Nelson farmer and business owner Merv Solly has been working his Takaka cattle and sheep farm a good chunk of his life and seen the droughts, diseases, and death of animals that are a part of it.
But though Merv may be well versed in farming doesn’t mean he is stuck in his ways. In fact, in the past decade he has radically changed the way he runs his farm, in particular the soil make-up, and ever since has seen massive changes.
“Eight years ago I decided no more urea or nitrogen from artificial sources, and it's incredible the change,” Merv says.
The method Merv uses is called the Albrecht-Kinsey system, which focuses on the calcium, magnesium and potassium levels in the soil, and how to reach the optimum balance using biological, rather than artificial, methods.
“The year before last on our dairy farm down in Methven we had 32 dead cows, down to a calcium or magnesium deficiency or both. That's not acceptable at all.
“The biological side had two.”
And it’s not just cattle deaths, but Merv puts the reduction in disease and drought down to this system as well.
“It's a rare occasion there we ever need a veterinary surgeon anymore,” he says.
“When my dad was still alive, he and my oldest daughter did nothing else for summer than fly strike, it's the worst job you can think of.
“Doesn't happen anymore, it's gone completely.
“Facial eczema, because we've got our calcium levels correct, the zinc levels are correct, you don't even treat for it anymore..
“Last year was a pretty long drought in the early part of the season, but this farm just cruised along.”
While large numbers of farms in New Zealand are still using chemicals on their soil to achieve results, Merv says these are short term and in the long term our farms will not to be able to handle it anymore.
“It's proving the point that we've got to move on. If we’re looking after the ground better, the ground looks after us.”