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Learn, grow, excel

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Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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CONTENTS

DAIRYING FOR GREATER GOOD 22

MILKING PLATFORM 10 Frances Coles: I am a dairy farm-her 11 Niall McKenzie: Making grass sexy again

UPFRONT 12 Jessie Chan-Dorman – Bobby-free battler 14 Southland dairy boom stalls 16 Water accord: No limit to stock numbers 18 Forages soak up nitrogen leaching 20 Market View: Environmental challenges not limited to NZ

BUSINESS 22 Trinity Lands: Dairy for the greater good 31 Stress – Helpful or harmful 33 How the O’Malleys do it better

CHALK AND CHEESE FARMS 78 SPECIAL REPORT

SPECIAL REPORT 55

SYSTEMS 38 Autumn calving: Switch needs careful thought 40 Autumn calving: A change for the better 44 CO Diary: Attention to detail for fodder beet 46 Tony and Briar Lunjevich: Revolution on a shoe-string 50 Mowing research: To cut or not to cut

SPECIAL REPORT | CALF REARING 55 The Top-Notch way with calves 60 The making of a ruminant 62 Expert eye: A nurturing touch to profitable calf rearing 65 A system to grow better calves 68 Vet voice: What and when to feed calves 70 Smooth deliveries with Anthony Lamborn

CALF REARING Growing top performers

56 Top-Notch rearing 65 60 The making of a ruminant 68 62 Expert eye: A nurturing touch to profitable calf rearing 70 Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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A system to grow better calves Vet Voice: Calves: What and when to feed and when to wean Smooth deliveries 55

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


ENVIRONMENT 74 Farming for tomorrow and beyond 78 Chalk and cheese farms 80 Rivers: Follow the plan

YOUNG COUNTRY 82 DIA: Hayley Hoogendyke shares the joy 84 DIA: Clay and Joy Paton set a family goal 86 DIA: Top gun Blake Anderson 87 On the move? Check out the new boss

KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER 33

FARM GEAR 90 Time for a winter once-over in the dairy

DAIRY 101 92 Check, before you kick your tractor in the guts

RESEARCH WRAP 89 Why the precious green stuff matters

COLUMNS 20 Market View: Susan Kilsby on environmental challenges 96 Property: Dairy farm sales on increase

TOP-NOTCH REARING 56

SETTING A FAMILY GOAL 84

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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DAIRY DIARY

BROUGHT TO YOU BY FONTERRA FARM SOURCE

NZFARMSOURCE.CO.NZ/STORE | 0800 731 266

JUNE June 14-17 – The annual National Agricultural Fieldays take place at Mystery Creek near Hamilton. For details visit www.fieldays.co.nz June 19-22 – Holstein Friesian New Zealand’s annual conference is in Cromwell this year. For further information visit www.nzholstein.org.nz June 20-22 – Federated Farmers national conference is being held at Mac’s Function Centre in Wellington. For the programme, visit www. fedfarm.org.nz June 21-23 – The 2017 SMASH (Smaller Milk and Supply Herds) speakers include Zespri chief executive Lain Jager, Inglewood veterinarian Neil Chesterton and adventure documentary maker Kevin Biggar. The conferences are being held in Taranaki at the TNT Stadium on June 21; Waikato at the Don Rowlands Centre in Karapiro on June 22 and Northland at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri on June 23. Registrations take place at the event. For further information on each event visit www.smallerherds.co.nz June 22 – Dairy Business of the Year Awards are being held at the Palmerston North Convention Centre. Entrants are judged 70% on financial performance, 15% on environmental performance and 15% on people management. For information on the awards and tickets for the event, which cost $110 plus gst, visit www.dboy.co.nz

June 26-28 – Controlling the Controllable is the theme for this year’s South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) where key speakers include former DairyNZ chairman John Luxton, entrepreneur and publisher Jake Millar, KPMG lead partner Ian Proudfoot, former All Black Richard Loe and motor racing great Greg Murphy. Thirty workshops intersperse speakers during the three-day conference which is being held at Lincoln University this year. For more details and to register visit www. side.org.nz June 27 – Rural Governance Essentials is a one-day course in Hamilton that provides insight into the benefits that a board can bring to agribusinesses, plus the fundamental responsibilities of a board and individual directors in a rural context. With a focus on farming safety, it also covers board relationships, robust processes, good decision-making and key elements of the operations of a board. Courses are run by the Institute of Directors and will also be held later in the year at Nelson on November 7 and Oamaru on November 9. The cost for members is $830 plus gst and non members $1055. For further information or to register visit www.iod.org.nz June 28-30 – New Zealand Society of Animal Production (Inc) holds its conference in Rotorua. The society is a major forum for the presentation of research on farmed animals. To view the programme and to register visit www.nzsap.org

JULY July 5-7 – The World Wide Agriculture conference at Lincoln University combines international and farmer speakers to address the capability of an operation’s production platform. To view the programme, speakers and to register, visit www.wwag.co.nz

July 6-8 – The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest heads to Manawatu for the grand final competition, culminating in the awards. For further information about the contest visit www. fmgyoungfarmercontest.co.nz

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Your result is ours too. So we provide quality products and advice throughout the season. To ensure you have the right solutions for your farm, Fonterra Farm Source is here to help. Even small refinements can flow into big benefits. Talk to your TSR or visit us in-store today.

NZFARMSOURCE.CO.NZ 731 266 Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017 I 0800


EDITORIAL

Being proactive

O

ften in life you have to be proactive – front up and tell people what you really want them to know – don’t expect them to pick up your “right” messages from the media or to understand what’s going on at your place. Tell them. It was a great thrill to accept the Best trade/professional publication award for the Dairy Exporter magazine at the Canon Media Awards recently. Not so much for me personally, as I have only been at the helm for the last 18 months – but for the team of hard working and passionate journalists, production staff and advertising reps who deliver a magazine to your letterbox each month. The Dairy Exporter magazine has been trucking along in the agri sector since 1925 – so has a huge legacy of providing information for dairy farmers which directly adds value to their farm business. That’s what we are here for, to help farmers Learn, Grow, Excel. It’s our WHY – simple as that. In my acceptance speech, I said the

win was for you dairy farmers – working hard on your farms to provide high-quality protein for New Zealand and for world markets. I said you were feeling a bit brow-beaten by mainstream media but have been investing huge amounts of money and making real progress protecting your farm environments and working towards improving water quality. The Dairy Exporter is always chock full of stories about farmers investing in best practice and making environmental gains – but we need to get those stories out to the urban population. How about a bit of guerrilla marketing – take up our offer of another half-price subscription if you already have one (P88) and take the extra issue out to your urban community. Drop it in to your local café, your dentist’s waiting room, your lawyer’s office or give it to your urban friends. And get busy on your Twitter feed and

SNEAK PREVIEW

NEXT ISSUE SPECIAL REPORT: Budgeting and benchmarking: Knowing your numbers and adding profit to your bottom line by comparing with others. MATERNITY DUTY: How to manage the cows during calving HOP TO IT: Adding hops into a dairy business WINTER GREENS: Dairy101: Tips for feeding winter crops.

Facebook pages too – tell the world what you want them to know – don’t expect them to pick it up from mainstream media, from fake news or talking to other urbanites. This year’s Dairy Industry Awards national winning sharemilkers Siobhan and Christopher O’Malley are taking that proactive approach. (p33). Siobhan says they want to be the rural voice on their urban friends’ Facebook feeds, so they have engaged on Instagram, Facebook and through a blog, sharing everyday scenes and activities from their Pukeko Pastures farming company. Our special report outlines the importance of calf-rearing – growing the next generation of productive members of your herd. (P51). We have some top rearers talking about their tips and procedures and experts unravelling the importance of colostrum intake and rumen development. In our feature farm story we showcase a group of Waikato farms owned and farmed by a charitable trust that has contributed $25 million to worthy organisations around the Waikato over the past decade. Trinity Lands is making a huge contribution to their community – that’s a story worth telling.

Jackie

NEW ZEALAND

Learn, grow, excel

NZ Dairy Exporter is published by NZ Farm Life Media PO Box 218, Feilding 4740, Toll free 0800 224 782, www.nzfarmlife.co.nz Dairy Exporter/Young Country editor Jackie Harrigan, ph 06 280 3165, M 027 359 7781 jackie.harrigan@nzfarmlife.co.nz Lead sub-editor: Andy Maciver, ph 06 280 3166 Reporters Hugh Stringleman ph 09 432 8594; Glenys Christian

ph 027 434 7803; Sheryl Brown ph 021 239 1633; Cheyenne Stein 06 323 1660; Anne Hardie 027 540 3635; Anne Lee 021 413 346; Karen Trebilcock 03 489 8083; Designer: Joanne Hannam Account Managers: Warren McDonald, National Advertising Manager, Ph 06 323 0143 John McMaster, Auckland/Northland, ph 09 3756 007 Janine Gray, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, ph 027 474 6094 Donna Hirst, Lower North Island, ph 06 323 0739 Nigel Ramsden, Livestock, ph 06 323 0761

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Shirley Howard, real estate/international, ph 06 323 0760 Debbie Brown, classifieds/employment, ph 06 323 0765 David Paterson, South Island, ph 03 382 6143 Subscriptions: www.nzfarmlife.co.nz subs@nzfarmlife.co.nz ph 0800 2AG SUB (224 782) ISSN 2230-2697 (Print) ISSN 2230-3057 (Online)

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Word in your ear DAIRY AUTOMATION

Dairy Automation enables easy identification of winter milkers and carry overs

In-bail ID ensures you know which cow is a winter milker for mating and who is a carryover for continued production. Inbail feed enables you to manage the feed inputs of each animal.

Dairy automation makes it easy to manage split milking herds and their different needs.

For farmers who are split milking or those thinking of moving to split milking to get the benefits from the higher shoulder season rates, dairy automation can help manage the herd complexities that come with this. Especially at this time of the year when you’re juggling AB for your winter milkers with drying off of your spring calving herd. Added in the mix is identifying and managing your “carryover cows” who may have been empty but are still producing well. Key to successful mixed mob management is being able to easily identify and sort out which cows are at the end of their lactation, which are at the beginning of lactation going into AB, and which empty cows are still producing so you can maximize their production.

3266TTDA01

“Key to successful mixed mob management is being able to easily identify and sort out which cows are at the end of their lactation, which are at the beginning of lactation going into AB, and which empty cows are still producing so you can maximize their production.”

There are a number of ways and with a modular system such as Tru-Test’s Dairy Automation system for herringbone or rotary, you can priority invest, building in automation to your dairy operation as budget and focus dictate.

With the In-line Sensor module you can monitor the production levels to determine which cows are worth carrying over and which cows aren’t, making sure you maximize the production returns on your high producers and dry off your low producers as soon as their production drops off.

The In-bail ID module can ensure that you know which cow is a winter milker

With generally little grass around at this time of the year, compared to what’s

How can dairy automation help?

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for mating and who is a carryover for continued production. The system can alert you as to who is who in-shed on an easy to read display screen and with audible alarms, so there is no mistaking who you have in front of you.

Weighing & EID

Dairy Automation

available for your Spring calvers, dairy automation can also help make sure you manage and maintain the condition of your winter milkers. Walk over Weighing gathers weight data every time your cows leave the shed. This information can very quickly tell you who is losing, gaining or just maintaining their weight, which can highlight issues with feed as well as health issues such as lameness. The In-bail Feed module enables you to manage the feed inputs of each animal. So that you are putting expensive supplementary feed where it needs to go and not across your whole mob, to make sure you are getting to those who need a boost. Whilst dairy automation tools can help at this time of the year, they also provide valuable assistance throughout the dairy calendar. Supporting timely and accurate herd management decisions that ultimately lead to maximizing the returns from your herd. 2017 National Fieldays If you’re planning on going you can check out our Dairy Automation system at Tru-Test’s dairy site [Site F47 & 49]. Our team will be on hand to talk you through the different modules and demonstrate the system for you.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Milk Cooling & Tanks

MiHub™ & Data Services


MILK COOLING & TANKS

Tru-Test’s ProCool Ice Bank range proving popular with strong pre-sales The Tru-Test ProCool Ice Bank range has been designed in New Zealand for New Zealand dairy farmers and delivers a winning combination of quality at an attractive price point.

The Tru-Test ProCool Ice Bank

Solidly built using stainless steel, the ProCool Ice Bank range is designed to last, looking good for years to come. It’s easy to set up as the tank and chiller are plumbed up ready to go and comes precharged with R407f refrigerant. It’s efficient too, as the insulated tank minimises heat loss and the plates are designed to efficiently transfer the heat and to build ice. Servicing is simple as parts are easily accessed and readily available throughout the country. The ProCool Ice Bank is supplied as a complete unit with an insulated tank, an integrated refrigeration unit, pumping and control system, ready for connection to a plate cooler. The plate technology used in the ProCool Ice Bank has a long history of successful use in the base of Tru-Test’s widely used milk vats for cooling milk.

"We are really pleased with the response from farmers, as reflected in our conversations and pre-sale orders. It confirms that we have found the right combination of quality, value, ease of setup and available support that we saw was missing in the market”.

The decision to use plates over copper tubing was carefully considered and selected for several reasons: •

The pillow plate heat exchangers have very high internal heat transfer compared to tube systems. This allows them to run more efficiently than tube based systems.

The plates have higher surface area for ice building which means the ice forms at a higher temperature.

During the melting process, the area of the ice exposed to the water in the tank remains roughly the same throughout the melt. This means the temperature of the water stays roughly the same throughout the melting process. With tube systems, as the ice melts the area exposed to the water decreases, slowing the heat transfer into the incoming water stream.

Tru-Test’s Product Manager responsible for the evolution of the ProCool Ice Bank, Kyla Duke says, “we are really pleased with the response from farmers, as reflected in our conversations and pre-sale orders. It confirms that we have found the right combination of quality, value, ease of setup and available support that we saw was missing in the market.”

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

www.tru-test.com

Dave Gray, Tru-Test’s On-Farm Rep overseeing the installation of the first ProCool Ice Bank on farm.

2017 National Fieldays If you’re planning on going you can check out our full range of Milk Cooling solutions at Tru-Test’s dairy site [Site F47 & 49] to help you get sorted for the new regulations. Our team will be on hand to talk you through the different solutions and help identify what might be the right solution for your operation.

How are you tracking? Let’s talk. 0800 878 837

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MILKING PLATFORM │ COLUMN

I AM A DAIRY FARM-HER Frances Coles

M

y name is Frances Coles and I am a dairy farmer. For a very long time I didn’t actually believe that. I thought I was just married to a dairy farmer. And, particularly when we first started sharemilking and were quite young, there were plenty of people who seemed to want to go out of their way to make me feel like I definitely wasn’t a farmer or equal partner in our business. Women reading this column will know the kind of people I mean – the salesperson who phones or knocks at the door and immediately asks to speak to your husband, the people who start to scan the room for someone else to talk to as soon as you say that you weren’t actually raised on a farm, and those who do a terrible job of hiding their surprise when you take a seat at the table to join the meeting once you’ve got everyone their hot drinks. I’m fortunate to have a husband who has always considered me to be 50% of the team and I’m confident enough to send packing any presumptuous salespeople who think I’m incapable of making any purchasing decisions myself, but a real turning point for me came about eight years ago when I went to a coffee afternoon at one of the local cafes with a small but passionate group of other farming women. It was there that the South Canterbury branch of the Dairy Women’s Network was formed, and about a year later when the woman who took the initiative to get it up and running moved away from the area, I found myself at the helm as regional convenor. Over the course of the next six years I made many connections through this great organisation. I have developed friendships with women from around the country at various ages and stages of their dairying careers, from diverse pre-farming backgrounds, but all with a shared passion for our industry and the women involved with it. I have learnt new skills and even shared some of my own with others as a presenter

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Frances Coles chats at the DairyNZ stand before presenting a module at the Dairy Womens Network conference called The Well-Oiled Office. for one of the network’s training modules, and over time I came to realise that I was no longer an imposter associated to farming only through marriage. I had my own set of transferable skills to bring to the business of dairying and had a valuable role to play as my husband’s greatest supporter – as he has been mine.

As a rule, we are all happy to share our experiences and knowledge with each other. Perhaps it’s a flow-on effect of the co-operative model our industry has been built around.

Just because I don’t put on my overalls and gumboots every day and head to the shed for a regular appointment with “the girls” does not make me any less of a farmer than the people who do. I have been known to swing some cups, juggle herd testing pottles and rear calves when required, but I know my strengths are within the farm office. I know more than other members of our farming team

when it comes to things like employment law, environmental compliance and monitoring financial performance. But that’s what makes us a team – we all play to our strengths. This leads me to one of the things I have come to love the most about the dairy industry and Dairy Women’s Network in particular. As a rule, we are all happy to share our experiences and knowledge with each other. Perhaps it’s a flow-on effect of the co-operative model our industry has been built around. So it excites me to see more and more dairying women in the news, around board tables and at events such as the Dairy Industry Awards. As a mother of three daughters, I think it’s important to build confidence in our farming women to stand up and share the spotlight in our industry – whether they were born into it or are learning as they go, whether they are involved in a hands-on role or offering valuable support as the backbone of their family and community. So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have encouraged me over the years on my journey from a foreigner to a farmer and I hope I can return the favour by offering the same encouragement to others who choose to take their place in this great industry of ours.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


MILKING PLATFORM │ NORTHLAND Niall and Delwyn’s ‘amazing machinery’ at their DIA field day.

Making grass sexy again Niall McKenzie My name is Niall McKenzie (aka The Nilator) and most people would say I’m a prick. I’m okay with it. I’d rather be talked about than not talked about. I farm in a partnership with my wife Delwyn in Kaiwaka, Northland. We are 50/50 sharemilkers on a borderline system one. We spring calve 230 cows on July 12. We have just finished our second season. We do just on 700kg milksolids per hectare to the factory or 70,000kg MS total. It’s nothing special, it’s extraordinary. The extraordinary thing is our last two years in this amazing dairy industry. But before I get too carried away, some background knowledge. We had a mint-as contract managers job at Te Arai for the Flemings. In 2013 we won Northland Farm Manager of the Year and came third in the national competition. Some of Delwyn’s grandparents’ neighbours couldn’t sell their dairy farm and wanted to know if we wanted to go 50/50 sharemilking at their place. I originally said nah, thought about it and rang them back after consulting with Delwyn of course. This was May 18, 2015. We had some gear but no cows and no machinery. On

a shoe-string budget we organised a lease dairy herd from the web. The Comries (owners of the farm) left us a very old tractor and silage wagon. We were into it with no mortgage, no overdraft and a whole heap of passion. Before us, the farm at Kaiwaka had been a system three. We flipped it around in the first season and grew 100 tonnes of drymatter on the farm (no bought-in feed). Yes of course production dropped from 76,000kg to 70,500 on the new system. But we made money on a $3.80 payout (not including dividend). It’s a bit hard not to when your working expenses are only $1.21/kg.

