Andre Christie-Smith farms on 4700 ha in Kleiheuwel, situated near L’Agulhas in the Western Cape’s Overberg region. Kleiheuwel Trust is one of the oldest Merino farms in South Africa and produces high quality fine wool in a sustainable and ethically responsible way. The farm is non-mulesed and RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) certified, running between 4500 and 6500 sheep as well as 120 – 250 cattle. Andre has been using fieldmargin for herd management, job planning, and input records for the last year.
“I use fieldmargin daily, from keeping track of stock numbers and location to planning fieldwork such as planting or spraying,” he says. “I rave about it to my farmer friends! To summarise, all I really need to say is that it is a brilliant, brilliant brilliant app!”
Kleiheuwel Trust has been a tester farm for our new livestock feature. Using herd icons on fieldmargin the farm’s stockman can record where the animals are and see them on the map.
“I really like the fact that it makes a note in the field when stock is moved in or out. Being able to easily see the number of grazing days and the number of rest days for each field makes everything a lot easier.”
By recording grazing fields and resting days Andre will be able to make sure that his flocks are looked after in an optimum way.
“I used to have to make a separate note for each livestock movement, but this new method is fantastic!”
Andre has found that having all his farm information available to him on his phone has been a real game-changer for his operation.
“I don’t have managers on the farm, so keeping track of stock and crops can get a bit hectic. fieldmargin makes all the relevant information available to me from my phone.,” he says. “This means there is no need to carry the ‘Planting Book’, the ‘Spraying file’ or the ‘Stock records’ with me.”
Monitoring inputs for reporting
Using fieldmargin has meant that his record-keeping for audits has been made a lot simpler.
“We are RWS certified (Responsible Wool Standard) and record-keeping is a big factor to obtain accreditation,” he says. “We have to have grazing plans, planting schedules, keep records of our chemical use, land management plans, to name just a few.”
fieldmargin lets him keep all his records in one place, easily accessible on mobile and printable as well.
“I was asked at my last audit about my land usage protocols and I answered, ‘I use fieldmargin’,” says Andre. “No more questions were asked!”
Andre has used the fieldmargin field jobs tool to save details about feed and grazing inputs used on his farm. Making sure that each flock is well-fed increases the amount and quality of the wool. His techniques are working as Kleiheuwel Trust, recently achieved one of the top 10 best prices in the history of South African wool sales, and the highest price during the 2019/2020 season’s BKB wool auctions (source).
“Keeping accurate records of feed production and what is given to the animals is very important,” says Andre. “Merinos are unlikely to get too fat, with higher consumption generally turning into better wool yields. I’d rather lose a little money by feeding too much than too little. I make that money back in the wool cheque.”
The farm also plants around 300 to 400 ha of commercial small grain crops and animal feed every year and have about 500 ha under lucerne. Andre uses fieldmargin to record what inputs have been used to produce the feed on his farm. The farm mixes its own feed consisting of maize, triticale, and barley or oats, combined with supplements. They also have to send in a report of what chemicals we use on our malting barley. fieldmargin lets him do this with a couple of clicks.
“Field history is another great feature and will be more valuable the longer we use fieldmargin, as it will build up a more comprehensive history so we can learn from our applications,” says Andre.
Keeping the team on the same page
Andre finds field jobs and farm reporting really useful for planning and placing orders with chemical reps
“When the agricultural chemical rep comes round we can work out our spraying program, enter it into fieldmargin and I know straight away what I need to order,” he says. “Field job sub-tasks let me monitor the progress of jobs and mark it off as we go. When the Stock nutrition rep (Feed Rep) comes by he often drives around the farm on his own and uses fieldmargin to see which sheep are running where. We also use the NDVI Field Health maps to help decide which products to use, as it varies quite a lot depending on forage cover, seasons, lambing, etc.”
As well as reporting chemicals and field history for audits, Andre is using fieldmargin to share details with his team using mobile phones – which means no more paper pads!
“The more I use Fieldmargin, the more I want to use it,” he says. “I have plotted all my boreholes (19 of them) and if there is a problem I can send the repairman straight to it, sometimes I send him a picture of the problem so that he can bring the correct spares with him. He can use fieldmargin to locate the borehole and get directions as well. When a new team member started I was able to send him details so that he could see on his mobile what we were up to and learn the layout of the land”
Andre says: “I have told so many people about fieldmargin, I think they must think I work on commission. I keep raving about it! I think you get the idea that I love love love the app…..”
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To see a bit more of what Andre does have a look at the Kleiheuwel Trust Instagram account or our Facebook page.