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Betanal quattro case study - Chris Horn, Waitaki

The continuing promise of strong beef returns has done much to increase the appeal of growing fodder beet for dry stock farmers in the Waitaki region this season.

Waitaki Spraying owner Chris Horn is finding his client book increasingly starting to fill with farmers who had earlier taken a “wait and see” approach to the beets. Many had been watching how the crop performed for their dairying neighbours before getting on board with the high yielding beets.

Chris Horn

Now into his fourth season spraying beets for clients, Chris has built a good picture of how they perform, and whether they are meeting farmer expectations as a feed source.

And generally the answer is they are exceeding those expectations, even on the dry land country around the Waitaki Basin district.

“With beef prices being strong, more farmers are wanting to finish cattle rather than trading them, and are looking to fodder beet as a feed source that is high yielding over a small paddock area,” says Chris.

More beef farmers are recognising the high rate of utilisation with beets compared to other supplementary feed sources.

“And for beef farmers growing out yearlings, there are no real complications, the yearlings transition well onto beets, with few problems.”

The split now would be 70:30 dairy to dry stock, and perhaps surprisingly the payout drop did not lead to any decline in the area planted by his dairy clients.

“A lot of dairy farmers culled reasonably heavily and aimed to winter more cows on their milking platform to save money. There is a lot more transitioning going on, with cows being fed beets in March, then going back onto them in early spring – grass supplies can be tight and the beets fill that gap in early on in the season.”

Chris has become a committed user of Betanal Quattro fodder beet spray to ensure his clients get the best start possible for their crops. With the up-front establishment costs of fodder beet relatively high, the need to maximise yield to lower per kgDM cost is essential, and good weed control is part of that.

Good initial seed bed preparation, including winter fallowing followed by ploughing and heavy rolling to seal in moisture and establish a fine, firm seedbed delivers a good start to beet crops.

Post emergence weed control is delivered with an initial treatment of Betanal Quattro, usually followed up with a second treatment 10 days to 2 weeks later.

Chris has found Betanal Quattro’s unique “four in one” formulation, with four actives in a single formulation has made purchasing, mixing and applying timely fodder beet treatment a lot simpler and effective.

“It has saved a lot of mixing, and the extra containers you usually get from application of separate actives, with results that continue to prove very good in terms of weed control”

Like all good crop husbandry, timing of application is critical, and application before weeds become apparent most effective. The main weeds needing control in Chris’s region is fat hen, which Betanal knocks back well.

“Sometimes we will have to apply a third treatment of Betanal with some weeds particularly in the dry land areas. But initially it is all about getting the weeds small and early, trying to be proactive in your treatment, not reactive to weeds when they are visible – you can be chasing your tail if you get there late.”

He has clients spread about 60:40 irrigated versus dry land and his dry land clients can expect yields of 15tDM per hectare.  He anticipates having about 700ha of area in beets this season, almost double what it was only two years ago.

“But if we get enough moisture, you could see that go up to 18tDM a hectare – it all comes down to having sufficient moisture, the right fertiliser, seed bed preparation and weed control. The sheep and beef operators have got over that $2000/ha establishment cost and are seeing the benefits of spending that money, in terms of the high yields you get at the other end. The fodder beet is definitely here to stay.”