After the awards, we saw the people who won were buzzing and the ones who didn’t weren’t and I remember Delwyn saying to a couple that if they weren’t disappointed, they hadn’t given it their all, so they should be happy.

It was also a good year for equity as well as we reared 90 heifer replacements that we get to keep for ourselves. Second season wasn’t too different apart from milking empties through the winter. We will finish about 1000kg ahead of last

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

year, which is pretty good considering this year was less than great. In March this year we won Northland Sharefarmer of the Year which was the icing on the cake. So from March through to May not much gorse got sprayed as we got ready for the national competition. Passion driven with a point to prove. The last time someone for Northland won was back in 1996. Day of judging came and we thought it went great, then four days at conference and we met some really great people that had lots of passion and drive to do well in the industry. The awards dinner came, the awards were handed out and there was one merit prize for little old Northland to Greg Imeson. Nothing for others including ourselves. The next morning after the awards, we saw the people who won were buzzing and the ones who didn’t weren’t and I remember Delwyn saying to a couple that if they weren’t disappointed, they hadn’t given it their all, so they should be happy. Weeks have passed since and the Dairy Exporter turned up with everyone’s key performance indicators as well as their production per ha. I was so excited I nearly fell off the chair. Our little dairy farm from Northland made more money in the $3.80 payout (our $1.21 fwe) than the top three winners of our category. My message is: we all need to keep remembering profit is sanity, production is vanity, is your business risk-ready? Northland proud and proud to be a dairy farmer.

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UPFRONT │ DAIRY WOMAN OF THE YEAR

BOBBY-FREE BATTLER

Jessie Chan-Dorman is Fonterra’s Dairy Woman of the Year. She tells Anne Lee how her parents’ challenges have influenced her life.

U

nderstanding the why – whether that’s the reason for an organisation existing or understanding what drives a person – can sometimes mean taking a moment to look back. Re-connecting with the why behind Fonterra and its cooperative foundations and sharing that with dairying’s new generation is high on the priority list for 2017 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year Jessie ChanDorman. While she doesn’t dwell on it and is certainly a future thinking, proactive person, Jessie also takes a moment to reflect on her past when asked about her own why, her own purpose. A large part of what motivates her comes from her link to her Asian heritage – her Mum. “When I look back at what she went

through – she was a true survivor – I wake up every morning grateful to be here at all,” she says. Jessie’s mother was an orphan brought up by nuns in Hong Kong until she was 11 years old when she was adopted by a family in Invercargill. “She’s always been in our lives but she had issues that meant my Dad brought us up. “In 2014 we (Jessie’s siblings and her father) took her back to Hong Kong to the orphanage she grew up in. They have these big books where every child is documented – their name, if they had one, the date they arrived, their date of birth if it was known, but there’s also a column for cause of death. “Of the 30 names on the page where Mum’s entry was, only about five didn’t

have a cause of death – only a handful on that page survived their time there.” Disease and illnesses such as pneumonia were rife.

Tips for governance and being a good director “Number one is being really clear about your purpose – what is your organisation there for, what are you trying to achieve because if you haven’t got that you are flailing. “Underneath that sits several things – to achieve your purpose you need a good strategy. You also need a good board culture so it is about people. “You need to ensure you cover your compliance and risk – in particular risk is huge and we probably could always think more outside the square and more laterally about where those risks come from. “The board management interface – having good people to implement the strategy and holding them to account.”

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Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


The why

‘People ask me why I do so much stuff – it’s because I’m just so thankful to be here.’

“That was pretty moving to see – she really was a survivor. People ask me why I do so much stuff – it’s because I’m just so thankful to be here. “Why wouldn’t I give back as much as I can and give 110% to everything I do when my mother didn’t have a fraction of the opportunity that I did. She had a rough start right from day dot.” Jessie also pays tribute to her father who stayed home to be a full time carer to his four children. “Back in those days it was a big thing to be a stay-at-home dad. He was a great role model and leader in our lives.” His influence is clear when Jessie is asked how she thinks women can make a difference in the dairy industry. “It’s going to sound a bit blunt but my answer will be – the same as anybody can. For me it’s not about men or women – it may be because I was raised by a man who taught me women can do anything just the same as any man can and it’s actually not about gender or race or any of that. “It’s about what you can contribute as a person. Your contribution can be big or small and it’s all valuable.” Although only 39, Jessie’s contribution to the industry and the community has already been significant. She has a first class honours degree in animal science from Massey University and has worked for Federated Farmers as a policy adviser before becoming a farmer in Mid-Canterbury herself with husband Hayden. She’s been a Federated Farmers MidCanterbury dairy chairperson and a member of the federation’s national dairy executive. She’s a director of Canterbury-based Ashburton Trading Society, rebranded as RuralCo, a Fonterra Shareholders’ Councillor, member of the New Zealand Asian Leaders forum as well as the Dairy Environmental Leaders Forum – to name

but a few of her activities. Jessie says she was asked to speak at the NZ Asian Leaders forum by constitutional lawyer Mai Chen. “It was great exposure to a group of people who aren’t dairying and aren’t rural and actually have a genuine interest in the agricultural sector.” In terms of population ethnicities – government statistics list Asian ethnicity just behind Maori with predictions that it will surpass Maori in less than 10 years. “The Asian population is a huge part of the fabric of our country and will be a huge part of our future yet we have no real idea what Asian people think of the rural sector. Engaging and getting that diversity of thought is important.” That’s where Jessie harks back to the key principles of good governance that should be at play in farmers’ own businesses as well as larger co-ops and companies – having diversity of thought rather than group think and being proactive when it comes to identifying and tackling risk. Farmers and the collective industry need to be more active in identifying and meeting challenges, she says. There are the obvious challenges such as the environment but there were others on the horizon too such as bobby calves and anti-microbial resistance. “We need to be brave about our aspirations and come out and formulate a plan. We have to think about what we’re going to do to meet those challenges now rather than waiting to be forced to act. “It’s not about giving up something, it’s about finding a win-win where there’s a good business outcome as well as a good animal welfare/perception/environmental outcome. “So, for example if you take animal welfare, on this farm we’ve got a policy to go bobby-free because we believe and, I think the industry should have a look at,

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Sharing Fonterra’s purpose and its “why” is a key focus for Jessie Chan-Dorman. She says it’s important for the new generation of farmers to understand that “why” so they realise that having a strong, large, farmer-owned and controlled co-operative is at the heart of the New Zealand dairy industry’s success. “Our co-operatives have a long history that the current generation coming through haven’t necessarily been exposed to. “If we go back to why we formed dairy co-operatives in the first place it’s because as producers of milk – which is a perishable product – we wanted to make sure our milk’s picked up every day and we have control over processing and marketing so we can return as much as possible to the farmer and reduce our exposure. “We need that strength in reducing our risk in terms of making sure there’s someone there to pick up the milk and they’re willing to pay a fair price for it because we own the co-operative. “Competition is great, we need competition, but the current generation I think need to understand without Fonterra we would not be getting the milk price we get. “I liken it to vaccination and some people use that analogy as well. “Those that go to independent processors – and I’m not here to judge people for that- but we all need to understand that if you are with an independent processor you have got the backup of the co-operative. “That’s because the co-op sets the price. It’s the same as if you choose not to vaccinate – the fact that everyone else vaccinates means you’re covered.”

how are we going to add value to every animal that is born so we don’t have a bobby industry. “We need to be brave around our aspirations. I think it’s a good business decision as well as a good animal welfare/ perception outcome because why wouldn’t you want to add value to every animal on the farm? “There will also be a day when we won’t be allowed to blanket dry cow therapy – that is coming at some point we know that, so we have to think what can we as farmers do now to prepare – don’t just wait until its forced on us. “I think we’re too passive and that’s a big issue. At the moment I think we’re too reactionary when it comes to the challenges we face.” “Let’s move ourselves to a space where we’re in a positive space instead of a defensive space.” 13


UPFRONT │ FARMERS’ FORUM SOUTHLAND

Southland boom stalls Karen Trebilcock ak.trebilcock@xtra.co.nz @KT_at_Exporter The 120-million-kilogram rise in Southland milk production over the last 10 years – the “good news story” – was unlikely to continue, farmers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum near Invercargill were told. DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman said the increase had been from more hectares in dairying but dairy conversions had slowed to almost nothing. Also, nitrogen Matthew Newman. limits, due to be set by the regional council Environment Southland, would most likely see a reduction in cow numbers. The stocking rate of 2.6 to 2.7 cows per hectare had remained unchanged in Southland in the past 10 years and production per cow had only increased 0.6%, Newman said. “Although there has never been a stronger focus on productivity gains on dairy farms than in the last decade, Southland farmers’ per hectare and per cow production has largely stayed still,” he said. “All the growth has come from more hectares being brought into dairying.” He urged farmers to rely on grass-based systems. “What we’re good at is producing low-

cost milk from pasture. But we’ve got to do it a lot better.” Comments from the audience of about 140 farmers at the May 4 event included one from a fifth-generation Southland farmer that DairyNZ was asking farmers to go back to how his great-great-grandfather milked. Another said relying on “such a variable feed resource as grass” was not good business with grass growth recently severely affected by drought, flooding and earthquakes throughout the country. “With bought-in feed we know exactly the energy and protein levels but with grass it changes day to day.” Newman countered that DairyBase consistently showed farms which had a greater amount of “home-grown pasture and crop eaten per hectare” were the most profitable per hectare. “While there is significant variation in profitability between individual farms, on average, the trend is clear.” DairyNZ principal scientist John Roche added that farmers should concentrate on per hectare production and not per cow. “Every indication shows us that per hectare production is directly linked to profitability on New Zealand farms. There is no such link with per cow production.” Roche said farmers should be cautious of marginal milk and identify it separately from their average cost of production. “As soon as the price of producing the extra milk, the marginal milk, increases above the payout then you are simply paying for the privilege of producing it. You get nothing out of it. It actually costs you. “But if you include marginal milk in with all of your milk production then it

Dairy cows on hay in Southland. becomes absorbed into the total costs. You are working with an average instead of profitable milk and unprofitable milk.” He said in theory, as milk solids per hectare increased, so did profit per hectare until the point when additional inputs were needed to make the extra milk. The additional inputs were not always obvious. “Farmers might set out to buy a certain amount of bought-in feed which they know will produce them so much more milk and they can quantify that as they know the cost of the feed is less than the money they will receive for the more milk produced but all of our studies in the past have shown there is more than just the cost of the feed that should be taken into account. “For every $1 spent on feed, total costs, including the feed, actually increased by $1.50. This is remarkably consistent across not only New Zealand but across the world and different farming systems. “There is always an increase in associated costs such as labour, fuel and oil, repairs and maintenance, electricity and so on which are often forgotten about or absorbed into the operating of the farm.”

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SLOWDOWN RISK ON SOUTHLAND MILK Newman further challenged farmers later in the day when he outlined the Southland Economic Project which is looking at what the impacts will be on the Southland economy, both at a regional and a community level, of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus losses to waterways. Due for completion early next year in time for Environment Southland to set nutrient limits under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the project findings released in April showed most Southland dairy farms would not be viable if they had to decrease nitrogen (N) losses to waterways by 40% or more. “Southland is unique compared with the rest of the country because it has the highest GDP per capita from agriculture,” Newman said. “For the year ending March 2012, agriculture directly contributed $1.1 billion to Southland’s GDP. “Agriculture’s share in the region’s GDP was 21.9% which was double that of most other regions including Canterbury which was 7.5% and Waikato at 10.9%. “Those living here will have noticed the recent downturn in the dairy industry has affected every part of this region.”

The economic study would not influence the limits set by Environment Southland but was needed so the economic effects, if farmers were forced to decrease stocking rates or stop farming parts of their land, were understood, he said. The joint study between DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb, the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry for the Environment, Southland Chamber of Commerce, Te Ao Marama and Environment Southland

looked at 95 farms across Southland including 41 dairy farms. The 41 dairy farms were located throughout the region and included a variety of soil types and farming systems. They lost, on average, 38kgN/ha/year with 55% leaching between 25 and 45kgN/ ha/year (total hectares). Mitigation modelling showed 31 of the farms could achieve a 30% reduction in nitrogen leaching but only 12 farms could achieve a 40% reduction. 

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UPFRONT │ WATER ACCORD

No limits to stock numbers Bob Edlin bob.edlin@xtra.co.nz While pressure mounts for tougher environmental controls on dairying, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is adamant the Government should not impose stock limits to address concerns about pollution in rivers, streams and lakes. Guy reiterated this stance when replying to Federated Farmers president William Rolleston at a function in Wellington last month for DairyNZ’s release of a progress report on The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord. Rolleston asked industry leaders and the minister if science could overcome water-pollution concerns without having to lower stock numbers as some environmental groups are demanding. DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle, giving his personal opinion, said he was an optimist and a scientist and believed science could offer solutions “so we can have a prosperous country from primary industries which produce food that the world wants and, clearly we have to go down that route in a big way”. The issue, he said, was about more value for what NZ produces, not necessarily about more volume. Alister Body, a director of DairyNZ and chairman of the Dairy Environment Leaders’ Group, gave “a farmer’s point of view”. The trend towards fewer animals and greater production per head was better for the environment and “it does seem to be more economic as well”. Guy said controlling cattle numbers was a catchment-by-catchment issue which called for the involvement of regional councils. A one-policy, nationwide approach was inappropriate because of topography, geography, climatic conditions, soil types and so on. 16 

The accord, covering 11,400 or 95% of all New Zealand dairy farms, includes a set of national good-managementpractice benchmarks. These are aimed at lifting environmental performance on dairy farms along with commitments to meet specific targets on riparian planting and effluent management, set comprehensive standards for new dairy farms and introduce measures to improve the efficiency of water and nutrient use on farms.

‘What does the minister believe is an appropriate number of cows for the national dairy herd?’ – Green Party MP Eugenie Sage asks. The third-year progress report shows 97.2% of waterways on NZ dairy farms have been excluded from dairy cattle (representing fencing on 26,197km of measured accord waterways); 99.4% of the 44,386 regular stock crossing points on dairy farms now have bridges or culverts to protect local water quality; all accord dairy farms were assessed as having good effluent management systems; 9517 nutrient budgets were processed in the 2015/16 season (83% of accord dairy farms, up from 56% achieved in the first year). More than $10 million has been spent on environmental stewardship and farmer

support programmes, an average of about $90,000 a farm. But some targets, especially nutrient management and riparian planting, are taking longer to reach than expected, Body conceded. “To put a finger on when it is finished, I’m not sure…but we are going as fast as we can.” A few weeks before the progress report was published, the first Fresh Water report from the Environment Ministry was published under the Environmental Reporting Act. It highlighted a 69% increase in dairy cattle numbers between 1994 and 2015. It also showed urban areas have the biggest problem with polluted freshwater, but the quality of water in lakes, rivers and streams in rural areas is declining at a faster pace. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, the OECD, Vivid Economics (a London-based consultancy) and the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Peter Gluckman, have recently released reports which similarly identify dairy intensification among the key factors putting strains on the environment. Commenting on the Fresh Water report, Guy acknowledged the growth of the dairy industry had become challenging. “There’s no way that we can double the number of cows in New Zealand,” he said. “One big opportunity the dairy industry does have is about increasing the value, not the volume.” Green Party MP Eugenie Sage followed up in Parliament on May 4 and asked Guy: “What does the minister believe is an appropriate number of cows for the national dairy herd?” He replied it was not his job to determine whether the number of dairy cows should be 6 million or 6.5 million. It was up to regional councils to determine land use change. Often these councils put conditions on consents and they could make decisions catchment by catchment. After the release of DairyNZ’s Water Accord report, Sage acknowledged what dairy farmers had achieved but said cow numbers must be reduced and new conversions of farms to dairy stopped for the pollution of waterways to be checked. Federated Farmers and DairyNZ, however, are confident science and new technologies can come up with solutions that rule out the need to lower cow numbers. Farming cows in large barns is suggested as one solution but DairyNZ questions the economics of this approach and estimates the average cost of building and setting up a barn at about $2900 per cow. The additional cows and feed needed to make this profitable would erode any potential environmental benefit. 

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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SYSTEMS │ FARMERS’ FORUM SOUTHLAND

Forages soak up N leaching Karen Trebilcock ak.trebilcock@xtra.co.nz @KT_at_Exporter Research is continuing to reduce nitrogen leaching from soils after winter crop grazing, DairyNZ senior scientist Ina Pinxterhuis told the Southland Farmers’ Forum in early May. Fodder beet, swede and kale paddocks are usually left bare in June onwards after grazing and in the south are sometimes not resown until as late as November depending on weather conditions. Nitrogen (N), mainly from cattle dung and urine patches, instead of being taken up by growing plants, sits on top of compacted soils and is likely to run off into nearby waterways especially in high rainfall events which commonly occur in spring. The Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL) programme, a collaborative study with sheep, beef and arable farmers, is looking at options for farmers to lower nitrogen leaching so they can comply with nutrient limits set by regional councils. Pastoral 21 research at Lincoln University showed winter-sown oats grown on stony soils as a catch crop (also known as a cover crop) reduced soil mineral N and reduced N leaching by 22% to 40% with the oats sown soon after grazing the most effective. Further research, on deeper Canterbury soils, has shown oats sown in July or August reduced the amount of N remaining in the soil profile by up to 86% compared with fallow plots. Chicory, grown in the North Island’s central plateau, has also been shown to reduce the amount of N. The deep-rooted

DairyNZ senior scientist Ina Pinxterhuis at the Southland DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum on May 4.

plant reduced soil mineral N at a 60cm to 90cm depth by 35% compared with ryegrass by the following autumn. The FRNL programme has looked at three ways of establishing oats after winter crop grazing and found working the soil was needed for good crop establishment especially after fodder beet. Soils were usually too compacted, due to the high stocking rate during grazing of the high-tonnage feed, to drill the oats as the drill coulters could not penetrate the soil and sow it at the right depth and the emerging seedling could not penetrate the soil crust. However, after kale, direct drilling was effective and allowed fewer tractor passes in what were often challenging conditions for working paddocks. Tonnages achieved in Canterbury were Southland farmers listen to speakers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum.

