Thanks for following along!

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Thank you to everyone who followed along with the tour on the blog!

A big thanks must also go to UDV Policy Councillor Lauren Peterson for taking the time off farm to help guide and lead the group in discussions to ensure these young farmers got the most from their visit.

Special thanks must also go to Gardiner Dairy Foundation for funding the initiative, and for continuing to invest in the next generation of young dairy leaders.

You can hear more from the 2019 study tour group when they present at the Young Farmers Breakfast, held before this years 2019 UDV Annual Meeting and Conference.

The breakfast will be held at 7:30am on May 10th at the Melbourne Cricket Ground 

To register and for more information go to http://www.vff.org.au/udvconference

Attendance is free for farmers, so sign up and come along to meet with other like minded dairy farmers to discuss the issues affecting Victoria’s dairy industry.

18987 - UDV conference banners 2019 - MailChimp banner Option 3

Day 7 – Support for people on-farm and in the community

Wednesday started with a drive to Dipton where we were able to find out about the organic farming in New Zealand at Glencairn. We stepped on farm to meet Strahan, the operations manager and Jess and Sean from Aquila sustainable farming where they gave an insight in to the operations and management systems of running Glencairn where they have three dairies and a total of 2750 cows spread between them. Since first registration it took two years to gain full organic certification. Glencairn is a dry farm with 91ha irrigated, cows are wintered on farm and sent away for winter grazing. Calving is managed on farm and sent away between December and January once they have hit target weight. When going in to their offices it was great to see all the information on the walls from how to weigh crops and how to dry off cows to how to treat a bee sting and responsibilities of your rolls on farm.

Aquila Sustainable Farming (ASF) is an asset management company responsible for the management of six dairy farms and two support blocks in New Zealand. ASF focuses on the management of crops and pasture, livestock health, milk production, staff performance and retention, organic compliance, environment compliance, health and safety and financial performance. Sean is the general manager of the business and Jess is in control of producing management plans and keeping track of stock numbers, classes of stock, crop details, emergency treatments, send in an extract monthly of cows that have been treated and inputs to the farm, for example, fertilisers, pest treatments and weed treatments.

 

Strahan explained his approach to keeping his staff informed and productive

We then set off to Winton for lunch with Lindsey Wright from Farm Strong, Good Yarn and Rural Support for the help and support for mental health and awareness for farmers in New Zealand. From my own personal experiences with trying to help my friends and family with mental health I found this meeting with Lindsey invaluable. Lindsey spoke of what made him start looking in to mental health and the avenues to take to be able to get counselling and how difficult it was. The story he told was hard to hear and a bit upsetting but hearing how he has managed to get himself going by seeking help was great to hear, a lot of farmers won’t do that. Through his Farm strong and Rural Support programs through major, local and personal events they are utilised as being a contact, facilitator and an ear to listen. I really enjoyed this chat with Lindsey and I believe we should incorporate more systems like these in to our own mental health programs for farmers.

 

An inspiring individual, Lindsay dedicates his time to providing support for those that might be struggling

The next farm we were off to was Stefan du Plesis where he is a 50/50 sharefarmer with his 3 daughters and been on this farm for 11 years. Stefan and his family arrived to NZ in 2001 where they climbed up the sharemilking ladder and now milk peak 660 cows through a 46 bale rotaflow which was very interested to see as I had never even heard of one.

Stefan explained the return to clover based pastures as environmental pressures impacted on nitrogen usage

They have heavier soil where they are and lose 4-6 paddocks to flooding from the waterway nearby. Stefan uses the wintering barn for his herd and even has waterbeds for his cows. Stefan has 3 fulltime staff that are all Filipinos. They try to run a low cost, high performing system. I quite enjoyed Stefan’s farm where he showed us a lot over the farm and was full of information.

 

Water beds in Stefan’s barn had the group weighing up whether to stay the night

The last meeting of the day was meeting Katrina from the Women’s Dairy Network, she was a fun and vibrant lady and great to listen to. WDN is a not-for-profit organisation. Their primary focus is to create occasions for women and men to get off farm and connect with others, they do this in a number of ways that have been developed by women in the industry to suit busy lifestyles. DWN network develop, facilitate and promote events and initiatives. They will be hosting a DWN conference in April that I would love to go to with workshops and speakers over two days, it looks very informative but I will have to check with the bosses.

