 2019 RMPP Southland Action Group, Gore, Southland

This group’s first meeting where they set up an extension plan ready for submission and then visited a dairy property of one of the group members.  There we saw good understanding of livestock, plant, soil relationships.  We see saw a winter feeding pad to improve feed use efficiency and reduce time on pastures during wet periods.  Also saw a number of biological stimulants used on the property to kick along pasture growth.  Profits have been increasing steadily since moving into the biological approach with this season being the best ever.  Bank manager is really happy.


May 10 2019, RMPP Maniototo Dryland and Hill Country Group, Ranfurly, Otago

The group visited a property using ryecorn as the basis of a pasture renovation programme as they move to lucerne based pastures.  The group was impressed with the path taken, primarily they bought the equipment to have flexibility to do it themselves.  Ryecorn grows well into winter months but it also increases problems with footrot.  Brix was over 11 but its unlikely that figure is dominated by carbs, quite possibly protein in excess of energy which is known to cause many health problems.  To reduce animal health issues a pasture mix would be better because it would provide other plants for livestock to graze reducing health problems.


April 29,2019,  RMPP North Canterbury action group, Tai Tapu, Canterbury

The major theme for this meeting was understanding financials which Craig Williamson from Rabobank presented.  The focus here was understanding the three basic KPIs RMPP requires farmers to list as part of their participation.  Of course the greatest insights from the session was the experiences of Craig.  A very wet afternoon meant our trip to Roger and Nicki Beattie’s property was confined to inside.  However, Roger gave us a great presentation to his ideas of how to get the public to appreciate regenerative farming and its benefits.


April 26, 27 & 28 2019 Biodynamic Farming Conference, Waihi, Bay of Plenty

I was invited to speak into Four Pillars of Agriculture focusing on William Albrecht, Elaine Ingham, Allan Savory and Rudolf Steiner.  I explained how much of what Allan Savory developed really started while in both the wildlife services and the army.  His role in developing tracking units gave him so much practical know how of reading soil surfaces and understanding ecosystem health.  There are so many stories he recounts during training to emphasise what observations mean.  The real success of managing holistically comes from military techniques embedded within Holistic Management framework designed to stop procrastination and create momentum during difficult moments.  This group is experiencing how being so close together changes behaviour regarding foot placement, a principle of stock density as a tool.


February 28 2019 Central Hawkes Bay group RMPP, Napier, Hawkes Bay

This was the first time this group met so the focus was on group extension plan and starting farm actions.  The group spent the morning brainstorming problems and opportunities they would like to address in their farms while being in the group.  This provides the themes for further meetings while identifying farm actions farmers want to so.  The afternoon was spent with a local environment award winning farmer to explore the role of trees in pasture as well as potential of goats.


February 19 2019 Kaipara regen ag RMPP Paparoa, Northland

The group spent the day with Nicole Masters and Michael Cashmore from Integrity Soils to learn about soil health and pastures.  The group got to hear about how soils function, the role of plants in developing and maintaining soil health, the role of plant Brix in understanding soil health, various ideas with pastures and animal health, what to observe on soil surfaces.  There were discussions around various brews for soil conditioners and dealing to biofilms.  An important learning from the days was to stop procrastinating and get started with something.


February 14 & 15 2019 North Canterbury RMPP group Balclutha, South Otago

This was an opportunity to visit three properties over four days and look at multi-species pastures and their management.  The first property was an organic sheep and beef to check out multi-species winter fodder crops, second to explore on-farm projects and research to find out what actually works on the farm in spite of industry advice, and the third was a chance to look at multi-species summer fodder pastures.  As a bonding experience it was great and we will see how many new projects emerge in the coming months from the tour.  


February 13 2019 Maniototo RMPP group, Oamaru, North Otago

The first meeting of this group was to start the extension plan and get ideas flowing about farm actions.  In the afternoon visited a nearby ram breeder who has not drenched their ram lambs for 25 years as a result of observations during the tough 80s.  The couple running the business were developing enterprises around opportunities with livestock genetics allowing them to start a cattle stud as well.  An operation run over two blocks they had a manager to bring in another skillset to the business as well as free up time for the owners.

November 12 Introduction to Regenerative Farming, Eketahuna, Waiarapa

With this group the biggest impact was understanding the influence of longer pasture on soil function.  Much of the pasture locally is severely, even overgrazed at this this time of year.  That has a huge influence on how these landscapes respond to summer, particularly dry summers.  By simply comparing the roadside with pastures the difference in plants and soil were extreme.  The significance to reduce mob numbers and push rotations and stock density to allow paddocks to freshen up after lambing certain drove discussion later in the day

November 9 ODGP Pasture observation workshop, Cambridge, Waikato

The Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group asked me to run a day on observing pastures and helping farmers get beyond kgDM and MjME.  We spent the morning exploring soil surface indicators and what their presence or absence meant.  We then stood out in the pasture and had a chat on pasture species, decomposing litter, dung scores, and rainfall infiltration rates.  


November 7 Taumaranui Sustainable Land Management group Taumaranui, King Country

Hosted by the Poole family, I spent the day with TSLM group exploring regenerative grazing ideas for both flat and hill country.  I did a card exercise with the group to get them thinking about plants and their functions in pastures.  We spent most of the looking at pasture and stock seeing some great examples of pasture growth and happy livestock.  Overall the group gave the property a pass but were wondering how it was stacking up financially.

October 26 RMPP Action Group North Canterbury, Oxford

Visited with Brandon Dalton and the operation he manages near Oxford.  The day was about how to lengthen recoveries in spring so as to utilise spring growth to build a bank of feed going into summer.  Season can be very short on this property, similar to alpine regions of the USA where Brandon is from.  We saw projects underway on diverse pasture species and sabbatical fallowing of pasture. 

October 24 RMPP Action Group, Kaipara, Northland

Spent the day near Maungatapere focusing on grazing and diverse pastures.  We looked at several pastures and livestock classes to compare what livestock were grazing, what plants were present, what livestock dung was like, how long the recovery period between grazing was.  Kathryn Eastern from Opus joined us and facilitated the afternoon and brought her knowledge of cattle farming into the conversation. 

September 27 2018 RMPP Action Group, Kaipara, Northland


The first meeting of this group focused on diverse pastures but it became apparent grazing management is very important to this group.  As a result we’ll be meeting in another month to focus on managing grazing for diverse pastures, stock density, deferred grazing of kikuyu grass, and more.  Garry Fraser from Seedforce joined us for the afternoon and provided a lot of practical knowledge around pasture mixes and grazing.  I ran a card exercise helping farmers determine pasture mixes beyond just livestock performance but also to enhance landscape function.

June 29 2018 RMPP action group, Waipara, North Canterbury

This first meeting of this group focused on Carbon for Dummies.  We spoke with Max Purnell, Alf Harris, and Robbie Hill about the state of carbon in New Zealand, focusing on the political scene, scientific debate about the subject, and what techniques might be useful for farmers to use to sequester carbon in soil as well as trees.  In the afternoon we were joined by Rob Flynn of Soil Matter and his crew of Amy and Reagan where they looked at the carbon component of soil tests and a pasture walk dig up soil and exploring any carbon features.


June 18 & 19, 2018, Holistic Management training Puketiriri Valley, Hawkes Bay

The group finished its training in Hawkes Bay at the top end of Puketiriri Valley at the local golf club which is an excellent seminar facility.  We used the two days to review knowledge linking ecosystem processes with tool, and holistic financial planning.  We also visited with Malcolm and Twix White and were joined by Blair and Barbie Simmons, both couple did the last course I ran 7 years ago and spoke of how their productions systems changed even through both properties now have quite different farm systems.  Hugh Jellie who will start up the Savory Hub in Rotorua this year also joined us.

May 16 & 17, 2018 Holistic Management Training, River Valley Lodge, Taihape, Rangitikei

At this amazing location the group explored Holistic Financial Planning.  Firstly we revisited decision-testing to remind the group of how easy the process is and its value when spending money, dealing with a problem, or when just stuck.  The group began to relaise you cannot do Holistic financial Planning without and context and decision-testing, it simply doesn’t work.  Brian and kicky Megaw who own River Valley Lodge are also great practitioners of tall pasture grazing with their trekking horses and we got a chance to view that. 

April 6th 2018 Greta Valley, North Canterbury - Pasture Walk

A small group met up with me at Davaar farm, North Canterbury to discuss ways of development focusing on fence and stock water. Many of the hillsides are covered in gorse but the plan is to increase stock density on the tops and flats to reduce gorse regeneration. With views to the southern ocean and half the property in forestry there are other options for income streams


April 3 & 4 2018, Holistic Management training, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

The group met in sunny Hawkes Bay to be pushed and prodded in way they weren’t expecting.  We reviewed what the group covered in the first day and then began exploring the world of personal change and ended the day in the cemetery.  That night local holistic managers joined the group for dinner which created a lot of enthusiasm.  On the second day we created Holistic Contexts and began checking decisions towards them as they learned.  Getting comfortable with this routine increases success, especially in times of pressure.


March 1 & 2, 5 & 6, and 8 & 9 2018 Ecological Outcome Verification training in Stuart Town, Braidwood, and Mudgee, NSW, Australia.

With fellow HM educators, Ian Chapman, Darren Baugley, Tony Hill, Brian Marshall, and Paul Griffiths I had the opportunity to share insights into ecosystem processes and setting up EOV monitoring sites for the Savory Institute Land to Market programme which seeks to verify grazing is enhancing landscape function so that farmers can be rewarded in the marketplace.  I meet a number of enthusiastic farmers eager to learn about these ideas and how it could benefit their properties and business.  I also took the opportunity to visit with a number of innovative Australian graziers all of whom were achieving interesting outcomes.  New Zealand Farmer published my experiences.

