Waituna wetlands was the setting for our first day five visit.
We met with Ray Waghorn, a local conservationist and farmer of the area. Ray taught us about the history of the area and the conflict between the environment and agriculture over the years. The area was developed in the fifties and it seems that the man made development has caused long lasting damage. He pointed out the importance of everybody working together to conserve the area and in doing so insuring the local farmland viability. Ray was very generous with his time and invited us back next year for a bbq.
Ewen Matherson took the time out to show the group his farming system. His system is a lower stocking rate system but he winters his herd on farm and fattens lambs where and when possible.
He milks over 900 cows with a focus on a three way cross. He uses 640 ha and advantageously conserves silage in the outer reaches of the farm to refuse walking. Interestingly, Ewen installed a solar system on his dairy just over 12 months ago and is forecasting a three year payback saving. A fantastic return on capital. Ewen enjoyed contact with groups like ours and said he liked to learn from such contact.
Graeme McKenzie was our tour guide for the day. Graeme sits on the policy council for the FFNZ and was more than happy to show the group around for the day. Graeme is the business manager for his family enterprise with three dairy farms totalling 2200 cross bred cows and over 700 effective hectares. The business also owns 340 hectares where they winter their cows. He gave the group a close up look at how the wintering regime works and what they grow to get them through. It’s amazing just how much organisation needs to go into the wintering program and management.
A theme I have noticed throughout our visit is the attention given to stock health and weight, ensuring good animal health. Getting things right early is key to a good productive season and a profitable business. Today the wetlands demonstrated how good research, planning and management can help all groups cohesively exist and without working together, a amicable resolution is not achievable. The hosts have been very willing to share information and give up time for the group.