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Thread: Brix

  1. #11

    Default More Brix

    Hi Graham & Peter F.

    The answer to Grahams questions follows. I’m not interested in what Edmeades has to say about anything, least of all about a refractometer.
    1. As you say in your brochure, work the sample in the hands for one minute to allow the readings to stabilise. Do not take readings if the pasture is wet as this dilutes the readings. Highest readings will be available late PM on a sunny day; lowest in the morning on a cloudy day.
    2. We measure separate species and mixed. That is to gather as much information as possible. We measure weeds too, to check on whether the fertiliser is working or not. If the weeds have higher readings than pasture, you had better change your fertiliser rep. Today I did pasture (10), then dandelion flowers (11), then the leaves (6). That told me the weeds are not as healthy as the pasture, but the reproductive capacity of the dandelion was still high. (Not that I mind dandelions.)
    3. I don’t count nutrient numbers of the fertiliser used. We use alternatives such as Agrissentials, Abron Living Soil Solutions, Ecologic Soil Improvement, NZ Humates, Rorisons and others. At the end of the day, it is the microbe count that counts, not the elemental numbers on a bag. It’s as expensive or inexpensive as you make it, you set the budget. The first gains to be had will be savings in animal health costs which are slashed drastically. Depending on your circumstances, production may increase, or decrease. It all depends on how you manage the transition from chemical to biological. Chances are profit will increase no matter what. The farms (one 200ha, the other 500ha) are farmed in this manner, not just my own little block. It’s no more time consuming than normal unless there are more applications. Microbes like to be fed more than once or twice a year, just like us. Some farmers follow the cows around with regular calcium sprays.
    I don’t use superphosphate or potassium chloride which is a worse product. Urea in small doses mostly sprayed. The farms have had from 0 to 36kg/ha/year of N for the last five years. The leaf tests generally show high levels of P & K, but medium N. Where lots of N has been applied, I have sometimes noticed low N in the leaf. In other words, putting more on isn’t necessarily better.
    4. For pasture I call 6 poor, 12 “average,” good 18 and excellent 24. You’re right, pasture figures are hard to come by. NZ dairy farmers have quick grazing rounds, so it will be hard for those practitioners to get high readings as the grass is usually not mature enough. It takes a while to build calcium levels too, and that will hold readings down. You won’t get there if you rely on calcium from superphosphate. But don’t go putting on large dollops of lime. Little & often is best, with boron.
    5. No figures relating pasture to milk. I don’t live on the farms, so the readings haven’t been done. Some farmers set a minimum pasture level at 8 and only put the cows into the pasture if it has reached that level. The cows respond to that very well.
    6. I have many books packed with many facts and observations. Here is a list of some.
    Science in Agriculture Arden Andersen
    Hands on Agronomy Neil Kinsey
    The biological Farmer Gary Zimmer
    Nutrition Rules Graeme Sait
    Agriculture in Transition Don Schriever
    From the Soil Up Don Schriever
    Eco Farm Charles Walters
    Mainline Farming for Century 21 Dan Skow
    And many others.
    The books above have chapters on insects, sap pH etc.
    Most of those above will have reference to brix readings and refractometers. Any farmer worth his salt will not apply foliar fertiliser without checking the change in brix readings before he applies the product. He does this by applying the product to a “patch” & taking before & after readings in about half an hour. It’s more difficult to predict the results of a solid.

    NZ pH levels are too low. They need to be 6.4. The chances of pest of disease attack at that level is zilch provided the BS is balanced. However, do not adjust pH. Adjust the base saturation to the correct levels & pH will automatically fall into line. Ca 68%, Mg 12%, K 3.5-5% & Na 0.5-1.5% for pasture & row crops. Trees & vines need 5-7.5% K.