February 25 & 26 2018  Holistic Management training, Taupo

My first HM training in a number of years with six farm attending the first workshop on reading the soil surface.  As typical, starting with reading the soil surface is a great way for the group to build rapport and learn together what to look for in pastures.  The National Equestrian Centre was a fabulous venue as it gave us many different pasture types to look at and poke around in.  There were some great examples of compaction, something some participants thought would be difficult on pumice soils. 

January 17th2018, Cust, Canterbury – Pasture walk with Tony and Fran McQuail

Canadian Holistic Management educator Tony McQuail and his wife Fran joined a small group at Richmond farm to view the season so far.  With the heat in dry in November and December necessitating lengthening out recovery times we noticed how quickly pasture were bouncing back with the recent rains.  It was a chance to review holistic grazing plans and compare how anticipated grazing with reality.  We also checked out water infiltration rates which were high (photo).


November 27-30th 2017, Braidwood, NSW Australia Ecological Outcomes Verification training


The last week of November saw me join 20 innovative Aussie farmers and 10 educators with Savory Institute’s head of training Byron Sheldon.  The EOV is to ensure grazing practice is enhancing landscape function with the intent of rewarding farmers for providing environmental services for public good.  These rewards could come from the marketplace or regulatory bodies which oversee resource management.  Transects are pivot in the measuring to ensure accuracy with scientific measurement.  This scheme will also come to New Zealand in 2018.

November 8th 2017, Cooptown, Banks Peninsula – Pasture Walk

Visited Springvale with my group for a look at the country.  We had a look at different pastures because the topography exceeds 600 metres creating a number of different microclimates and seasonality across the farm.  Focus here has switched to fence and stock water to create a greater evenness of fertility across the property through grazing management by increasing stock density.

September 21st Greta Valley, North Canterbury – Pasture walk

My small group met at Davaar farm to go through holistic planned grazing charts, revisit issues when grazing in spring, and having a look at the landscape.  Big issues here with gorse as seen in the background, often a sign of low stock density.  Investment here will focus on fence and water systems before fertiliser as the return is greater when invest in infrastructure that build soil fertility.  This group formed after a couple of farmers expressed interested in the Holistic Planned Grazing after the HMI Open Gate event in May.  That two day courses occurred in June 2017. 

June 20th 2017 Avoca Lime Company Long Rotation Grazing seminar, Whangarei

Over 50 farmers and professionals attended this day thanks to Bryce Manderson and his team at Avoca Lime Company.  The seminar covered ecosystem processes basics aa well as Rest, Animal Impact, and Grazing tools.  The two big issues discussed were winter pugging (tall pasture spreads hoof weight over a wider area), and dominance of kikuyu grass (allowing winter dominant grasses to strengthen their roots to reduce kikuyu competitiveness).  Another issue raised was liver fluke but if grazing improves soil surface drainage that would reduce incidence of liver fluke.  The group was challenged to do something different at home using the Holistic Management feedback loop structure to design a small project.  


June 15 & 16 2017 Holistic Planned Grazing workshop, Greta Valley, North Canterbury

A small and enthusiastic group working away here.  The two days cover ideas that make farm environment plans easier because how the know of why things work is explained from an ecological point of view.  This means farmer can discover what to look for which indicates whether or not their grazing is enhancing rainfall absorption, deeper roots, and more soil organic matter.  All these benefits are not recognised by the Overseer programme but have a significant influence on landscape resilience.  The group meets once a month to review grazing plans and their skills to observe what is happening in the paddock.

May 8 & 9 2017 HMI Open Gate: Amazing Grazing Practices to regerate Pastures, Greta Valley, North Canterbury

Over 40 people attended both days.  Day one included speakers Scott McFadden explaining how his farm is beenfiting from longer pastures, Dr Nicole Schon from AgResearch on how earthworms can improve pasture productivity, Amy Duckworth from Soil Matters on appropriate fertiliser for pastures, Mark Stevenson from Cheviot on the innovative pastures mixes to deal with drought, and Malcolm White on rethinking grazing logic.  On the second day we visited organic farmer David Fincham and sheep farmer James Costello.  Both excel at running lower cost operations that successfully deal with drought conditions.  


February 16th 2017 Pasture Walk, Time Wilson, Springvale, Cooptown, Banks Peninsula

About a dozen rolled up to Springvale to explore low input options for hill country.  While subdivision is an issue in places, reliable water is greater concern and luckily there are plenty of water sources to tap into on this property.  In a conventional group fencing would have dominated conversation, but with this group observation and simple grazing practices helped question priorities and where big improvements could be made with labour rather than money.  Tim was pleased with the conversations and suggestions made by the group.  His next steps will focus on combining mobs, taking greater care documenting his planning and observations, and focusing on one infrastructure project at a time.  


December 2nd 2016 South Vets South Otago Discussion group, Balclutha

Hamish Bielski asked me to speak to the South Vets group near Balclutha facilitated by vet Hamish Moore.  I covered a range of topics around reducing risk and simplifying farming, presenting a range of ideas which stimulated robust discussion about what was of value to local farmers.  Afterwards we visited Hamish and Amy’s property to view livestock grazing mixed pastures.  The season has been very good for grass growth and Hamish was expecting to wean a week from the visit and send between 40-50% of lambs to the works.  We discussed his idea of mulching pasture to create an even litter distribution to blanket the pasture prior to direct drilling. This pasture here is prominantly chicory and plantain. 


November 23 & 24 Intro to Holistic Planned Grazing Workshop, Chaos Springs, Waihi, Coromandel

A small and enthusiastic group attended this event focusing on what to observe with soil function and linking it to grazing planning.  The two days focused on what to observe and then relate that to planning based on any special management needs of paddocks, e.g, increases in litter, shifting minerals up soil profile, improving soil structure, increasing pasture diversity.  Here, Steve Erickson explains the pastures he is producing through longer rounds and his own biological soil conditioners resulting in pastures substantially taller than many commercial farmers.  The group also experimented with organising a grazing plan across their properties to accommodate management events, production issues and imrpove soil function.  


November 4th, Stipa Workshop, Eurimbula, NSW

Over 150 people squeezed into the Eurimbula hall to hear Gabe Brown’s story.  It appears that his non-farming background helped him accept new ideas of how to do things differently.  He quickly picked up cultivation destroyed soil structure and had stopped that within two years of purchasing his property.  The next event was the loss of income for 4 years due to drought a hail.  Empty pockets sharpen the mind and that appears to be why Gabe from then onward stopped all fungicide and insecticide use, started planting cover crops and then stopped all synthetic fertiliser use.  Today his soils are regenerating in ways science find hard to comprehend because N, P, K and organic carbon levels continue to rise without agrichemicals.  There is much in his story that can be applied to New Zealand properties to reduce risk and lift profits.  


September 26, 2016 Lincoln University student request

There is increasing interest by students in the whole area of regenerative farming.  For example, I sat with a senior student on a flight to Auckland several weeks ago and out of our conversation she organised for me to talk with several of her friends one evening at the University.  Almost nothing of what I mentioned they had come across in their training including the insights of Allan Savory, Gabe Brown, Fred Provenza, Colin Seis, Joel Salatin, Bruce Davison, as well as the New Zealand examples I posted.  For me it typifies the growing gap between the type of agriculture which is starting to interest many students, especially young women, and what is standard fare.  They pledged to approach one of the farm management lecturers to explore some of these ideas further.  Watch this space.

August 5 2016, Smarter Farming, Reduce Risk and Simplify, Cheviot, Canterbury

Belinda Meares from the Learning Exchange in Amberley asked me to put together a presentation on farming alternatives that would be of interest to a drought community like North Canterbury.  Over 20 people rolled up despite the snow to partake in discussion and exercises linking how to partner with the environment and pay themselves first.  Even this exercise of sorting photos of the soil surface that reflect effective and non-effective rainfall absorption highlighted how important it is to read the soil surface and its relevance to pasture production.  Several in the group were energised by the examples and perspectives presented so am looking to see what eventuates from this opportunity.


July 26-30 2016 Holistic Management training, Holbrook, NSW

Worked with two groups in Holbrook.  Both groups mentioned these sessions were easier, not under the gun of learning something new regarding financial and grazing planning.  Some expressed how excited they were they could share with their partner their new perspectives and wished their partner could attend classes too. 

These sessions involved a good mix of grazing, financial, and communication exercises.  This card game which had to be carried out in silence had some subtle changes in rules which made a great discussion about communication and its importance with social networks. 

The holistic financial planning exercise brought together all the worksheet from the previous session and placed figures in the Income and Expense Sheet to provide structure and finalise the financial plan.  The grazing planning covered the growing season plan which unlike non-growing season is open ended so there is no end point.  We also covered monitoring of finances and ecological monitoring of pastures, after all the freedom to fail comes from the drudgery of numbers.  Bit tough to get outside cause of all the rain.


July 15, 2016 Holistic Management Implementation Class, Coonabarabran, NSW

This group formed after two years since their initial training course.  All recognised there were things that had changed regarding farm practice and there were things they had forgotten about managing holistically.  This was their first class so my role was to learn what they were missing and interested in.  Here the group are testing lifestyle and business choices, challenging each other’s understanding and knowledge to improve business and lifestyle.  Some of the comments were testimony to how managing holistically helped.  One person mentioned her life had been changed; she listened more because she asked questions.  All mentioned testing choices was something they wanted more practice with, especially with difficult decisions (pictured).

July 12 & 13 2016, Holistic Management training, Bega, NSW

Two days with the Bega class to prime them for Holistic Financial planning.  This involves going through the step by step process to help them calculate income, determine profit before listing expenses.  We then determine the wealth generating expenses (which create quality of life and generate additional income), inescapable (expenses were there is no wiggle room) and lastly maintaining expenses (including drawings, etc) which are essential to lifestyle and business.  The process of doing this on paper creates greater meaning about where money goes than punching numbers into a computer programme, therefore students have greater awareness and emotional equity in the planning process.  This is what is needed to generate discipline in monitoring and executing financial plans.