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between seven and 10 tonnes DM/ha in October/November. Pinxterhuis said plantain and Italian ryegrasses were also being investigated for their ability to reduce N leaching in pastures. Losses were 25% to 35% lower in Italian ryegrass-based pastures due to the plants’ ability to take up N in cooler weather. “There will be no silver bullets to reduce N leaching but there will be some solutions available that you will be able to adapt for your farming system,” she said. DairyNZ was working with Overseer to make sure the nutrient model included the different pasture species. AgResearch’s Tom Orchiston told farmers at the Forum to continue grazing winter crops down slopes and not up them. Pastoral 21 research at Telford near Balclutha several years ago showed up to an 80% reduction of N, phosphorous (P), sediment and E.coli entering waterways if cattle were grazed downwards towards drains, gullies and damp areas, leaving a buffer zone to absorb the nutrients until the last break was grazed. “Try to make sure there is a buffer zone, such as an area of old pasture, between the edge of the crop and the critical source area which is the bottom of the paddock, the damp area or the drain, and only feed off the last of the crop when the weather is going to be good,” Orchiston said. “Back fencing regularly also helps to reduce soil damage up the hill behind the cattle.” Rain falling on ground after winter crops had been grazed usually sheeted off instead of being absorbed, he said. “The grazed ground usually has lots of structural damage which reduces the infiltration rate. Instead of nutrients and sediment staying put, they are washed off by the rain into waterways.” If possible, farmers should select paddocks for winter cropping that were not steep and did not have waterways in them which made fencing or stock movements between breaks complicated, Orchiston said. “Think again – do I really need to use that difficult paddock?” Simple management practices had been found to go a long way to keeping nutrients out of waters, he said. Fenced riparian strips, even of long grass, reduced N, P and sediment runoff as did reducing pugging damage, not applying fertiliser within 10m of waterways and only applying it when heavy rain was not in the forecast.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


PASTURE June 2017

8 ways to safeguard pasture productivity during winter

Keep an eye on Shogun

Pasture damage from pugging or treading during wet weather is counter-productive and with farm gate prices the way they are, protecting your potential DM growth for the season ahead is more important than ever. Maintain farm productivity with these 8 tips during the weeks ahead, and remember cows don’t pug pastures, people do! 1. Draw up a Wet Weather Management Plan and make sure everyone shifting stock understands your expectations. 2. Paddocks vulnerable to wet conditions (including new grass paddocks) should be grazed early, in case the weather turns against you later on. 3. When stock are on wet pasture, spread them out at a lighter stocking rate to help reduce damage. 4. Don’t worry about postgrazing residuals when it’s wet. Concentrate on protecting your soils. Focus back on residuals when conditions are dry again. 5. Use on-off grazing to minimise damage, in conjunction with a feed pad, yards etc. 6. Create laneways within paddocks which are being

break-fed, to limit treading damage to smaller areas. 7. If you have a poor producing paddock destined for crop or pasture renovation this spring, consider using this as a sacrifice paddock. It’s not an ideal answer, but it will protect pastures over the rest of the farm. 8. Have a repair plan in place, to restore productivity ASAP (e.g. August) - as even with a good winter management plan in place, pastures can still get damaged, because cows have to be fed regardless of the weather. To repair damage mark damage on a farm map for the contractor or whoever will be sowing the seed. Colour code to differentiate between lesser damage (where seed just needs to be direct drilled to fill gaps) and more severe damage, where paddocks require levelling before direct drilling. Repairing wet weather damage is a race between you and the weeds, and you have to win if you want to restore pasture productivity.

Have a plan to manage the risk of pugging.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

If there’s one piece of advice we can share about Shogun during winter, it’s this: don’t turn your back on it. Over the cooler months of the year Shogun will almost certainly grow more DM/ha than pretty much any other pasture on your farm, and it’s really easy to get caught out by this. If the cover on those paddocks becomes very long, because you don’t graze them at the right time, the pastures will lose density, and Shogun’s future performance could be compromised. So make sure you’re organised for this before it happens. Ideally Shogun should not be allowed to get longer than 3500 kg DM/ha. Agriseeds has produced a free ‘Shogun Stick ’ specifically to help measure correct grazing heights; if you would like one please email info@agriseeds.co.nz You may need to alter your normal winter grazing rotation to accommodate Shogun’s extra growth, and graze it more often. For further information visit www.agriseeds.co.nz

For further information freephone: 0800 449 955, email: mail@agriseeds.co.nz or visit: www.agriseeds.co.nz

19


MARKET VIEW │ ENVIRONMENT

Environmental challenges not limited to NZ Cut-and-carried grass being fed to housed cows in the Netherlands where farmers are being encouraged to decrease stocking rates or get out of dairying altogether to reduce their environmental impact.

Susan Kilsby

E

nvironmental issues are becoming a larger and more pressing challenge for farmers right across the globe. The challenge is to deliver higher volumes of milkfat and protein and at the same time reduce the impact on the environment, that is, more milk with a lower environmental footprint. These two outcomes may appear mutually exclusive but can our dairy industry “have its cake and eat it too?” I believe it can. We simply need to produce more milk with fewer cows. This not as simple as it sounds but we do have farms that are already attaining much higher cow productivity than other farms. Most New Zealand dairy cows have the genetic potential to produce far more milk than they actually do. The reason why they don’t reach their genetic potential is we don’t feed sufficient quantities of feed or enough of the right feed at certain times of the season. To fully feed our cows – to enable them to produce as much milk as they are genetically capable of – would require our farming systems to transition to using more supplementary feeding in the shoulders of the production season and more feed would have to be harvested when pasture production exceeds demand. The challenge comes in insuring higher costs associated with more supplementary feeding doesn’t exceed what can be saved by running fewer cows. Environmental costs are another factor that need to be considered when figuring out what is the optimal system for your farm and this will differ from region to region and farm to farm. Environmental rules are tightening not only in NZ but also in most of the main milk producing regions of the world including Europe, the United States and China. Like NZ, rules in Europe, the US, and China differ by geography. In general farms in the most highly populated areas face the toughest rules. In the Netherlands dairy farmers are

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being encouraged to decrease stocking rates or get out of dairying altogether to reduce their environmental impact. Dutch dairy farmers need to reduce stocking levels by about 10% to meet phosphate emission levels. The Netherlands is currently allowed to emit more nitrogen than other European Union countries so long as it keeps its phosphate levels within agreed levels. If the phosphate levels are breached the number of dairy cows may need to be cut by a third in order to meet EU levels for nitrogen emissions.

Environmental rules are tightening not only in NZ but also in most of the main milk producing regions of the world including Europe, the United States and China. Like NZ, rules in Europe, the US, and China differ by geography. In general farms in the most highly populated areas face the toughest rules. Dairy farmers in the Netherlands have strong incentives to cut stocking levels as this will allow high nitrogen levels to continue. Dutch farmers considering exiting the dairy industry now have the opportunity to be paid to do so. Many are jumping at this opportunity which means phosphate levels should be able to be pulled back into line. In the US rules for controlling nutrient emissions differ from state to state and apply differently depending on the size of

the farm. Wisconsin, the second largest milk producing state behind California, has a long history in dairying and prides itself in the range of boutique cheeses it produces. Emission rules there are tougher than in some other states and have encouraged some farmers to relocate to states such as California. In Wisconsin dairy farms with more than 1000 head of stock – more than 700 cows in milk – need a permit to farm. As part of this permit the farm business must prove it has a plan to manage nutrient waste. Dairy farmers are becoming increasingly worried about managing phosphate levels. Many farms now lease more land than needed to harvest feed for their stock, simply to ensure they have sufficient land available on which to spread the effluent (nitrogen and phosphate) their cows produce. Most dairy cows are housed year-round so every kilogram of manure produced must be accounted for. In China some farms operating within metropolitan areas have been shut down. Farms in China tend to only lease enough land to house animals and store feed requirements. They often buy in all their feed. They also need to find somewhere to discharge their effluent. Environmental rules are being tightened in China – or at least it is becoming more difficult to circumnavigate these rules. It is not easy to find land where effluent can be spread especially within city boundaries. Across the globe environmental rules are only going to keep tightening. This will add to the cost of producing milk. Rules will differ between countries, regions and individual farms. The challenge lies in understanding which rules will apply to your chosen farming region and adopting the production system that is best suited to your business.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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BUSINESS │ CHARITABLE TRUST

DAIRYING FOR GREATER GOOD The vision of Waikato company Trinity Lands is to give profit back to the community. Running a business for a charitable purpose, however, puts even more emphasis on the ability to run at a profit every season. Sheryl Brown got an insight into how the company’s 21 dairy farms deliver on that profit within a volatile milk price.

T

rinity Lands dairy general manager Andrew Archer oversees the company’s 21 dairy farms, working closely with its sharemilkers and contract milkers to maintain a profitable margin on each operation. His role is to ensure the farms are performing profitably and sustainably so they can help to deliver the company’s vision and be in a position to continue to donate funds to charity in the future. In a volatile dairy industry where the milk price fluctuates, Andrew has to

22 

monitor market trends and manoeuvre the farm operations in order to maintain a profit margin. One of the more recent threats to that margin has been the dip in dairy prices in the last few seasons. Most farms are spread from Putaruru down to Tokoroa in the Waikato, including 15 Carter Holt forestry conversions. Heading into summer during the 2015/16 season the threat of a drought in South Waikato was a big risk to all farm operations.

It was one of the most difficult times he has faced since starting to work with the trust in 2002 as a consultant, Andrew says. He had to warn sharemilkers and contract milkers the company wouldn’t be in a position to buy extra supplements if they experienced a feed shortage during the summer months. “We have a responsibility to our contract milkers and sharemilkers who get paid per milksolid. Their income hinges on us having that productive base and our philosophy is to provide them with the resources. “As long as they can show us we’re going to get a return then we’ve generally provided what’s needed.” But like all Fonterra suppliers facing a $3.90/kg MS milk price that season, the margin on bought-in feed to make up for any feed deficit wasn’t there. “It was a difficult position that we

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Trinity Lands works to have a balanced portfolio to be able to still payout dividends with fluctuating milk prices. From left, Trinity Lands chairman Ian Elliott and dairy general manger Andrew Archer with sharemilkers Jamie and Mark Perrott.

Key facts • Average across 21 dairy farms • Average operating costs (per kg/MS): 2015 2016 • Sharemilker $1.55 $1.31 • Contract milker $ 3.06 $2.55+ • Supplements: 0.25t/cow/year on a lowinput farm to 2t/cow/year on high-input farm • Average supplements: 1.46t/cow/year • Supplements fed: palm kernel, maize grain, DDG, soya hull, maize silage, grass silage, ryegrass straw • Crops grown: All the southern farms grow 8-10% of their effective areas in winter crops, mainly swedes and some kale for youngstock with yields from 11-20t DM/ha • Some northern farms grow 4-6% maize for silage. • Production: Average 444kg MS/cow to 460kg MS/cow per season, (ranging from 400kg/cow to 510kgs/cow), 1300 kgs MS/ha average

haven’t been in before. We would have been faced with drying off cows or reducing numbers.” If that had happened the company was looking at a potential production drop of 500,000kg MS. Thankfully South Waikato ended up having an extremely productive summer and the farms collectively averaged just a 1% drop in milk production for the 2015/16 season despite cutting more than $2.5 million from farm working expenses. “We were blessed with a very kind summer which really saved our bacon,” Andrew says. They lowered levels of feed going in to a degree during those two seasons, but mostly pulled costs down through what they paid per tonne. “We tightened our belts, we’ve reduced our cost margins where we can, we’ve been careful. We’ve squeezed everything we can.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

“You’ve got to keep on scrutinising your costs. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got a margin in all that you do. In an $8 payout you can afford to pay $600/t for maize grain, at a $4 payout that will only be $200/t.” Estimating what that profit margin will be on supplement means farmers need to monitor what the global dairy markets look like to help them make decisions during the season, Andrew says. “Whenever you’re buying anything you need a degree of conservatism built in, but also have enough foresight to think what the future is likely to be like so you don’t climb into a hole and not come out again, or not give yourself the opportunity to rise to the occasion.” Timing-wise it’s hard to always get it right, he says. “I think probably in the tough times it’s easier to make money than when things 23


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Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Trinity Lands is a great employer to work for say sharemilkers Mark and Jamie Perrott.

are good. You want to go long on buying in inputs when you’re at bottom end of cycle coming out, and want to go skinny when you’re at the top and the end of the cycle.” ADVANTAGE OF SCALE Being a multi-farm company, Trinity does have the advantage of scale. Since pulling the trusts together under Trinity, they’ve been able to leverage capital and have grown by 60% in dairy land area and doubled the size of production in five years. They are also able to leverage their businesses with rural merchants. Andrew orders the majority of supplements for the 21 farms for example which gives him the option to negotiate with feed merchants and distribute it among the farms where it’s needed. “There are definitely benefits of having that scale to negotiate,” Andrew says. The dairy farms range from DairyNZ System 3 to System 4, depending on the type of farm, the infrastructure and the employees’ individual strengths. Heading into the future Andrew would like the farms to become more selfsufficient with extra feed grown onfarm. But they are not afraid to spend money on supplement when there is profit to be made, he says. “We have a structure around growing grass and using that as efficiently as possible first and foremost and adding supplements where they’re needed and that gives us an extra margin and gain. “We still buy a chunk of feed. We bought the Carter Holt farms at early stage of development and are progressing those to grow more grass. As they get more productive, either we can remain static for production and our cost of feed will come down, or we can grow production as long as there is a margin on feed bought in.”

Trinity Lands key holdings: • Dairy farms: 21 • Drystock farms: 2 • Staff: 120 permanent staff, 7 sharemilkers, 14 contract milkers • Effective hectares: 4500 • Retired hectares: 800 • Cows: 13,300 • Milk production: 5,800,000kg MS • Fonterra shares: 5.3 million • 115ha canopy hectares (95ha Gold) • 1.5m trays of kiwifruit • 4.35ha avocados • Zespri shares: 2,129,300 • Eastpack Investor shares: 1,725,900 • Eastpack transactor shares: 452,500

The farms winter all cows onfarm and the southern farms grow swedes as a winter crop, which has been an efficient way to fill a big feed deficit during that period. “It costs us 6c/kg to grow swedes, any other feed we bought in would cost way more than that.” However the Waikato Healthy Rivers Plan Change will affect the use of winter crops and they may have to be more selective on what they do in the future, Andrew says. The farms grow between 11 tonnes drymatter (DM)/ha to 16t DM/ha of pasture and Andrew is constantly looking for the best grasses to give persistence and quality of feed and production. They have an issue of grass grub on the Carter Holt conversion farms, which has gone through about 70% of the farms and affects pasture grown. They’ve had up to 900 grass grubs per square metre in some paddocks and Andrew is trialling numerous options to counter it. “I’ve tried a few things that haven’t worked. We’ve put in new grass that’s rolled up as a carpet two years later.

The company employs a mixture of sharemilkers and contract milkers on its 21 dairy farms, which has been a successful business model to grow the company, while allowing the people who work for them to grow their own equity.

That’s a big cost when we have to plug in supplement when our pastures fall over.” Trinity has stepped up to help pay for extra supplement when farms have been hit badly by grass grub to keep stock onfarm for the contract milkers. They have had mixed results from GrubOut U2, which has an endophyte in the roots. Getting that translation through the breeding programmes to consistently produce the endophyte in the root system was a bit hit and miss, Andrew says. They’ve recently trialled mixed species grasses with chicory and plantain which seems to be standing up better to the grass grub. Diverse pastures will potentially be an important part of the farm’s environment plans going forward, he says. “Given the information coming out about nitrogen efficiency we will definitely be doing more diverse pastures into the future. That will be one of our mitigations to reduce our N footprint.”

Trinity Lands are still developing the ex-Carter Holt Harvey farms to grow more grass.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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SUSTAINABILITY – A VOICE OF REASON With an increasing microscope on the environmental impact from the dairy industry and the new Healthy Rivers Plan set to come in, Trinity Lands has to be looking at the most sustainable and profitable options to remain afloat. Part of Trinity Lands’ vision is to act as a 100-year plus company and, as such, they need sustainable dairy operations that can profit in the future, Trinity Lands chairman Ian Elliott says. “We are an intergenerational long-term agricultural company – very much aligned with Maori-owned trusts. “We want to leave a future for our next generation. We manage it for our beneficiaries so there is a long-term window that comes into our thinking.” The environmental focus in the industry has already changed their thinking and practices, Ian says. The trusts spent years developing land and putting every last bit into pasture for dairy, but now they look at the land and consider what should be retired. They have retired 800ha of land on the dairy farms, fenced hundreds of kilometres of waterways and spent thousands on riparian plantings. Trinity has 700ha of forestry production, which could potentially be increased by another 300ha into forestry or possibly manuka. Having that scale and land area does make it easier for Trinity to mix and match best land use. Andrew plays an important role in the farm’s environmental plans and in making decisions on land-use capacity. “Andrew has his finger on the pulse all the time, he has a sharp intellect. He 26 

An environmental focus: having spent years developing land into pasture, now Trinity Lands are looking at the land and considering what should be retired.

