Another early start to day six with three farm visits and a drive to Queenstown on the schedule.
Our first stop was with Stephen and Annalize du Plessis in Dipton; South African’s who immigrated to pursue opportunities within the dairy industry in NZ. The couple are now sharemilking a 660 mixed cross breed herd with an impressive wintering barn. The couple own all cows and machinery and do all their own spreading, mowing and cultivating.
The huge wintering barn allows them to extend their lactation by reducing the herd on the milking platform when they’re in a deficit of grass. Being able to winter their cows on-farm means that they can maintain control of feeding and care of the animals over winter. The barn had 700 waterbed mats for the cows to sleep on.
Stephen held an incredibly impressive wealth of knowledge and had endless enthusiasm and drive, not surprisingly he won sharemilker of the year in 2010. Stephen had a focus on training up his staff and said that he employs staff not to create milkers but to create farmers for the future.
Another interesting piece on infrastructure on the farm was an effluent separator that pumps the liquid into a 12 million litre dam and separates the solids which will later get spread out on pasture for additional dry matter when regrassing.
The du Plessis’ five year plan is to either become an equity share partner in a large business or own a smaller dairy farm (up to 300 cows) in NZ.
Our next stop was with Richard and Mandy Jones, 50:50 sharemilkers on a 900 cow farm. The couple bring in an average of 260 replacement calves each year. They also have outside equity in a 25% share in a 900 cow farm in Southland, and they own a 94 ha run-off for young stock and dry cows. They grow 4 ha of fodder beet and bailage for the dry cows.
They use their carry over cows as toppers and run a Hereford bull to try and get them back into calf. It was also interesting to hear that for first three weeks of calving Richard only milks once a day and still gets almost the same milk solids per day as if milking twice a day.
It was great to see Richard and Mandy’s business, they are really making the most of the opportunities within their business reach and industry. They also really encourage education in their staff and make an effort to give back to the industry to assist young people coming through.
One stand out quote from Richard was to utilise the most of the opportunities and resources that you have within your business.
Chris and Charleen Withy’s farm was next and the last farm visit for the tour. Chris started out as an electrical engineer and came back to farming 17 years ago. He progressed rapidly from his first job as a farm assistant/ herd manager to 50:50 farming on his parents property. He then went into a 50:50 share on a 600 cow farm. He bought a 25% equity share in a run-off property which was then converted with the installation of a 36 swing over with cup removers (the first herringbone we’ve seen!). After three more years he approached the other shareholders to take full ownership of the farm.
Chris was very passionate within the industry and has started up a mentor/ support consultancy to help young farmers tackle issues within their business.
Chris strictly replaces the liners in his dairy every 2500 milkings to reduce mastitis and has found a huge decrease since taking up this practice. He keeps his rising three year olds separate from all other dry cows over dry off period and to increase heifer replacements he AIs all his heifers.Interestingly Chris will also go to milking once a day if he has a deficit of grass and if the milk price is low.
Allan Baird the Southland chair with Federated Farmers of New Zealand also joined us for the day, he talked about the importance of farmer representation and was a great wealth of knowledge about the history of the region. A big thanks to Allan for all his time and to all the farms for having us for the day!
From here we drove up to Queenstown, with stunning views along the way. Looking forward to the rural games tomorrow!