Sheryl Haitana

Having fertiliser spreading data at his fingertips is making life a lot easier for South Waikato dairy farmer Matt Walker.

Matt is a contract milker on two farms, at Atiamuri and Reporoa. During spring, fertiliser trucks visit both farms weekly, which can make it difficult to keep track of what has been applied and where.

Using the Precision Farming technology, Matt can pre-enter all fertiliser orders at the start of the season, down to individual paddock applications, and he has an accurate record on hand at any time.

Matt gets a soil test done every year and then works with his Ballance Agri- Nutrients nutrient specialist on a fertiliser recommendation for the year.

He can then log in to Precision Farming and create his fertiliser programme for the season.

“It’s even easier now with My Ballance – I take the fertiliser recommendation from there at the start of the season, go in and create my orders and then I can just take that order over and put it in Precision Farming where I select the paddocks.

“The spreaders are coming every week during spring, they go to the home farm in the morning and to the Reporoa farm in the afternoon.

“Using Precision Farming has definitely made it easier. Previously I was using the old school method of writing down the paddocks and colouring in the map – I’d have one copy at the shed and one for the driver.

“I’d lose track of things along the way.”

Both farms have pumice soils which can be depleted in sulphur so Matt applies a maintenance fertiliser mix of phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen and sulphur.

Matt applies 100kg/ha of PhaSed N, 80kg/ha Sustain or urea to each farm, with weekly spreading during spring.

In spring he also applies two rounds of muriate of potash (MOP).

“We also aim for about 60-80kg/ha of K every season on both farms. I like to get on about 60kg before Christmas.”

Having his fertiliser data live all season round means Matt can easily make adjustments when he needs to as he can always see how many units of each fertiliser have been applied and to what paddocks.

Having all that information available also makes it easier when he has to supply fertiliser data to his dairy processor, particularly for his Atiamuri farm which supplies Miraka. The Te Ara Miraka Farming Excellence Programme requires accurate nutrient information.

“We need to be keeping a close eye on what we are doing with our fertiliser to be able to tell our story.

“If we didn’t have Precision Farming it would be difficult to give such accurate information.”

One of the best things about the technology is Matt can see where the diver has actually driven.

“If I’ve parked a pivot in the wrong place on our Atiamuri farm and the driver can’t get to half a paddock, I will see that and I’ll know to make sure it’s on the next order to go back into that half of the paddock.

“It gives you reassurance that what you expect to be happening is actually happening.”

Both farms are a DairyNZ System 2-3 depending on the season. Matt grows about 10ha turnips on both farms, 30ha of Plaintain on the Reporoa farm and 25ha of Fodder Beet across both farms.

As well as making fertiliser orders for the crops, Precision Farming also records and can be used to order sprays for the crops.

Precision Tracking, the contractor’s version of Prevision Farming, makes the whole process so efficient, Central Transport health and safety and compliance officer Megan Hammond says.

The farmer can log on to Precision Farming and complete their fertiliser order online and all of the spreading information goes through to Precision Tracking for their drivers.

“All the paddocks are highlighted with the total tonnage and rate, all there in a handy map.”

The driver doesn’t have to wait at the farm gate for the map or to be told what rate to put the fertiliser on.

The data is all live, so as the fertiliser is being spread the driver and the farmer can see the rate going on and where.

“In terms of environmental compliance, you can see what nutrients and what products at what tonnage have been placed on what paddocks.”

The system makes it easy for farmers to share that information with their dairy processor or council in the future.

The technology also has huge health and safety benefits, Megan says. The farm maps can be marked with any hazards, waterways, or troughs, which the drivers can be made of aware of when they enter each paddock.

“You want to make sure people are inducted properly, anything that helps mitigate risk is a good thing,” Matt says.

The technology can also be used to monitor effluent spreading. A tracking device can be placed on a travelling irrigator which records amount applied and where.

Central Transport is also a Spreadmark certified ground spreader which means all of their trucks are callibrated to ensure they are spreading at an accurate rate and width.

Farm facts

Contract milker: Matt Walker

Location: Reporoa

Area: 133ha

Cows: 400 crossbreds

Production: 160,000kg MS

Farm dairy: 36-aside herringbone

Dairy processor: Miraka


Location: Atiamuri

Area: 205ha

Cows: 670 cows

Production: 250,000kg MS

Farm dairy: 44-bail rotary, Protrack, in-dairy feeding

Dairy processor: Fonterra