July 11th 2016 Holistic Management Implementation Class, Bega, NSW

This is the second time I’ve met with this group this year.  The focus of the day was financial planning and taking it a step beyond initial training.  As a group we looked at Xero online accounting and the versatility it offers in terms of running multiple accounts (one for bank manager, one for accountant, one for you).  The ability to input a single expense and code it simultaneously to different accounts makes life easy.  Testing options for on-farm investment, particularly the weak link in enterprises always proves to be a useful exercise to explore which option take the family toward their holistic context.  That expense then becomes a priority, even if the account would classify it as a personal expense because the impact of that action lifts the business too. 

June 17th 2016 Grass Board with Dick Richardson, Willow Tree, NSW

Spent the day with Dickson and his clients discussing the warm winter season so far and how that might influence grazing over the next three months.  This property has feed to burn compared to neighbours and with recent rains there is a good pick emerging and covering the soil surface.  This is encouraging greater plant diversity, maybe even offering the opportunity for sheep grazing either this season or next.  Soil here is amazing, so incredibly friable and holds at least its own weight in water.  The client is developing his own seeder for direct drilling pasture crops and discussion looked at what kind of grazing could accompany that.  It’s not the tools we use which create ecological changes in pastures but the change between one tool and the next. 

June 7-10 2016 Holistic Management training, Holbrook, NSW

Four days with two groups in Holbrook exploring holistic financial planning and readying students for their own accounts with Brian Wehlburg and Tony Hill.  We also revisited grazing planning and the most important skill students learn, decision testing.  The most important document is the livestock production worksheet as that determines all production expenses and potential income.  Once income is determined and profit finalised, students then set about making the sum of money left over to cover all other expenses.  This is where creativity and innovation come to the fore to help student prioritise their expenses rather than use tax categories.


May 16th & 17th 2016 HMI Open Gate days, Hawkes Bay

Many thanks to Holistic Management International and Greg and Rachel Hart for making this day happen.  About 40 joined us as Greg spoke about the expanding enterprises at Mangarara Station, Steven Haswell from BioAg spoke on soil and organic matter and what was humus, John King spoke on testing grazing decisions to illustrate Holistic Management is more than a grazing regime, it explore financial and social considerations too, Gavin Clements from Wesco Seeds explained benefits of diverse pastures and Bruce Wills outlined the changes he had made on his property since the 2007 drought.  The following day the group visited Glenlands operated by Dean and Antoinette Martin and explored the reality of cocktail crops and livestock performance.  In visiting Barnsdale operated by Malcolm and Twix White longer pasture recovery period was shown not to reduce pasture quality.  Here the focus of productivity was challenged with using quality of life as the driver for decision-making.


April 30th & May 1st 2016 Holistic Management training, Mudgee, NSW

In the company of Paul Griffiths and Brian Wehlburg I spent the weekend with two classes, an introduction course and implementation course.  This event coincided with autumn rains bringing a smile to everyone’s face.  We covered a wide range of subjects from ecological monitoring, reviewing grazing plans – how many paddocks and calculating recovery periods, practicing decision testing, reviewing grazing chart and what can be recorded on them (pictured).  With the implementation class, which is a new venture, we highlighted to need for the group to stand for each other, make regular contact so they can discuss what is happening on and off the farm with someone other than their partner, even if their partner is attending the same course.   

April 28th 2016 Holistic Management training – Implementation, Bega, NSW

This small group of trained graduates are looking to get to the next level and actively implementing the holistic processes.  In a very relaxed atmosphere Brian, Tony Hill, and myself spent the morning listening to what each person’s situation involved and whether they had achieved what they set out to do in the last session.  The buddy system was challenged back to two people than three as it seems to encourage greater accountability.  We had a look around the host’s property and demonstrated with holistic grazing planning process which included putting social events on the grazing chart.  


April 26th & 27th 2016 Holistic Management training, Bega, NSW

This lively group worked their way through ecological monitoring and into developing their Holistic Context.  It’s always great to see Brian Wehlburg working at the top of his game with these groups helping them see new perspectives and challenge themselves in ways they were not expecting.  The photo shows him explaining ecological succession near the cemetery and relating such observations to pastoral production.  All this work leads on to the decision testing which opens people’s eye to the reality that farming is seldom just about production and profit.  Even asking students to list what are all the questions they would ask to ensure any decision is financial sound, environmentally sound, and socially sound helps them explore their choices and realise the impact of thinking differently.

April 8th, 2016 Managing Holistically Overview, Warkworth,

A great bunch of people rolled up today.  Bev Trowbridge did a fantastic job in organising the day including holding the event at her farm with husband David.  We spent the day exploring how farming ecosystems work from a holistic perspective before looking into finances and then communication.  There were a lot of questions around grazing hard feed, especially in dairy situations.  One thing I suggested was changing genetics to livestock that could handle mature feed better.  The group is pictured sorting photos of soil surfaces to find out which had effective and non-effective water cycles.  The main purpose of this exercise is for farmers to observe how covering soil improves landscape function.

February 25th & 26th 2016 Holistic Management training, Bungwahl, NSW, Australia

Following on from days at Dungog, me and Brian worked with a group in Bungwahl near Bulahdelah, even had a father and son drive all the way from Sydney to join us.  It was during the biomonitoring exercise I stumbled across one of the most graphic demonstrations of the impact of livestock on soil function.  The outdoor site had chicken tractors and where they had been soil function had completely changed.  Soil under pasture around the chicken tractor site was so hard the pentrometer barely penetrated a cm or 2 and yet would disappear completely in the chicken tractor site.  Highlights the principle that for succession of species to occur there needs to be a massive disturbance at soil surface.  The photo shows Brian Welhburg taking great delight in volunteering students into various roles for Properous Valley Council where they have to deal with graffiti and to experience how decisions are made when drawing on the past instead of a process such as Holistic Management decision testing.


February 23rd & 24th 2016 Holistic Management training, Dungog, NSW Australia

Brian Welhburg from InsideOutside Management invited me to assist teaching bio-monitoring, holistic context and decision testing in Dungog and Bulahdelah, NSW.  Darren Baugley also joined us and was invaluable in bringing his many experiences to share with the Dungog class.  Despite temperatures into mid 30s, students engaged with outdoor tasks with enthusiasm, even doing late afternoon deep thinking out at the cemetery.  Students get great value of showing examples of they see at home with their land and then explore what those pictures are telling them about how their landscape are functioning.  It is during this time students are exposed to ideas that question what they are told is best practice when in fact their activities might be doing the opposite of that intended.  Photo shows Brian Wehlburg demonstrating the importance of pasture density and its impact on weed species, soil function, and season length using human plants.

January 29th 2016 The Acheron, North Canterbury

Joining me was small group of farmers interested in changes Scott McFadden's doing.  Over 18 months he's been grazing hillsides and tops differently resulting in longer pastures which helped weather drought, something he is pleased and proud of.  The group noticed how bare earth on northern slopes was reducing with evidence of litter thereby reducing runoff.  He’s made some interesting decisions, like overwintering half the number of Corredales and then due to high cattle prices buying a small mob of Romneys instead.  He is noticing they graze different parts of hill pastures which compliments grazing habits of his original flock.  Scott acknowledges his income has taken a hit but his costs have also dropped giving more flexibility to be profitable.  He is also comfortable that he may never reach the stocking rate he was running before but is happy that it is still a possibility.  The group suggested joining more mobs together to take advantage of recent rains to grow more grass which Scott said he would do. 

August 31 2015.  Soil Carbon Cowboys with LUYFC

Showed Soil Carbon Cowboys to a large crowd at Lincoln University Young Farmers club who listened and watched attentively.  This is such a good story specific points are hard to recall so people need to see it more than once.  Ranchers were doing things farmers already do here, using electric fences, rotational grazing, and diverse pastures.  Teasing out what was different bought questions, especially around tall pasture grazing application to dairy.  We also tackled whether it can be done on hill country, discussed differences around what is meant by diverse pastures, and how Overseer misses opportunities created by different grazing regimes despite it being weapon of choice for regulators.  

August 25 2015.  Chch WEA. How Regenerative Agriculture is using Livestock to save the Planet.

I was invited by the WEA to present How Regenerative Agriculture is using Livestock to save the Planet.  The group patiently watch Soil Carbon Cowboys before I launched into how pastoral ecosystems work and how aspects of grazing management affect these processes.  I took them through a photo sort to help them understand how their lawns were similar to farmers’ pastures (pictured).  They discovered moss was a sign of drought stress, a common sight in lawns and pastures.  I pointed out that during my recent research at Lincoln University, many trial pots in the greenhouses had moss growing over them and therefore were suffering drought stress despite being constantly watered.  

August 10, 2015

Holistic Management Overview, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

A small and lively crowd joined me at The Green Shed in Hastings for an overview on Holistic Management.  People came for a variety of reasons; mainly to learn about holistic planned grazing but also the financial planning process.  There were a number of robust discussions around facts presented and relevance to Hawkes Bay.  The group were engaged in a number of activities focusing on observation.  One thing that will emerge from this event is a push to establish a biological farming group in Hawkes Bay.  A number of people were interested in more training to manage holistically.  


