Grandmothers, cobalt and profit – simple solutions are not always obvious

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Posted by Brendon Walsh on 14 July 2016

Topdressing by hand

Recently my grandmother passed away, aged 95. It was a sad time for family and friends but also an amazing celebration of someone who had always soldiered on through challenge and adversity.

One such adversity she encountered was living and farming through the “bush sickness” era in the North King Country in the 1920's and 30's. Animals at the time although well fed, looked to be wasting away and production essentially halted. It tended to occur after virgin bush was cleared from the volcanic pumice soils and pasture sown for livestock to be farmed. Many families walked off the land, demoralised because nothing seemed to turn this situation around. Farmers’ incomes dried up and the rural community suffered badly. The hardy families that remained did what they could to survive.

Then in the mid-1930's, scientists discovered that the cause of the problem was a deficiency in the trace element cobalt. Cobalt is essential to the metabolism of all animals so a lack of it meant metabolism and therefore animal health and production were sluggish. Small amounts of cobalt were added to fertiliser and spread over pastures. Almost immediately, animals grazing this land regained their health and flourished. New animals remained healthy. Cobalt in topdressing applications steadily increased in the 1940's and 50's through to the 70's. The rural communities were back in business!

Isn’t it interesting how one simple little concept, once known about and understood, could have such a massive effect on a whole range of outcomes and therefore the future of those involved? Let’s relate that to the challenges that sheep and beef farmers currently face. Although there are many, is it not reasonable to expect that there could be some specific thing (or a few things) that when known about and understood, could have a similar effect on a whole range of outcomes and the futures of those involved? I would say absolutely!

Yes, there are issues with the way our meat and wool are marketed and how farmers are remunerated for their produce, as well as a host of other things. However, one of the fundamental needs every farmer has is the ability to successfully direct their business and make confident profitable decisions under any of the variable conditions they encounter from season to season and year to year. In other words, generate profit and the other results they need and want EVERY year regardless of the conditions.

There is a way forward for these sheep and beef farmers. It is about understanding how farm profit truly works and then implementing those concepts, ideas and techniques in their individual businesses in ways that actually bring profit into reality. Unfortunately, a non-business focus has seen the opposite occur for many farmers and results have been poor, lending has increased and little spare cash (if any) seems to be accepted as “normal.”

Those farmers who have taken the steps to learn and do what it takes have transformed their decision making, their results, their lives and the lives of their families. Confidence in their own abilities to handle variation is commonplace and solid promise for the future is often shared with other farmers and farming families of like mind and like value systems.

Something we need to ask ourselves is “Do we believe in bush sickness being the end of the line, or do we believe there is a way forward using cobalt to take us beyond this challenge? Can we take and implement lessons from the past? Only you can choose, but know that just because you haven’t found the answers for yourself yet doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

If you look hard enough you will find the answers. If you don’t, you won’t. The choice is yours!

If you are curious about how the GrowFARM® System can help sheep and beef farmers generate the profits they really want, contact me here.

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  • There are so many things that farmers have to realise and change for these days, and so many who have become totally reliant on 'somebody else doing something to improve things' that it appears a bombshell is needed to kick things into action.
    And yet when they realise that most of what is needed is in their own hands, on their own farms, the improvement is both dramatic and fast. Working on what actually produces profit, keeping an eye on their soils, and doing the right things at the right times can't be that hard, can it?

    Posted by Sue Edmonds, 16/07/2016 5:50pm (5 years ago)

  • Choose to find out more! We did 12 months ago! What you will learn will empower you identify what you want and give you the tools to achieve it! Then all you have to do is take action and follow your plan!
    So simple! So awesome! It has ignited my passion for farming and I can now see a great future for my whanau.

    Posted by Mel Bradley , 14/07/2016 5:47pm (5 years ago)