    7. Refer to the books above. Maybe Science in Agriculture is the best bet. Phil Callahan has written books on this sort of thing too & many others. Try Nutrition Rules by Graeme Sait. This book has 22 interviews. I can email it to you. Frequencies are beyond me. I just accept they exist & the antennae on insects are for the purpose of intercepting emissions from unhealthy plants. I have observed insects selecting or ignoring plants to lay eggs on & can confirm they are right in their selections. Just because a plant is a cabbage doesn’t mean it will attract the white butterfly. It has to be unhealthy to do so.

    I know Dave & Kathi Harris & David Miller quite well. I won’t hold my breath regarding Massey research. Massey itself is tainted by “commercial conveniences” as any large institution. They are no longer independent. I hope changes are afoot and good luck to my old university if they are about to change. Their Certificate of Sustainable Nutrient Management is a disgrace.

    Brett Petersen

  2. Default

    Hi Brett,

    Thanks for your detailed reply. Great to know our Brix measuring technique is about right. A Brix of up to 24 on grasses? that's huge, I guess from mature grass that was a bit droughted. I spoke to one SI farmer who said that their droughted paddocks were more like standing hay, but the stock seemed to do OK on them.

    It looks to me like you're very careful in what you do, any elemental deficiency is sorted out, and calcium is applied regularly to set up a buffer solution in the soil over time.

    I'm still hopeful someone will get keen on Brix measuring their milk at the vat, and over time can post us a picture of these, related to the pasture/feed Brix and the dairy factory tests.

    (7) The list of books is handy, I should read the one by Ardern Andersen first. This frequency aspect has me interested. Using electronics, maybe we could quantify it, certainly detect it. So in a way, I hope it's not a scent issue of some kind that attracts or repels insects.

  3. Default The scientific method

    I worked at Ruakura as a technician between degrees, and soon realised I'd need lots of patience and more knowledge to get a foot in the door as a scientist. But I was able to observe a few scientists at work during that year, and like any profession, some were held in higher regard than others. Novel Ways try to link up with the CRIs when we can, but have always found it difficult, being only a small business.

    Last year, I spent some time contributing to the Rural Network Forum (based in Hamilton, a website) before it was dropped by the sponsors and the published pages were eventually removed from the web. This was a shame, because some learned people had posted some good input over the years it was operating. I copied some parts that were interesting to me, into Word before that happened. I will put some of this back up, and if there are any issues with copyright etc, those who wrote the posts are welcome to advise me.

    While I was at Ruakura, Dr Clive Dalton was already well respected and a popular scientist, being interested in animal behaviour, and I think fronting farmer conferences at the McMeekan Centre, as an ambassador of the CRI.

    I was somewhat amused when I found this article from Dr Dalton on the Rural Network site, and sad to say I'd learnt quite a bit myself over the years that put me in agreement with a lot of it...does any of this have a bearing on the use of a Brix meter?

    Science - open, shut and nut case
    By Clive Dalton on Feb 01 , 2008

    I’m sick of the arrogance of science. Having been part of it, I realised years ago that there was no more closed mind than that of the so-called “open-minded” scientist. Rocking boats is not good for a scientific career.

    A classic example is where somebody in meteorology’s distant past rubbished the influence of the moon, which has been passed on to subsequent generations of students. What young academic now would dare say “hey, let’s have another look at this moon business.”

    I got so sick of the game of “where is the evidence.” It is still alive and well today, killing off folk with products that work, and for which farmers pay their bills and re-order (two good signs). They are head bashed by the scientific establishment under the rule that if there’s nothing in the literature it must be crap!

    The Holy Grail is “peer-reviewed papers in respected scientific journals” but I have read and reviewed so much bad science, bad objectives, awful presentation and utter trash from such sources. This is because when some researchers looked they missed the obvious, and so often they just never looked.

    Scientists hate the comment by some wise person that “absence of proof is not proof of absence” Ouch!

    All academics should be booted out of universities after 10 years, and none of their students should be allowed to replace them unless they have done at least 10 years at another university and preferably overseas.

    Independent research is a thing of the past, so anyone with a good idea cannot get it “officially tested” despite politicians screaming for good new Kiwi ideas. The Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) would be the last place I’d go with an idea. They’d send you broke testing it and probably pinch your intellectual property!