May 11, 2015, HMI Open Gate Mangarara Station day

Many thanks to Holistic Management International and aka Greg and Rachel Hart for making this day happen.  About 60 joined us as Greg spoke of challenges farming in southern Hawkes Bay and how grazing helps land become resilient.  Malcolm White spoke how Holistic Management challenged him and wife Twix managing their hard hill country property and changing their grazing as part of a whole package that probably saved them from selling up.  Dr Phil Schofield presented evidence from John Kamp’s Mangleton property emphasising grazing and mineral rebalancing.  Participants were challenged with longer recovery between grazing, benefits of pasture litter and diversity, and creating their own sites of discovery to explore how grazing could lift landscape function and farm performance and resilience.  Hard on the heels of Agrisea’s Dr Christine Jones tour, participants were challenged to link pasture recovery to soil regeneration.

February 24, 2015, Farmer Flick night, Methven, Mid Canterbury

Thanks to Jeremy Casey and Kim Solely for allowing this event to take place in their auditorium converted from a woolshed.  Ran Soil Carbon Cowboys, Cover Crops for Livestock Production (Gabe Brown), and Growing the Grazing Revolution.  About a dozen people turned up including dairy, dry stock, and cropping farmers from a variety of operation sizes.  We had a robust debate about state of Canterbury soils where I agreed soils have deepened but not to the extent they can absorb all soluble nutrients thrown at them.  This is where ideas in these videos can provide insight and direction to reduce nutrient loading and improve waterway health.  We spend a lot of time in Canterbury building water storage facilities without recognising and improving storage capacity of soil.  We will definately be having more video evenings in this location.


February 23, 2015, Farmer Flick night, Cheviot, North Canterbury

Thanks to the owners at Cheviot Trust Hotel I ran my video evening where a dozen people stopped by to view Soil Carbon Cowboys, Cover Crops for Livestock Production (Gabe Brown), and a couple on effects of glyphosate (Roundup) on crops and livestock.  The conversations afterwards were positive as the practices shown in Soil Carbon Cowboys and Cover Crops could be applied in North Canterbury.  The question was asked how would it go on hill country to which I replied there people already doing it on hill country in the North Island.  Glyphosate videos surprised those attending about impacts of this chemical and encourages them to consider alternatives like grazing weeds where possible as suggested in Soil Carbon Cowboys.

February 20, 2015, Kirk Gadzia, Waiau, North Canterbury


Spent a day with talented US Holistic Management educator Kirk Gadzia, his wife Tamara from New Mexico and ranchers Stefan and Kimberley Knight from Arizona. We visited a couple of properties in North Canterbury seeing how HM trained farmers were dealing with summer dry.   Its been a bit of a shock because the last 5-6 summers have been wet.  What impressed Kirk was how relaxed farming couples were about their dry situation; there was no sense of panic or doom. While they acknowledged they could do more to lift profit the labour involved would compromise other aspects of their lifestyle.  


December 16 2014, Holistic Management Gathering, Murwillumbah, NSW Australia

Thank you to Brian Wehlburg, Jason Virtue, Helen Lewis and Brian Marshall for this opportunity at Murwillumbah.  I presented inspirational New Zealand properties and farmers who are either managing holistically or acting in ways complimentary to managing holistically.  I placed strong emphasis on marketing and financial discipline but also observation skills and learning to read landscapes and relating back to management actions.  I met Low Stock Stress educator Grahame Rees who covered a range of issues with handling livestock.  He livened up his audience with practical demonstrations regarding pressure and livestock well-being as well as explaining the nature of KLR marketing and livestock programme.  Brian Marshall reflected on work he has been doing in southern South America with farmers using mobs over 30,000 sheep and productivity improvements they are seeing there as a result.  He also presented his recent trip to Europe in particular visiting Scandinavian farmers managing holistically.   

December 4th, 2014 Regenerating Landscapes with Worm juice seminar, Mangarara Station, Otane

Greg and Rachel Hart hosted me and Bruce Davison and we were impressed with all that is going on at Mangarara Station.  The worm farming seminar was attended by over 20 people and here Greg and Bruce (closest to camera) are adding drainage material (sawdust) as the first layer in any worm farm of this size.  This worm farm was a smaller size than Chaos Springs but will still generate 300 litres per day once fully functioning.  Greg will probably build another worm farm closer to the dairy shed (seen in the background) to improve efficiency of resource handling, both material for feeding worms and collecting and storing leachate.  Bruce ran a similar programme to that at Chaos Springs except spent a little more time on reading and correcting soil tests.  The Hart’s Eco-lodge is a fantastic facility, built from timber sawn on the farm and a shining example of the confidence and vision this couple have for their business.  It was a pleasure to see stockpiled grass they had compared to the rest of Hawkes Bay.  This is easily one of the most inspirational farms in New Zealand.


December 3rd 2014 viewing Three Things Seminar at Mangarara Station, Otane

To a small and enthusiastic crowd I started with the video Soil Carbon Cowboys to introduce what farmers are doing in North America to reduce farm and business risk by just changing their grazing.  After a discussion highlighting similarities and differences in grazing practices farmers do in Hawkes Bay I also asked the group what attitude did the farmers in the video have and what it would be like to live like that every day.   I then presented my Three Things Families do to Simplify Farming and Reduce Risk where I introduced perspectives around lifting efficiencies using the environment more effectively, replacing inputs with what nature provides for free, and then how might we redesign farm business to ensure farmers focus on their dreams without losing sight of day-to-day realities.  The evening ended with a robust discussion about the value of technology in farming resulting in several people coming to the worm farming seminar the following day.  

December 2nd,2014 Regenerating Landscapes with Worm juice seminar, Chaos Springs, Waihi

Thank you Steve and Jenny Erickson, Chaos Springs for hosting me and Bruce Davision.  The purpose of the seminar was to demonstrate the value of worm farming and its benefits for pastoral farmers.  This was similar to the course Bruce presented to South Island farmers last year but included an afternoon demonstrating how to build a farm scale worm farm.  About 20 people came along and got a morning session on soil biology as well as how to read and correct soil tests from Hills Laboratory.  The photo shows Bruce and Steve (closest to camera) holding hand fulls of worms from Steve’s compost piles.  A facility such as this can make up to 300 liters of worm juice daily once fully functioning.  Later that day we looked at Steve and Jenny’s livestock and pastures, all of which were very impressive.  Stock get access to seawater for drinking.  They point out their production goes beyond that which their soil tests indicate is feasible testifying that soil biology is making a strong contribution to productivity at their farm.  A truly innovative couple creating an inspirational farm.


October 9th, 2014 Resilience and Flexibility talk, Coonabarabran, NSW

This was a great opportunity to meet innovators and pioneers from Coona area.  Thanks to Jenny and her team for great food and bringing together a community which cares about future of rural family life.  We all know women are much more courageous than men but there were a few hardy blokes that rolled up to hear me talk on some of the exciting advances happening in agriculture.  Science has constantly backed up what observant farmers see in the paddock, particularly around the myth of technology.  By working more closely and partnering with nature we find farming becomes less stressful.  In hindsight with this group, one thing I didn’t mention was Dr Daphne Miller’s latest book Farmacology, a personal journey visiting alternative farming operations and then taking themes from each visit and relating them to her medical practice in LA, California.  This very insightful and delightful read explains how important innovative farmers are becoming as change agents for human health.  Thanks to all who came up afterwards to show their appreciation.    


October 8th & 9th, 2014 Holistic Management Training, Coonabarabran, NSW

Brian Wehlburg asked me to teach Holistic Financial Planning with the eternally effervescent Jason Virtue.  This is the class most students dread but as I pointed out, much of financial planning isn’t crunching numbers; it’s sorting out what to spend money on and where to get new sources of wealth.  On top of that, routinely reviewing your financial situation actually improves business efficiency because the act of keeping your finger on the pulse of business helps you become proactive and address issues before they become serious.  Managing holistically is largely about identifying what issues need to be a priority and then finding money within your budget to deal with them.  This is one thing education systems do not teach because they view business finances as separate from landscapes and families.  If you ever find yourself in Coonabrarbran, check out the Diprotodon skull and skeleton in the information centre.  Its impressive...


Sept 15 2014 Film night with Foothills YFC, Mt Somers Tavern, Mt Somers

Thanks to Foothills Young Farmers club for hosting me at Mt Somers Tavern.  I showed the short Peter Byck film Soil Carbon Cowboys which follows the observations of three North American ranchers in different brittleness climates when they made changes to their grazing.  I asked the group what they saw as similar to what they do on the farm; rotation grazing, building and shifting electric fence, using stock density, etc.  Then I asked what was different.  They came up with longer rotations, shifting more than once a day, extremely high stock densities, using plants to improve soil function.  I also asked what the attitude of these farmers was.  They said they were really happy and found it easier to work with nature than what they had been doing before.  We then spent over an hour discussing what they observed and reflecting what might work in their situation.   

Sept 8 2014 Farm Fresh Presentation West Melton YFC, West Melton Pub, Christchurch


Thanks to the West Melton YFC for hosting me but all would agree it was a tough evening; had to shout against a rowdy bar public crowd.  Funny how everyone went quiet when I finished my presentation.  I covered the basics around lifting efficiencies using the environment, replacing resources, and redesigning how we do business as options to improve farm flexibility and resilience while reducing risk.  About 15 rolled up for the evening and we did my photo exercise about observing the soil surface and what that might mean for water cycle effectiveness and productivity.

July 23/24 2014 Farmer Flick night, Ashburton and Greta Valley

I ran three great videos linking grazing to soil and livestock health in both Ashburton and Greta Valley.  Soil Carbon Cowboys highlights the experiences of three North American grazers who changed their grazing regimes and are now seeing their livestock store large amounts of carbon in the soil which improves pasture resilience, longevity, and flexibility.  The Cover Crops explores Gabe Brown’s practices to enhance landscape function in a cropping situation.  This was followed by Palatability where Professor Fred Provenza introduces the concept of Nutritional Wisdom, the ability of livestock to out-perform scientists when it comes to livestock performance.  The conversations following each video highlighted the vast array of observations farmers are seeing here which fit into what these videos promote.  


