Farmer beets out the competition with his winning winter fodder

Berwick dairy farmer Mark McLennan took the top honour for his fodder beet crop at the 2024...
Berwick dairy farmer Mark McLennan took the top honour for his fodder beet crop at the 2024 Taieri Winter Crop Competition. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Fodder beet on Mark McLennan’s dairy farm has been crowned the supreme winner of the 11th annual Taieri Winter Crop Competition.

Mr McLennan has entered the competition four times before and never won a prize. Some seasons, his winter crop performed below par so he made a donation to the competition and told judges to bypass his place.

He kept executing his same plan for growing fodder beet as past seasons.

The crop looked so good this season he asked the judges to visit and won prizes for the best fodder beet on a dairy platform and the most outstanding crop.

The crop was grown from seed Agricom Delicante, sown by Dunedin contractor Willowcroft on October 13, the earliest he had ever put it in.

Favourable ground conditions had allowed for the early sowing, a task pushed back to late November in previous seasons.

Agrispray general manager Andrew Miller sorted the agrichemicals to be applied to the crop.

Herbicides Donaghys Ethos, UPL Chloronion and UPL Metafol SC, insecticide Nufarm Chlorpyrifos 500EC and sticker-spreader Wally’s Rainguard were applied on October 13 last year.

About a month later, herbicides Donaghys Tron and Ethos and Kenso Fender 320 and fertiliser Compo Expert Basfoliar 13-40-13 SP were applied.

Herbicides Nufarm Sequence and Archer 750, insecticide Adama Mavrik Aquaflo, canola oil adjuvant Bonza Gold and fertiliser Compo Expert Basfoliar 13-40-13 SP on December 17.

Mr McLennan spread urea on the crop in early December.

The weather played ball in growing the top crop, he said.

"We got the rain at the right time and we had good coverage by the time it got dry in autumn."

He praised the heavy, free-draining soil for playing its part.

"It is bloody good dirt down here."

Pasture had been in the paddock the previous season.

Manure and sawdust from his wintering shed had been ploughed in the paddock four times in the past decade, he said.

Dried-off cows would start to get access to the 7.5ha of fodder beet on his farm from June 1.

Most of it was used to feed the herd through winter, but some of it would be given to the cows to produce milk.

Mr McLennan was born in Mataura and raised on the Taieri.

His parents were dairy farmers "with 80 odd cows and eight kids".

He met his future wife Vicki on their OEs, both working as lambing shepherds on a sheep farm in Scotland.

They returned home to contract milk in Hamilton, got married, had a family, and share-milked across the South before leasing to buy a herd and farm Terrington Holsteins in Berwick in the mid 1990s.

Fodder beet was the only winter crop he grew on Terrington because more feed could be grown in a smaller area than other crops.

"I’d stick to chou moellier if I had the area," he said.

About two-thirds of his herd, including heifers and early calvers, were wintered on the farm.

The rest were wintered off-farm.

About 250 people attended a prizegiving and charity auction in Mosgiel on May 10.

The event was organised by the Taieri Lions Club and Taieri Rotary Club.

Nearly $75,000 was raised for charities including Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust, Otago Community Hospice, Louise Davie Charitable Trust, Otago Rural Support Trust and Taieri Historical Museum and Park.

About 90 farmers entered about 120 winter crops in the competition.

Judge Bruce Beckingsale said a square metre of each crop entered was weighed for the competition.

The four crops in each competition categories with the highest yields were judged on consistency and cleanliness, relative to the environment.

"It was encouraging to see the yields some farmers have been able to achieve in a challenging season," he said.


Taieri Winter Crop Competition 2024 winners.

Dairy farmer Mark McLennan will give his herd access to his prize-winning fodder beet crop from...
Dairy farmer Mark McLennan will give his herd access to his prize-winning fodder beet crop from next month.

Swede: Ben and Jean Bonner, of Henley.

Fodder beet on a dairy platform and winner of most outstanding crop: Mark McLennan, of Berwick.

Fodder beet on a runoff: Ken Cuthill, of Outram.

Cultivated kale: Jess Miller, of Momona.

Direct-drilled kale: Ian Frampton, of Otakia.


Turnips: Richard Nichol, of Clarks Junction.

Direct-drilled swedes: Owen Diack, of Outram.

Cultivated swedes and runner-up of most outstanding crop: Andrew Reid, of Lee Flat.

Cultivated kale: Michael Scorgie, of Lee Flat.

Direct-drilled kale: Eddie and Willie Reid, of Lee Stream.

Fodder beet: Blair Williams, of Hindon.