    It’s the competitive world that scientists have to work in that makes them what they are - the need to be first with the results, to have the first name on the paper, to be asked to open the first session at the conference – and other childish things.

    Years ago as a “scientific liaison officer” at Ruakura, I realised that my skills with small children were far more important to the job than any I had gained as a scientist.

    It was like pre-school. Asking scientists for information was like asking to borrow their favourite toy. They couldn’t part with it at that moment because it needed more work or tidying up, or the statistics were not complete etc etc. The real problem was that they feared criticism! And, you might tell their colleagues, as they didn’t want them to know - even if it was joint research and they shared offices!

    So, I used the trick of “over-the-top praise”, telling them how marvellous they were, how Daddy (the Director) would be so impressed, and what a great job they were doing for the institute, the nation and the world!
    When I eventually got the document prised from their grasp, with the threat that they wanted it back by 4.35pm, I immediately went into raptures saying what an incredible bit of work it was and, in fact, it was so well done that it would qualify to go on the fridge for all to see! Some would mumble words to the effect that it was a first draught, and later draughts would be better. “No, no, no,” I would scream, “it’s fantastic, and could easily get the author an invitation to a world conference.”

    Scientists will never share toys, so the labs of the world are full of white elephants under dust covers. These are bits of equipment that when purchased under urgency nearly bankrupted the institute, depriving other scientists of gear. Often the institute up the road had this gear, or the organisation had some at another campus – but NO, that particular scientist had to have his own! Then when he moved on, out came the dust covers and eventually it went to the dump!

    When I regularly got the bum’s rush from a colleague, with the “stuff off, I’m far too busy to write anything for blardy farmers, come back in a month“, I would write it for them, and have it back on their desk by 4.34pm.
    Boy-oh-boy did that get some action – my arrogance, and the fact that I’d got it all wrong, immediately persuaded them to write their own. Then I’d do the massive grovel tell them what a masterpiece it now was. It never failed to get results.

    So, I want to praise anecdotal research that works on farms, and from which farmers can make money and survive. Let modern scientists keep generating kilograms of submissions for work, most of which has been done years ago.

    Dr Clive Dalton is a former agricultural scientist and is now technical editor of the Lifestyle block website

  4. Default

    This item may help explain what has driven Dr Dalton to state his position so bluntly:


    A Cure for Facial Eczema

    First reported in 1887, facial eczema is a disease that serious affected 20th Century New Zealand farming. Agricultural scientist Dr Clive Dalton recounts how a well-known Waikato farmer Togo Johnson was forced to cull 90% of his ewes in 1938, leading to the government instigating research at Ruakura Animal Research Centre (Rennie, 2006). However it took 30 years before it was traced to fungal spores (found on the boots of a gardener in Hamilton).

    No worthwhile solutions were found until Gladys Reid, a Te Aroha dental nurse, reported in the early 1970s that adding zinc to the drinking water reduced the toxic symptoms and held milk production. She had two farms and reported that the herd given zinc produced 30 per cent more milk during March and April (September and October in NH) than the one without. Zinc was acting as an anti-oxidant against the free-radical sporidesmin spores (Wright, 1999). Unfortunately she was not believed, and was even ridiculed by Ruakura people for about seven years. Her international contacts and her extensive reading helped her get even the required zinc usage rates right. Some farmers were using zinc for FE control in 1974, while in 1975 the NZ Animal Remedies Board (ARB) stated through the NZ Herald that Zinc in water troughs was completely useless as a form of treatment or prevention of FE in livestock and threatened to prosecute the vendors of zinc promoted for control.

    Some researchers tried to persuade farmers that zinc was quackery. A Ruakura spokesperson said on radio that zinc was not coming up to expectations, and that the latest gimmick was a daffodil in the left nostril as a cure! Then in 1981 Ruakura recommended its use, using an excuse for the delay of having to test for residues. This delay, aggravated by the NIH syndrome (not invented here) and over-cautious attitude are typical human failings internationally. Estimates of costs to farmers prior to zinc control, put the total cost to the NZ agricultural industry at a hundred million dollars/year in bad years. There will be less funding of research into animal resistance to FE and other animal and pasture health problems unless NZ farmers (and ones in each country) demand it vocally.

