The group started day 2 running 15 minutes behind schedule due to the bus being boxed into the car park and also the redirected roads through Christchurch that are still being rebuilt after the 2011 earthquake. The remnants of the damage throughout the town are still very surreal, but the city is busily rebuilding.
The first farm that we visited belongs to Peter and Adele King, who are the land owners and own the company Sandbrook Farm. They employ 3 full time staff and 2 part time labour units.
It is on the outskirts of Christchurch milking 630 Holstein cows on a 176 effective Ha. This property was purchased in 2001 and converted from a Merino sheep farm to the dairy enterprise that it is now.
The herd is fed predominantly irrigated pasture with the water sourced from the Canterbury plains underground aquifer. Peter believes the water table is getting low after two years of average winters so is being conscious of water usage. The rest of the cows diet is made up from a wheat based protein pellet fed in the dairy, silage and haylage along with some rye grass straw. Fodder beets are grown at a run off block and some are harvested and transported back to the milking platform to introduce the herd to the beets before they are dried off.
They have an exceptional 6 week in calf rate of 74% and Peter was a little disappointed with that and last year had only 8% herd preg tested not in calf.
Peter and Adele believe that they are at the stage in their business where they can concentrate on family time and the young stock and let their team of staff manage the milking herd.
The second stop of the day was a corporate owned farm by Synlait Farms Pty Ltd and share farmed by Michael and Susie Woodward.
Michael and Susie are award winning farmers throughout New Zealand with the most recent award received being for NZ runner up Share milker in the Nation Awards. We realise this as they dot all the I’s for OH&S and staff training and meeting all KPI’s that they set.
Woodward farms milk 1050 cross bred cows on 300 Ha of a converted farm 13 years ago and are supplying milk to Synlait.
They supply as market of Grass Fed only milk which involves no imported feeds and all harvested feeds must be harvested green. Some of these feeds being silage, haylage and fodder beets. One of the highlights here was to taste some sugar beet which we all though was actually very delicious and can see why the cows get addicted to them.
The Woodward’s employ 5 full time staff and make sure that the work environment is the best that it can be. They work on the attitude that everyone needs to leave safe and happy at the end of the day, therefor Michael spends a lot of time on staff training, safety and education and believes this is rewarded by a happy, efficient and profitable work place.
Michael and Susie have a goal to own their own dairy farm back in the North Island so they are setting up business plans now to complete that goal by 2020.
We left Michael and headed for lunch and our jet boat ride along the Rakaia Gorge.
At high tide this river flows at up to 6 megalites of water per second. Unbelievable really but when you see the amount of rocks that it moves off the sure line you know how much strength this water must have. Was a very enjoyable thrill ride and better for those that didn’t get drenched during the 360 degree spins.
Last stop for the day was Washpen Falls. These falls are that much of a tourist attraction that not even the locals knew about them.
On arrival we meet Tom. The landowner and advisor of what to look for on the walk. Tom was full of information and a very happy man who was looking for ideas to expand his business and maybe even diversify.
Well Tom is a great man and could sell bottled milk back to dairy farmers. Along this walk Tom told us that we could not only breath in some of “the worlds best air” (that was for free) but we could also have a small sample of “the worlds best water”.
Well Tom, your a great man and your air and water were very nice, but quoting that they are the worlds best may be just a little over rated.
We thank Peter King & Michael Woodward for taking time out of their public holiday, Waitangi Day, & giving us insight into their businesses and dairy farming in New Zealand.
A great day was had by everyone not to mention a good bonding session for all members of the group. Over the next week I think we will learn a lot from each other and who has what D.O.P.E personalities (courtesy from Woodward Farms).