Day 4 – Work hard – Take opportunities & Make it happen

Day 4 greeted us with raging rivers and flooded roads in the aftermath of yesterdays cyclone and heavy rains, a busy day ahead as the group toured 3 large scale farming properties and concluded with a late arrival into the historic coastal town of Dunedin.

First farm of the day was that of Tom and Leanne Heneghan who operate 1500 milkers on a 50-50 share basis in a 560 ml average rainfall district. Recent improvements on the property include a conversion from flood to spray irrigation in the form of pivots, although a high initial cost for construction, the benefits saw a significant reduction of 40% less water used. Irrigation water is sourced from the nearby Rakaia river, water is channelled while water levels are sufficient and cease when river levels drop. Surprisingly farmers only have to pay for the costs associated with movement and storage of water, with no cost or licence required for the actual water.

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Tom explained the weather patterns that lead to reliable access to river water for irrigation

Another interesting management decision that Tom implements is his carry over cow management with a seasonal spring calving herd, cows that are scanned empty are held onto and dried off. These cows are then managed similar to heifers and re-joined the following October, with 75% of these cows holding to the second -chance joining, the remaining empty cows are culled with heavier condition and sold at increased prices due to supply and demand.

Further down the road and over the bridge we drove onto Rakaia Island, a 2600ha(1590ha farmed) island formed in the middle of the Rakaia river. The entire island is owned by the Turner families, the family purchased the island in 1994 and gradually converted it from and sheep/beef property to dairy including 4 internal rotary dairies. The family operate 2 more dairies inland, total production is currently 3.380 million kg/MS from a total of 8450 cows, the farm is aiming to increase its total kg/MS by 3% this season.

The group talked with some of the Turner family about building the business and making sure the whole family were involved in their business strategy

We left the island feeling inspired by the results obtained by dedication and hard work of the first two farms visited, both operated by switched on, dedicated families. The third and final farm for the day was no exception, Pye group is another larger run family farming business. However slightly different, the agri-business produces dairy, crop, vegetable, grazing and contracting, close to 100 people are employed throughout the 5 sectors. Leighton’s aim is to have multiple commodities to become more secure in case of an industry downturn.

Leighton Pye and one of his share milkers Joe talked with the group about managing staff on one of the many Pye group dairy farms

One of Leightons massive fodder beets.

We could have spent all day at each of these farms and still had questions, such an inspiring day that proves, life is what you make it and that you have to risk it to get the biscuit. I could continue talking about each of these businesses all day, but unfortunately I’ve had to leave so much out, want to learn more? Get you applications in and see for yourself next year!

– Elsi Neave

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