    The dental nurse from Te Aroha became something of a facial eczema sage. She dispensed advice on treatment whilst scientists at Ruakura worked from the ground up to understand how her zinc recommendations worked. Facial eczema was a blight on New Zealand’s agricultural potential for a large portion “Researchers were initially scrambling, the disease spread so quick there was some thought it was bacteria borne,” says Dr. Dalton.

    Meanwhile at Te Aroha Reid had turned to her experience with zinc oxide as a pain reliever for five year olds with rotten teeth. Her quest for knowledge was renowned. In an age when the internet was unheard of she managed to get on the mailing list for scientific documents from the United States. By the late fifties she had found research supporting the use of niacin and zinc having a beneficial impact on liver damage in animals. In 1999 she recounted to Radio New Zealand how she began treating a herd on her home farm in 1968 by lacing the water troughs with zinc sulphate. She was astounded how the milk volume had not dropped, while every other farm on the tanker run was down by as much as 30%.

    “The tanker driver thought maybe we were putting water in our milk to keep it up,” she recounted.

    Key to her research was contact with Dr Jean Apgar, a Nobel Prize winner for identifying the structure of the t-RNA molecule. Correspondence with Dr Apgar revealed treating animals with up to 20 times the dietary requirements with zinc protected the liver from certain poisons. Reid had the luxury of observing the results of zinc treatment through her own on-farm trials. Scientists at Ruakura had to undergo the rigours of peer review and evaluation and find exactly what was causing the condition in the first place. However Dr Dalton says Reid was a great “hypothesist”. Reid’s work was rejected by the journals in the field until Horrobin published it in Medical Hypotheses, after which her work was confirmed.

    “Ruakura had to do the hard yards while Gladys was able to think ahead, chucking some zinc in the trough and drawing conclusions scientists would never dare do. She was constantly telling scientists what her hypotheses were, and how they should be getting on testing them, and they never liked that as they saw it as questioning their integrity.”

    Two sides rapidly formed in the debate on zinc’s efficacy. Reid was reluctant to make direct dose recommendations after claiming the Director General of Agriculture had told her she would be taken to court for misleading practices if she did. However she won followers from farming wives in particular. Many would call asking for zinc advice after tiring of seeing suffering livestock and husbands on the brink of suicide from crippling stock and production losses.

    Official opposition to her treatments continued through the seventies, with the Animal Health Board noting in 1975 zinc treatment was “completely useless as a form of treatment.” This was the same year she received a standing ovation from farmers at the annual Ruakura Farmers’ Conference. It was not until 1981 that the use of zinc was finally recommended by Ruakura, and in 1983 she received the OBE for her research efforts.

  5. Default Classic Cartoon

    I couldn't help but notice this cartoon recently, as AgResearch started mentioning biological activity, related to some newly funded research. I phoned Malcolm Evans and obtained his permission to post a link. Turns out Malcolm once worked for an organic fertiliser firm, so was well schooled. Click on it, to enlarge it.

    Name:  agres.jpg
Views: 319
Size:  45.5 KB


  6. #16

    Default High sugar grass, what is it? Why the controversy? What does it mean for dairy cows?

    What is high sugar grass?
    First of all what is grass? It is not intended to go into a long winded scientific treatise on the subject, ‘Google’ will give an adequate cover of this! Suffice it to say that all grass species, especially those used as pasture in the New Zealand system of farming, are a natural feed stuff for herbivores, especially ruminants. Their growth pattern is unique in that the leaves grow from a crown at ground level allowing the leaves to be removed and as long as the crown is not damaged new leaves will grow. This of course assumes that all other plant requirements are met i.e. adequate water, sufficient nutrition, sunlight and that plants are not overgrazed by poor management practises to the point where the growing crown is damaged! Cows are not designed to eat clods of mud, in spite of what may be seen on some dairy farms!
    Although basically any grass species can have the level of its water soluble carbohydrates (sugar) enhanced, perennial ryegrass including its various cultivars will be used to illustrate the points of interest in this discussion.
    A definition and a distinction between the three basic methods are as follows:-

    (1) Perennial Ryegrass genetically modified.
    (2) Perennial Ryegrass bred to enhance the natural sugars.
    (3) Perennial Ryegrass biologically enhanced.

