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Salt licks and seaweed and blackstrap molasses
Every day of the year our cows dine on a continuous buffet of organic salad. When the Waikato has had just the right amounts of rain and sunlight, these leaves are silky, dark green and sturdy. Over many years, Mum and Dad have developed an organic polyculture pasture that’s suited to our land. It’s constantly changing and is mainly made up of chicory, grasses, white and red clover, yarrow, lucerne and plantain. This diverse pasture benefits cow health and milk production, while also
Love Song for a Vampire
Richard loves to cook. Every Sunday night (even if we’ve got back to Auckland from the farm an hour before midnight) he’s plundering the freezer, thumbing through recipe books and notes, deciding what to cook for the week. Cooking is an experiment, something to relentlessly improve on, to satisfy creative itches and his greedy, daily diner. My workmates like to gently taunt me with my ‘leftovers lunchbox’ every day, as it’s always much better than their ho-hum sandwiches or packet
The question is wai
Published in Cuisine Magazine (issue 183) in July, 2017. We were lucky to be featured in Aaron McLean’s strong piece intensified farming, vs exploring alternatives in New Zealand. It’s a great read and part of a much larger debate that’s starting to bubble up to the surface. We’re thankful to Cuisine for backing these more thought-provoking takes on our local food system. If you don’t have razor-sharp eyesight, press the zoom on your browser window to read. Or, grab yourself
The Good Farmer: in defence of (non-industrial) dairying
Published in The Spinoff on April 24, 2017. Earlier this month, the current affairs show Sunday aired a segment called The Price of Milk. It outraged a lot of people, especially in the farming community, and for days after the show’s Facebook page was swarming. If you didn’t catch it, a lot of the shock was around the treatment of animals and the environment – building on the last few years of negative sentiment. It felt like a jolt. My family
A study of our organic pasture: grasses
Common name: Perennial and annual grasses. Scientific name: Lolium perenne and Lolium multiflorum. Why we use them: Grasses are the ‘backbone’ of a pasture, the primary feed for cows. We have a medley of ‘historic’ and recently sown grasses on the farm. Typically, conventional farming sees pastures sprayed out with glyphosate, which means more of a monoculture is created. The old variety grasses that have been here since the farm was first broken in, are; Cocksfoot, Tall Fescue, Prairie, Grazing Brome, Phalaris, Yorkshire Fog, Brown Top
There’s always the pushback from the conventional model – organic can’t feed the world. And after thirty-four years (not three, or four) thirty-four years later, our data shows* yields are the same. Conventional right next to organic. When the soil is healthy, we have shown that yields are improved in the organic trials when there’s issues of drought. Up to 31% higher yields. So, there’s the beauty of growing with life.
*Started in 1981, The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture.
A study of our organic pasture: white and red clover
Common name: White and red clover. Scientific name: Trifolium repens and Trifolium pratense. Why we use it: Clover was introduced from Britain in the early 1800’s and bees were brought in 1839 to help with its pollination. White clover is a perennial forage legume and grows well on fertile soils. It has remarkable nitrogen-fixing abilities and helps the cows maintain milk production in late spring and early summer. Large and medium-leafed clovers are used in dairy pastures, as they’re more productive. Red
A study of our organic pasture: yarrow
Common name: Yarrow. Scientific name: Achillea millefolium. Why we use it: Yarrow has laciniate leaves and is found is pastures throughout New Zealand and is extremely hardy. The root system makes it capable of surviving thirsty, hot months and helps to combat soil erosion. Introduced by the settlers, it grows like a dense mat, so is important to keep tabs on so it doesn’t dominate the other plants in the pasture. The mineral content is higher than that of clover and rye
A study of our organic pasture: chicory
Common name: Chicory. Scientific name: Cichorium intybus. Why we use it: It performs well in Summer and Autumn, as it has a deep tap root that allows it to access water where other plants can’t. When other plants are feeling the effects of reduced levels of rain, Chicory can dig deep. It’s classified has having high protein and digestibility for foraging animals and has contains high levels of the minerals: Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Copper. Calcium is essential for optimum milk production and growth
A study of our organic pasture: lucerne
Common name: Lucerne. Scientific name: Medicago sativa. Why we use it: Lucerne is a legume that grows all year around and is a perennial, which means it lives for more than two years. Its deep, tap roots allow it to source water when other plants can’t. Great for both grazing straight from the pasture, it’s also used for making hay to store and feed over the winter months. It’s been found to increase soil nitrogen, which is a main element needed for strong
A study of our organic pasture: plantain
Common name: Plantain. Scientific name: Plantago lanceolata. Why we use it: It’s fast establishing from seed, with a coarse root system and grows for the entire year. It’s not as drought tolerant as chicory, but responds well to moisture, whether that’s rain or effluent. The minerals copper, zinc, selenium and cobalt are present in high concentrations, which all benefit the cows in different ways. Copper has been proven to help with bone development, the immune and nervous systems, as well as pigmentation.
I feel that good food should be a right and not a privilege, and it needs to be without pesticides and herbicides. And everybody deserves this food. And that’s not elitist.
Shelby Dukes on observation, organics and the disappearing family farm
Delaware’s official state bug is the ladybug. The state bird is the blue hen chicken, and the state tree the American holly. Its state seal has a sheaf of wheat, an ear of corn, and an ox proudly front-and-centre. The second-smallest state (by area) and the first to sign the United States Constitution, it’s also where Shelby Dukes was born into a farming family a few, short decades back. Arable, or cropping, it was. Corn, soybeans, lima beans and some