 

Katrina filled the group in of the approach to pushing young representatives to get involved

After a day full of information we were happy to get to back on the bus, sing some songs and head to Queenstown in a lovely house up a very steep hill, fair to say some of us have sore muscles now.

– Rachael McGrath

Day 6 – Innovation for profitable cows and pasture

This morning we woke in the town famous for ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, Invercargill. It is the commercial mecca of the Southland region and is surrounded by some of the most picturesque farmland we have seen too date.

We were lucky enough to enjoy a later start as our first stop was not far from us at LIC. We spoke with Joyce and Charlotte via video link in their Hamilton office and they had a captivated audience from the beginning.

Joyce and Charlotte explained the degree to which technology was utilised in the NZ breeding game

They started with discussing the business structure, the vast amount of services and programs they offer and their predictions looking forward. We then went onto discuss the NZ and International markets and some of the differences between the desires of the NZ and Australian farmers. Lastly we finished with a bit of where to from here and how they think the upswing in fat prices will affect the style of cow or type of cross the will be supplying to farmers in the future.

After a quick bite to eat at The delicious in name and nature, Seriously Good Chocolate Shop we headed just out of town to the Southern Dairy Hub which was quite a phenomenal place and with a backstory to match.

The Southern Dairy Hub herd test set up was a point of interest for the group

This dairy hub from the outside looking in functioned just like any other farm we had been to on our trip however this dairy hub was ran with science and testing at the forefront. The herds were split into four and were ran across two farms which joined in at the dairy.

The dairy hub had three focus’s;

1-The Short and Long Term issues with fodderbeat.

2-Cost affective ways to reduce Nitrogen loses.

3-Wintering of cows.

Amabel decided to see what kiwi cows thought of fodder beet first hand

Fooderbeat use was definitely their highest focus of the dairy hub and due to the farm being split into four they were able to measure the affects of fodder beat in the cows diet. The farm grew two crops, fodderbeet and kale of which they then split into high and low input and were able to directly see the effects of each of the four diets in real time and lab testing.

We all piled back onto the bus escaping the “heat” and headed a few farms over where we were met by Michael Farmer. Michael along with his wife and daughter farm on a 50:50 sharemilking agreement. With a background in business and banking his philosophies on farming were slightly different from others we had seen and was more focused on debt reduction and capital gains within his business. This was the place where we excitedly busted into our first wintering barn, and by barn we mean cow palace.

Michael discussed the challenges of trying to balance young farmer group responsibilities with family and business

Individual mattresses in stalls, back scratches at the walkways and a robot pushing up feed this place was definitely an amazing sight. We heard about his utilisation of by products collected from the barn and his ability to use the barn to benefit his pasture growth. This was a fantastic place to see and getting to see it in action was something we were all thrilled about.

The group were impressed with Michaels ‘bells and whistles’ barn, and were delighted to meet ‘Lily’ the feed pusher robot.

Dinner that night was slightly quieter then the last but the chatter around the table about the days prior and our ability to utilise things we have seen and heard was fantastic.

– Danielle Wright

Day 5 – A look behind the scenes and different ways of doing business

We woke up in Dunedin which is the worlds 5th largest city, based on Geographical area. After a cooked breakfasts we all jumped into the bus and headed of to one of the famous lookouts in Dunedin.

A short drive down the road we where greeted by Wayne Nicol from PGG Wrightsons Seeds Agronomics Services. In the south the main pasture variety they use is white clover and rye grass mix. Studies have shown that on average the south grow 18-20t dry matter a year. Across the whole of NZ there is 12,000 dairy herds with just a bit over 5 million cows. One of the current pests that is different to Australia is the Argentine stem weevil. (ASW) is a pest of short term ryegrass without endophyte throughout NZ.

Wayne filled the group in on the changing attitudes toward fodderbeet

After a short walk across the road we sat down and had a chat with Dunedin’s Rabobank branch manager Ryan Frew. Over the last ten years Rabobanks easset has grown by 300% with 60% of there clientele come from dairy. In 1999/2000 there was 1,764 workers in dairy and in 2017/18 there has been an increase to 3,519. With the increase by near double it the industry is having troubles getting NZ staff and have turned to interntaional contracts to fill the increase in jobs. One of the main problems they are facing is the dairy industry is very hard for young farmers to purchase their own farm.

