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Lifestyle block diversification

Some of the 175,000 or so lifestyle blocks in New Zealand could form part of a stratified, integrated system of red meat production if more lifestylers opted to raise young stock.

Commercial dairy farmers with infant cattle, sheep and goats would really like to find more productive homes for their male offspring and surplus females. Dry stock can thrive with lower levels of management compared to breeding stock so they represent a good first step for new pastoral farmers. Appropriately stocked lifestyle blocks have the potential to buy-in feed to fill a temporary feed pinch without the financial angst experienced by large farms and could help utilise a valuable opportunity from the commercial sector.

Some dairy cattle farmers have already been receptive to using semen from more exotic beef breeds like Speckle Park and Belgian Blue in addition to more traditional Hereford, Belted Galloways and Angus to give rearers and finishers more options. The growing sheep and goat milking sectors are focusing on increasing numbers and genetic quality but at some point are likely to look more favourably on terminal sire selection to improve the value of surplus stock outside of the milking industry. Crossbred animals with hybrid vigour represent an enormous opportunity for lifestyle blocks to enjoy multiple animal types without trying to find the space for breeding stock.

Modern, productive lifestyle blocks have the potential to express biodiversity and improve environmental and economic resilience. Trees can be planted and protected without designating a separate area to forestry. Complex seed mixes can be sown to encourage dry matter intake rather than just dry matter production. Certified mobile micro abattoirs in some regions now even offer the potential to sell excess meat whilst avoiding sending prime stock to the sales yard or meat works.

Heavy cattle breeds may not suit all soil and climatic types. But for those small farmers with interest in multiple species, rearing or growing on youngstock from multiple species combined with older stock offers some health benefits too.

Cattle and horses grazed with sheep and goats help to break gut parasite life cycles because the sheep and goat parasites cannot survive in those other species. Warm, damp autumns however can increase gut parasite numbers and increase the need for drenching. Mature animals are often referred to as ‘net worm vacuum cleaners’ but underfed lightweight animals will not withstand a worm burden challenge, unlike a well-fed animal. If there is a higher ratio of sheep to cattle, this will result in more ‘worm problems’ within that system.

NRM is committed to helping small farmers understand the needs of different classes of stock and how to best use supplements. Readers who want to add value to their pasture are encouraged to consider how
raising calves, kids and/or lambs might be a rewarding option.

For further information, contact your Farmlands Technical Field Officer or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.

Article supplied by Dr. Rob Derrick, Head of Nutrition and Animal Health