Today the group made an early start at 6am to visit the farm of Peter and Adele King just out of Christchurch. The Kings runs a medium input system on 176 effective ha with 58ha irrigated producing upwards of 20T/ha feeding 1/t of concentrate (pellets or soya hulls) producing 1775 kg/ha of solids. Their farm manager, Sam Lampe, manages the day-to-day operation making most of the farming decisions with input from Peter. Sam is on a pathway of progression like most other young farmers working his way through the standard manager to share milker roles to one day potentially taking on a role at the Kings. Milking 650 mainly Holstein cows calving in spring, the Kings have achieved a 6 week in calf rate of 76% – which is bloody excellent! Like most farmers in the Canterbury, they are cutting silage as pasture growth is exceeding 100kg/ha day.
Stop 2 took us to Michael and Suzie Woodward who share milk for Synlait Farms who own a diverse portfolio of dairy operations supplying there own Chinese owned milk factory. The Woodwards have been building equity since 2003 working with the Synlait group through a diverse range of management situations to now owing their herd on a 50/50 sharemilker situation. A low input system milking 1000 cows on 300 ha with the whole farm irrigated, policy and procedure is front of mind with premiums received for best practice. Having previously won the South Island best farm manager, the Woodwards are now going for the sharemilker award.
After a late breaky, Fonterra was the next stop to have a chat about their operations and most importantly, the low payout currently received. With high seasonal peaks, bulk powder is produced in spring with value added products produced in off-peak periods. Starting in 2008, a new mozzarella plant was opened producing cheese that takes 12 hrs to be ready compared to 3 months! Unfortunately we couldn’t see this technology as it was top secret!
The highlight of the day for most was the visit to the Van Leeuwen Dairy group ran by Aad and Willma Van Leeuwen. As you have probably worked out, Aad and Wilma are Dutch and immigrated to NZ in 1983, working their way through the traditional sharemilker structure to now running and owning 12,000 cows with 10,000 of these housed in the traditional US and European feedlot situations.
Visiting the latest robot conversion unit, Aad was exceptionally positive about the current milk price, stating that whatever it cost to get through it’s all about setting the cows up for next season. Also, against the perception that feedloting is more expensive, Aads COP is only slightly more then the average NZ figure.
With stricter environmental regulations coming in regarding to N usage, this system is miles in front because effluent can be spread evenly across the fully self-contained unit producing maize, Lucerne and pasture silage without the need for imported fertiliser. This system is not for everyone, but it was certainly an eye opener!