MIXING IT UP: VERSATILITY
& REDUCING INPUTS
Josh Stephens has been able to apply multiple products in one go whilst reducing N use by 60%.
Camperdown, 430 Cows, 900 Acres
2 x Tow and Fert Multi 4000 Owner
Saving on inputs of ‘N’ on his own farm mean Josh Stephens is producing more milk and saving $$$.
Josh Stephens of Camperdown in Victoria, Australia runs a 900-acre, 430-cow dairy farm as well as contracting to other local farms under the Stephen’s Agricultural Services brand.
When Josh and his family moved onto their current farm the previous owners had been running a system that included 120 kgs/ha of N. Josh was keen to drop this significantly but started by settling on 100 Kg/ha of N in solid form.
It was at the height of the 2016 dairy crisis that Josh really started to look at ways of reducing their farms inputs and maximising outputs. Online research led him to Tow and Fert. Josh says
“We had hit rock bottom as far as revenues went but we decided to invest in the Tow and Fert anyway as I knew I wanted to save more money by reducing N inputs.”
Above: The Tow and Fert Multi 4000
Josh Stephens talks about his journey using Tow and Fert, mixing N (urea), humates and lime.
“We started by dropping back to 70kgs N/Ha then went to 50kgs N/ha and finally landed on 40 Kgs N/ha. That was our happy medium.”
Since then, Josh says they have started too include microbes, carbon sources such as humates, lime flour, clovers, rapeseed and everything in between.
Josh bought his first Tow and Fert Multi 4000 seven years ago during the Dairy crisis as a way for the farm to save money on inputs. Josh was able to reduce his Urea use on the farm from 100kgs to 40kgs, meaning a massive saving was made. Seven years later that decision has led to the purchase of a second Multi 4000 and big improvements on the farm in terms of Cow health and milk in the vat.
More grass means increasing round length to save even more.
One of the surprises for Josh was the ability to increase the round length because of the more nutrient-dense grass he grew.
With the reduction of N to below half what they were putting on with solid Urea, Josh says that he has been able to increase the round length for grazing the pasture.
Josh says, “We have been able to push out our round length to a month and half due to the extra growth in dry matter we have got. We have noticed that the pasture also has a better root matt.”
The better root matt means that the plant is now taking up more nutrients from the soil.
“I feel it (what we are doing now) is a lot gentler on the soil and we get a better result from it as well.”
“I was a skeptic of the soil side of things but having seen the improvements here I know that we are on the right path.”
What Josh says he sees on the farm now is a more nutrient-dense pasture and more of it. As a result, his cows are healthier and empty-rates have dropped significantly as well as an increase in production at the vat.
“We have reduced what we put on but have still been able to get that BIG GRASS result even with expanding the round length.”
“Production has gone through the roof. Cows are fuller because the nutrients are coming out from the soil and halving the N rate has meant that we are getting denser grass into the cows, which has helped with milk in the vat.”
And with N prices now at their highest levels in history Josh ponders,
In Camperdown, Victoria, Josh Stephens sprays fertiliser on a paddock.
Josh has been able to customise his brews for each paddock allowing for more control and better results.
“I am not sure how some people will still be able to put urea out, that will be an interesting one this year. For us, we will try and go even less than what we have in the past, probably down around the 20kgs/ha level and that cost is a saving, but it’s also means, when you are getting that cow production and improved cow health, it’s also a win so you are getting gains on both sides.”
Mixing it up: Contracting with the Tow and Fert.
Through his company Stephens Agricultural Services Josh has purchased a second Tow and Fert Multi 4000 and is using both machines to apply a wide range of products for different clients around the region.
Josh says his clients are using an entire range of products from microbes to lime to urea. Josh says, “Our contracting clients keep using us because they are going down on the Urea levels, and they are still getting the results.”
Additionally, Josh points out that the productivity gains and cost savings he can make for his clients is one of the big reasons the business has continued to grow.
“Our clients are putting on a range of products from microbes to lime to urea. Being able to mix all these products into one tank is great. It means one contractor, lots of jobs done in one hit. By the time you get to the paddock it’s all ready to go. Put your nozzle in, plug in your GPS and away you go.”
Moving into contracting with the Tow and Fert Josh has been able to apply the versatility of the Tow and Fert to his business model, saving his clients money and contractors in the process.
From the biological brews and organic products to the conventional N, P, K, S the Tow and Fert has given Josh the flexibility to apply whatever each farm needs. The results show that their clients are getting great “bang for buck”. It is a business model that he sees many benefits too for both himself and the farmers he looks after.
“If its organic or conventional you are going to get your bang for buck out of your Tow and Fert especially in the ground, even conventional people will start seeing the improvements in the soil and you will change your mind when you see the results of how a foliar spray can change the farm and business in a big way.”
“I think getting a Tow and Fert was probably the game changer in our farm business and contracting. Through foliar spray I’ve learnt a lot more about how Urea works, how the ground works, and I think the Tow and Fert and foliar spray is the way of the future.”
Above: Overlooking Josh Stephens farm in Camperdown, Victoria, Australia, Josh applies product to one of his paddocks in his Multi 4000.
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