Trinity Lands Trinity Lands is a Waikato agricultural company that amalgamated long-standing charitable trusts Lichfield Lands, Longview Trust and Hillview Trust under one banner in 2011. Started in 1951 with Waikato farmer Matt Alexander’s vision to “farm for God” by establishing the Litchfield Lands forestry block; Longview Trust was similarly established in 1953 with the direct objective of funding Christian education and Hillview Trust set up in 1962. The combined Trinity Lands hold numerous agricultural landholdings and shares in dairy, kiwifruit, avocado and forestry. Trinity Lands now owns more than 4500ha of dairy land, producing close to six million kilograms of milksolids (MS) and is one of Fonterra’s top 10 shareholders, owning shares and supply vouchers of 5.3 million kg MS and is progressively sharing up. Trinity Lands has donated more than $25 million over the last decade through its shareholding charitable trusts. Last year it paid for a new $185,000 St Johns ambulance for the South Waikato region and a $50,000 refrigerated truck for a Bay of Plenty charity which re-distributes food to people in need. The company employs a mixture of sharemilkers and contract milkers on its 21 dairy farms, which has been a successful business model to grow the company, while allowing the people who work for them to grow their own equity. carries a lot of mana as a skilled supervisor, understanding soils, genetics, fertiliser and pasture,” Ian says. As a large-scale dairy producer, Andrew wanted to give the dairy industry a voice as part of the Waikato Healthy Rivers process. It’s important the rules and regulations being put in place reflect all aspects of the community, not just an avenue to pick on dairy farmers, Andrew says. “Instead of rolling over we need to enter into the debate and keep some realism. We are prepared to engage in that debate and defend our right to make primary produce

for the benefit of New Zealand.” NZ has a natural climate to grow food and the rules being developed at regional council should allow farmers and growers to continue, he says. “If we keep doing things better our environmental footprint will go down, but that’s got to be done in a balanced, sensible manner that realises there are two sides to the equation.” One side is the economy, people’s social needs and the need to generate income from the land. The other side is the environmental factors of minimising the impact, he says.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Meanwhile, dairy farmers have to progress and do things better on farms, he says. That will come through education, the industry learning how to do things better and replicating that across farms. “In my mind the way into the future is education and getting people to incrementally do things better. “We are on a journey and learning all the time. In 10 years time we will know a lot more than we do now and make better decisions based on that. “Making decisions on what we don’t know is where it gets risky. But it’s not a bad thing to take stock and putting a hold on now is not a silly thing to do.”

02045_WPAC_DE

POWER OF PEOPLE Andrew is the only consultant employed by Trinity to oversee the dairy farms. Employing sharemilkers and contract milkers rather than farm managers has been a big part of keeping middle management costs out of their business, Ian says. “We can manage a bigger business with less supervising staff, who are not cheap. Having sharemilkers and contract milkers gives us flexibility and also it’s less administration for us.” Trinity has one of the lowest overhead structures of any significant agricultural company in NZ. “We run a lean ship, but that’s all based

around having good people running our farms. “We have land and we have cows, and the kiwifruit, but the level of production and development has been on the back of a few key good people.” Andrew’s high skill level, along with Peter and Ian’s knowledge across the dairy and kiwifruit operations, drives economical administration, along with the support and ability of chief financial officer Ngaire Scott. Employing sharemilkers and contract milkers rather than farm managers is a way Trinity can help people in the community progress and grow their own capital, Ian says. “We believe that people need a chance to be able to make progress.” During the dip in dairy prices, to cope, Trinity moved a couple of their larger sharemilker positions to contract milking. Trinity employs contract milkers on a rate of $1.10/kg MS for two years, with right to renew for another year. “We’ve worked back from the principle that if you were a manager on a farm what is a fair and reasonable salary, then added on margin for risk,” Andrew says. “If they do better than expected, they’re happy and we’re happy. We don’t put them in a position where they make nothing.” Herd-owning sharemilkers are given a

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50% three-year contract which then rolls over annually. Many sharemilkers have been with Trinity Lands for a number of years and grown their own businesses. For example Paul and Rhonda Gamble have worked for the trust for 21 years, as contract milkers and sharemilkers and also own their own farm. “We don’t want to be turning over people year on year,” Andrew says. “We want to be taking on good people and having them for a certain time. We want people to grow and develop their skills and take the opportunities. “Our greatest asset is our people. That’s our main focus and the driver is we need good people running each of these individual units. It makes our job a pleasure working with people who are like-minded, that want to do the job well and succeed. And we provide them with the tools, and the model and framework to work within.” POLISHING UP ON POLICY Up to 100 staff work on the farms, all employed by the contract and sharemilkers, and there are 60 staff houses to maintain. Trinity employs two full-time veterinarians, who have proven to be a successful asset to the trust, saving the sharemilkers and contract milkers in animal health costs, Andrew says. “The real benefit is the vets understand what’s going on on the farm, they understand the farm businesses.” Trinity has also employed an in-house health and safety officer and housing contractor, John Ingham, minimising their compliance and insurance risk. John does all house inspections, monitors health and safety on each farm and reports through Ian to the board. If there is an incident or accident on a farm he deals with the investigation and paperwork. Sharemilkers and contact milkers are still responsible for health and safety policies

Trinity Lands is farming for charity. From left, sharemilkers Jamie and Mark Perrott with Trinity Lands dairy general manger Andrew Archer and chairman Ian Elliott.

for their staff, but they work with John to meet Trinity’s overall requirements as the land owner. “It’s lifted our performance significantly and it’s a relief for Andrew,” Ian says. They have initiated a drug-free housing policy and all houses are tested for methamphetamine before a new tenant moves in. If a house tests positive for methamphetamine after June 1 the responsibility goes back on to the tenants and their employer, the contract milker or sharemilker. Trinity is insured and has the option to bill sharemilkers or contract milkers for the excess on insurance claims. “People are told if drugs are found, they will be responsible for putting it right. For contract milkers getting paid $1.10/kg MS on a farm producing 450,000kg MS, I expect them to employ the staff and have it right. They can get John to test houses if they’re worried. The responsibility has to go back on to people.” Methamphetamine in the houses has been a real issue that they’re still grappling with, Andrew says. Three years ago, they were quite naive to it. They’ve had six claims since taking a stronger stance and are getting to a position where the problem is diminishing. SUCCESSION STRATEGIES Trinity faces the same challenges of succession as other boards around the world. The company aims to engage people with the right knowledge and skills to help the business continue to be

profitable, but also continue to carry the original vision of the founding trustees. “We have to keep distributing money – that’s what we are here for, not just growing the business. That’s the privilege we’ve been charged with,” Ian says. Trustees are a mix of people with the right business skills as well as people that are involved purely in social philanthropic work, whose role is to know where the needs are in society, where funds can be distributed. A growing number of women are involved on Trinity boards. It’s important to have mixed gender and ages which is easier to do on larger boards, to have different perspectives around the table, Ian says. If there is space on a board it’s a good idea to bring through new people that don’t have to be over everything while they are learning, he says, but still be there to learn the ethos and values. “They come in and hear the vision and the purpose. If you hold fast to what the original cause and vision is as a group of people, you’re always conscious you’ve joined something that was created for a purpose.” Ian Elliott stepped down earlier this year from his role as chief executive after 30 years and took on the role of chairman of Trinity Lands from founding chairman Stewart Bay. Zespri chairman Peter McBride, an orchardist and dairy farmer, has taken over the chief executive role. It’s a privilege to be part of a dynasty that works for causes you believe in, Ian says.

Trinity Lands works to have a balanced portfolio to be able to still payout dividends with fluctuating milk prices. From left, Trinity Lands dairy general manger Andrew Archer with sharemilkers Jamie and Mark Perrott, and chairman Ian Elliott. 28 

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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For people who like to grow a business, the experience to be part of growing something that doesn’t personally benefit you is good for the soul. “It’s been a big part of my life. It’s a job we all enjoy doing, we love the challenge of it and it’s a privilege. We believe in the cause of generating funds to give away to society.” “We’ve noticed it from staff, who may not be part of the church, they like working for a company doing benefit for the community.” FUTURE INVESTMENT The challenge is to maintain the right balance to be able to give consistent dividends to the three trusts, Ian says. For the 2015/16 financial year Trinity had to draw on its balance sheet to pay out the $2.5m in dividends, which was not an ideal result. To avoid that in future they are working on getting the right ratio of dairy to horticulture. The goal is to expand into other protein and horticulture business ventures, Trinity Lands chief executive Peter McBride says. “I want to broaden our portfolio to derisk.” Trinity has a big exposure to dairy and kiwifruit at the moment, which both carry risks – the volatile milk price and

Trinity Lands has a big exposure to dairy and kiwifruit at the moment, something they are looking for balance with other horticulture or protein producing operations. the annual crop risk. The outcome of the Waikato Healthy Rivers Plan Change may also be a risk to their dairy investment and they will have to make informed decisions going forward, he says. Trinity continues to adjust its portfolio in reaction to major industry movements, including the Psa virus hit to kiwifruit and the recent dairy payout slump. During the Psa outbreak the company dropped from producing 840,000 to just 60,000 trays of kiwifruit. Trinity then bought the Carter Holt farms and subsequently changed from a 60% dairy, 30% kiwifruit, 10% share portfolio to 80% dairy, 16% kiwifruit, 3% shares and forestry. The milk price dropped just as the kiwifruit orchards were recovering and Trinity has adjusted its portfolio again.

It sold two dairy farms two years ago and intends selling another dairy farm later this spring and is in the process of selling its dairy investment in Australia. Trinity has acquired five more kiwifruit orchards in the last two years, a total of 40 canopy hectares, and harvested 1.5m trays of kiwifruit this autumn. Trinity is at heart an agricultural company and will invest as such but they still have long-term confidence in the dairy industry, McBride says. “We are looking at anything that has high consumer demand, whether that’s in horticulture or protein.” Read about Jamie and Mark Perrott’s sharemilking/contract milking job with Trinity Lands in the July 2017 Dairy Exporter.

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BUSINESS │ HEALTH

STRESS – HELPFUL OR HARMFUL? DairyNZ people team leader, Jane Muir explains how some stress can help us achieve great things, while too much can be dangerous. Milk prices have lifted and farmers should be feeling better now, right? Not so simple. When the pressure comes off, we often relax and either feel flat or become unwell. Stress affects us all but there are ways you can stay healthy, balanced and at your best. Surprisingly, humans need a bit of stress to get us going – it’s called eustress. A good level of stress keeps us motivated, gets us moving and helps us achieve things each day. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and enables us to reach our potential. When there’s too much stress, it becomes distress. In small amounts it can be manageable but in bigger amounts, or for long periods, it can lead to burnout. This happens when people are constantly overloaded with jobs, relationships aren’t working and exhaustion kicks in. Even worse is the next stage of stress, where it’s hard to function and even basic activities become difficult. This tends to happen when a person has been in a state of distress for too long. They often become physically or mentally ill and it’s vital they make changes and take time to improve their health. At this stage it’s also important to visit a health professional. DairyNZ’s wellness and wellbeing specialist Dana Carver says the key for all of us is to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress before it becomes an illness. “This is only possible if we know what the signs and symptoms are. When we can barely keep up with our responsibilities, are

Top tips For hard workers and people who strive to achieve, the challenge is often to stay within the yellow (good stress) zone. If you’re inclined to head towards the orange or red zone, you might like to: • delegate or outsource some jobs, or drop them from your to-do list • take a holiday or mini-break so you can find a new perspective and fresh energy • make healthy food choices, exercise, drink plenty of water and get to bed earlier • make a practical change (eg: hiring a relief milker). feeling overwhelmed, are beginning to lack confidence, and are becoming angry and irritable we need to take notice,” Dana says. “Other signs are tightness in the chest, struggling to breath, heart palpitations, abnormal headaches, insomnia and dependence on coffee or alcohol. We should also take heed if other people are telling us they’re worried about us.” Dana says if we notice these signs then it’s up to us to make changes and ensure we’re not in this state of distress for too long. “These changes could involve improving our diet, finding someone to talk to or taking time off.” For more information on managing stress visit dairynz.co.nz/ wellbeing

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BUSINESS │ WINNERS Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley with their children Aisling (3) Finnian (5) and Ruairi (11 months) – a dynamic team.

Know better, do better Anne Lee anne.lee@nzx.com @Cantabannelee The back of the envelope gets a good work out in the O’Malley household, so too does the calculator, the excel spreadsheet and any expert dairy reading material. You won’t find them being shy about getting the most out of their DairyNZ levy investment either – Biz Grow, Biz Pro, progression groups, even putting their farming operation up for a Whole Farm Assessment and detailed grilling about every aspect of the business – they’re into it all. Building relationships and taking the time to connect – they’re important for the couple too, not only to help grow their business and find opportunities but also because it makes the journey a whole lot more fun. Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley are this year’s national winners of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Sharefarmer of the Year title. The Canterbury-based couple have just ticked over their second season 5050 sharemilking 515 cows for Graham Brooker at Lauriston, inland from Rakaia. It’s their first 50-50 sharemilking job and an important step in their progression pathway towards their ultimate goal of owning a 400-plus cow farm, probably in the West Coast-Tasman region. Their business, Pukeko Pastures, and their roles in it are an absolute partnership. They’re a dynamic team in every sense of the word, both enthusiastically immersing themselves in their farming business, their local community and their busy young family which includes five-yearDairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz

old Finnian, three-year-old Aisling and 11-month-old Ruairi. Although they’ve been dairying now for eight years, including working as variable order sharemilkers in North Otago and the West Coast from 2011 till June 2015, they still try to think of themselves as newcomers and hungrily seek out information to lift their level of expertise. One thing that’s clear when you spend some time with them it’s that they don’t wait for things to happen - they make them happen. Their vision statement confirms that view. “We continually seek to grow and find satisfaction by stretching ourselves to achieve.” But so too does a quote they live by. “Know better, do better.” It’s taken from the quote from American writer and 1960s civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” That’s not to say by having more knowledge you will be more successful,

Checking WhatsApp – Christopher and Siobhan use smart phone messaging technology to record and keep in touch onfarm.

the couple explain. The knowledge has to result in an action. “It’s all very well seeking out information and coming up with good ideas but if you don’t act on them you haven’t really achieved anything,” Siobhan says.

ACTING ON KNOWLEDGE Christopher and Siobhan have recognised that opportunities to enhance their profits and asset growth over recent years have come from stock and since becoming herd owning sharemilkers they’ve actively worked on making the most of their biggest asset – their herd. “We put the herd together from a number of herds in 2015 so to get an accurate ancestry and lift our chances when it comes to stock sales and genetic gain we decided to DNA-test the whole herd,” Christopher says. They’ve continued to do that and have 96% recorded ancestry allowing them to have accurate BW and PW information.


Farm facts • 50-50 sharemilkers: Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley • Farm owner: Graham Brooker. • Location: Lauriston, Canterbury • Area: 138ha • Irrigation: Pivot (68ha borderdyke conversion to pivot 2016-17) • Production per ha: 1,685kgMS/ha 2016-17 • Production per cow: 451kgMS • Supplement fed: 696kgDM/cow • Farm working expenses: $2.25/kgMS (estimate 2016-17 season)

Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley – caring for their cows and actively making the most of their biggest asset. They use that information to their advantage and last season analysed two options aimed at accelerating genetic gain and giving the best stock sale returns. “One option with the herd was not to AI the bottom 10% of BW/PW with dairy semen but inseminate instead with beef straws. We’d still be getting the days in milk but not the replacements. “We called that bottom 10% the Loser List and the idea was to use Liberty Genetics Hereford and Firstlight Wagyu over them. “That Loser List had an average BW of -1 and PW of -33,” he says. If they had AI’d them (with dairy semen) from bulls with BW 138-239 they would have generated heifers with BW’s of 68-119. “The other option was to AI the loser list with dairy semen and sell out the bottom 10% BW as four-day-old calves or hang on to them and sell them as in-calf heifers.” For the in-calf heifer scenario Christopher worked on: • Costs for 16 heifers @ $800 for grazing, mating and animal health = $12,800 and sale income for 15 @ $1300 = $19,500 • Profit of $6700 For the beefie scenario he worked on: • Costs to weaning of 30 animals @ $100 = $3000 • Sold at weaning 30 @$400 = $12,000 • Profit of $9000 So beefies to the Loser List it was because it gave a better financial return, was seen as lower risk by Christopher and Siobhan and gave accelerated herd improvement. Because they were inseminating the bottom 10% rather than just putting bulls or a beef breed over the tail-end cows, they had those beef cross calves being born right through calving, allowing them to get some to weaning weights and sale earlier. The downside was that in order for there 34 

to be enough replacement calves, it either extended AI to the herd for a longer period or it meant heifers had to be inseminated as well – at an additional cost. The couple had also looked at inseminating heifers to create a surplus of AI heifer calves, generated from the group with highest existing BW/PW. The group average for those 2015-born, rising-two-year olds (R2s) was BW 101 and PW 113 and the bulls had BWs ranging from 176-236 so any AB heifers generated would have BWs from 138-168. By inseminating them they cut bobby numbers too – a practice they aim to minimise because of both consumer perception and as a means to lift their top line income. Simply swapping out 50 mixed-age cows for 50 heifers in-calf to AI creates a heifer calf that is 72 BW points higher at BW 158. The remaining mixed-age cows mated to AI have an average BW of 67 and their 2017-born heifers will have an average BW of 120. That gives an average 2017-born heifer BW of 129 which compares to 117 if the whole herd, including the Loser List, had been mated to AI. “The average annual gain LIC says is a BW of 4 and in 2016 our average BW born was 117 so in one year we’ve made three years’ worth of genetic gain,” he says.

OPPORTUNITY IN THE MARKET Their “know better, do better” adage was also put to work last year when they recognised an opportunity in the market for a line of cows they knew they had thanks to their DNA profiling. They’d taken notice of news that could make those animals sought after, checked out the market and discovered they could sell them for $400/head more than it would cost to replace them.