The group discussed lending criteria with Ryan from Rabobank

Glenn and Lynne where our next stop of the day on our way to Invercargill. Circle Hill Limited was formed in 2014 and is now a 560 cows farm, made up of eight shareholders. We had a walk through their 40 a side herringbone where he milks a mixed breed of cows. Glen is a very good person to learn from as he has built up the farm and is now going to go out and start selling tools for Snaptools.

Glenn and Lynne hold seperate Farm manager and Board member roles, which can lead to some robust discussions at home

On our way to Invercargill we stopped at a Raw milk dairy. Logan, the owner, was kind enough to come out and have a chat. They milk 22 cows all year round and sell fresh milk to their loyal customers and out of a vending machine. The milk is sold at $3.00 a litre and is only kept fresh in the vat for 24 hours. Testing costs for Logan ran at $50,000 per year, but he explained that he wanted to try and keep the price of the product down to make sure it is accessible for his customers.

Logan explained his testing and compliance regime

Once we arrived in Invercargill we had our dinner with the young farmers. We had a chat over tea as to what happens with their young leaders and how to keep young people engaged. I personally learnt a lot from this night.

– Tom Stuart

Day 4 – The long drive to Dunedin

Sunday morning saw us leave Christchurch for the long drive down to Dunedin, with a couple of important stops along the way.

Our first visit was to Michael & Susie Woodward from Woodward Farms LTD, who 50/50 sharemilk for Theland Farm Group – Purata Farms at Dunsandel on the Canterbury Plains. They run 1050 Kiwi-Cross cows on 300ha with irrigation to the whole farm.

The gang checked out Micheal’s more traditional kale crop, having moved away from fodder beet

Michael & Susie place a priority on recruiting and retaining good people to work alongside them in running the dairy farming business. One of the many ways they achieve this is by having excellent communication systems in place. A prime example of this is that they have a team meeting at 7am every morning to go through the jobs for the day, and discuss any issues from the day before. As the farm supplies Synlait under the ‘Lead with Pride’ and Grassfed special milk programs, they are required to have detailed standard operating procedures (SOP’s) for all areas of the farm. These SOP’s form a key part of the communication systems, as all employees are given a copy to learn how things are done on this farm. The ‘Lead with Pride’ suppliers are audited by an external party to ensure compliance with their individual farm SOP’s to maintain the ISO accreditation required by Synlait to be a part of that particular milk supply program.

Including staff in setting the business culture helps keep everyone working toward the same goals

The need to reduce nutrient leaching from farms has become a prioity for New Zealand dairy farmers with the Government introducing legislation to improve water quality, which has meant that most farms need to reduce nitrogen loss by 30% within the next 3 years. In order to achieve this reduction Michael & Susie have changed their pasture management practices, added plantain into the pasture mix and now use kale as their fodder crop of choice fro winter feed.

Our next stop involved a slight detour out to Banks Peninsula to visit the Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory, where we met with Pete Corbitt the cheif cheesemaker.

Peter explained the challenges of trying to expand production with limited space

Pete explained the cheesmaking process they use in the factory is still a manual process with little to no automation, which adds to the unique flavour of their cheeses. They produce a range of hard style cheese at the factory including cheddar, havarti and gouda just to name a few.

After tasting all the delicious cheese on offer, it was time to pile back onto the minibus for the 5hr drive down to Dunedin!

– Majella Ryan

Day 3 – Getting into the detail on-farm

After an earlish start we hit the road heading for Dorie to visit Tom Henegen. We could spend all day talking to him about his irrigation, changing from flood to pivot. He spoke about sharefarming and his breeding programme.

He took us on a decent drive around the farm and watched him move stock. He recently fixed up his laneways using crushed lime rocks as most stock will walk up to 4kms a day. His cows are at 440kg livewight so he rarely feeds supplements as they get everything out of the paddocks but will feed fodder beet throughout the seasons.

Tom Heneghan discussed the challenges of utilising immigrant labour with the gang

Tom seems to have the same staffing issues that we do back home with finding and keeping staff with local people not wanting to be in the dairy industry and immigration regulations getting stricter. Tom made an interesting comment about the bigger the farm grows the less the owners/ managers deal with cows and more with people.

What I liked the most was his talk on calves and mating. They only had 5-10 assisted births out of 1500 cows and they put the calves straight onto feeder with a 5-6 lires once a day feedings. All the maiden heifers get AI’d at 15-16 months old and have a good in calf rate.

