Robin Casey is on a mission to emulate an exercise that could spell an end to the ravages of the dreaded facial eczema.
The independent Whanganui fertiliser broker stumbled across an exciting find while going about his normal business of increasing pasture growth and quality on a client's farm in the district.
During a trial comparing the more traditional method of boosting growth with his own custom-made recipes, subsequent foliage tests revealed a substantial increase in zinc levels on his block compared with the pasture where traditional applications had been employed.
The result was a complete surprise because zinc was not an ingredient in his recipe.
"The farmer and I selected two paddocks divided by a road in between.
One was a paddock with 15-year-old pasture, the other five years old. Then we cut each paddock in half with the farmer using traditional applications on one half, while I used my recipe on the other. We did exactly the same across the road. The applications were made at the end of March 2017," Casey said.
"I took grass cuttings each month and assessed growth, but then I decided the time was right to test what was actually in the grass and determine quality. Basically to see if the nutrient and trace element balance was right."
Not only were the two Casey plots growing substantially more grass, but the quality was also dramatically improved compared to the traditional trial blocks.
"But what really astounded me was that the test results from Hills Laboratory in Hamilton showed a dramatic increase in zinc levels on my trial blocks when I hadn't even added zinc to the applications.
I can only suggest the ingredients I used managed to unlock zinc already in the soil. It is well documented that certain recipes have the ability to either lock or unlock trace elements in the soil.
"Hills recommend that sheep need between 30mg and 50mg a day (or say 44mg to be on the safe side) of zinc in their diet to lower the risk of facial eczema substantially. Zinc levels on my blocks suggested levels of 39mg and 34mg respectively were available, so getting right up near the safe levels.
"Just to make sure this was no fluke we are about to replicate the exercise on another part of the farm and again on a completely different farm miles away and see if we can emulate the end result."