Where we started
We converted our King Country sheep and beef farm to dairy in 1989. We milked 360 cows to begin with then brought the number up to 520 after purchasing a neighbouring property. Replacement animals were grazed on the steeper hill country.
By 1999, after successfully running a basic all grass system, we started to recognise that what we were doing was not going to be sustainable. Our system was relying on the increasing use of urea – up to 150 kg urea/Ha/Year from 50 kg urea/Ha/Year, but production wasn't increasing and were facing major animal health issues, downer cows, Rotovirus, large numbers of lame cows, an increased reliance on CIDRs to get cows in calf, induction to try and maintain an acceptable calving spread and more. This "breakdown" in our system also led to a lack of net cash profit. It was also plain to see that our pastures were failing to persist and our soil had gone hard and compacted – we were going backwards. There were a number of changes in the farm environment that we knew were a result of our current farming practices, for example: The frogs and the White-faced Herons that used to breed on our farm had vanished completely.
We were no longer willing to stand back and do nothing.
After seeking advice from several highly regarded experts in agriculture, who gave us no satisfactory answers, the decision was made that we would have to think outside the square and control our own destiny.
After much research, we enlisted the services of Quantum Laboratories (now Qlabs), an independent company that introduced us not only to the Albrecht system but also to a coordinated soil-plant-animal nutrition programme.
This was an exciting time in our farming career as we observed a complete turnaround not only in our farming operation but also in the farm environment. Improvements were taking place every year, we couldn't wait for calving to start and the new season to unfold.
The list of changes below took place over a three-year period.
| || Before using Qlabs|| After using Qlabs|
| || 1999/2000 Season|| 2003/2004 Season|
| Inductions|| 200|| None|
| CIDRs|| 420|| None|
| Mating Period|| 24 weeks|| 10 weeks|
| Empty Rate|| 12%|| 10%|
| Peak Production|| 20 litres/Cow|| 26 litres/Cow|
| Vet visits for sick animals|| 9.30 Monday & 9.30 Thursday through spring|| 2 for year|
| Downer cows|| 3-7 weekly|| None|
| Mastitis|| 5-15 weekly|| 16 for year|
| Retained Fetal Membrane|| Daily|| 6 for season|
| || Rotovirus in calves |
| No calf scours|
| || Whole Herd Dry Cow Therapy|| Dry Cow Therapy Heifers|
| Urea use|| 150 kg/Ha/year – 3 applications|| 50 kg/Ha/year 1st week Aug |
on 1/3 of the farm
Cash flow turnaround of approximately $250 000 (milk pay out adjusted)
In fact, our farm was running so smoothly and efficiently that Donna gave up teaching and joined in the day to day running of the dairy farm. Donna and I were now running the farm – 520 cows, 120 calves, 115 rising 2 year olds, spreading all our own fertiliser, did all our own cropping and re-grassing, with one very capable full-time employee. His wife reared the calves.
After pressure from our bank manager we were persuaded into attending a Dexel 'Mark and Measure' course. We came away from that course with the second highest economic farm surplus (second only by a small margin to a couple with a very similar system to ours) cementing our position as well on the right side of sustainable farming practices.
It was most exciting to be able to take the kids tadpoling again and the white-faced herons were back in large numbers, successfully rearing chicks.
Where we are now
After purchasing shares in Quantum Laboratories in 2008 we embarked on an intensive study period. In 2016 we took over full ownership allowing the founders to retire knowing their work would continue to support the agricultural and horticultural sectors for many years to come. We re-branded as Qlabs shortly afterwards.
Adding to our existing services we were recently granted a Patent on our Ruminant Nitrogen Utilisation Efficiency (RNUE) method. This is one of the most proactive advancements available to NZ pastoral agriculture. Farmers who have worked with us to develop this programme have enjoyed changing from thinking in 'kg/DM/Ha' to thinking 'what is the true value for my livestock and the environment?'.
Ray is an expert on pasture and animal nutrition.He fully understands about how all these elements of farming come together to affect animal health, the soil and production targets. Qlabs have given us a terrific run on animal health issues. Ray's got his finger on the pulse and our animals don't get sick and don't die anymore! Ray has our farm systems in balance and we have the results to back this up.
I am passionate about helping farmers and growers achieve sustainable and profitable results by fine-tuning their production systems.
“I believe there is a huge untapped potential in New Zealand production systems just waiting to be realised, I enjoy helping producers unlock that potential”.
I have a background in the agriculture sector. I grew up on the family farm in the King Country and after gaining a DipAg at Massey University, I returned home to share farm sheep and beef, at the same time I successfully contracted my services to the local farmers.In 1990, the family farm was converted to dairy and my brother and I became 50/50 sharemilkers. By the mid 1990s I had bought out my brother’s shares. I then leased and purchased a neighbouring farm and increased cow numbers to 520 and moved to a 60/40 sharemilking contract.After several years of observing a rapid decline throughout our production system I changed farming practices and converted to a Low to No Nitrogen programme. This re-ignited my passion for the relationship between soil, plants and animal health. The following years saw a rapid improvement in animal health, production levels, environmental issues and profits.After selling the farm in 2007, the opportunity arose for me to follow my other passion – Soil Science, so in the latter part of the year I become a 50/50 shareholder in Quantum Laboratories (now Qlabs Ltd).Through my understanding of soil fertility, pasture production and animal nutrition, I have gone on to develop a tool for pastoral farmers – The Ruminant Nitrogen Utilisation Programme (NZ Patent Application No. 630767). This enables farmers to work proactively to gain greater pasture to animal production efficiency while reducing their environmental footprint. For me “there is no greater satisfaction in agriculture than being witness to the enjoyment farmers get out of farming successfully.”Outside of business hours, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I am keen on hunting and fishing and love to spend time in the garden, growing, harvesting and preserving the produce.
"Since starting to use [Qlabs]recommendations, overall animal health has improved dramatically in the last three years. Average lamb weights have increased by at least 1 kg each of the last two years."
Sheep & Beef Farmer, Otago
"Sheep were dying and cattle were not conceiving … we applied the [Qlabs] recommendations and… within 8 months we saw great results, no dead lambs, heifers and cows actually cycling, wow!" …
Hawke's Bay Farmer