Producing outcomes for farmers

Producing outcomes for farmers

Friday 22nd April 2022

“I’m very excited about the Hill Country Futures Partnership Programme because it is fully directed at producing outcomes for farmers,” says PhD student Laura Keenan. “For me as a farmer, that is incredibly important, particularly the key link between science and practical application in the field.”

The five year $8.1m Hill Country Futures Partnership programme is co-funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, PGG Wrightson Seeds and Seed Force New Zealand. It is focused on future proofing the profitability, sustainability and wellbeing of New Zealand’s hill country farmers, their farm systems, the environment and rural communities.

Ms Keenan is undertaking research for the programme for her full-time PhD studies through Lincoln University, looking at Farm systems impacts of satellite farming with improved forages in New Zealand sheep and beef.

She combines her research with doing environmental consultancy work and working with her partner on his family’s mixed cropping and lamb trading farm in the Manawatu.

“I learned about the programme through Professor Derrick Moot, who I have known since my undergraduate days at Lincoln,” she says.

“I’m investigating how red and white clover and plantain can change the feed supply of sheep and beef farms. The focus is very farmer oriented and aimed at providing lots of context for farmers around alternative forages, particularly legumes and the fit that they can have in individual farm environments.”

Ms Keenan worked for a seed company for over five years, before starting her PhD studies. She is on the board of the NZ Institute of Primary Industry Management and the executive of the NZ Grassland Association and aims to publish her research outcomes through the association’s journal.

A key aspect of her research is assessing the opportunities of increasing and improving forage growth on unimproved land. If successful, this would enable growth of an extra 7.15 tonnes of dry matter on five per cent of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmland – a total of 440,000 hectares. If that could be achieved, it would have the potential to add an extra $312m to the NZ economy.

“My project is using a combination of field-collected and historical data to develop equations to predict the growth of these species in response to temperature and moisture,” she says.

“The aim is to provide robust information that can be used on-farm for feed planning in the sheep and beef sector. The emphasis is on determining how specialist pastures can aid the overall production and profitability of sheep and beef farms.”


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