New Zealand dairy farmers are being given access to a new farm management tool to help them achieve greater productivity more cost effectively, and to farm in a more sustainable way.
The tool consists of regional nutrient management indicators which will enable farmers to benchmark their nutrient use efficiency against the performance of other farmers in their region.
"Benchmarking is practised successfully by many businesses to gauge how they are performing against their peers and industry best practice," said Philip Mladenov, Chief Executive of Fert Research.
"In partnership with DairyNZ, the fertiliser industry is now able to extend that same concept to dairy farmers.
"Using nutrient budget data derived from the OVERSEERR nutrient management tool for more than 3,000 dairy farms across the country, the project has produced three indicators for each of 12 regions.
"These indicators cover efficiency of converting nitrogen into dairy products, nitrogen lost to leaching and phosphorus loss to run off.
"These indicators are presented as regional distribution figures in graph form, and provide a visual representation of the proportion of farms achieving given nutrient efficiency levels.
"Armed with confidential data about their own nutrient use performance, farmers can then more easily compare their performance against others in the same region.
"They can then work with their fertiliser representative or farm consultant to identify opportunities and discuss strategies that might lift performance. Any new initiatives can be recorded in their nutrient management plan."
Fert Research Chief Executive Philip Mladenov describes the Nutrient Efficiency project as an important initiative in the drive to generate greater production from the same level of nutrients while at the same time reduce nutrient leaching and losses to the environment.
"The benchmarking data will help us identify which farms are the most efficient, and look at their practices to determine 'how and why' they are able to achieve this.
"This knowledge can then be shared with other farmers.
"Benchmarking in itself will not produce immediate improvements.
"These will come over time as farmers put into practice new regimes and methods."
"The current regional indicators are a first step in the development of what we anticipate will become an effective additional management tool, and demonstrates the value of the information now being captured within Overseer."