They sold 90 animals and when buying in replacements (they didn’t have any because it was their first year sharemilking) they bought extras. Stock trading, rearing extra replacements, leasing out cows and selling on rising markets has played an important role in lifting their top line income and profitability. Last year it was largely behind their ability to make a profit, albeit a small one. Without it they estimate they would have made a $70,000 loss. Both Christopher and Siobhan have an eagle eye on their finances when it comes to their balance sheet and budgets. They put together detailed reports for trusted advisers including their bank manager and accountant giving all parties a high level of comfort that they are in control. There are no surprises and armed with knowledge they’re ready to act quickly if an opportunity stacks up. This season they’ve seen opportunities in honing their cost structure to shave 17c/kg milksolids (MS) off their annual spend. Adjusting their labour plan accounts for 10c/kg MS of that and is a shift from two fulltime employees to having one full time staff member plus a fixed-term person from July through to November and a relief staff member over December and January for summer holiday cover. Another 5c/kg MS has come from aggressively seeking price savings across the whole budget that amounted to 5%. They’ve also seen opportunities in expanding the milking platform and by working in with their landowner, an extra 24ha is being leased from the neighbours which will allow them to lift cow numbers to 630. Most of those additional cows will come from first calvers and they’ll have 210 heifers to train. They’re wintering nearby and can be walked back to the platform once a week through June and early July so they’re used to the process of going through the yard and standing on the rotary platform. Heifers are wintering on grass and silage while the cows are on fodder beet. It’s

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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Cyber connectors Follow Christopher and Siobhan Pukeko Pastures Pukeko Pastures @PukekoPastures

Pukeko Pastures – Christopher and Siobhan are letting virtual visitors into their day to day farming life. also been grown on the milking platform and used as an autumn supplement at the same time helping to transition the cows for their winter diet. They use a blanket dry cow therapy approach and teat seal their heifers. That, coupled with a disciplined approach to best practice that staff wholly buy into, means they are consistently grade free and sit in the top 5% if not top 1% for somatic cell count (SCC) as Fonterra suppliers. This year they’ll average 76,000cells/ml SCC. Over the last season irrigation was upgraded with the arrival of pressurised water at the gate thanks to the investment in piping the Ashburton Lyndhurst scheme water. New pivots were installed in November but over the transition taking an area of border-dyke to pivots soil moisture fell and supplement used lifted to almost 700kg DM/cow. Christopher has a strong focus on pasture management, plating the farm regularly and aiming for cows to go into paddocks when ryegrass has hit the three leaf stage. “We know we have to eat every blade of grass we can grow and have that at the best quality we can – that’s where the money is,” he says. If needed, he will top to ensure residuals are spot on – either before or after cows go into the paddock depending on circumstances on the day. Supplement is used to manage round length with the type of supplement varying. “We’re very price-driven so we’ve used silage, palm kernel and grain depending on what stacks up the best when we’re looking to purchase it,” Siobhan says. Christopher uses a 24-hour grazing plan 36 

with cows going into the new break after the afternoon milking. “I can sleep better at night that way – cows have a full gut at night and plenty in front of them. It makes it easier to be more accurate because I can see where they’re at during the morning. “The heifers do well with 24-hour grazing – we’ve seen it with condition scores. The bigger area means there’s less competition,” Christopher says. Another big focus for the pair is human resources and communication. They’ve run larger teams when they were variable-order sharemilking up to 800 cows and put a lot of emphasis on having clear, written and pictorial procedures so everyone knows how activities should be carried out. With fewer staff now they still use the same systems and work smart when it comes to communication. They use a phone messenger app, WhatsApp, to keep in touch, record and report any problems or wins, note supplies needed, cows on-heat or just check in to let everyone know you’re home safe from work if you’ve been the last one on deck, especially when they’re 16-hour milking. “We all use it all the time. If Siobhan’s in town she can flick through the chat and see if there’s anything that needs to be picked up,” Christopher says. They can edit photos by drawing on them or send video so there’s no confusion over what you’re talking about. Christopher says it’s great for training too because staff can go back and look at it. They also use it to update records and animal health events on MINDA. The couple use a phone app that comes with timesheet technology as part of AgriSmart software. Staff can clock in and out and Siobhan’s

If you’ve read the comments posted with on-line news stories – good or bad – that focus on dairying, you’ll know social media bullies love to share their views. But in the face of that Christopher and Siobhan have taken the brave step of opening up their farm to “virtual visitors”, sharing their dairying lifestyle and activities with town and country folk alike via Instagram, Facebook and a blog posted on their website www. pukekopastures.com. They’re both originally “townies” themselves and Siobhan says they want to be the rural voice on their friends’ Facebook feeds. We want to show people the dairy industry isn’t a faceless entity, that it’s not demonic or dirty and that it’s actually made up of thousands of farming families – real people who work hard, care about their animals and their environment, they say. Siobhan says they want to share the everyday things they do on farm, the efforts they go to in protecting the environment, supporting staff and caring for animals as well as sharing some of the wonderful farming scenes – cows grazing in the dawn light; happy, healthy calves at play and the light-hearted moments as people enjoy their work. She’s hoping the more the public sees, the more they feel a connection and the less inclined they’ll be to lash out.

found it ideal to monitor hours. They’re focused on keeping hours down so their business stays compatible with other industries and aim for a maximum of 10 hours every day. Their roster is five days on and one day off followed by six days on and two days off. They trialled a five on two off from November last year but staff didn’t think it was any better than the current system. Human resources isn’t limited to staff management at Pukeko Pastures and the HR term in their case might better stand for human relationships on and off-farm. They see huge value in working closely with their professional advisers, staying ahead of the game and being proactive as well as engaging with and fostering great relationships with neighbours, other respected dairy farmers and community members. Next up for them is having a successful 2017-18 season and looking closely at opportunities that will take them closer to their ultimate goal.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

37


SYSTEMS │ AUTUMN CALVING

Switch needs careful thought Farmers have more than just the milk price premium offered for winter milk to consider when contemplating autumn-calving. Glenys Christian reports.

D

airy farmers thinking of switching to autumn calving just to take advantage of Fonterra’s new winter milk premiums should ask themselves why, DairyNZ North Waikato consulting officer Jamie Haultain says. “There’s got to be another reason to do it like lifestyle reasons or they can grow as much or more pasture over winter than summer. “And if you have to put in infrastructure such as a feedpad, or upgrade lanes or your effluent pond that can nullify the premium.” He has run a Facebook page on autumn calving for the last year which now has about 130 members. “Most of them are looking for reassurance because there’s not a lot of systems research out there,” he says. They were keen to ask other farmers who had moved to autumn calving about what they were doing as often they had no neighbours running the same system and weren’t overly confident. A lot of their questions revolved around animal health issues and calf pricing, he says. The group was set up after feedback from Anexa vets that more farmers were interested in what was involved, so now regular discussion groups are held and attended by DairyNZ scientists and developers. Some of the farmers involved have been autumn calving for some time while others have just recently made the move. “There can be some joking animosity about how they’ve been there for a long time,” he says. “But Fonterra has signalled it wants a lot more winter milk in the future.” Farmers are able to apply to supply contracted milk over the 61-day period from mid-May to mid-July with the highest premiums available in June. For North Island farms, the 30-day June premium is $3.50 and $2.85 for the 15 or 16 days each side of June. The South Island has a higher premium of $3.60 and $4.25 for the same periods. “You need to have more grass growth in

38 

Freshly calved – You need to have more grass growth in winter than you do in summer, Jamie Haultain says.

winter than you do in summer,” he says. “But if you’re in a summer-safe area with low winter growth you’re going against the grain.” Farmers making the switch can’t have their herd calving too close to the premium period or they’ll struggle to get enough milk.

Farmers making the switch can’t have their herd calving too close to the premium period or they’ll struggle to get enough milk. “But if they calve too early they may need to use up a lot of feed to get through to the autumn rains,” he says. “What area farmers are in does weigh heavily because with good autumn growth they do want to calve earlier.” Some farmers from Waikato north had been thinking of making the move to autumn calving because of consistently dry summers where they had struggled to grow enough grass to keep their herds milking through into autumn. They might have put their toe in the door and moved to a split-calving system to take advantage of high winter grass growth, then with the

improved premiums on offer might have looked to change over the rest of their herd, Jamie says. He doesn’t encourage any farmer to move to autumn calving if infrastructure on their farm isn’t up to scratch. “Their feedpad and tracks need to be in a good condition,” he says. Farms are subject to a pond storage calculation before a supply contract can be signed and typically this is 60-90 days’ storage required. “So there may be a significant investment required before the system’s changed which can detract from the profitability.” While autumn and spring calving management was similar there are small differences farmers need to be aware of. “For example they are calving down then feeding supplements straight away,” he says. “Most people are relatively good at feed budgeting and know they need from one to one and half tonnes of supplement drymatter (DM) per cow per year. But feeding supplements will be split between winter and summer with spring calving whereas with autumn calving that’s taking place all in one hit.” Jamie says one of the positives of autumn calving is cow condition. “You struggle to see a cow not in good condition at calving,” he says. While spring-calving cows may peak at production of just above 2kg MS a day,

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


they will usually be dried off when they’re producing around 1kg MS a day. But autumn-calving cows are likely to peak at just under 2kg and still be producing around 1.4kg MS a day at drying off. Lactation length is longer too at around 300 days compared with 260 to 280 days for spring-calving cows. “So you are talking about an extra month of milking,” Jamie says. “The cows look very good at Christmas, almost as though they are in calving condition.” Farmer feedback is that they enjoy autumn calving much more than the springtime ritual. “They love it because they can pick up the calves, they leave the calf shed early and animals that aren’t replacements go to the saleyards every week,” Jamie says. “But split-calving is hard on everyone because there’s no dry period with two calvings and two matings and it’s challenging on the body and mind. You’ve got two herds competing against each other so you’re questioning which one you give preference to.” While South Island premiums for winter milk are higher than those in the north, encouraging more farmers to look into that possibility, Jamie sees split-calving as being a better fit there with little winter growth but plenty of grass in the summer, thanks to irrigation. Calves born in autumn are worth more than those in spring, meaning some farmers chose to sell them for good prices and buy in replacements in spring when with plenty of calves around prices are lower. “But you can expect prices to drop as more people do it,” he says. Farmers are able to sell their culls as in-milk cows which find a ready market

Jamie Haultain – farmers looking at autumn calving are keen on more information.

further south. Typical income from stock can be more than $1/kg milksolids (MS) although a normal range is between 65-70 cents, still good compared with a springcalving system average of around 45c/kg MS. Because mating can occur around the shortest day of the year there can be issues with seeing bulling behaviour in their herd in the dark. That can mean that the start of mating effectively dictates the timing of calving. “Some farmers want AI finished before July because then it’s too hard to pick the cows.” Suggestions that animal health costs could be higher because of more lameness issues with cows walking on tracks to the dairy through winter aren’t backed up by DairyBase figures, which show no difference to spring-calving herds.

Kiwi-cross cows just days away from calving.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

“But you do have to have your farm in good condition going into winter or you will get lameness,” Jamie says. He hasn’t heard of any problems with autumn-calving farmers getting grazing for young stock over winter months as opposed to sending them off-farm over summer. But he would like to see some more onfarm management research carried out because of farmers’ thirst for more information. Work was carried out on Massey University No1. Dairy Farm which can be drawn on but that’s now 20 years old and relates to the pasture growth profile of the Manawatu, not Waikato. Jamie says there is no established pattern as to how spring-calving farmers transition to autumn calving. “No one does it the same way.” Some people calve earlier and earlier over several years but some people milk through and mate their herd in late autumn. Some move to 25% of their herd autumn calving, then 50, 75 and finally 100. “It all comes down to personal preference and choice,” he says. “Everyone’s got different ideas and they make tweaks as they go.” It is fairly common for farmers making the switch to reduce herd numbers. “The cows need pasture in their diet and that’s hard to achieve in the winter with a high stocking rate. “But with less cows it’s often easier to do the same milk production.” One problem is the lack of financial data to refer to. “There are very few 100% autumncalving farms in DairyBase,” he says. But that information does show a slight increase in costs per kg MS in areas such as feed bought-in to the farm and depreciation on improvements in infrastructure such as feedpads and indairy feeding. Further computer modelling has been carried out by DairyNZ investigating what farmers can expect when it comes to balancing extra infrastructure cost against the premium payments. This is now being peer-reviewed and will be presented at the Grasslands Conference later this year. He can’t put his finger on any particular attribute of people who make the move to autumn calving, with one farmer in the group switching just because it was a new challenge. “I think more farmers will consider it,” he says. “People will look over the fence and then give it a crack themselves.” And if it doesn’t live up to expectations it’s easier to switch back from autumn to spring-calving than the other way round. “It’s a quick exit route. But I don’t know anyone who has done it.” 39


SYSTEMS │ AUTUMN CALVING Carl Marquand has had a good introduction to autumn calving.

Key points • Location: Waiau Pa, south Auckland • Area: 97ha effective • Farm owner: John Taylor • 50:50 sharemilker: Carl Marquand • Herd: 220 KiwiCross • Production: 2014/15, 98,000kg milksolids (MS), 2015/16, 113,000kg MS (both with 250 cows), 2016/17, 90,000kg MS, forecast 2017/18, 100,000kg MS (both with 220 cows) • Supplements: 2-3kg palm kernel/Dried distillers grain fed through in-dairy feeding system rising to 3kg in winter, 300 bales of silage made onfarm and 100 tonnes of bulk silage bought in

A change for the better Glenys Christian glenys.christian@nzx.com

South Auckland sharemilker Carl Marquand is in his first season of autumn calving and couldn’t be happier with making the change. He and farm owner, John Taylor, started talking about the idea last year after an email from Fonterra about the winter milk premiums it would be offering for the coming season. “We were chasing the dollar because we’re close to the Takinini plant and we already had the infrastructure on the farm to handle autumn calving,” he says. “Our farm adviser Don Urqhart helped us with the figures and the ideas came up good to do so.”

John’s 97ha effective farm. Before this he was 50:50 sharemilking 170 cows for three years on a farm at nearby Karaka. While the move to autumn calving happened fairly rapidly, he says he was most nervous about holding milk production up over the first season and being able to fully feed his herd. “We do have pretty good grass growth through winter but it dries out fast and we can have dry summers,” he says. After approaching his bank he bought 45 autumn-calving heifers locally. “I also sold 80 spring-calving heifers

further afield but that didn’t cover their price,” he says. His 250 cows produced 98,000 kilograms of milksolids (MS) in the 2014/15 season and in 2015/16 milk production was 113,000kg MS because the spring cows milked through. In 2016/17 with 220 cows 90,000kg MS was produced and for the new season the hope is to hit 100,000kg MS. Carl says he found it very easy calving heifers from March 8 in warm, dry autumn conditions compared with spring calving. “It was much better than spring calving and I was ready for them with supplements,” he says. “I was told I’d be calving on to hard ground but it felt more like spring and the ground was warm and soft. There were hardly any calving difficulties even with Hereford-cross calves. The cows were walking to the dairy every day for 2kg of meal so they were fit.” In the first two weeks of calving when

‘There were hardly any calving difficulties even with Hereford-cross calves. The cows were walking to the dairy every day for 2kg of meal so they were fit.’

So the decision was made to reduce the 250-cow spring-calving herd to 220 calving in autumn. Carl, 36, has been 50:50 sharemiking at Waiau Pa for the past four seasons on 40 

Carl Marquand will calve his herd a week later next year from March 15.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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41


The switch to autumn was made rapidly.

Carl hired a relief milker 180 cows calved. The calves were up and on their feet straight away, drinking from their mothers and there weren’t any navel problems. Then mating, usually carried out in September, took place last June with shortgestation Hereford straws used across the herd. “It went really well because there was pretty good weather,” he says. And cow condition and milk production were well maintained due to feeding from 1.5 to 2.5kg of palm kernel through the indairy feeding system in the farm’s 20-aside herringbone. That can rise to up to 3kg a day per cow in the two weeks before calving and also over winter. This year dried distillers grain will be added to the mix for more energy. While 340 bales of silage were made on the farm last year and 160 tonnes of bulk silage bought in this year, with lower cow numbers, that will drop to 300 bales and 100t of silage which he begins to feed out at the end of January. Carl says he went through a worksheet with DairyNZ consultant, Jamie Haultain, which showed the advantage of selling his four-day-old autumn-born calves for good prices then buying in spring-born replacements. “That brought cash in before the milk

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The big three Three main reasons stand out for Carl Marquand when it comes to the benefits of making a move to autumn calving. • Better cashflow • An easier workload with lower stress levels • Lower animal health bills. “There’s no loss in giving it a go,” he says. “There’s plenty of help out there, it’s just a case of looking for it.” The move wouldn’t be a sensible one for a sharemilker wanting to grow their business rapidly and move on to another position. But it does ideally suit someone looking to increase production per cow on the same area of land, he says. And if the change didn’t work it’s easy to change back to spring calving again. “You’d just milk through the winter mating and mate as normal in the following spring so it’s not risky.”

Carl says he will stick with the Kiwicross cows for his new autumn calving/winter milking operation as spring-reared calves are easy to pick up around Christmas to grow out and mate for herd replacements.

cheques so was an early pay- off,” he says. It also meant he didn’t have to rear calves, just farm through his last 58 springborn calves which will now calve as twoand-a-half year olds next autumn. “I’d look to buy weaned spring calves next year through an agent and carry on doing that,” he says. “I’ll stick with KiwiCross because they’re the easiest to find and they often pop up at Christmas or just after.” Carl says mating was only more difficult because he synchronised his cows to give him a compact calving. All the herd were

given a prostoglandin shot two days before mating started then another eight days later. Any which weren’t cycling then were referred to the vet to decide their future in the herd. This year the start of mating is moving back from June 5 to 12 so a midMarch start to calving will see more milk in the vat in June. “At present we’re peaking before the best winter milk payment,” he says. The other bonus to the change of system is that the herd is dry at the driest time of the year, meaning he can handle a drought better by not having to milk through the summer, when the cows could be dry for up to four months due to drought. “The mindset and workload is better because there’s not the stress of calving in bad conditions when it’s cold or wet or both,” he says. “We have had an exceptional autumn and my stress levels were non-existent.” Other farm management practices have changed with autumn-calving. There’s

18ha under irrigation with a K-line pod system where a mix of chicory and plantain has been grown before. Carl’s now in the process of putting that back into a tetraploid/diploid mix of Base and one50 varieties. “Or else I will just use one50 on the unirrigated land as that does very well here,” he says. Around 150-180 units of nitrogen goes on every year with a maintenance dressing of phosphate and potassium applied in spring based on annual soil tests. Carl says Don did suggest split calving as an alternative to going to all autumn calving. “But the only thing that turned me off that idea would have been the need to hire labour,” he says. “And you’d end up chasing your tail all year round in a difficult season weather wise”. “I wouldn’t look back – I’m happy where I am.”