July 17 2014, Small Farm Group video night, BHU Lincoln University

About half a dozen hardy souls met at the BHU to watch a video on Eliot Coleman, vegetable growing guru from northeast USA.  The focus on the video was how to grow winter crops in climates much more severe than Christchurch with a focus on greenhouses and fabric covers designed to prevent freezing and the types of crops which are well adapted to winter growing.  Coleman’s property is about the same latitude north as Christchurch is south yet the climate is much more continental.  The group was impressed with the history around winter growing in hotbeds and the level of intensive production.  Some of the group have asked to develop a support group to help beginners and that will be explored further.


July 10/11 2014, Open the Gate workshops, Gore

I ran a series of workshops in Gore including; Overview of Managing Holistically, Farm Fresh, and Animal Instinct.  The challenge is taking ideas that come primarily from overseas and helping farmers and consultants here see their relevance.  What makes it somewhat easier is that the changes presented are so dramatic.  Many commented the intensification of New Zealand farming is not creating the lifestyle and business they want due to squeezed profit margins and increasing regulation.  The ideas presented focus on lowering production costs by using what nature provides for free and focusing on observing the outcomes from decision-making rather than just monitoring.


July 9/10 2014 Farm Fresh Presentation Tokomairiro YFC, Westside Cafe, Milton

Thanks to Tokomairiro and Maniototo YFC for hosting me.  The Tokomairiro group were really interested in the points of view I put forward.  Many of them got the photo exercise and were quite happy to ask questions about what was in each photo and what that meant for productivity from my perspective.  It gave me the chance to have a bit of fun with the group while taking about serious subject matter.  I introduced the group to local farmer Rick Cameron who skills and experience in developing farm projects to check appropriateness of industry technology and advice for his own farm is legendary.  It great to be able to connect young farmers to farmers who have a practical sense of what is important when starting out.  The night before I spoke to Maniototo YFC at the Ancient Briton Pub in Naseby.  It was a smaller crowd as a number of young farmers had flu and decided to miss the meeting.  However, a couple of farmers rolled up to bolster numbers including recent Gaia Pastoral Award recipient David Crutchley.  


June 3 2014 Farm Fresh Presentation, Pendarves YFC, Rakaia Pub

Thanks Pendarves Young Farmer’s Club for hosting me.  This group is a mixture of dairy, cropping, and industry professionals including contractors, probably a couple of shepherds in there too.  Close to 50 people packed the restaurant to listen to my perspectives on farming and three things families can do to improve farm resilience and flexibility.  I did a little photo sort exercise which was a bit of a gamble with such a large group and time of night because I didn’t get a good opportunity to explore what discussions were going on at each table.  But just getting them to reflect on what the soil surface is telling them is something we do not discuss much in farming.  This is why farming is becoming so expensive because many people have no idea what the soil surface should look like to regenerate its function which leads them into expensive and risky practices like pasture renovation.  If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.  Reminding them that weeds are not a problem, but a symptom of management ability is a challenge few young farmers consider.  Their reality is it’s always easier to reach for the shelf.


March 31 2014 Holistic Management Overview Blenheim

This group came together to find out that managing holistically is more than grazing.  I usually spend mornings debunking myths about farming by offering production perspectives industry overlooks or ignores.  These perspectives are grounded in experiences of innovative families who are ahead of the game.  I explain the science and compare it to industry messages common place in media.  Afternoons are for exploring finances and how some simple shifts in perspective open up opportunities to do things differently.  However, it’s the last part of the day which focuses on decision-making and how changes here help farmers make significant gains in their leadership abilities.  Managing holistically is all about dealing with the day to day of life without losing the big picture.   


March 30 2014 International Year of Family Farming, Rai Valley

This is the Rai Valley celebration for International Year of Family Farming organised by Rural Women NZ.  I spoke on innovative farming families doing things better than industry best practice and often overlooked because industry has a poor understanding of relationships between soil, plants and livestock.  These families are improving efficiencies by working with nature rather than trying to control it, replacing expensive inputs by substituting technology with other tools like grazing, animal impact, and increasing biodiversity in the paddock for example.  Finally, they look at business differently.  They plan profit as their first expense, not what is left over and then set about finding ways of using nature to make that happen


March 23 2014 Healthy Horse Happy Husband seminar, West Melton Christchurch

Here is Dan Urquhart pointing out features regenerative horse grazing is creating.  Dan began changing grazing management on this leased property two years ago and is amazed how pastures have come back from years of abuse.  He stated he spent hours trucking feed in and feeding horses, now all that has gone along with vet bills.  He hasn’t seen the vet in 18 months.  The more horses he had, the more problems he was fighting.  Even simple problems like swollen legs were cured by having horses on longer pasture which cushioned against hard soil.  By changing grazing regimes, letting pasture grow longer, mature, and set seed he surprised himself.  Even today pulling apart the thickest sward we saw new emerging seedlings growing up through a jungle of growth all protected from the weather.   Where the group is standing is a mat of plantain highlighting an area of severe overgrazing where only tap rooted species are emerging to regenerate grassland.  In time grasses will re-colonise this area even with its stony soils.  


November 25 2013 Farmer First Group Kaka Point, South Otago

This was the fifth meeting for this group and focused on monitoring, particularly pasture monitoring and its relationship to grazing management.  One member of the group is measuring a great deal about what is happening in their pasture and as a result noticing many changes as a result of the grazing strategies they employed.  It was a great example of how recording and then documenting livestock movement on the farm improves communication and opportunities for analysis and evaluation.  Recording included dates when stock moved, how heavily grazed was the paddock, brix of grass, and how quickly dung was breaking down.  This information was not only put on HM grazing charts but also farm maps so anybody could see where things were happening.  Daily shifts at higher stock density over two years had lifted fertility in many paddocks and had evened out fertility across hill slopes.  However, due to some issues beginning to emerge it is now time to move away from daily shifts of this nature and try something different. 

November 18 2013 Christchurch Young Farmers Club, Addington, Christchurch

I was asked to present my views on farming by the Chch YFC, a mix of mostly students and farming professionals.  The focus of my talk is what farmers do when they don’t make money by drawing on the ideas of social ecologist Stuart Hill.  The first things farmers do is improve efficiencies, when that no longer works they change their inputs, and when that no longer works they redesign their farm business.  The last bit is where Holistic Management decision-making framework comes in but many of the ideas in the other two situations are also triggered by Holistic Management training.  The group was positive about the ideas and the perspective I bring to discussions about what is actually relevant in farming, maybe more importantly I am highlighting the heresy that exists between what is good for farming industries verses what is good for the farmer – often it is the prior getting short term benefits resulting in longer term consequences for the farmer.


October 24/25 2013 Holistic Management training with Brian Wehlburg, Wingham, NSW

This time Brian invited me to teach the basics of Holistic Financial Planning.  Finances are never the hot topic in any course but as I pointed out to the group the freedom to fail comes from the drudgery of numbers.  Like all the group training in Australia, this group also has to work with a budget over several months and use the control sheet to evaluate, diagnose, and correct financial problems.  This is the kind of routine which instills discipline into management.  The process of Holistic Financial Planning is not one of not spending but trying to find the funds to spend on the things essential to achieving Quality of Life.  The two days erupted around the concept of what was an inescapable expense, something that you have a legal or social obligation to pay like rates for example.  Some students believed phones and Christmas presents would fall into this category but as Brian pointed out if you broke your hip and needed the money for something else you could use the money for these thing but not your rates.  Inescapables are very few because if they were many there would be a smaller chunk of your budget to question and shift finances from if an emergency struck.  It was a powerful learning experience for the class.


October 22/23 2013 Holistic Management training with Brian Wehlburg and Helen Lewis, Clunes, NSW

This time I was invited to join Brian Wehlburg and Helen Lewis in Clunes, north coast NSW.   I helped the class with the budget monitoring exercise, especially the control sheet in establishing causes of spending issues, action to bring them back in line, and who was taking responsibility.  We spent time on decision-testing, using testing guidelines or filters to work through decisions about various situations.  As with all things new it takes time to become comfortable with each question, the nature of each question as some cover a variety of social, financial, and environmental circumstances, and knowing when to move on if stuck with a guideline.  If discussion breaks out over outcomes of a testing guideline the best thing to do is move to the next as not every guideline needs answering to make a decision.  Discussion means more information is needed at this time therefore it’s better to find out and confirm what you already know and come back to others later.  Brian had a great exercise for explaining biodiversity and something I’ll be keen to use here with my groups and students


September 19 2013 Grass Board with Dick Richardson Cullerin NSW Australia


This was the second time I’d met up with this group.  We visited a property bought by people new to farming.  One of the problems was reducing the number of enterprises/mobs on farm to make the operation simpler.  The second thing was deciding which paddocks needed subdivided to help lengthen recovery periods and reduce the obvious signs of overgrazing and overrest in the same paddocks.  People new to farming often surround themselves with many different people and the danger is not only getting conflicting advice but often higher input costs due to naivety.  These issues everybody faces when learning a new kind of business and this family will be the same.  The benefit of Grass Boards is the practical experience of those farmers already in it.  The drama is owners who competently run other kinds of businesses that do not rely on nature can struggle with the reality of uncontrollable circumstances and can fail to see how quick technological fixes can lead to long term environmental problems and reduce resilience of the property to drought for example. 


