DAY 1 – A New Zealand welcome with FFNZ

After a nice early start, we met for the first time at the airport and were given shirts and vests to represent the UDV and VFF. After a few little delays we all made it through customs to Chris Paynter, our UDV tour organiser, with his hands full of coffee to wake us up.

Flying over the Tasman the 3 and 1/2 hour flight got us into Christchurch on the south island of New Zealand. We went through customs stopping to get our boots checked along the way. Feeling motivated and hopeful we piled into the mini bus realising that New Zealand was looking very similar to Australia.

Not everything resembled home, however, as the team were greeted by Mt. Cook on the flight in.

Our first stop on the itinerary was the Federated Farmers of New Zealand to meet Nick Clark, Policy Manager, and Chris Lewis, Dairy Chair. As a group we disscussed current challenges and issues facing the industry. It was interesting to learn the dairy sector is the largest export and is one of the largest industries along with tourism. We always knew land prices where high, but we where astonished to learn the land can cost as much $120,000 per ha.

The group were made welcome by New Zealand dairy leader Chris Lewis via teleconference

Other issues discussed included:

  • bio-security
  • succession planing
  • farm debt
  • share farming argreements
  • environmental impacts
  • animal welfare

We ended the day getting to know each over dinner discussing the days events and what waits for us ahead.

– Tom Ryan

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Meet your 2019 Tour Group!

We are very excited to introduce the successful applicants for the 2019 Study Tour.

The tour will travel through dairy regions of the New Zealand South Island, visiting diverse farming systems, research and development bodies and farmer representative groups such as the Federated Farmers of New Zealand as well as other key industry groups.

The tour will be led by UDV Policy Councillor for Corangamite, Lauren Peterson, who operates a family farm in Naroghid. The selected participants were those that best showed they were actively thinking about ways they can improve their industry, looking for ways to help their fellow farmers, or finding ways to communicate their knowledge.

Congratulations to our group of aspiring young dairy leaders!

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You can read more about the group in the December edition of Hotline at http://www.vff.org.au/udvhotline, and join us back here at http://www.udvdairytour.com in the the first week of February 2019 to follow the adventure!

Apply for the 2019 Tour!

Applications are now open for the 2019 Gardiner UDV New Zealand Study Tour.

Download an application here!

The selected participants will travel to New Zealand in February 2019 for a fully funded eight day tour to:

  • Visit leading dairy farms utilising a variety of farm systems and technology;
  • Tour dairy research and processing facilities;
  • Visit Federated Farmers of New Zealand and learn about industry issues and advocacy work;
  • Meet leading industry representatives both in New Zealand and Australia;
  • Meet like-minded young people with a passion for the dairy industry and
  • Engage in social and recreational activities.

Applications close on Monday October 15th.

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Thanks for following along!

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Thank you to everyone who followed along with the tour on the blog!

Thank you also to UDV Policy Councillor Matt Gleeson for taking the time off farm to help guide the group and in leading discussions to make sure these young farmers got the most from their visits.

Special thanks go to Gardiner Dairy Foundation for funding the initiative, and continuing to invest in the next generation of young dairy leaders.

You can hear more from the 2018 study tour group when they present their findings at the Young Farmers Breakfast, held before this years 2018 UDV Annual Meeting and Conference.

The Breakfast will be held at 7.30 am on May 4th at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

To register and for more information go to www.vff.org.au/udvconference

Attendance is free for farmers, so sign up and come along to find out how you can help advocate for your industry!

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Day 7 – Haere whakamua – Go forward

The day kicked off with 7 o’clock breakfast at the quirky zoo keepers cafe in Invercargill. A quick chat about the day ahead over brekky, there was no time for lion around, and we were on the frog and toad.

Our first of three farm visits for the day was to another corporate based farm. However, this time around it was quite different to the previous ones, as the farm was midway through its conversion to organic farming.

Gie explains the processes set out by their vet consultants

We were greeted by the charismatic farm manager Gie, and the lovely company policy planning officer Jess, as they ran us through the day to day running of the operation and their various procedures they had in place to treat cows. We had some interesting discussions on the challenges they’re facing as they adapt their system to meet organic certification, most notably around animal health treatment and management. It was great to have an insight into a very different system and I’ll be intrigued to see how they progress as they approach their final certification.

