Donal Martin GrassCo working with TracMap

Pasture coverage across Southland has tightened considerably to 2013 and 2014 as a result of a prolonged dry spell, and the situation is unlikely to improve moving into Autumn, says Donald Martin of GrassCo.


“Without TracMap we simply wouldn’t have been able to grow the business from just myself to the team of five that we are now. The accuracy and ease of TracMap’s system makes it possible for my team to go out on farm and find transit tracks, and it takes us straight to gateways and onto the next paddock.”

– Donald Martin, GrassCo


Donald launched his pasture consultancy business GrassCo in 2009 to accurately measure and report pasture cover for farmers on a regular basis. In recent years demand for Grassco’s services has grown rapidly on the back of the trend for dairy farmers to focus on all grass feeding.

“Our clients proactively manage their pasture and they are finding it very achievable to produce 500kg of milk solids per cow on all grass feed,” Donald says.

The GrassCo system features a unique sledge integrated with a TracMap GPS unit that allows Donald and his team to cover more than 13,000 ha of Southland farmland per week. He says it is the downward trend in pasture growth over the last few months that struck an alarm (See table 1).

southland-dairy-district

“Farms who aren’t carefully managing their pastures as closely as our clients could be in for a tough year. Levels of grass coverage for January and February 2015 are the lowest I’ve seen since we began recording the data in 2009.”

The GrassCo system measures dry matter content in grass, which farmers use to manage their most productive grazing areas. Grassco uses a GS-guided tow-behind pasture sledge with infrared sensors that calculate the dry matter content of the pasture it travels over. Donald believes GrassCo is the only business of its kind in New Zealand.

“By travelling the same transit line every week we can provide our clients with highly accurate and consistent data,” he says.

When you’re covering up to 5,000 ha of grass a day this is no small task. “We are developing a pasture mapping system which will be integrated with a TracMap GPS system to create a picture of the most productive grazing areas on our client’s farms.

“Without TracMap we simply wouldn’t have been able to grow the business from just myself to the team of five that we are now. The accuracy and ease of TracMap’s system makes it possible for my team to go out on farm and find transit tracks, and it takes us straight to gateways and onto the next paddock.”

When measuring grass being a day late makes a difference, so it’s important the GrassCo team stays on schedule and has a system it can rely on.

“TracMap just doesn’t break down. I wouldn’t want to use any other system. Only once in five years have we had a malfunction and we were lost while the unit was repaired,” Donald says. A remarkable fact given he now operates a total of five units across the business.

Using GPS coordinates, Google Earth, sophisticated farm mapping, data capture and reporting capability the TracMap System helps its users plan, place and prove application of inputs.

What was once done by guess-work, can now be accurately and efficiently completed with TracMap, increasing pasture response, reducing farm input costs, and providing accurate records for decision making and reporting.