Unfortunately the plans of the day got changed when our visit to the Fonterra cancelled due to the factory getting audited. However it enabled us to have some free time to explore the township of Invercargill.
Lunch was a little special as we ate at the Motorcycle Mecca, the home of the premiere motorbikes ranging from 1902-2007 including the Indian.
After our leisurely start to the day we were off to our first farm for the day at the Sandford’s farm at Mabel Bush, Southland. The Sandford family owns 4 farms in total this farm being the largest. The 202 hectare farm is run by contract milker Michael Farmer with a fixed $1.20 per 1kg milk solids. Currently milking 540 spring calving cows at peak with 120 heifer replacement. This farm runs a wintering free stall barn with a mixed feed of bailage (silage) and sugar beet. The young stock is moved off farm to their 120 hectare runoff block. The barn is equipped with 6 automatic scratchers for the cows to use at their leisure while the $30,000 feed sweeper called Lely sweeps the pushed out food back into the cows reach. There is a automatic scrapper that removes the cows waste into two pits at the closed end of the barn that flows into a large effluent pond off to the side. The barn is utilized as a feed pad in the spring.
Michael is in his second season on the farm and has set his next seasons milk solids target to increase from 245069kg to 250000kg. His current 6week in calf rate of 66% is an improvement on last seasons 58% and the final empty rate has also improved from 17% last season to 11%. The dairy is 40 unit Herringbone with no stall gates. The cattle are split into two herds for better management, running the heifers and second calvers as 1 herd and the older girls as the 2nd. The herd is Friesian x jersey as the larger size animals don’t suit the farms set up. The farms main water supply is pumped out of the creek at the farms boundary. Herd Testing is carried out 4 times though the season to look at the cows peak production, cell count and to assist with dry offs.
Our second farm walk for the day was with Simon and Mo Topham who have a lease contract with Simons parents, Alan and Jeanette. This enables them to have a 100% cost with 100% milk cheque. They milk 500 x-breed, spring calving cows on 175 hectares with 90 hectares on lease down the road. Simon and Alan converted the farm from sheep to dairy together and it’s now into its 7th season. Mo works off farm as a farm consultant while helping when needed. They aim to maximise pasture growth and run the business as a team to develop the best plan for the farm. During this visit we got to look at sugar beet up close some even having a little nibble for taste.
This property was one of the closest to south Gippsland farms we have seen on the trip so far. Although they keep talking about this drought they have had, it still looks lush to me. Simon explained the bailage placement in the crops we have seen across the southland is to assist with the very wet conditions during winter. By placing the wee bales in the paddocks before they plant their crops it stops the need of the tractors to bogg up and destroy the foliage. They simply remove the plastic and place a hay ring over the wee bale for the cows to graze and eat in a clean area.
They have a wind issues on farm and have put in a strategic planting plan to assist with the shelter for the cows, even mixing in some good ol’ Aussie gums. They also carryout 4 herd tests through the season for peak, Johnes testing cell and cull.
Our final adventure was a dinner meeting with the Dairy Womens Network of New Zealand. These ladies are a base of multi talented, passionate team of volunteers from all over New Zealand, who are dedicated to having regular contact with their ever growing 9000+ members. Their primary aim is to create functions and events for women and men to get off farm to connect with others. They are reaching out to educate famers, partners and worker with the dairy industries greatest obstacles. The DWN is supported by a large team of network partners that enables them help, support and educate the women of the dairy industry.
– Rhiannon Parry