Kazakhstan

T.O.O. Rodina

About the farm

Started in

1994

Livestock

1,500 dairy cows plus followers

Personnel

520, plus seasonal workers for the harvest

Area

62,000 ha, including

41,000 ha cereals,

4,000 to 4,500 ha annual forage grass

2,600 ha perennial grasses and lucerne

2,500 to 3,000 ha maize,

The rest is fallow

Crop rotation

Crop rotation on cereal land:

3x spring wheat, 1x fallow

or

3x spring wheat, 1x spring barley, 1x fallow

Forage land:

3x maize, 1x forage grass

Soil type

Heavy loam

Annual rainfall

150 to 200 mm

CLAAS machinery

2 JAGUAR 830

18 TUCANO 320

13 MEDION 310

1 XERION 3800

2 XERION 4000

3 XERION 4500

1 XERION 5000

1 SCORPION 7040

About Kazakhstan

Population

Approx. 17.6 million

Total area

261.1 million ha (645.09 million acres)

Area under cultivation

215.6 million ha (532.7 million acres)

Number of farms

200,350

(excluding the small-scale farms which still account for a large percentage of agriculture in Kazakhstan.)

The annual rainfall is just 150 to 200 mm.

 

The most valuable asset is water. The annual rainfall is just 150 to 200 mm, and in bad years it can be less than 100 mm. There is also a constant risk of soil erosion and evaporation due the the steppe winds. As a result, snow plays a key role here in the steppes because it is an extremely important source of water. This is the reason for the practice known as "snow retention" or "snow ploughing" which is common in Kazakhstan. The tractor pulls a frame with four blades. Pairs of blades face towards each other, tapering towards the rear. They pull the snow from a width of approximately 2.50 metres into an enormous swath of snow, about one metre wide. Depending on the amount of snow, the swath may be up to 50 centimetres high. The working speed during the snow ploughing operation is around 10 km/h. During this work, the previous working direction for cultivation of the field is irrelevant. The prevailing wind direction is what counts, as the swaths are created across the wind direction. This reduces the risk of the snow being blown away by the steppe winds. That's one reason. The other is to ensure that the water from the snow seeps into the soil. If the snow was left to lie and thaw in its original position, the water from the snow would probably collect in hollows, etc. as the soil under the snow would still be deep-frozen and unable to absorb the water. Snow ploughing means that the snow cover beside the swaths is thinner. Here the snow melts faster, the dark soil is exposed, is warmed by the sun, thaws, and the water can soak in. The swaths naturally thaw more slowly and conveniently release their water to the sides of the swaths, onto the areas of soil that have already thawed. This method has been used in Kazakhstan for over 40 years. It isn't used everywhere, or even every year, but is carried out on the basis of experience, snow depth, snow quality, weather forecasts and often gut feeling. Of course, the aim is to offset the additional costs incurred by achieving higher yields. In dry summers, yields may increase by up to 30%.

Efficiency and reliability are the main concerns at drilling.

 

The key period in cereal production is 10 to 15 May. These five days determine the yield at harvest. It is usually impossible to drill before 10 May because the soil is too cold, and after 15 May there is a risk that the growing season will be too short for a profitable harvest. "The most difficult things here are the weather conditions and short growing season, which usually lasts from 15 May to 15 August," explains Kanat Adilbekov, Chief Agronomist at T.O.O. Rodina. This means that the growing period is just 80 to 100 days. By comparison, in Germany it is around 250 days. Efficiency and reliability are therefore the main concerns at drilling and the main reasons why the farm only uses big tractors. At this time of year, the XERION tractors operate with Horsch Sprinter seed drills round the clock, achieving area outputs of up to 15 ha per hour for each tractor-machine combination.

 

During drilling, the moisture content of the soil is tested every day. On average, depending on weather conditions, the seed is sown 2-3 mm deeper every day to ensure that the cereals have enough water for germination. In extremely dry years seeds may be placed up to 10 cm deep in the soil – an agronomic balancing act which requires a lot of experience because the crop then takes longer to emerge.

 

The short growing season also affects the milk production enterprise because T.O.O. Rodina produces all the forage for its 1500 dairy cows and their followers itself. For logistics reasons, the forage-growing land is around the farm. The farm also grows maize. Here, the average yield of the early-maturing varieties is around 15 to 25 tonnes per hectare. "The main problem with the animal feed is a lack of sugar and proteins," explains Julia Kolenovskaya, Chief Animal Husbandry Specialist at T.O.O. Rodina. "We solve it by buying sunflower meal and using polysaccharides". As a result, the farm achieves a respectable average milk yield of 8000 litres.


Picture gallery


Making-of – Behind the scenes