August 20 2013 Farmer First group Meeting Kurow, North Otago

This was the fourth meeting this year for this group and focus on grazing.  We spent time reducing the calculation activities so member could gain confidence without doing calculations, after all monitoring situations are most important aspect of management as degree of execution determines success.  We went on farm and looked at litter composition of pasture and body condition of livestock.  Fence was the biggest limiting factor on the property and more investment in infrastructure ahead to lift soil fertility and water holding capacity.  Already within a year they’ve noticed an increase in the number of springs on the property.  They’ve a number of choices about their livestock mix over the summer months and the group discussed these at length.  Again, financial weak link alerts holistic farmers to where investment is a priority on the property and then finding ways of freeing up capital within the budget to make things happen.  An important theme to emerge from the day was the importance of communication on farm, particularly when it came to achieving goals and gaining a sense of moving forward.  This theme sparked another lively session within the group looking for constructive and positive ways tom address important issues.


August 9 2013 Allan Savory Masterclass, Dubbo, NSW, Australia

Hard on heels of the Holistic Management conference came the opportunity to learn the next level of innovation and ideas with Allan Savory, Graeme Hand, and Mark Gardner.  Allan again focused on policy while asking the audience to look for teachable moments throughout their days to help public understand what managing holistically means.  Graeme Hand explained how he was getting greater success with planned grazing by simplifying the planned grazing process.  Mark Gardner explained his 12 steps to improved communication and business management using the HM framework. 


August 6 2013 Holistic Management conference, Orange, NSW Australia

This conference celebrated new strategies in promoting the need to manage holistically.  Allan Savory was in Australia to speak to farmers for several years and spoke on the need for policy making to change to assist farmers to be professional in their duties of business and land stewardship.  Other speakers included Dr David Low of the Weeds Network, Tre` Cates COO of Savory Intitute, John Feehan the Dung Beetle man, Prof Mark Adams of University of Sydney, Dr Robin Stonecash Projects Director at UTS Business School, and Brian Welhburg of Inside Outside Management. 


July 24, 25, 26, and 29th 2013; South Island Worm juice seminar with Bruce Davison.

This event came about from an article I wrote about Bruce’s use of worm juice to replace fertiliser when he bought his farm in southern coastal NSW, Australia.  It’s by far the most requested article I’ve written and even two years on Bruce is still getting requests about what he does.  The seminar was hosted in Ashburton, Wanaka, Gore, and Blenheim respectively and had a great response from the audience.  Bruce ran through some soil biology basics before demonstrating how to use soil test to work out what soils needed, based on Albrecht’s ideas.  He explained about worms farms, how to operate them and then how to feed the juice to brew either a fungal or bacterial dominated brew.  One interesting things is unlike many soil experts Bruce believes anaerobic bacteria have a positive role in productivity in soils.


June 24 2013 Farmer First group Gore

This was the third meeting of this group this year with an emphasis on goal setting.  This was one of the liveliest meetings I’ve facilitated with several in the group having their buttons pushed by other members.  They were challenged about investment and business decisions with farm spending as in line with the weak link concept from Holistic Management.  The group was so engrossed in vetting each other’s businesses they didn’t have time to check out the property!  The group spent time goal setting and relating that to triple bottom line thinking.  This meant not only exploring production decisions but also decisions about personal communication and money.  The day really highlighted the value of farmers challenging farmers about what is regenerative agriculture when it comes to farm investment and development. 


May 3 2013 Farmer First group Kurow

This was the second meeting for this group this year building on supporting each other as changes in management and practices happen on farm.  Each business presents a report updating what they have done and plan to do over the next period.  They focus on their weak link and research options to strengthen their businesses.  This meeting looked at financial planning, in particular the importance of gross profit analysis for each enterprise, identifying the logjam in the business and any other limiting factors.  These become the focal point for investment.  However, as all business people know, a plan is one thing, executing it is something else.  The purpose of this group is to use peer pressure to help farmers change practices and management to improve results.  More often than not, farmers know what is wrong, what they want is the courage to try something different from what they already know.  Farmer First groups help farmers explore challenges they face with a group of peers so they build confidence together.


April 19 2013 Dick Richardson Grass Board, Woodstock, NSW

Dick Richardson asked me along to this second full day meeting for this group.  I attended their first meeting back in September last year.  We met on a rolling hill cattle property near Woodstock.  Each of the five businesses went through their reports covering weak link, bottlenecks, logjams, stock policy and numbers, and forecast their coming actions during the winter months.  The group then took the opportunity to look at a couple of paddocks to discuss recovery of soils and plants.  Despite the on-going drought we saw good soil cover in a lucerne sward, no bare soil despite it looking bare from the roadside.  We also compared that to the smallest paddock on the farm with a very diverse pasture and asked the question whether any further recovery time would benefit plants, soils, and livestock.  The new litter was already evident in the standing sward and chewed tips had gone.  


April 17 2013, Haniminno,  Boorowa, NSW

I got the chance to attend a practical biodynamic day presented by Hamish MacKay and hosted at the Haniminno property by Charlie Arnott.  While filling cow horns with cow dung isn’t the most delightful farming activity, the company made light work of the task and allowed the group to discuss a wide range of issue and topics associated with biodynamic principles and theories.  Later that week I facilitated Charlie and Haniminno staff to review their holistic goal.  It’s important to note there are some important differences when facilitating a personal from a company holistic goal, particularly around the Statement of Purpose.  Dick Richardson and I also met with Sue Ogilvy and used David Tongway’s Landscape Function analysis.  Sue is involved with a number of local farmers measuring pastoral grassland communities and relating the outcomes to grazing management.


February 19 2013 Farmer First Group Wanaka

This was the first meeting of this Farmer First group with the purpose of farmers supporting each other when dealing with mounting family and community pressure arising from challenging traditional production systems.  The focus of this group is humans and decision-making, not sheep and cows – or chickens as the photo shows.  Too much of farming is tied up in the pride of traditional activities without any critical reflection on why farmers are doing what they do.  It is a myth that if you’re busy you must be a good farmer.  Savvy farmers question, monitor, and test options before they commit to them.   Members described events that lead them to join together.  One stated he was shearing, inoculating, and dipping on the same day and the pour-on burned through his leggings; this was not the life he wanted.  Another said hours spent in dusty windy sheep yards handlin sheep under the burning sun was making him an angry young man; this was not the image of farming he had for his family.  The bigger and faster approach promoted by primary industry is what kills farm families and the romance which binds them to the land.   These men and women want to take their families in another direction away from crippling debts imposed by big business and banks.  They want quality of life to drive their decision-making, not stresses of overdrafts, sick livestock, and burned out pasture.   They want to belong to a group of supportive individuals who are every bit as critical as the naysayers.  They want to learn how to maximise what nature provides for free, grow healthy livestock, and be rewarded by society for their talented stewardship. 


October 31,2012  Papakiao Hall, North Otago.  Seminar on Sustainable Farming

As a means of getting my Certificate of Sustainable Farm Management into the wider community, the Under the Kakanui WIF (Women In Farming) group organised for me to hold a seminar bringing together many of the elements that make Holistic Management successful.  The group enjoyed the day and a common complaint was where to look for new ideas as the traditional agencies always promote status quo rather than real innovation.  The day covered how the environment works and what tools livestock farmers can use to enhance landscape function, especially cheap options.  I also talked about budgeting and the importance of profit first, then other expenses as a way of lifting returns on investment.  I also talked about decision-making, how to improve it and reap benefits from a systematic approach to exploring the outcomes of farm actions, spending, and policies.  An important part of the process is monitoring of actions and knowing what to look for to ensure management remain proactive instead of reactive. Photo by Sally Rae Ag editor ODT.


October 15th & 16th 2012 Holistic Management Training, Gloucester, NSW, Australia


Brian Wehlberg asked me to teach aspects of Holistic Financial Planning, including the livestock worksheet, livestock calendar, and weak link.  I also helped review their budget monitoring exercise which demonstrates discipline required for executing financial planning.  The group also got the opportunity to measure brix of various plants outside the training facility and learn about the value of brix in estimating feed value.  I also ran through a number of slides emphasising observing the environment and knowing where to look on the landscape to compare the effectiveness of decisions to that outcomes desired.  An interesting event occurred when several students left class to join a local demonstrating protesting against coal seam gas fracturing (fracking in NZ), including one prominent local politician.  As he puts it, the extent of unknown consequences and the blatant fear tactics and lies used by energy companies brings into question the very integrity of both the mining and energy industries. 

October 2, 2012 Memorial for Bruce Ward, Kiribilli Club, Sydney, NSW

I was privileged to attend the memorial for Bruce Ward along with some 260 others, the most prominent HM educator downunder.  I first meet Bruce Ward 16 years ago as he was starting to promote the value of Holistic Management to Australians and again several years later when interest gained a foothold in New Zealand.  Bruce was always supportive of my efforts and in recent years very prepared to offer suggestions and advice.  Bruce helped me understand the relationships between business size, overheads, debt, and risk, a critical point to help farmers recognise the difference between conventional gross margin and Holistic Management’s Gross Profit Analysis.  I also use his version of a profit and loss statement to help farmers appreciate the value of prioritising expenses when budgeting rather than merely using accountant’s categories.  His leadership, commitment, knowledge, and humour will be sadly missed.

September 25, 2012 Holistic Management Grass Board with Dick Richardson, Goulburn, NSW

Dick Richardson invited me to attend this group which was reviewing winter production and learning.  Much discussed in this group about stock policy, varying recovery periods, the value of pasture reseeding and how to go about it, mineral supplementation, and the value of pregnancy scanning.  We then had a look at several pastures with the comment the property had more fed than many nearby, something of value at a time when El Nino is being talked about.  The photo shows the group visiting a site where round bales were rolled around the tops of hills.  The fresh grass strip highlights the difference additional organic matter can make to quality of pasture.