Tom explained the irrigation layout of his farm to Tom and Tom

Next stop we headed to Darfield to meet up with another farmer Daniel Schatt on Emerald Acres which he purchased last june after sharefarming with his parents. Daniel’s on a 40bale swingover milking 380 mixed breed cows. He’s an A2 supplier for Synlait and has to follow strict guidelines and practices.

Daniel DNA tests all his calves while disbudding to get the A2 future producers, he’ll keep roughly 25% of the heifer calves and 10-12 Jersey bull calves. They receive their EID and A2 tags while getting disbudded except bobbies which get a direct to slaughter tag.

Daniel is a good person to hear/learn from to come so recently owning his own farm. Its a small farm with only 2 full-timers and a relief milker much like most of our farms. He is a member of a couple of organisations the Federated Farmers of New Zealand and South island agricultural field days which are like our VFF and Farm World.

Daniel Schatt discussed the challenges of adapting his herd to the herringbone he had recently moved into

New Zealand has no government support for dairy farmers other then some tax breaks. Tom does deal with issues from the General public, he described it as a urban/rural conflict.

To finish off the day we went on a jet boat ride of the beautiful Rakaia Gorge.

We got a surprise at dinner by meeting Daniel Shields from Barry’s Bay Traditional Cheese who manufactures hard cheeses alongside his distribution company. He decided to expand his distribution company to the north island and after a client put their cheese factory on the market he jumped at the chance and working with a wonderful team continues the great Barry’s Bay name and distributes it to the supermarkets.

Daniel Shields gave the group an honest appraisal of the industry from an outside perspective

Another full day down, it was time to hit the hay ready for another one tomorrow.

– Leica Manners

Day 2 – From Family Business to Industry Growth

We had a leisurely start to our first full day in New Zealand. The conversations had over breakfast set us up for a great day of curiosity and learning. It is absolutely amazing to be involved with a group of young people who are so passionate about our industry and who have such a deep understanding of some of the major challenges facing our industry.

First stop on the agenda was Rakaia Island. Here we spoke to Dave Turner about he and his brother Doug’s 5000 cow operation. He was so open about the businesses’ journey to the position it is in now, as well as what the future looks like for them. Establishing in 1980 share farming with just 30 cows, Dave and Doug now own 3800 ha over two sites and employ 60 people. Dave’s story was absolutely inspirational. Dave also spoke to us about sucession planning, diversification, and risk management to protect the future of their business. It was also very interesting to see how proactive Rakaia Island is being getting all of the cousins very involved in the decison making process of the business.

Dave explained the set up of one of the four internal rotaries on the main island.

After a quick farm tour, we made our way to the Lincoln University research farm. Over lunch, we spoke with Natalia Benquet who is part of the extension team at Dairy NZ. In her role, the main goal is to improve engagement from farmers with current research, policy changes and other critical information which affects the dairy industry in New Zealand. Within her role, Natalia also works closely with Lincoln University to undergo trials in relation to current issues. On the farm we saw trials related to 100% pasture based systems, pre grazing mowing, and effluent management. Of particular interest was the environmental research being conducted as a result of the governement regulating that on farm environmental impact needs to be reduced by 30% by the year 2022. Specifically, their contamination of waterways through leaching and runoff of nutrients. This is an area which I believe Australia can really look to New Zealand and start being proactive in our approach to understanding our environmental footprint.

The tour group check out the stats on the Lincoln University Demo Farm

This afternoon, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Juliette, Renee and David from the dairy processor Synlait. The four product markets that Synlait manufacture for are ingredients, infant formula, everyday dairy, and adult nutrition. Their vision is to be ‘the worlds most trusted and innovative dairy company.’

Working to get ahead of the benchmark was a key topic of discussion with Synlait

The most interesting part of this visit was learning about their milk line which promotes industry best practice, ‘lead with pride.’ Milk produced under this name gets paid an incentive to follow strict guidelines. Farmers are required to document EVERYTHING from soil moisture, to handling of livestock precedures, to staff rosters. Strict staff training for specific roles is also essential to be accredited with ‘lead with pride.’ This was really interesting for us to see that there are companies out there who are rewarding farmers for putting best practice at the forefront of their thinking. After a short factory tour it was time for tea and an early night ready for another big day ahead of us.

-Amabel Grinter