When Amanda Carter-Hanson googled “soil testing” four years ago, she had no idea she was about to embark on a journey to a better way of farming.
The Taranaki dairy farmer, milking 260 cows on 120ha at Matapu with husbandGrant Hanson, said she, Grant, and her father and farm owner Geoff Carter had become sceptical of the way farm businesses were treated by corporate fertiliser companies.
“We felt the industry had just became a machine,” Amanda says. “We had got into this cycle of doing the same things we’d always done, and it didn’t feel right anymore.”
While researching soil testing, Forward Farming Ltd – led by David Law – was the first website that appeared.
“I had never heard of David before, but we went ahead and rung him,” Amanda said. “He came out to see us and the rest is history.”
Listening to David explain soil biology and the natural processes that help a farm thrive excited Amanda and Grant.
“We are now in our fourth year working with David. It has taken three years to understand the biological process, and it’s still ongoing,” Amanda says.
The farm has had three applications of Terragen Great Land, a biological soil conditioner: in May 2020, November 2020, and June 2021. Amanda says they have observed significant changes in the pasture.
“Grass has thickened up throughout the paddock – it’s dense, and the clover is everywhere,” Amanda says.
“When putting cows into a paddock, you hope they will be happy. In the paddocks treated with Terragen they are very content and eat so much more grass. “They also graze the paddock evenly; even when the pasture on the paddock is short, it’s still thick like a mat, while the untreated paddocks are patchy and weaker.
“We are now treating the whole farm in the same way as a result of seeing the difference (including another 20 hectares for calves).”
Amanda and Grant have always been low synthetic nitrogen users, having previously used urea but guided by David to switch to ammonium sulphate. Total Replacement Therapy has contributed to an incredible nitrogen level of -14.
Amanda says the Forward Farming, Total Replacement Therapy and Kiwi Fertiliser teams have been fantastic to work with.
“During the first application of Terragen they not only showed us what to do, but hung around to ensure it all went smoothly,” Amanda says.
“Our trust in David was a massive contributing factor to making the decision to head down this road; you have to be comfortable with your adviser and what they are saying.
“I’m an inquisitive person and like to know why we are doing what we are doing; David encourages our questions.”
Amanda says a recent experience reinforced her belief that many farmers just don’t know how to farm without using large amounts of synthetic nitrogen.
“If they are seeing results with nitrogen, they feel they can’t afford to try something new that may not work,” she says. “They need guaranteed results, for animal welfare and financial reasons.
“It is scary to try something a bit different, but 3.5 years in it is going really well for us... we wouldn’t want to go back to the way we used to farm.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how Terragen performs over the next 12 months, and through severe weather conditions.”