September 19, 2012 Holistic Management Grass Board with Dick Richardson, Canowindra, NSW

Dick Richardson invited me to attend the first meeting of this Grass Board on a property near Canowindra.  The purpose of these groups is to learn and gain confidence to improve profits and resilience of their properties.  The farming businesses in this group were running a variety of crops, sheep, and beef.  The group started off exploring why they wanted the group formed and what they hoped to get from the experience.  We then spent time outside looking at pasture as one of the purposes of these groups is to help with the practical skills of what to look for in the paddock.  Dick is a strong advocate of pasture cages to help with judging growth and pasture quality.


September 10th & 11th 2012 Holistic Management Training, Gloucester, NSW, Australia

Brian Wehlberg and I taught grazing planning and explained how to calculate gross profit analysis to this group.  Teaching math behind recovery and grazing periods is a challenge, how to keep the audience enthused without losing them, especially if they are kinaesthetic learners like many farmers.  Even demonstrating how much complexity can be accommodated by the grazing chart needs to be facilitated with much common sense to portray its usefulness to those who do not use/like paper work.  I explained the difference between Gross Margin – a financial tool commonly used in farming to find out how much money each enterprise is making, to Gross Profit Analysis – a similar tool developed 50 years ago to specifically to help farmers find which of their enterprises generates the most money.  The difference between these tools can make or break businesses mainly because people do not understand the difference between overheads and the actual costs which generate income. 

September 8th & 9th2012, Holistic Management Training, Hornsby, Sydney, Australia 


Brian Wehlberg invited me to join him to teach environmental observations to members of the North Sydney permaculture network at the environment centre, Abbotsleigh High School.  This included introducing the group to using a brix metre to measure soluble sugars of plants in the garden, higher readings indicate better health.  I also presented slides of what to look for in the paddock as landscape function improves.  Sydney HM educator Paul Griffiths joined us for a photo opportunity for the local press and spent time with the group explaining the importance of monitoring.  



June 11th, 13th, 15th 2012 Enhancing Environment with Grazing Livestock seminars with Holistic Management educator Graeme Hand

Speaking in Hastings, Hurunui, and Gore, Graeme and I promoted the need for redesigning grazing systems with Graeme emphasising what he is seeing with his work from Tasmania to NSW in Australia.  Deep pasture decomposing litter is essential for grasslands to thrive as litter feeds soil and lengthens growing seasons without any inputs.  Proper decomposition is evident when pulling litter from soil surface as it acts like Velcro because it’s melting into the soil surface.  This is what farmers are searching for in the photo with Graeme crouching centre in the brown top.  Conventional fertilisers only add minerals to soil, never an energy source to stimulate soil life and the services they provide for free.  Evidence backing these insights is found in Australian research using the term landscape function.  As landscape function increases, properties become more resilient to climatic events such as floods and droughts.  To improve farmers’ quality of life any farming activities must not only generate more profit, but must simultaneously reduce labour and enhance landscape function.  Farmers find this thought challenging as this never happens with mainstream technologies and activities therefore they’ve never experienced it.  Furthermore, University of Sydney studies show farmer mental health strengthens when they feel they are regenerating landscape function, especially if it doesn’t require herbicides, insecticides, and salt fertilisers.  Improved farmer attitudes results in their children more willing to go farming. 

May 1st 2012 Holistic Management educator Kelly Mulville visits from Colorado, USA

Kelly Mulville and his wife Elaine Patarini passed through while travelling the South Island. I took them out to David Fincham’s property to look at the Kiwitech fencing gear and chat with a few locals. Kelly has managed a variety of ranching and horticultural operations and will address several New Zealand wine grower groups about grazing sheep in vineyards, a business he was successfully developing in California prior to the financial crisis. Kelly’s background includes biodynamcs and organic production and we spent most of the afternoon talking agricultural policy rather than production as well as human nutrition and its relationship to soil fertility. Elaine is a Weston Price advocate so the conversation also included the value of fermented foods. The photo shows me and Kelly chatting as we walk through autumn pasture – taken by Elaine. Kelly originally contacted me about an article I published in Acres USA and HMI’s In Practice about using fertiliser to calculate a market value for pasture biodiversity. He was interested in the production economics regarding the value of dung in the pasture and discovered we had similar figures.

March 12/13 2012, Holistic Management Training, Cobargo, NSW, Australia

This was the last class for the Bega group I met back in November. It was an opportunity to confirm progress about holistic grazing plans and holistic financial planning. It was also an opportunity to reinforce the practice of Holistic Management, especially bio-monitoring and financial monitoring. Here, fellow educator Brian Wehlberg from Insideoutside Management is about to demonstrate the role pasture cages can play as a visual reference to growth rates and recovery periods – time between grazing to ensure pasture longevity. I took the opportunity to emphasis observation skills, in particular simple signs of plant and animal health for farmers to be aware of. Also, I spoke on the importance of curiosity with farm and business management when targeting improvements on properties. This attitude is crucial for discovering ways and means to lift flexibility and profits.

 March 14/15 2012, Holistic Management training, Bega, NSW Australia

This is the third group I have been involved with in this community and their second lesson. The previous lesson had focused on eco-system processes and the tool humans use to influence them. This lesson focused on developing a holistic goal for each individual, an activity many find challenging. However, the way Brian Wehlberg and Helen Lewis deliver this insight results in groups comfortable with their initial efforts on the understanding this is a living document and will change as they become more familiar with using it, gain more confidence, and change their expectations of what they can achieve. I delivered the holistic goal process building on Brian’s efforts to draw from participants what was most important for them. This included an early morning visit to the local cemetery to spur reflection and inspiration. All who do this exercise find the experience safe and uplifting under Brian’s guidance. 

January 14 2012 Canadian Beef Farmers Greg, Dawn and their son Lee Ekert visit with David Fincham, Hawarden North Canterbury

Saskatchewan organic and holistic beef producers Greg and Dawn Ekert arrived in New Zealand with their doctor son Lee on their first trip downunder. I took them to meet organic mixed cropping and livestock farmers David and Sandy Fincham at Hawarden. After a long conversation at lunch we toured around looking at livestock, pastures, crops, and facilities. Topics discussed included linking pasture litter levels to soil carbon, different pasture plants for grazing, strategies to deal with rampant summer growth, ideal pastures for cropping farms, animal performance, dung and pasture quality, high density grazing, machinery syndicates, reducing hay and balage costs, marketing directly to customers, farmer innovation and knowledge seeking, and labour optimisation techniques and technology for livestock farmers. The Ekerts were in NZ for only five days but were planning to visit John and Emily McRae at Wanaka Organics where John runs chickens behind his cattle.

November 30 2011 South Coast CMA Grazing Meeting, Bega, NSW Australia


This half day meeting provided an opportunity to introduce and explain to 40 farmers environmental and financial benefits of Holistic Management.  Like many of these meetings I’ve attended, most participants are either new to farming or have experienced a crisis which has made them question mainstream information.  This group was interested in how Holistic Management differed to advice they already use, what benefits had other people in the area achieved from using it, and whether there were any limitations to using it.  I (pictured) and Brian Wehlburg, along with local DPI and CMA Landcare staff explained and demonstrated techniques and technologies outside that land holders could use to work more closely with the land and take advantage of what nature does for free. 


November 28-29 2011 Holistic Management Financial Planning training, Bega, NSW, Australia

Again teaming up with Brian Wehlburg I spent time with his Bega group explaining principles of Holistic Management Financial Planning and how it differed from what most businesses do.  As always, have profit as the priority expense and then use testing guidelines and insights on spending behaviour to prioritise where money goes within a budget.  The focus of HMFP is to grow wealth to ensure progress towards quality of life stated in holistic goal.  The first day focused on principles of financial planning whereas second day the group explored a realistic situation to use their new knowledge to address financial problems.  The next session they will use these same skills on their own situation to fully realise the impact of their training.

November 25 2011 Grass Board, Wellington, NSW Australia


Dick Richardson invited me along to one of his Grass Board meetings.  Grass Boards are small groups of farmers (no more than 7 businesses) where members share and discuss business and property issues.  At Grass Boards meetings farmers bounce ideas between their peers while drawing on skills and expertise of Dick, particularly tools grazing farmers can use to enhance biodiversity, lift animal performance, and improve profitability and quality of life.  Each member presents a small report summarising current activities and issues while comparing them to the previous meeting.  Discussions arising from these reports last an hour or more as each farmer explores options and possibilities to improve life and business at home.  Each meeting is held at one member’s property so group can drive and visit parts of their farm.  This allows Dick to demonstrate his extensive understanding of land function and grazing to explain plant and animal behaviour resulting from grazing management on different soils, aspect, and topography.  Photo shows Dick discussing evidence of soil compaction with emergence of rushes in pasture.

November 18-20 2011 Holistic Management Conference, Wingham, NSW, Australia

The first Australian Holistic Management conference in several years was a great success.  Driven by local enthusiasm, this event involved farmers and educators explaining principles and experiences with Holistic Management.  Bruce Ward brought new insights about risk management regarding the global financial crisis.  Callum Coats introduced Victor Schuberger’s ideas into subtle energies of water and incredible physics associated with water vitality.  John Feehan explained dung beetles roles in farming and latest initiatives with their spread including into New Zealand.  Dick Richardson spoke on his observations of Holistic Management practice and his concerns about managers falling into routines with grazing management leading to poor ecological health and animal performance.  Michael Kiely spoke on advances of Carbon Farmers of Australia and the future of carbon farming.  The following day in the paddock Dick Richardson spoke on grazing management and soil function, Sarah Fea spoke on Soilfood Web, while Bruce Maynard provided much entertainment with a great demonstration of no stress techniques to move livestock.  I gave a brief presentation of farmer observation using photographs showing fenceline comparisons, overgrazed pasture plants, and where and what livestock were eating in the paddock. 

