Evan and Sherleen Smeath
Hikurangi Swamp

“It exceeded my expectations. The cows kept condition on, and continued to milk. I haven’t milked until the end of May for many years and I’ve been here for 40.”

Northland cow cocky Evan Smeath can’t remember when he last milked cows until the end of May – but it happened this year after introducing Seed Force fodder beet, and he’s thrilled.

“It exceeded my expectations. The cows kept condition on, and continued to milk. I haven’t milked until the end of May for many years and I’ve been here for 40.”

Evan and wife Sherleen are part of a family-run dairy farm milking 280 Jersey cows in the challenging flood-prone environment known as the Hikurangi Swamp.

The Smeath’s farm is 189ha including a 100ha milking platform, 72ha for dry stock, and the balance in native bush or trees.  In a good year they produce 1000kg milk solids/ha.

Despite the “dried out or drowned out” conditions he’s faced on the farm for decades, Evan says last year was a good one, and he puts it down to the beet.  “Brigadier fills them up and we milked till  25 May. In the end we had to take them out because we needed that dry cow time and there was the odd one or two we needed to drench. But that’s what the SF Brigadier fodder beet did for us – it got us to the end of May. It was money in our pockets.”

Equally appealing is the ease with which fodder beet can be fed out. Evan invested $6000 in a beet harvest bucket for his front end loader and now delivers meals to his cows rain, hail or shine. He’ll spend 10 minutes picking six tonne of beet before transporting it to where the cattle are grazing saving them an extra 4km walking a day. “If they had to walk it would have meant anything I was gaining out of the fodder beet was lost.” The crop’s versatility continues to impress Evan; he can feed it to his cows under a covered feed pad, and some days he prepares two loads if he knows he’ll be busy the next day. “It can be ready in the paddocks for them to go onto if I have to be somewhere else.”

Evan fed leftover SF Brigadier fodder beet to his bulls this winter which meant they weren’t standing in water logged pasture. “Once they transitioned on to it they did so well. I had them on it for six weeks.”

Evan says despite what some people might say fodder beet isn’t difficult to grow as long as you’re fussy with your preparation. Good ground preparation and the right planting contractor are important. Good weed and insect control is essential. “You have to be pedantic about insect and weed control. If it needs spraying then spray today and not next week.”

Evan is grateful to the expert spray advice he receives through Seed Force. “They’ve walked me through it meticulously.” He says Northland Territory Manager Robyn East has been brilliant and it was his thorough research and advice that helped convince him Seed Force had the product he needed.

“Because we knew everything in advance the process wasn’t hard at all. Seed Force is one of the better companies and they have exemplary back up.”

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