We moooved onto our second farm for the day about mid morning, but not without a cheeky little detour to a roadside raw milk vending machine. Quite a novelty for us as it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Australia. Quick sip and we were off to the southern dairy hub.

We head into a brand new operation which can only be described as Mickey Mouse. A state of the art facility which is certainly well set up and should hopefully see some udderly terrific research and data come out of it in years to come. Willis was our man for the guided tour as he showed us all the bells and whistles, which included some pretty nifty milk metering gear and multiple drafting gates. We ventured down the manicured laneways to have a quick captain cook at some naughtiest pastures you’ll see and some sweet as fodderbeets.

Elsi does her own feed test on the local fodderbeet 

I think it’s fair to say we were all throughly impressed with the setup of the ‘hub’ and if their cows are any indication to go by, they should be outstanding in their field!!

Alas, it was back to our trusty hurtz rental van, as we ventured on down the road to our final farm visit for the trip, Shenstone farm. We were greeted by 50/50 sharefarmer Richard, who provided us with some excellent insights into how he ran the business with his delightful wife Mandy. He enlightened us with his philosophies on how to ensure dairy farming in his region ran as efficiently as possible, thus returning the best return on investment as possible.

Richard and Mandi discuss the plans for moving away from share milking.

Some of the key tips he offered were to have a positive and open attitude, particularly towards being able to “always question how can I do it better?” In addition to that, he couldn’t emphasis enough the importance of pasture monitoring and management. It was without doubt his number 1 profit driver.

With our final farm visit complete, we all piled into the van for our final long drive, a delightful 2 hour drive to New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown.

Upon reaching our accommodation, our ever reliable driver Matt preformed one of the all time great reverse parking jobs, fitting an over sized 12 seat van into a space big enough for a punch buggy. Tip of the hat Matt!

As the day drew to a close, we wandered on down the street to sink our fangs into some sensational Ferg burgers down by the harbour and reflected on the wonderful week that was.

Happy days ✌️

– Craig Emmett

Day 6 – Wintering at its finest….. with a hint of lassies

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

Day 5 – Banks, Breeding and Better Weather Ahead

Day 5 adventures started off visiting our first herringbone shed of the tour. Circle Hill Farm is owned by 8 shareholders and considers itself as a low input farm, milking just over 520 cross bred cows. A new idea that no one in our group had seen in place before was crushed up coal on the laneways to help reduce the amount of lame cows, this is an issue that the dairy industry continues to face with herd sizes increasing. Due to the pleasant weather conditions we were able to walk amongst the cows in Glenn’s herd. It was a great farm to visit.

Glenn had just resurfaced his tracks with ground coal.

The group take the opportunity of a break in the weather to examine Glenn’s herd of Kiwi-Cross cattle.

Our next stop was the Invercargill Rabo Bank branch, who generously provided a delicious display of food for our appetites. Throughout the meeting with 3 Rabo Bank representatives we discussed all sorts of matters including land price, splitting equity equally amongst families and siblings, as well as discussing the support that the bank provides to farmers. It was a great way for the group to get a raw insight to the financial side to farming.

Rabobank discuss some of the challenges facing local farmers.

This afternoon’s events consisted of visiting the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC); greeted by Tracy Ashton who had arranged a video skype call with Joyce Voogt and Charlotte Gray who are based in Hamilton, representing LIC. They represent 12,000 shareholders as well as exporting products to over 40 countries across the world. Employing 700 full time staff members year round and at their seasonal peak an additional 1000 staff members will join LIC. 70% of New Zealand’s dairy herds are currently tested through their services. Many discussions took place and all were very beneficial to those involved.

The crew pick the brains of LIC experts Joyce and Charlotte.

The final event for day 5 was joining the Young Farmers Group from Wyndham over dinner. A special thanks to Nicole Hammond from Dairy NZ as well as Hadleigh Gernann whom represented Federated Farmers NZ for inviting us to come along. Hadleigh and Michael Farmer were the speakers for the night, making it enjoyable and engaging for all. We would like to thank all of the young farmers whom participated in this evenings events. The UDV representatives enjoyed interacting with like minded young farmers in the New Zealand farming industry, another great day was had by all.
– Ashlee Bloxidge & Sharnie Johnson