November 14/15 2011 Holistic Management Grazing Planning training, Bega, NSW, Australia

Invited by Inside Outside Management to co-teach a grazing module in Bega with Brian Welhburg.  My contribution involved explaining animal nutrition and behaviour.  The first morning focused on students reviewing events from previous classes and what some were doing at home.  The afternoon was in the paddock estimating feed squares and measuring plant brix and soil properties.   The photo shows Brian explaining the use of a pentrometre to measure soil porosity which indicates water holding and drainage properties.  The second day I assisted Brian explaining the Holistic Grazing Planning process.  Students were given a grazing exercise to do at home. 


November 9/10 2011 Stipa (Native Grasslands) Conference, Holbrook, NSW, Australia

The conference focused on two areas, science around grazing in native grasslands and farmer initiative to incorporate ecological principles into farm management.  I went with Dick Richardson to this event to hear American animal behaviourist Fred Provenza.  He emphasised livestock abilities to choose from diverse herbage when grazing and how they balance diets and self-medicate.  These ideas were followed up by CSIRO scientist Dean Revell while farmer Bruce Maynard explained advanced stockmanship methods which drew on animals’ abilities to sort their own diet.  Walter Jehne from Healthy Soils Australia explained the dynamic relationship between grasslands and carbon sequestration leading to greater resilience of farming systems.  There is no group in New Zealand that currently emphasises native grasslands and their management for conservationists and farmers to discuss common ground.  The photo shows Anna Coughlan explaining paddock history to the group and relating previous management to the resulting plant community.

June 17th & 20th 2011 Mark Bader, Animal Nutritionist, Ashburton, Gore

I sponsored Mark Bader to visit New Zealand and explain to farmers how to improve nutrition.  Mark Bader is someone who explains the science other experts either ignore or overlook.  Mark’s knowledge on chemistry linking soil, plant, and animal health links science to observation.  His explanation of chemistry is simple for anybody to understand and he then gives examples which all farmers can relate to.  For example, why do animals graze the top third of the grass plant when they enter the paddock?  Because it has lower protein and higher energy meaning it suits the animal best.  Excess protein causes the majority of production and health problems in New Zealand ruminants.  As Mark observes, “New Zealand farmers are too busy to make money!”  Instead of optimising efficiencies they move animals too fast, apply soluble fertiliser and toxic chemicals, or sit on a tractor all day topping.  Following some simple rules of chemistry reduces many expenses and grows more grass.  Canterbury dairy farmers focused on ration balancing to lift efficiencies and reduce costs whereas Southland sheep and beef farmers wanted to know how to make tall pasture grazing work for them.  All recognised the common sense of Mark’s ideas but left knowing full well the challenges of making these ideas work.

June 13 & 14 2011 Probitas Conference Rotorua

This conference differed from last year’s event by focusing on the basics.  Only four speakers; Ewan Campbell (Probitas system and its benefits to land function), John Godwin (Radionics and healing the land), Mark Bader (Balancing animal nutrition), and me on changing grazing practice.  My role was to explain how growing longer grass benefits both soil and animal whereas Mark Bader provided the science behind grazing mature pasture and its impacts on meat and milk quality.   I focused on identifying environment signs revealing land health and its resilience.  The photo shows the group identifying and sorting soil surface photos into effective and non-effective water cycles.  Non-effective water cycles reduce productivity but seldom are farmers aware of what to look for and its impact on their business, they lack enviro-literacy.  Once they can identify what to look for in the environment they can be proactive in doing something about it like change their grazing practices.

May 2011 EM Farmer First Meeting Tapanui, West Otago

The EM group spent the morning visiting George Redditt’s and Neil Thomson’s properties checking out earthworm numbers, brix levels, and discussing how to monitor the environment on the farm.  Rick Cameron led discussion on brix, how to prepare the grass for crushing, how to operate the refractometre, and what the result meant.  Mike Daly led discussion on earthworm counts and I explained how to do Visual Soil Analysis (VSA).  These activities showed a decline in worm numbers with the frequency of cultivation along with a decline in soil structure.  The afternoon involved group members evaluating their use of EM in cropping.  One unexpected outcome was the lack of seed shaking out in crops sprayed with EM which lifted second year crop yields.  All commented they wanted to learn more about using EM and discussing ways and means to make the most of its use.

May 2011:  Holistic Management training, Puketitiri Golf Club, Hawkes Bay

This group’s final HM training session explored grazing.  Brian Wehlberg (third from left) from Inside Outside Management, Australia co-facilitated training and brought a wealth of grazing experience.  New Zealand farmers find learning Holistic Planned Grazing challenging because the focus is recovery period, not kgDM.  Usually farmers start grazing planning with calculating kgDM so they know how many animals to run.  The problem with this approach is no connection to pasture regeneration by avoiding burnout.  The priority with Holistic Planned Grazing is calculating recovery period first and then work out time animals spend in each paddock to avoid overgrazing.  From there farmers calculate whether enough feed exists and then plan strategies if it doesn’t.  While farmers in this group struggled with the holistic planning approach, they recognise using kgDM alone will not solve productivity problems driving their interest in Holistic Management.  Overall, the group really enjoyed the Holistic Management course and exposure to new insights and ideas.  From here they plan to run a support group to improve their practice of Holistic Management.  “The course gave us a brilliant strategy for tying all the disparate parts of the business to a single focus. We find that the discovery process of HM, rather than a prescriptive 101 factsheet, arouses interest and curiosity. The inherently flexible nature of HM means that if we get an undesired result, somewhere a wrong decision was made, not that the HM process itself was wrong” – Malc & Twix White.

Apr 2011: Holistic Management educators with Keyline designer Darren Doherty, Orange, NSW

Darren Doherty shared the best part of 20 years experience with Holistic Management educators keen to learn how to read landscapes according to Keyline principles.  Here Darren (centre, brown hat) is conversing with Ian Chapman as the group reviews the design and development of Ian’s property over 20 years using Keyline.  The maps show dam sites which will be built as the funds become available, not before.  A cornerstone of Keyline is the Scale of Permanence which ranks landscape features and property infrastructure to improve soil fertility.  This knowledge uses geotechnical insights into harvesting and storing rainwater to redistribute it from valleys to ridges via flood irrigation.  Keyline strengthens Holistic Management at the design level through identifying land patterns for improving utilisation and efficiencies of soil and water resources when developing farming properties.

Apr 7th & 8th 2011:Holistic Management training, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay


This group’s third session concentrated on finances and psychology of planning earning and spending money.  The group explored decision testing guidelines by delving into how money is spent, returns on investment, which farm development costs are a real priority, and how to determine the greatest bang for a dollar when running a business.  The group used their own figures to calculate gross profit analysis (which identifies the true income generating costs unlike a gross margin), use financial weak link to invest in their enterprises, determine whether a logjam existed in their business, and how to find money within their existing budget to move business forward.  As a result farmers begin investing in expenses that grow grass cheaply using principles of solar dollars instead of increasing input costs and hoping market price (paper dollars) will cover their planned costs.  The group here is choosing the right layout for a farm development plan by using existing resources rather than traditional borrowing from banks and being railroaded into decisions that burn out both property and farmer.  The group meets again in May to do Holistic Grazing Planning.

Mar 13 2011 Holistic Management overview, Gisborne, East Coast

This full day overview was hosted by the Tairawhiti Organics Group.  The day covered the relevance of farming in sustaining civilisation, how the environment works, the tools farmers use to change the environment with special focus on grazing and land management practices, what does holistic mean?, what is a holistic goal?, how is a holistic goal practical for business and family decision-making, an overview of the decision-testing and feedback loop processes, how the farmer can plan for profit (profit is the farmer’s responsibility, not the industry’s), how to re-prioritise expenses to get greater emotional ownership of financial planning, and where to get ideas when looking for innovative solutions to old and new problems.  Those attending enjoyed the day, the practical nature of the information, and left inspired to learn more.  The group pictured is doing an exercise demonstrating how current grazing practices lead to pasture burnout resulting in higher input costs 

Mar 2011 Holistic Management Training, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

This group's second session concentrated on holistic goal development and decision testing.   Some families brought along photos of their property to review examples of effective and non-effective ecosystem processes.  The first day focused on reviewing ecosystem processes, understanding the nature of personal change, and creation a holistic goal.  The second day involved completing the holistic goal, demonstrating decision testing, the feedback loop, and developing SMART goals to help make the holistic goal practical.  The group meets again in April to experience Holistic Financial Planning.



Feb 9th & 10th 2011 Holistic Management Training, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

This is the first group of Holistic Management trainees in the Hawkes Bay.  All are livestock farmers and brought their wives and children along to participate in training.  The focus of this workshop was to explore the four ecosystem processes and the tools farmers use to enhance their function.  The picture shows Paul Ashton enthusiastically demonstrating community dynamics and the concept of edge effect where biodiversity is higher along the boundary between two ecosystems – the lawn and the herbicided bare earth.  Much of the workshop is activity based designed to stimulate robust discussion linking the realities of farming with the need for a healthy functioning ecosystem.  The group will have three more workshops over the next three months looking at decision-making, financial planning, and grazing planning.

Feb 1st 2011 EM Farmer First Meeting Tapanui, West Otago

Farmers from West and South Otago came to listen to Rick Cameron talk about the importance of monitoring.  He described his operation and the many projects he has conducted over the years to find out what practices make his farm profitable.  Even in an area of reliable rainfall Rick notes that dry spells are what cost his business profits.  He emphasised the importance of reading, communicating, and learning to ask the right questions, a skill that comes from experiencing unexpected results.  Mike Daly spoke on the EM product range and research highlighting the benefit to animal, pasture, and crop production.  The picture shows farmers sorting photos about the soil surface to identify the signs of effective vs non-effective water cycles and what that means for productivity.  Farmer First group members took the opportunity to share their projects using EM.  All were happy with the way the season had progressed and were waiting eagerly for the harvest season to start.