    Because of the unfortunate negative connotation put on anything genetically modified, number one will probably remain as an item of academic interest in the foreseeable future! Although don’t write it off.
    Number two is at the moment the most viable system, with scientists and plant breeders putting a lot of money into, if you believe the advertising, what they claim are the most suitable cultivars for New Zealand conditions! Protecting their patch? The ‘AberDart’ controversy is a case in point. With scientists taking sides, who knows?
    Number three is the most controversial! This is where scientists and farmers differ dramatically. Any farmer who dares to state that a certain regime has increased his milk solids and financial returns tends to be labelled ‘Green’ and his claims are written off as anecdotal. The catch cry from the scientific fraternity is where is the proof and the paper written up in a peer reviewed reputable journal? This is as it should be, up to a point. Have any of these critics ever looked into the claims made by farmers regarding gains made in production?
    There is the usual problem with ‘Way out Claims’ made by people with a particular agenda, if their system is so good why aren’t they making millions on their own farm?
    So what is High Sugar Grass ‘HSG’? You are probably aware that grass is largely composed of various ‘Sugars’ and their chemical derivatives manufactured during the process of photosynthesis. ‘Photosynthesis as defined by Wilkins 1988 is the process by which plants capture and package the energy in the sun’s rays. Further:- ‘It can be transported around the plant, to be released when and where it is required to do useful work, like driving chemical reactions. In practise, this involves storing the energy in chemical molecules that are stable, but that can, in the presence of appropriate enzymes, be broken down to release the energy they contain. It is also the means whereby the plant acquires, from the air, the carbon atoms that are the principal components of the molecules that make up its body.
    Photosynthesis can be summarised as a chemical reaction in which carbon dioxide from the air and water, react to produce carbohydrate (sugar and starch) and oxygen according to the general equation:
    CO2+H2O -------------- [CH2O]+O2
    It must be remembered, however, that this is only part of the story, mixing carbon dioxide and water together doesn’t cause a suitable reaction, it requires light and chlorophyll in the green pigment of the leaf to complete’.
    So where does the extra sugar in high sugar ryegrass come from? We can’t increase the sunlight available to the plant! We are supposedly increasing the carbon dioxide available (global warming and greenhouse gasses) in spite of this a normal plant can only produce and store a set amount of carbohydrate. What effect farm management practices i.e. Biological farming has on increasing water soluble carbohydrates is a moot point! Have they changed the sunlight available? ‘No’ Have they changed the carbon dioxide? No more than any other farmer. They may have changed the water and nutrients available to the grass roots by improving the soil conditions! This would still have to be proven! What other farming practises have they changed? This leaves us with plants with a natural high sugar content. Overseas researchers such as ‘IGER’ ( Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research) in the United Kingdom have bred cultivars from naturally occurring high sugar ryegrass specimens from alpine areas in Europe.( see Moorby 2001). Do we assume that the New Zealand bred equivalents have originated from a similar type already present in New Zealand?