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43


SYSTEMS │ CO DIARY

Farm facts Matt Walker with fodder beet.

Attention to detail for fodder beet Colin Grainger-Allen Fodder beet has become a popular choice for many farmers given its high yield, potential to extend lactation and put weight on cows, but it does have its challenges. Compared to other crops it requires precision planting, and careful attention when transitioning cows to avoid acidosis. It’s also a more costly option, so you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck, if you haven’t already, now is a good time to start thinking about growing next season’s crops. Growing fodder beet has been a steep learning curve for the Walker family on their Reporoa, central North Island, farm. They are now consistently growing a high yield and have overcome some of the initial stumbling blocks. “We learnt a lot in the first few years,” Robin Walker admits, especially about seed bed preparation and weed sprays. “It’s a specialist crop to grow compared to other winter crops with special needs 44 

and considerations. Getting the right information was a challenge in the early years and we now have a plan for growing the crop and transitioning cows,” Robin says. They are now consistently growing 25-30tonnes Drymatter (DM)/ha crops, which saw them begin transitioning cows late March. Matt Walker explains they bought a lifting bucket this year so they could lift some beet and load it into the feed-out wagon that has scales.

• Location: Reporoa, Central Plateau • Farm owners: Robin and Fou Walker • Contract milkers: Matt and Chloe Walker • Effective dairying area: 1633ha • Milk production: 150,000kg MS 16/17 year • Herd: 386 2.9 cows/ha • Breeding worth: 109/47 • Supplements: DairyNZ system 2-3 with 210 tonnes palm kernel, 10ha fodder beet, 3ha turnips, no runoff.

This allows them to accurately feed small amounts to the cows in the grass paddock without having to make the breaks so small that all the cows don’t get a chance to eat some fodder beet. They choose a low-DM variety fodder beet that is easy to eat and have had no problems getting heifers to eat the beet bulbs. They do make sure the cows and heifers are transitioned separately and are then mixed together once they are both fully transitioned. Starting at 0.3kg DM a day they use the rule of no more than 1kg DM increase every second day to avoid acidosis and dust with 50grams/cow of dicalcium phosphate (DCP) a day. Milking cows will get up to 5-6kg fodder beet DM/day and once dried off this will increase to 8kg DM fodder beet, 2kg DM silage and 2kg DM pasture for the winter. Matt recommends watching for yield variations across the paddock and adjusting break sizes as required and remember that the yield will increase as fodder beet keeps growing right through May and June. It’s also easier to feed with the rows across the paddock to help with consistent feed allocation. For more information about fodder beet and transitioning visit dairynz.co.nz/ fodderbeet. Farmers can also seek further advice from other farmers who’ve used fodder beet through Dairy Connect, visit dairynz.co.nz/dairy-connect.  • Colin Grainger-Allen is a DairyNZ consulting officer in the Bay of Plenty.

Cows graze the fodder beet on the Walkers’ Reporoa farm.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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SYSTEMS │ IMPROVEMENT Dried off cows basking in Northland autumn sunshine.

Revolution on a shoe-string Hugh Stringleman hugh.stringleman@nzx.com Transformation of a Far North dairy farm followed by a rapid growth in equity occurred during a three-year period as DairyNZ partner farm. Sharemilkers Tony and Briar Lunjevich, at Takahue, just south of Kaitaia, exceeded their number one financial goal of increasing their equity by $500,000 over the three years. A major portion of that came through purchasing higher breeding worth heifers when prices were down, expanding the milking herd and lifting milk production nearly 40%. As well they dramatically improved the reproduction figures, implemented pasture management advice from leading local farmers, and took the herd’s breeding worth from minus 1 up to 52, around the national average. To show that annual milk production increases were systemic and not climatic, the Lunjevichs milked once-a-day in year three and continued to improve milk output by 9% to 87,600kg. The final field day at Takahue was told that most farms that switch to OAD lose production in the first year. The Lunjevichs were not advocates of OAD but have proven that it fits their farm, which is elongated north-south, hence up to 2.4km walks for the herd, and a 50-metre climb to access most paddocks from the farm dairy. The herd also had a poor lameness record that has now been substantially improved. “We have always been glass-half-full types of people,” Tony and Briar said. “Our motto for life is do the best you can with what you have.” That included family support and the sharemilking opportunity, adjacent land they own which could be developed, 46 

Sharemilkers and farm owners – from left, Tony and Briar and Linda and Don.

and the wisdom and advice of a local management team and leading Northland rural accountant Charmaine O’Shea. In retrospect Tony and Briar benefited from the low milk payout seasons when they were buying more heifers, and they said their farm management knowledge was low and could only improve. DairyNZ consultant Gareth Baynham, who co-ordinated the partner farm project, added that the Lunjevichs could also “start a university on being thrifty”, something Tony probably learned from his father Don and their Dalmatian heritage (see panel). What they have achieved with pasture composition, production and utilisation was nothing short of spectacular, he said. Under the chairmanship of nearneighbour Scott Rumsey, the management team comprised the very successful previous Far North focus farmers Alister and Lyn Candy, a former Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme winner Clive Walden, Awanui farmer Dave Gray, Kerry Cutler, Aaron Switzer, Joe King and Bob Campbell. Honorary members of the team were Don and Linda Lunjevich, beef farmers at nearby Herekino and purchasers of the dairy farm 11 years ago. First, son Paul sharemilked and did a lot of the development, then Tony and Briar took it on in the 2011-12 season.

By milking about 230 cows on 107 hectares, production during the first three years was around 60,000kg. Pasture and crop eaten averaged 8t/ha. Tony set about improving utilisation and quality by using management team recommendations on rotation length to drive pasture growth and ensure low post-grazing residuals either with cows or a mower. Stocking rate went up from 2.2 to 2.5 cows/ha. Implementing Dave Gray’s well-proven methods for kikuyu-dominant pasture, Tony walked and plate-measured all paddocks every 10 days and plugged the numbers into the spring rotation planner. Walking the farm took about two hours but the result was that the cows went to paddocks where the grass was, and didn’t just revolve around the farm, Tony said. Not everything went according to plan in the first two years but at the start of calving in 2016 pasture covers exceeded the targeted 2400kg DM/ha. For the first time pasture covers did not go into feed deficit over spring and early summer. Chicory is now the preferred crop supplement to plug the gap in summer, 21ha being sown in early November. As with most farms in the North Island, relentless wet weather in late September

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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The field day was shown a high point lookout north across the Takahue hills south of Kaitaia. contributed to a drop in milk production. As a province, the Northland peak was September 20 instead of the normal midOctober. Production recovered in October, but it still took the gloss off the season. Tony was proactive with palm kernel and chicory to fill the feed deficit through January and February. He cut costs elsewhere and managed to increase milk production for the season to 87,600kg, or 673kg/ha on an enlarged platform of 130ha. The budgeted farm expenditure of $1.50/kg MS would probably grow to something under $1.80 when the financial results were finished by O’Shea, the field day was told. The herd size was 320 cows, 34% of them being first-calvers and 25% second-

calvers. The new herd size was now about maximum for the 20-a-side herringbone, another plus for OAD. Even if there was no further development, Tony predicted this season he could achieve more than 90,000kg as the average age in the herd increases and the higher BW takes effect. Mulching is utilised to control rampant kikuyu during autumn, or it will tend to smother pastures during the winter and spring. Italian ryegrass is broadcast-sown over the mulched paddocks and the forage value index guides the choice of suitable cultivars for the Takahue district. In 2014 the couple bought an adjoining 94ha block of run-down pastures and Tony got stuck in to bringing back about half

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of it with fencing, fertiliser, water supply, logging and weed control. That enabled 18ha to be added to the milking platform for 2015-16 and another 5ha is coming in now. Considerable rainfall since mid-February meant great kikuyu growth over autumn and the cows were on target for body condition score 5 at calving (average 4.9 at May 4). Daily milk production broke all farm records during summer and autumn.

REPRODUCTION Newly acquired heat detection skills and higher cow condition scores have produced massive improvements in the reproduction performance of the Lunjevich herd.

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Below the benchmark

The Takahue dairy farm, showing the climb up for cows. The empty rate was historically around 25% and the six-week in-calf rate below 50%. In year one mating was brought forward five days in an attempt to compact the calving period, but that was a mistake, Baynham said. The empty rate and calving spread got worse, not better, and cost days in milk during the 2015-16 season plus a financial cost in replacing empty cows. So that season began with 36% firstcalvers, acquired at lower prices because of the very low milk payout. Milking was dropped back to the historical three times in two days to reduce pressure on the cows from those long walks. Good advice was received on treating and preventing lameness from specialist Neil Chesterton and extra effort went into heat detection, with guidance from nearby farmers. The low three-week submission rate forced the decision to extend the mating period from 12 to 14 weeks to reduce the number of empties. The rate came down to 12%, but there was still room for improvement as the following mating season proved. In the final season cow numbers were increased further, resulting in a 34% cohort of first-calvers and a very colourful herd. Cow condition finally got to the target score 5 at the 2015 calving and huge gains

Farm expenditure for sharemilkers Tony and Briar Lunjevich will be around $1.80/kg milksolids (MS) produced in 2016-17. Even in a season in which more than 200 tonnes of palm kernel was fed during the mid-December to mid-February drought, they managed to restrict spending below $2/kg, which is the dairy industry benchmark. Total operating expenses for the farm, owned by Tony’s parents Don and Linda, are estimated to be $3.76/kg (which includes a theoretical management wage) and farm working expenses a mere $3.11. When commenting on the total operating expenses of $3.76, consultant Gareth Baynham said it was a very creditable achievement, as that measurement was not often seen with a three in front. “The farm has historically operated with relatively low expenses. “The dilution of costs through extra milk production has contributed to a further drop in expenditure on a per kilogram basis. “Over the partner farm term of three years cash costs have increased by 13% but milk production has gone up 39%. “Operating expenses are expected to be well below the Northland benchmark for last season (2016-17).” In 2014-15 they were $3.81 and in 2013-14, the first year of the project, they were $5.02 because Tony and Briar hired a full-time labour unit. Cow numbers rose 45 to 285 milked twice a day and Tony was able to make huge progress on developing the new block alongside the milking platform. Seasons two and three did not have the hired labour input, just casuals and contractors. In the sharemilker’s costs category a saving of $1/kg was achieved, as milk production went up 11%, peak cow numbers went up 10 to 295 and milking went from twice-a-day to three times in two days. Season two showed great pasture growth and much-improved quality and bought-in feed was only 330kg/ha versus 1.3t/ha the year before. in submission rate and conception rate brought the empty rate in 2016 down to 6%, better than the targeted 8%. Other reproduction measures remained behind the target --- 6-week in-calf 64% (target 78%), 3-week submission rate 75% (90%) and conception rate 56% (60%). Clive Walden commented at the field day that the improvement in reproduction was a great achievement although there was still room for further improvement. “Breeding used to be the most frustrating part of dairy farming for me, but now I am enjoying it,” Tony replied. All cows and heifers are pregnancy tested and the drying-off period planned based on in-calf rate.

Based on calving date, the cows are colour coded into mobs, and the body condition score monitored and feed adjusted to bring all cows to BCS 5 at calving. DairyNZ regional manager Chris Neill said the successes of the Candy monitor farmers and the Lunjevich partner farmers over the past six years had provided a wonderful springboard for the Extension 350 project to begin this season. It is a national first that brings together farmers keen to improve with mentors, consultants, and interested observers, funded by central and regional government and industry-good bodies (Dairy Exporter May 2017).

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SYSTEMS │ MOWING RESEARCH LUDF has used pre-graze mowing as a tool to deal with small surpluses.

mowing as a means to capture the benefits of the increased offering while importantly ensuring target residuals are being met to maintain high pasture quality in subsequent grazings, he says. But there have been questions over whether the practice works as farmers think – whether it can lead to increased milk production from homegrown pasture, whether it can lift pasture intakes and whether costs outweigh the benefits. DairyNZ’s trial at the Lincoln University Research Dairy Farm last season was set up to find the answers to those questions among others by comparing farmlets that were either mown pre-grazing or simply grazed. At the same time, it also looked at the effects of going into a higher or lower pregrazing cover. The study was funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund as part of the FeedRight programme.

To cut or not to cut DairyNZ and Lincoln University have just completed a pre-grazing mowing trial and preliminary analysis of the results shows there is no overall performance benefit to the practice. But users of the tool have a different view and say the trial didn’t test the practice the way they use it. Anne Lee takes a look at what the trial did and didn’t test, what it found and what advocates of tactical mowing are saying. Over the last few years there’s been an increasing movement towards pre-graze mowing as a tool to manage higher pre-grazing covers and still hit residuals. It’s broadly based on the belief that pre-graze mowing can help maintain high pasture intakes by making it easier for cows to consume what’s being offered in a timely manner, enabling them to convert more home-grown pasture to milk. The cows are given the chance to eat the surplus rather than going in after them and topping the residual to target heights – essentially topping to waste – or taking the paddock out of the grazing round and capturing the surplus as silage. DairyNZ scientist Dr Paul Edwards says a focus on the three-leaf grazing principal and lifting of pre-graze covers as a means to capture extra pasture growth has resulted in some farmers then finding it hard to hit target residuals by grazing alone without restricting intake. 50 

It’s one of the reasons more farmers, particularly those who have lowered their stocking rates, are looking to pre-graze

The study – what was tested and how The trial ran for four months from October to February and specifically investigated the effect of pre-graze mowing of either high or low pre-graze covers during a pasture surplus on pasture growth rate, pasture quality factors including metabolisable energy (ME), animal performance factors including drymatter intake, milk production, body condition score (BCS) and liveweight. Costs and benefits were also looked at. It tested four scenarios • Mowing ahead of cows going into a higher pre-graze cover of 3500kg drymatter (DM)/ha • Mowing ahead of cows going into a lower pre-graze cover of 2900kg DM/ha • Grazing only (no mowing) with the higher pre-graze cover • Grazing only with the lower pre-graze cover.

Pre-graze cover on a low pre-graze cover, pre-graze mow farmlet in November 2016

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Pre-graze cover on a high pre-graze cover, pre-graze mow farmlet in February 2017 Two farmlets were set up for each treatment scenario and mowing was carried out two hours before cows went into their new break with 18 cows per farmlet and a stocking rate of 3.7 cows/ ha up until December when cow numbers were dropped to 16 in each farmlet to give a stocking rate of 3.3 cows/ha and ensure there was a surplus. Edwards says the aim of the trial had been to test mowing in times of small surpluses as advocated by farmers from Southland and Canterbury who use the practice and were involved in the initial trial set-up discussion. But by early December there had been few times a surplus was achieved and silage needed to be purchased for the pre-graze mowing treatments to achieve a surplus. Residuals of 4cm or seven-eight clicks on the rising platemeter, were targeted for each farmlet regardless of the treatment. A similar amount of nitrogen was applied to each treatment but rotation lengths weren’t fixed. If the surpluses were 5% or more above pre-grazing covers the paddock was harvested for silage. If target residuals weren’t met in the grazing treatments because of bad weather, for instance, the paddock was either shut up for silage in the next round or postgraze topped. Similarly, pastures were not mown if it was deemed too wet. What was found – the preliminary results In a nutshell: • There was no benefit of pre-graze mowing on cow performance in terms of body condition score (BCS) or milksolids production • Average pre-graze covers were 2890 kg DM/ha and 3380 kg DM/ha. The average pre-graze cover in the high pre-graze cover, mown treatment was 3156kg DM/ ha. • Cows going into high pre-graze covers produced 5% less milk but no account was taken of differences in the amount

of silage harvested. • Cows left or wasted the equivalent of 2kg DM/cow/day of cut pasture in the pre-graze mowing paddocks. • More silage was bought for mowing treatments while more silage was made on the grazing-only farmlets. • More silage was also made on the higher pre-grazing cover farmlets than it was for those with lower pre-grazing covers.

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Cows grazing high covers spent more time eating than cows grazing lower covers and cows eating mown pasture spent less time eating than cows in grazing-only treatments, however there was no effect on rumination time.

• Pasture disappearance (pre-grazing – residual) was on average 2kg DM/cow/ day more for cows in the pre-graze mowing treatments but the wastage was also 2kg DM/cow/day more, cancelling out any perceived benefit. • Cows grazing high covers spent more time eating than cows grazing lower covers and cows eating mown pasture spent less time eating than cows in grazing-only treatments, however there was no effect on rumination time. • Rotation length was eight days longer for high pre-grazing cover treatments than those with low pre-grazing covers. (29 versus 21 days). • There were 0.2 more leaves (2.7 versus 2.5) for the high pre-graze cover treatment. • Mowing decreased tiller numbers. • Pasture quality results are yet to be analysed.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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The pre-graze mowing trial found no benefit to milk production of the practice.

A closer look at the results WASTAGE Contrary to the aim of reducing wastage by pre-graze mowing as opposed to post graze topping the collection of cut pasture left behind after grazing in the mowing treatments found that on average 166kg DM/ha was being wasted. That’s equivalent to 12% of the available feed between pre and post grazing pasture cover. That’s equivalent to 2kgDM/cow/day over the experiment period. Wastage in the high pre-graze cover treatment was higher at 190kg DM/ha with the lower pre-graze cover having an average wastage of 143kg DM/ha. It was however a similar percentage of the available feed. SILAGE More silage was fed to cows on the pre-graze mowing farmlets – equivalent to about 1kg DM/cow/day more than grazing-only treatments. High graze

High mow

Silage made minus fed (t DM)

2.3

Silage fed (kg DM/cow/day

0.2 1

Equivalent grwoth rate

Low graze

Low mow

-2.1

1.5

-2.3

1.2

0.2

1.2

4

1

4

tonnes drymatter  (t  D M)/farmlet

More silage was made on the grazing only farmlets. A total of 2.4t DM/ha was fed out on the farmlet where pregraze covers were high and pre-graze mowing took place – slightly more than on the low pre-graze cover farmlet that was also pregraze mown.

