Digging for treasure – Graham Smith

The sun is shining as I write this, and that certainly has made life easier. In spite of the mud calving has gone really well with one cow to go, and one milk fever. The girls are currently producing 2.27 kg per day, with grass a little short they are also getting 3 kg silage and 4 kg PKE/ tapioca blend. For the first time in many years I had surplus AB heifers and managed to sell 7. The rotation length is currently 23 days and I went there quite early to minimise the mud, being on my fastest round by the 25th August. This meant a lot more silage being fed to maintain decent residuals. I went into this winter with good covers of 2200 kg/ha. But growth as low as 5 kg/day and no higher than 12 forced an early start to silage feeding, and even so my cover got down to just below 1800.

Having had the digger in during winter, with some drainage and track forming done, it is only now that I have been able to lay metal and stabilise the work. This compromised access to some paddocks to the extent that only the cows could get in, and I was pleased to have keen dogs who saved me a considerable slog through the mud.

Due to the neighbours’ bull getting in with my heifers the vet came out to give that magic disappearing injection. Whilst he was here I got him to DNA test a calf with dubious parentage and send off the sample. Genemark (LIC) sent it back saying they don’t accept samples taken with a Zeetag sampler. It had to be with an Allflex sampler. Pity neither the vet nor myself were informed of this fact. I had been in touch with them for the paperwork and no one saw fit to inform me then and it was not in the written “how to” instructions. So, all be warned, LIC don’t accept Zeetag!! Needless to say I had to get hold of an appropriate sampler and go through the process again.

Being part of the NZ Farm Forestry Assoc. means you meet interesting people. I had an American forester stay for a month in July. He expected to do some pruning in lieu of board but I was in the process of planting my nursery Paulownia saplings. So, he learnt how to dig them out and then how to plant them, with only the fencing left to go. Russell was from New Hampshire and had no knowledge of Paulownias, but it was fair to say that after a month his knowledge was as good as mine. He had also been a nurseryman in another life and I learnt a lot from him. We had some very good discussions about how to run the world!

GS visitors

Our accommodation was also used by three young French men who came to stay for free in return for working on the farm. They enjoyed calving and milking the cows, and really got into the project we set them. We have set aside about one hectare that is slowly being planted with native trees. It is situated below the cliffs and we wanted a walking track for our guests. The lads got stuck in with a will, and we now have the first section of track built and metalled. They also, with Russell, got taken to Waitomo caves and the Kiwi house, and we introduced all of them to the iconic kiwi pie, which they very quickly became addicted to! We hope they all pass their business management degrees and come back with their families one day.

GS Track-1

The digger was not here just to titivate the farm. Some time ago I got in a contractor with ground penetrating radar to survey two paddocks for buried logs. I pegged all 180 spots he found in two paddocks. The digger went down on these pegs, but turned up nothing. So I gave him free rein to cast around for logs and he immediately found a couple that could be milled. After half a day we had three logs and a churned up paddock. So, I decided to cut my losses and tasked him with extracting metal in an adjoining paddock. He immediately hit a reasonable sized matai log, which took a bit of work to extract. Soon after he retrieved another log, and then he needed to drain encroaching water. Whilst digging a shallow drain he hit the biggest log yet. This was only 1 metre under the soil but took some strenuous efforts by the 20 tonne digger to move it. Our estimates are that this tree took approximately 1000 years to grow to this size, remembering that it also had been buried for 1800 years after the Taupo eruption. When you look at the photo (below) remember that all the sap wood has rotted off leaving only valuable heart. This tree has existed through a lot of our recent, recorded history.

GS buried matai

Matai sells for about $3000/m3, and is used in windows and flooring because of its hard-wearing traits. I intend to save a slab as a bar top. The rest will be milled to suit flooring, and the sale of the timber will easily offset the costs of all the digger’s work on the farm. Milling native timber salvaged in this way is legal. There is a form to fill in, and a photo must be taken of each log. Finally, a registered native timber miller must be employed. The application to mill costs nothing. When I bought this farm I had no inkling that this was possible, so this has become an exciting sideline to dairying. I will try not to enjoy myself too much!!!

One thought on “Digging for treasure – Graham Smith

  1. Pingback: Keeping on top of the grass – Graham Smith | Farmer Blogs

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