    There is still doubt in scientific circles regarding the benefits of HSG. An article written by Jacqueline Rowarth, in the spring 2007 issue of ‘Grasslands News’ pages 3- 4, sets out rather succinctly the problems surrounding the controversy over the use of grass bred with a higher water soluble carbohydrate level. This controversy has unfortunately led to sides being taken over the suitability of various cultivars for New Zealand conditions. Vis-à-vis Dr. Jock Allison’s defence of the AberHSG system in rebuttal to a section in ‘Pasture and Forage Plants for New Zealand’ by Drs. Deric Charlton and Alan Stewart published by NZGA in October 2006. As Dr. Rowarth rightly points out at the end of her article: - ‘More Research is Needed. It Always Is’.
    Is HSG more palatable to ruminants? We don’t know for sure, there are conflicting opinions, we can’t ask the cow! We could conduct field trials, unfortunately nobody appears ready to spend the money! Does it improve the ratio between grass derived nitrogen (as protein) and the soluble carbohydrates, in other words by increasing the percentage of sugar in relationship to protein in feedstuff does this in fact decrease the losses of nitrogen to the atmosphere (ammonia and nitrous oxide) and water (nitrate) to the soil? see Richard Dewhurst’s paper ‘Manipulating cow diets to reduce nutrient wastage to the environment.’(which is available on the internet) setting out the problems. This should be read in its entirety, it is one of the better explanations I have seen.
    If all farmers became ‘Eco-friendly’ over night, would it make much difference to greenhouse gas emissions? The proponents of biological farming would have us believe yes! Is it not time for scientists to conduct trials into the usefulness of these alternatives instead of just writing the claims off as some form of ‘snake oil science’ not worthy of comment? They might just learn something useful!
    Assuming that a farmer is convinced that a high sugar ryegrass cultivar is the right system for his farm, how does he monitor the sugar content? Expensive laboratory testing, milk solid returns from his dairy company printout, or is there a place for the brix meter with its proponents and exponents about evenly divided! Is it not time that its usefulness as a farming tool was genuinely tested? Not written off as a useless gimmick, as has been done in some circles!
    What fertiliser regime is recommended? To get the proposed benefits, it would appear that any of the quick fix, immediate return high nitrogen based fertilisers would be out! Urea is a relatively slow release nitrogen source and although its use would be curtailed it may still have a place. What about more natural fertilisers? Is there a genuine basis for the claims made by the proponents of biological farming? Shouldn’t they be put to the test? There may be some really useful ideas in organic farming! It can’t hurt to find out.
    Although Nick Smith (see article The New Zealand Farmers Weekly page 15 December 2009) as minister, has put the damper on carbon credit trading for farmers in the near future, should we not be at least planning ahead for when and if it does become a viable option? How are you going to provide a quantifiable carbon sink on your farm? If we plant clover or other legumes with rye grass to provide a useful alternative source of nitrate, what effect does this have on the ratio between carbohydrates and protein in the ruminant digestion? Are we not too dependant on rye grass? Should we be looking more closely at alternative plant species i.e. chicory, plantains, even some of the more drought resistant Mediterranean species, Australian species? Plants with anthelmintic properties to overcome at least some of the drug resistance in ruminant parasite species?
    What do you think should be done? Push your farm advisor and ask questions at farmers field days! Nobody knows all the answers. Let us know on this Blog site! Who knows you could end up with a winner! Look at all the alternatives, don’t slavishly follow the herd!