Silage fed                                        Silage  made 2.7

2.4

2.3 1.9

0.4 High graze

0.4 High mow

Low graze  

0.3 Low mow

High graze

High mow

0 Low graze

Low mow

Treatment

The opposite was true when it came to silage being made. Edwards says if the amount of silage fed is converted back to what the growth rate would have had to have been to ensure there was no feed deficit it equates to 4kg DM/ha/day for the mown treatments but only 1kg DM/ha/day on the grazed treatments. PRODUCTION Production and body condition score. Pre-graze mowing had no effect on milk production but pregrazing covers were important.

Milk productin  (kg  MS/cow/day)

Milk production 1.9

1.8

1.8

High graze

High mow

Low graze

ALLOCATION To work out what the cows were offered the study used a rate of disappearance calculation – Pre-graze cover – residual (Stocking rate x rotation length)

= rate of disappearance (kg DM/cow/day)

Edwards says it’s important to realise the rate of disappearance is not the same as what the cows have eaten. “There may be a greater rate of disappearance of 1-2kgDM/cow/day through mowing but we had more wastage of 2kg DM/cow/day and fed more silage – about 1kg DM/cow day equivalent. This information and back calculations from milksolids production indicates there was no difference in actual cow intakes,” he says.

1.9

Low mow

Treatment

Cows going into the higher pre-graze covers (target 3500kg

52 

DM/ha) produced 5% less milksolids on average than cows going into the lower covers (target 2900kg DM/ha). However, an extra 0.8t DM of silage was harvested on the high pre-graze cover, mown farmlet and if this was converted to milksolids (using 70g MS/kg DM response) it would equate to an additional 56kg MS or 0.03kg MS/cow/day over the experiment period. If taken into consideration that would reduce the difference in milksolids production to 4%. Neither pre-graze mowing nor pre-graze covers had an effect on BCS. On average, pasture in the grazed only treatments supplied 4.1t DM or 800kg DM/ha more than the mowing treatments based on differences in net silage.

GRAZING BEHAVIOUR Cows going into higher pre-grazing covers spent 42 minutes or 7% longer eating than cows grazing low covers and while mowing did reduce the time they spent the difference wasn’t statistically significant. There was no impact of any of the treatments on time spent ruminating. The extra time spent grazing may go part way to explaining why cows offered higher pre-graze covers didn’t produce more milk.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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Pre-graze mowers unconvinced Those who use pre-graze mowing as a tactical tool aren’t convinced the results of DairyNZ’s mowing trial should spell an end to its tactical use. FarmWise consultant Brent Boyce has numerous clients who, under certain conditions, mow before cows come into the paddock and says that while the DairyNZ-led trial was well run and came up with sound conclusions, the trial protocol did not test tactical pre-graze mowing practices. “I can’t fault the trial – they did a good job of proving the point that mowing every time before cows go into a paddock doesn’t work but no one is doing that,” he says. “They didn’t test it the way farmers would practically use mowing.” Boyce advocates the use of pre-graze mowing in specific situations through the high growth periods when growth rates exceed demand. “You only do it when your pre-graze covers exceed demand by 200kg drymatter (DM)/ha or slightly more.” He agrees that there would be wastage with pre-graze mowing, as the trial had shown, but says it may not be as high as the trial found and the alternative, in the situation where what’s on offer is greater than demand, is that cows will leave clumps behind. “I’d rather see cows given the chance to get all of that down their throat and have the paddock at the right residual when they walk out of it.” The practice wasn’t a means to fix a poor residual from the previous grazing. In those situations, it was better to let the cows come in and “pick the eyes out of it” and then post-graze top so cows could get down to the right residual at the next grazing. Boyce says the mowing rules used by the researchers weren’t applicable to most farmers. The researchers admitted they had struggled to get to a surplus at each grazing. Getting the cows to graze the pasture in most instances is still the most profitable farming, Boyce says.

South Island Dairying Development Centre executive director Ron Pellow agrees the trial didn’t convince him that the way the management team use pre-graze mowing at LUDF was inappropriate. “LUDF uses it as a tool when we have a small surplus and cow intakes are high – at peak milk production – when their energy demand is very high. Paul Edwards Production drives intake. We see cows able to maintain high intakes of pasture when we’ve pre-graze mown paddocks that are at reasonably high pre-graze covers and had reasonable post grazing residuals at the previous grazing.” LUDF’s cows peaked at 2.45kg MS/cow/ day in early October and maintained daily production above 2kg MS/cow through till the end of December. By May 16 they had produced 505kg MS/cow with minimal imported feed. “There are clearly some losses with pre-graze mowing but I think it’s only small. It’s the material that drops below the mower height and is probably made up for by the fact the mower puts the whole paddock at the correct residual for consistent quality next time. “Nevertheless, the results do provide interesting material for further consideration.” The farm’s manager Peter Hancox doesn’t pre-graze mow if it’s raining or if the grass is wet. Likening it to a soggy salad, he says cows just don’t like it and intakes will drop. While the trial also had decision rules about not mowing if it was too wet there were times during the trial when paddocks were mown in the experiment but LUDF elected not to pre-graze mow. Pre-graze mowing isn’t used as a tool to tidy up a residual from the previous grazing on LUDF. “If a surplus is big enough we’ll take it for silage if it’s not we’ll mow it ahead of

the cows – that’s our tactic,” Pellow says. Another point brought up at the May LUDF focus day, where the mowing trial information was presented, was the fact the LUDF has a high percentage of tetraploid pastures which maintain their quality through to higher pre-graze covers. About 2/3 of the pastures used in the trial were diploid. But Edwards pointed out that tetraploids will maintain quality at higher covers and should therefore be easier to graze to desired residuals at high covers reducing the need for pre-graze mowing. Pellow says, “I don’t think the trial was established to consider using pre-graze mowing the way we do – Peter did what would be the equivalent of mowing the farm twice this season (including mowing for silage) whereas the trial mowed the farmlets approximately four times and operated in a deficit for much of this time.” Edwards agrees the trial didn’t test tactical pre-graze mowing but maintains findings should challenge those using the tool that way too. Findings such as the degree of wastage are just as relevant to farmers using pregraze mowing tactically, he says. If the paddock is above target pre-graze covers it doesn’t matter if it’s pre-graze mown or post-graze topped, the wastage is going to be about the same, he says. “If your reasons for pre-graze mowing are that the cows are going to eat it and turn that surplus into milk then the results of this experiment suggest that’s not going to be the case,” Edwards says. Potentially there could be greater benefit in post-graze topping which would enable more of the high-quality pasture components to be eaten and residuals to be met, he says. But this strategy still incurs a cost and wastage and has not been shown to improve intake or production, he says. He also suggests that if farmers find they are pre-graze mowing frequently because the paddocks are above pre-graze targets they should skip a paddock and take it for silage and speed up the round. “Instead of pre-graze mowing the next 10 paddocks, take one out for silage, capture the surplus and speed up the round. Although there’s a cost to making silage, you have that feed available for future production and you haven’t had the mower out for 10 paddocks.”

“making milking easier and faster”

K. H. McConnel Ltd. Hamilton, New Zealand 54 

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Phone: +64 7 849 2122 Fax: +64 7 849 2128 Email: sales@mcconnel.co.nz Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


SPECIAL REPORT

CALF REARING Growing top performers

56 60 62

Top-Notch rearing 65 A system to grow better calves The making of a ruminant 68 Vet Voice: Calves: What and Expert eye: A nurturing touch to when to feed and when to wean profitable calf rearing 70 Smooth deliveries

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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SPECIAL REPORT │ CALF REARING

Top-Notch rearing

Large-scale calfrearers Jonathan and Joanne Leigh.

Dairy farmers and calf-rearers Jonathan and Joanne Leigh have reared anywhere from 1400 up to 8000 calves every season for 14 years without any serious disease outbreak. They gave Sheryl Brown an insight into how to succeed at calf-rearing and why people need to love calves to do it well. Dairy farmers can have a she’ll-be-right attitude to calf-rearing but farmers should be prepared with a plan and clear guidelines for staff to follow, farm consultant Joanne Leigh says. Joanne and her husband Jonathan are dairy farmers and owners of TopNotch Calves, a large-scale Waikato calf-rearing operation. Joanne also works part time as a farm consultant helping farmers improve their calf-rearing operations. Dairy farmers should approach calf-rearing as an integral part of their business and plan for it just like they do for mating or calving. They are lucky because the entire process is under their control, she says. “You have control over your whole process, what you feed your cow, where she calves, what happens with that calf, making sure it gets four litres of colostrum in the first 24 hours.” Farmers can make sure calf trailers are hosed out and cleaned daily; that they drive slowly with the calves on the back to prevent calves’ umbilical cords being stood on, which causes a lot of navel infections, they can put calves in a clean, warm, dry pen and control colostrum intake.

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At Top-Notch they get calves dropped off at four days old and can only hope those calves have had the right care, and soon see the result when they haven’t. “This autumn we blood-tested and found that one out of every six calves have not had enough colostrum. “We quickly see which farms are doing a good job feeding colostrum. It’s easy to see trends – when they haven’t had enough colostrum it’s absolutely apparent.” When the Waikato had cyclones this April for example they noticed some autumn calves being delivered to TopNotch went downhill quickly because they were born in the rain and mud and probably hadn’t had that first colostrum feed off their mother, Joanne says. It’s important to factor in conditions and tube-feed calves if they’re born in bad weather, she says. Farmers also need to ensure they separate their first milk colostrum at the farm dairy and feed that fresh milk to their newest calves. “A new-born calf needs to be treated like a baby. It needs a warm bed and good colostrum.” Joanne and John bought their

Key facts

• Farm owners: Jonathan and Joanne Leigh • Location: Okoroire, Tirau • Area: 63ha • Cows: 200 • Production: Ranges from 43,000kg MS to 121,000kgMS depending on season and whether cows are sold in September or at the end of the season. • Supplements: Meal is fed in-dairy, maize silage in paddock, amounts vary depending on the season. • Farm Dairy: 24-aside herringbone, in-dairy feeding, covered feedpad is being constructed at present • Crops: 5ha maize

original 40ha calf-rearing block at Okoroire 14 years ago. They had been sharemilking and owned their own dairy farm at Otorohanga before selling up and moving to Mount Maunganui for two years. After their third child was born, the couple decided they wanted to find a place in the country to bring their children up. “We had both grown up on dairy farms and we wanted our children to grow up in a rural environment.” They later bought part of the neighbour’s farm with the farm dairy and started winter milking 200 cows. They replace their whole herd every year. When the milk price is low they sell cows on the spring market in September and rear more calves. If the payout is high they carry on milking through the season.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


They buy empty cows each autumn for their replacements, get them in calf and graze them on their runoff, or off-farm. As such their milk production fluctuates. In 2015/16 it was 54,048kg MS, 2016/17 43,800kg MS, while in 2013/14 in the high payout they produced 121,000kg MS. Milking cows is a complement to their calf-rearing operation. It means they have older stock cleaning the pastures, Joanne says. They also grow 5ha of maize on the milking platform and can spread the sawdust from the calf pens on the paddocks, while the effluent from the calf pens gets irrigated on to the milking platform.

Investing in calves

Many dairy farmers have expanded their business, buying the neighbouring farm, milking more cows and ultimately rearing more calves, all while making do with their original calf-rearing facilities. Farmers need to ask themselves if they have enough room for all of their calves, Joanne says. “I think 50% of farmers probably should do a review of their facilities. A lot of farms haven’t changed or upgraded their calf pens for a long time and they might not have enough space.” If they don’t have enough space there is the option of contract rearing some of their calves out to a calf-rearer. It’s often something farmers haven’t considered, but it’s a good option if they don’t have capital available to

upgrade their facilities, Joanne says. “It’s releasing some of that pressure off your own system. It can be a stressful six weeks in the peak of calving and it doesn’t take much for that system to fall over.” Having adequate facilities is fundamental to rearing calves in a clean environment and preventing disease. When the couple set up their rearing system they had an advantage of being able to start from scratch. They bought and pulled down two second-hand calf sheds that they reassembled. They hired a trencher and put drainage in all the pens, along with waterlines for troughs and built all the pens themselves. They’ve since built another shed, with a plastic roof that lets 30% light through. The pens are half under cover and half outside giving the calves plenty of room. There is room for 3000 calves to be housed. It’s important calf pens have good ventilation and to make sure there are no draughts at calf height, Joanne says. Corrugated iron barriers between the pens prevent draughts and help prevent disease being spread between pens. Each has its own water trough which gets cleaned out every day. John and Joanne made their own calf feeders using recycled 200l plastic drums and peach teats, which stay in the pens, custom-made their own vat to heat milk, installed a spa pump to heat the water and built all their own vat platforms with drainage. Making their own gear and building most of their facilities has probably cost a fifth of what new equipment would have set them back, Joanne says. “It’s all about cost control. You just can’t afford to spend a lot of money, the margins are just not huge.”

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Feeding regime

All calves delivered to Top-Notch are weighed on arrival and are fed the following morning, graded on drinking ability and sorted into pens of 22 calves. They don’t have compartment feeders so any slow drinkers are put in a pen for slow drinkers. Calves are weighed again at three weeks and sorted into weight ranges. Calves are fed 4l milk/calf once a day which is warmed in a vat. They feed whole milk or milk powder or a mixture depending on what is available and most cost-effective. Supply of product is one of the main risks to their business so they get in early to order bulk products. “We have to be proactive to ensure there is enough milk powder, sawdust, vaccines available for us during the season.” They also buy milk from local farmers. They’ve designed their own calf meal recipe which is 50% pellet, 50% whole grain. A calf is a pre-ruminant and can digest whole grains, which is their fibre rather than feeding hay or straw, Joanne says. They feed meal adlib when the calves are young and once weaned and out on pasture up to 2kg/calf/day. Calves are weaned at 75kg for Friesian calves. They are weaned over an eight-day period, gradually reducing milk, as a result their concentrate consumption increases. They weigh calves 10 days after weaning. Any calves that have lost weight are brought back in and fed milk for another week or two before being weaned again. Depending on space, calves will either stay in their pen until weaned, or put outside after two to four weeks if shed space is required for other calves. They’ve turned an old farm dairy into

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a custom-made milk feeding station for calves out in the paddocks to come in once a day for their milk. They also have a weigh station at the old dairy where calves are dehorned, vaccinated and drafted.

Attention to detail

John and Joanne employ John van Gog who oversees the calf-rearing unit and dairy farm, with Richard Smith as dairy farm manager. Their two main calf-rearers Samantha Palmer and Karyn James are employed on a 10-month fixed term contract, employing casual staff as required, working on one staff member to every 600 calves. They run a six-on/two-off roster, try to keep jobs simple and clear and give employees specific roles, that they’re interested in, whether feeding calves, treating sick calves, fixing water leaks or cleaning out pens. With any calf-rearing operation, attention to detail is key and having good staff is vital and it’s no different in their operation, Joanne says. “We’ve never had a major outbreak of disease. We have a system in place, calves aren’t moved, feeders are not used between pens, people are the only thing moving between pens and there is a good barrier between pens.” Any visitors or truck drivers don’t go into calf pens and staff wash and disinfect boots and change gloves after being in hospital pens. They never spray the main pens, but spray the isolated sick pens weekly. The main pens are water blasted at the start of the season and kept topped up regularly with sawdust. Hygiene is critical and farmers should be able to prevent a disease outbreak if they have enough space and have a plan in place and guidelines for staff to follow, Joanne says. When there is a disease outbreak on a farm there is always a reason why, whether it’s the facilities, staff, or something happening in the herd that’s been transferred to calves such as salmonella.

Joanne Leigh – Calf-rearing takes a lot of time and commitment and you really need to love calves to do it.

“There is always a trigger or something fundamentally wrong.” One of the most important things is to have designated hospital pens. At Top-Notch with their large numbers they have seven sick pens, a new pen for each day of the week. Because calves are only fed once a day staff have one opportunity to spot them. Their policy is: if in doubt, take the calf out of the pen. “We tried twice-a-day feeding but the calves aren’t as hungry and don’t always run out to get their milk so it’s harder to spot a sick calf.” Staff will do a once-over check of the calf, including its navel, nose, breathing and only treat calves with antibiotics that genuinely need to be treated. The calf’s number is written on a whiteboard along with feeding and treatment details for staff to follow. If it’s just nutritional scours they will feed electrolytes for two days. On day three and four they will get milk in the morning and electrolytes at night, then back on milk morning and night for two days then back on to once-a-day milk in a recovered hospital pen. Electrolytes are key to keeping calves hydrated if they’re scouring. John and Joanne make their own,

Using Kiwi ingenuity is key to cost control with calf rearing.

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mixed in a concrete mixer. They also use Trubond which is great for scours to bind calves up.

Contract rearing

As in any business, the emphasis is on making a profit. In a market where margins are small, Jonathan and Joanne say calf-rearers have to do their sums and watch their costs. People can venture into calf-rearing because they see an easy way to make extra money, but the reality is after a few years a lot of people go broke or lose interest. The main cost factors are the cost of the calves and cost of milk powder which can alter from year to year and people can become unstuck very quickly, John says. John and Joanne used to buy their own calves and sell them on contract, but a few years ago switched to only doing rearing contracts. They now rear predominately dairy heifer replacements for other farmers. The contracts are based on meeting weight targets with a ceiling death rate of 5%. Their worst ever death rate at Top-Notch was 9.6% when they reared a huge number of calves and were getting up to 700 calves dropped off in one day. Last year their death rate was 0.9%. They are still learning every day on the job, John and Joanne say. This season they are rearing Wagyu-cross beef calves for the first time which have proved to be challenging and they’ve had to adjust their system. “Calf-rearing takes a lot of time and commitment and you really need to love calves to do it,” Joanne says.

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SPECIAL REPORT │ CALF REARING

The making of a ruminant Cheyenne Stein cheyenne.stein@nzfarmlife.co.nz @CheyStein2

Young ruminants are functionally monogastrics for about two to three weeks post-birth. A ruminant’s stomach has four parts: a reticulum, rumen, omasum and abomasum. All four parts are present at birth but only the abomasum is fully developed and functional. Their rumen is small, sterile and underdeveloped at birth. This all needs to change in order for calves to go on to be grass-eating milk-making adults. Dr Sarah Pain, senior lecturer at Massey University says that when a calf is born it needs to be fed milk in sufficient quantities to meet its nutritional requirements during this early life period because, until the rumen is adequately developed, milk (or milk replacer) is what the calf is physiologically set up to digest and utilise. The calf’s digestive system has a mechanism which allows milk to by-pass the rumen and go straight into the abomasum (acidic stomach). “Sucking and the presence of milk proteins triggers a reflex closure of the muscular folds of the oesophageal groove allowing milk to go through to the abomasum (the gastric stomach), by-passing the rumen all together.” “This allows the milk to be digested more efficiently and therefore optimises the utilisation of the energy provided in the milk.” The initial drink of first-milking colostrum is the key to optimising

The reticulum, rumen and omasum are by-passed by milk fed in the first weeks after birth.