    Literature Cited.

    Dewhurst, R. Agriculture and Life Sciences Division, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand. Posted on the Internet, no date given.

    McNicholas, M. 2009. Not ready for carbon farms. The New Zealand Farmers Weekly. Vol.8, 48, 15.

    Rowarth, J. 2007. HSG: the discussion continues. Grassland News. New Zealand Grassland Assoc. published on the Internet. P 3-4.

    Wilkins, M. 1988. Plantwatching: How plants live, feel and work. Macmillan. London. 207pp.

  7. Default

    Thanks for putting that work in, GM. Helps to explain a few things.

    I'm very surprised: Doug has not taken me up on my offer of a free Brix meter yet

    I have heard the Dr. all over the talkback radio though, and seen him on TV, looking decidedly uncomfortable while denying anthropological climate change. But then all publicity is good publicity isn't it?

    We have some even better NWL-32 Brix meters available: same price and they're a top quality optical instrument. These have brass and chrome bodies, a very clear graticle, and of course we could buy in any Brix meter that you request, in the range 0-90% brix or so. The new instruments give an easier reading for grass, which will always have a fuzzy area on the boundary.

    We are working hard on getting some more involved research work done with these on pasture, and will post the results here.

  8. Default

    Dear Dr Edmeades:

    A recent paper (article 5 March 2010) using the combined efforts of many scientists found that there is a 95% chance that global warming (which you agree is happening) is in fact caused by humans, not part of a natural cycle or pnenomenon. So there's still one chance in 20 that you are right. Are you a gambling man?


    I have to report that after your advice to the property owner beside us, which involved the application of urea, that we have observed plenty of grass and weed growth next door, but the Brix levels have dropped back to about 5-7. But that is OK, high Brix is a cause to be alarmed, get some nitrogen on there to sort it out...I'm not sure what the drystock think of your approach.

  9. Default Peter Floyd on Brix

    I found this article on ruralnews.co.nz:

    No brickbats for brix
    by Peter Floyd

    Some farmers are finding brix is a good indicator of pasture quality.Those of you involved in fruit production will know that measuring brix levels in plants is not new, but applying it to pasture is a relatively recent idea.

    What we do is take a representative sample of pasture at the level that sheep or cattle would eat and squeeze some of it in a garlic press until the juice runs out.

    A drop or two is put into a refractometer – a small hand-held device that is calibrated to show the refractive index of the juice in percent sucrose or degrees brix.

    What it means is that the higher the brix reading, the higher the sugar level in the sample. It is also a good indicator of higher protein, fat and mineral content and density, and some people believe that high brix pasture has greater resistance to insect and frost damage.

    The bottom line is that stock certainly prefer (and do better on) higher brix pasture.

    Applying brix measurements to pasture is a bit controversial, and as you might expect the traditionalists think it’s a waste of time while the innovators think it’s the best thing since rotational grazing.

    And speaking of that, do you remember names like McMeekan, Hutton, Bryant and Clayton? I have worked with them all and have the greatest respect for their contribution over about 40 years to the science of pasture management, which established this country’s international reputation in pastoral farming.

    You might be amused to know that when we started promoting the rotational grazing management practices for dairying in the early ‘60s and later for hill country farmers, the cynics all scoffed. They are scoffing again now about pasture brix.

    Meantime, we are finding brix is a good indicator of pasture quality, certainly more useful and practical than ME or DM alone. In January some of our members were achieving brix levels of 20 with a DM of 40% on nine days out of ten. The importance of this is that it enables them to make better decisions about selecting paddocks for grazing and about which paddocks are going to put the highest quality milk into the vat on a daily basis.

    The significance of this is that profitability can be added to the decision-making matrix and help predict which pastures will yield the most profit each day. This includes considering and calculating all of the expense components of producing a kilogram of milksolids.

    It also allows us to include criteria such as pasture residuals, stocking rates and other factors that have been well discussed over the 50 years I have been involved in farming. Then there is the more recent focus on soil carbon levels, top soil growth and depth of plant roots that determines stock feed quality and ultimately affects the quality of the human food produced.

    • Peter Floyd is managing director of eCOGENT – www.eCOGENT .biz Tel. 0800 433 276
    Peter, this is great background information, but I'd like some details about any correlations you might have of pasture brix against MJME (lab results). That is what the scientists have been saying to me: they're very interested if there was a reasonable relationship in the readings. The latest data I have is that it is 30 years since any scientists have written a peer-reviewed (is there any other kind?) paper reporting on the use of refractometers on grass. That's an embarrassing gap in research if it turns out to be a useful technique like we think, but one that some scientists should be ready to exploit.

    Do you have any other data on animal behaviour that is quantified? (high and low brix grass comparisons).

  10. Default

    I am still trying to get researchers to take the Brix technique seriously, and we continue to sell our grass brix kits strongly to agronomists and farmers, some are being exported. Plenty of data to suggest biological farming creates more humus, and should therefore store more carbon in soils.

    Meanwhile on the climate change front, more bad news: melting of the ice sheets is accelerating faster than the models predicted.


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