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Milk needs to be fed in sufficient quantities to meet the calf’s total nutritional requirements for at least the first three to four weeks of life.

the health and immune function of the calf. Ideally the calf should drink about two litres of colostrum within the first six hours of life. “They need it that early because the wall of the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) is not completely closed off until the calf is about 24 hours old and it is at its most permeable in the first six hours.” The immunoglobulins (antibodies) in colostrum transfer through the wall of the gut intact so it’s important to maximise intake of colostrum when the GIT is at its most permeable. “Calves really need to be fed firstmilking colostrum in the first six hours after birth, or at least within 12 to 24 hours, if you want to maximise the immune defence from colostrum.” A ruminant needs to have a developed and functioning rumen in order to change from a diet of liquid milk to that of solid feeds. A number of things are needed for a rumen to properly develop. It needs to increase in size and volume. When a calf is born its stomachs account for about 20% of the total gastro-intestinal tract volume, while in an adult ruminant, the stomachs account for about 50%. There needs to be an increase in the musculature to allow the rumen to contract. An efficient absorptive surface needs to develop which involves growing papillae and of course, the rumen needs to accumulate a

microbial population in a water-based environment. “Milk won’t stimulate the development of the rumen. It’s the combination of both concentrate meal or grain and roughage or pasture in the calf’s diet that will,” Pain says. Concentrates and roughage stimulate different aspects of rumen development so offering both to your calves is important. The fermentation of concentrates in the rumen create lots of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) which are responsible for developing the inside surface of the rumen, they stimulate the development and growth of papillae. Papillae are finger-like projections on the inside surface of the rumen that create more surface area for absorption of digestion end-products. Roughage, on the other hand, won’t really stimulate growth of papillae but is important for increasing rumen volume and musculature as well as stimulating saliva production. The presence of roughage in the rumen also creates an abrasiveness that improves papillae integrity and stops them clumping together which would decrease the efficiency of nutrient absorption from the rumen. “Feeding roughage alone you won’t see the papillae growth, you need the grains/concentrates for that. It’s a beautifully co-ordinated system really in terms of its physiology with multiple aspects working together.” However, you should not expect concentrates and roughage to start

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When a ruminant is born, their gastric stomach (abomasum) is the largest of the four stomach compartments, representing about 50% of the total stomach capacity whilst the rumen is only about 20%. As the ruminant matures, this switches and the rumen becomes the largest of the four stomach compartments. This reflects the transition in importance of these parts of the stomach. contributing significantly to dietary requirements before about three to four weeks of age. Calves are not able to eat or digest sufficient amounts of solid feed at this early age to meet their nutritional requirements. Milk needs to be fed in sufficient quantities to meet the calf’s total nutritional requirements for at least the first three to four weeks of life. “You can allow calves access to roughage and concentrate from one week of age or even earlier. The small amounts consumed as they experiment with the feeds will start stimulating rumen development but they still won’t be able to consume enough solid feed until about six weeks of age to depend solely on it.” The solid feeds offered to calves need to be high quality, ideally fed fresh every day and kept clean and dry. Free access to clean water is also important to establish the fluid environment in the rumen. The degree of rumen development of individual calves fed milk, meal/grain, and hay or pasture will vary from calf to calf depending on how much of these feeds each calf eats. Pain says it’s important to spend some time with your calves when they are fed to keep an eye on how much of each feed calves are eating (or not eating) to give an indication as to when best to start reducing milk. Making sure a calf’s rumen is developed in time for weaning on to pasture is important to avoid any setbacks in meeting growth milestones. Offering concentrate meal for one to two weeks after turn-out to pasture may help. “If you remove milk from the calf’s diet before the rumen has adequately developed you will see reductions in growth. “If the rumen isn’t properly developed at weaning they won’t be able to effectively digest and utilise

sufficient quantities of pasture and there will likely be a lag in growth while rumen development catches up.” OPTIMISING THE OESOPHAGEALRETICULAR GROOVE When a calf drinks milk it bypasses the rumen and it is directed into the abomasum (the acidic stomach) through the reflex closure of the oesophagealreticular groove. The groove is at the lower end of the oesophagus and extends to the reticulo-omasal orifice. It consists of muscular folds that come together to form a tube-like structure that allows milk to be channelled into the calf’s abomasum. “When milk enters the abomasum it is essentially curdled by the acid and enzymes in the stomach. The milk protein and fat form a solid clot, while the liquid whey, lactose and other milk components leave the abomasum and move into the small intestine where they are digested,” Pain says. Enzymes in the stomach will then slowly break down the milk clot and gradually release the nutrients into the small intestine where they will either be further digested or absorbed. Optimising milk feeding in calves involves maximising the efficiency of both groove closure and clot formation. If the groove fails to close, either partially or entirely, milk will leak into the rumen where, rather than clotting, it is rapidly fermented. This can lead to ruminal acidosis and bloat, impairs the development and function of the rumen, and of course, results in poor calf growth and health. If the milk in the abomasum doesn’t clot properly whole milk can enter the small intestine where it will provide substrates for bacterial growth leading to nutritional scours.

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When too much milk is fed or when calves drink milk too fast, the large quantities of milk rapidly entering the abomasum do not clot efficiently and this can lead to bacterial growth and fermentation occurring in the abomasum resulting in abomasal bloat. “There are a number of things that you can do to facilitate groove closure and milk clot formation,” Pain says. Feeding milk through a teat will allow calves to suckle which helps to stimulate groove closure. The teat should be positioned below the level of the calf’s eyes and care should be taken to ensure teats are kept in good condition. “You can feed calves milk directly out of a bucket as well, but it’s best to have the bucket raised about 30cm above the floor the calf is standing on.” Groove closure can be reinforced by routine and environmental conditioning. Allowing calves to see and hear their milk being prepared, and things like feeding milk at the same time of day and at the same (warm) temperature, will all encourage good groove closure. Having a comfortable housing environment and a consistent milk feeding routine will help to reduce stress. Stress responses inhibit groove closure. You want to make sure to remove any leftover milk so that it doesn’t get consumed cold and avoid letting a calf drink too much milk or drink milk too fast, Pain says. Also avoid letting the calf drink lots of water right after feeding milk as the groove is still formed and water in the abomasum will weaken the milk clot. “Ultimately consistency in your milk feeding routine is the key. What we want is for the nutrients in milk to be used for growth, rather than being used by gastro-intestinal bacteria leading to digestive upsets and scours.”

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SPECIAL REPORT │ EXPERT EYE Calf-rearing is the beginning of nurturing good genes, Joanne Leigh says.

A nurturing touch to profitable calf-rearing Dairying farming is our livelihood. We are driven by the profits we can make to support our lifestyle but in order to achieve this we must consider the wellbeing and care of our “providers”. As in child-raising, calf-rearing is the beginning of nurturing those good genes. What do we say? “We are what we eat, we are what we do.” To raise healthy calves profitably there are two main things to consider. First, let’s look at output. Output (or the number of calves that reach 100kg) equals income. Secondly, let’s look at costs. Higher output and less costs equal more profit. I challenge you to spend time before the start of calving reviewing your setup and planning for calf-rearing this spring.

Maximising output

Let’s look at increasing the output first. Good facilities are the cornerstone. There should be enough room to house all your replacements and any calves for sale (calves for sale should be kept separate). “Hospital” pens should also be provided for sick calves. Here they can be isolated from the main calf pens and reduce the likelihood of disease spreading, they can also be treated more easily. Feeding calves colostrum is another cornerstone. First, tubing calves with two litres of warm first-colostrum on arrival at the calf shed is vital. Calves need 4l of first-milking colostrum in the first 12 hours. Great staff who really care about calves are vital too. Attention to detail is also important,

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it’s all the little things that make a calf-rearing system profitable, as is having good systems in place to make feeding and caring for the calves easy and enjoyable. Timely vaccinating, dehorning, weighing and drafting; the correct timing of weaning off milk and later off meal for each calf is very important. Attention to these details will keep death rates down and growth rates up, increasing output and profits.

It’s all the little things that make a calf-rearing system profitable, as is having good systems in place to make feeding and caring for the calves easy and enjoyable.

Minimising costs

The two biggest feed costs in a calfrearing system are milk and meal. Milk costs: To keep the cost of milk down utilise as much of your own colostrum as you can. Have good storage facilities, keep it stirred and free from bacterial contamination. Feed the older stored milk to the oldest calves (it may need to be mixed with some fresh milk or milk powder to improve palatability) and feed the fresh milk to the youngest calves. The question of when to buy milk powder or take milk out of the vat, is a simple one to answer; when you know the cost of each. For example, a bag of Ancalf milk powder may cost $74 and mix up to 135l, this is 55c/l. Compare

this to the value of milk in the vat. If we use $6.00/kg MS, average of 8.4% MS, this equates to 11.9l/kg MS – $6/11.9 = 50.4c/L. The cost of taking milk out of the vat is 50.4c/l, then if it is during the peak, there may be another 50c/ kg MS deduction to take into account. This equates to 4.2c/l. So the predicted cost would be 50.4c/l – 4.2c/l = 46.2c/l. Note this is only a prediction. In this scenario it costs less to take milk out of the vat to feed your calves than to buy milk powder. Meal Costs: Meal is the other big feed cost. Meal helps calves (preruminants) develop their rumen so that they can digest pasture. The cost of the meal is only part of the equation, as the quality of the feed and additives also need to be taken into account. Most meals are 16%-20% protein. In general, the higher the protein percentage the more costly the meal. If you are feeding 4l milk/day to your calves they will only need a 16% protein meal as they are receiving adequate protein in their milk. Animals need a minimum of 16% protein in their diet for growth. Once weaned off milk and on good quality pasture and meal, 16% protein meal will again suffice as the protein percentage in the pasture will be higher meeting the minimum of 16% over both feeds. The other factor is the energy content of the meal (ME). Good quality meals should be 12MJ ME/kg. They also need to have a coccidiostat e.g. Bovatec (to reduce the chance of your calves getting coccidiosis), a mould inhibitor and appropriate minerals (to meet the NRC guidelines).

Calling in a contractor

In some circumstances it may be more profitable to contract out calf rearing. A number of commercial calf rearers are available. If you go down this path, choose one that has a very good reputation and weigh up the cost versus the result. Often this can be a good option for a portion of your calves, or the whole lot if you are short of staff, or don’t have adequate facilities. What changes are you going to make to improve the profitability of your calf-rearing system? • Joanne Leigh is a farm consultant and dairy farmer, who with husband Jonathan owns Top-Notch Calves, a large-scale Waikato operation rearing up to 8000 calves a season. Joanne has worked in rural banking and as a farm consultant for DairyNZ.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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SPECIAL REPORT │ CALF REARING open and lets milk flow to the teat in the machine until the calf has had its allotted feed. Once the milk stops flowing the calf gets the message there’s no more to be had and backs out.

‘We even had one calf come in for a feed just before midnight, back out and then come straight back in because we have the feeders set on a certain amount of milk and number of feeds in a 24-hour period that rolled over at midnight.’

Suz Wyborn – calves did better on auto feeders.

A system to grow better calves Anne Lee anne.lee@nzx.com @Cantabannelee

Suz Wyborn was pretty happy with her calf-rearing system. A busy mum and Canterbury sharemilker milking 850 cows together with husband Joe, she’d refined her system so she could rear more than 200 calves and come out the other end of calving in one piece and sane. So she admits she was pretty sceptical when she was asked to trial locally developed automatic calf feeders. “I took on three but I kept my own system running as well so the shed was split half and half. What I was doing was working well and I just wasn’t sure these machines were going to be for me at all.

“If the calf comes back in within a certain time the computer says no and the calf won’t get any more milk. It’s amazing how quickly they learn they can’t come back in too soon. “We even had one calf come in for a feed just before midnight, back out and then come straight back in because we have the feeders set on a certain amount of milk and number of feeds in a 24-hour period that rolled over at midnight. “It pretty much got two feeds in one,” Suz says. The auto feeders were developed by South Canterbury dairy farmer, former long-time LIC director and latterly whisky distiller Alvin Reid and his brother David. They were dubbed Handy Calf Feeders because of an association with Timaru farm machinery business owner Gordon Handy, who together with his niece Felicity are also distributors for the machines. Suz says she doesn’t put the calves straight on the machines but trains them to drink on conventional calf feeders. “By the time they’re four or five days old and they’re racing to the feeder I

“In the end, though, I had to admit the calves on the auto-feeders were better calves,” she says. When it came time to make a decision over whether they’d buy them or have them taken out she bought them and three more. Now all their replacements are fed on the machines. The auto-feeders use electronic identification tags (EID) and an EID reader in the race of the machine, where the calf stands to feed, to identify the calf and dish out the programmed amount of milk. The computer, which Milk on tap – operates the system enjoying a feed and is located in the calf at her leisure. shed, allows a valve to

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The first days

Calves are free to move from their pens to the auto calf-feeders any time

transfer them out of their pen into an area where they have access to one automatic feeder that’s just for the learners. “I do it in the morning after they’ve been fed on the normal feeder. I plug their numbers into the programme on my phone so the computer knows they’re there and how much milk they should be getting and how often. “Then I leave them till the next morning. I can check on the computer at home before I come up to the shed if they’ve had a feed or look at my phone or the computer screen when I get to the shed. “In the majority of cases they will have worked it out and had a feed. Out of 220 there might be five I have to spend time on to really get them used to it. “Most of the time it might just be pushing them up to it once and then they’ve got it. On the really rare occasion there might be a bit of a bully amongst them that tries to get past them or push in but I’ll move that one out pretty quickly into the next area where the bigger calves are on two feeders.” Suz sets the computer to give young calves four litres over a 24-hour period and increases that to six litres over time. She sets a six to eight-hour delay between the first and second feed depending on the age of the animal. “I was a once-a-day girl because that’s what worked for me and the calves did fine with that but once we had the autoSuz sets up the computer ready for calf-rearing.

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feeders I could make it twice-a-day. It didn’t mean I had to spend any more time at the shed and I think the calves did better for it. “I’m not trying to push them into having one big feed at the time I want them to feed. They can choose when they do it now. “Most of them feed at night – from 3am to 8am the machines are really busy, so by the time I get there in the morning they’ve almost all had a feed – some of them have had all they get for the day.” Calves have access to water and ad lib calf muesli mixed with a barley feed mix that includes coccidiostats. It’s crushed and mixed onfarm by a mobile service. Milk for the automated system is pumped from the calf milk vat at the farm dairy via an underground pipe. The calf shed is just 20 metres from the dairy and the system means, apart from colostrum and milk for calves being trained, all of the second, third and fourth milking milk gets to the shed with a flick of a switch. It’s pumped to a 7500-litre tank that’s on a stand at the rear of the shed. The underground piping isn’t just for milk, it can be switched to bring a hot wash or acid wash to the calf shed too, allowing the milk line to be cleaned as well as the tank at the rear of the shed and the lines to the auto feeders. “If I want to put a wash through the milk lines to the feeders but not the tank I just uncouple the tank from the line and put the line to the feeders into a bucket of hot water, turn off the readers in the feeders and put the wash through using my phone. It’s all very simple.” The feeders sit on a concrete pad with a 4m x 10m concrete apron out the front of each set of three feeders. The wash line and water line are set up so that Suz can clean the concrete areas down each day too. The washdown runs to drains that then head to the effluent system.

Calves are picked up twice, sometimes three times day depending on the weather and put on to a purpose-built pen that’s on the front forks of the tractor. The whole pen is lowered to the ground in the paddock and because one full side of the pen is a gate that can be opened back, the handler can carry calves right into the pen without having to lift them over a rail. The calves are tagged and have their navels sprayed when they’re picked up. The calf pen is lowered to the ground again when it’s brought to the calf sheds so the calves can again be handled easily without lifting them over the sides of the pen. Suz sprays their navels again and every calf is tube-fed warm, colostrum from first milkings. “They get that gold colostrum straight away. Everything gets it, the bobbies get it too.” The bobbies are kept in pens separate to the main calf-rearing shed and are fed milk on conventional milk feeders until they’re fit to go. The replacements and any beef-cross calves in the main shed are fed warm colostrum milk from the second, third and fourth milkings while they’re being trained on to conventional calf feeders. Calves have 24-hour access to water through that time.

Suz says calves hang around on the concrete before and after their feed for a few minutes and it’s there that they’re most likely to let their own waste go. Because she can wash it off it’s not carried through the adjacent pens and wood chip bedding, helping keep that cleaner. The auto feeders are in the centre of the calf shed with two rows of three that are back to back. Suz says she starts out the season on one side of the shed using just three feeders until that side is full before she moves on to the other side. Each auto-feeder can handle 40 calves comfortably so each side of the shed can accommodate 120 calves. Suz and Joe are big fans of monitoring and using information to drive their management practices so they achieve the outcomes and goals they’re after. The calves are weighed and that information is also recorded in the system that comes with the auto feeders.

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Calf-rearing at the Wyborns is more relaxed with auto feeders.

“We’re very keen weighers,” Suz laughs, “but seriously, how are you supposed to know where you’re at if you don’t do that? “We have to have all our calves off by December and we don’t want to be sending any underweight calves to the graziers. If we don’t weigh them until November we don’t have time to do anything about dealing with anything that’s not on target. “If we start back in October and know our target weights we can take action.” Suz can set up groups on the computer based on their weights and allocate that group a specific feeding regime. As soon as the weather warms up in August calves from about two weeks and older get access to the outdoors and lanes behind the shed that take them to grass paddocks. There’s a separate lane for each side of the shed and calves can come and go from the paddock to the shed and the auto-calf feeders at any time up until they’re weaned. One of the biggest benefits of the auto system is time and therefore labour saving but it’s also set up to minimise heavy lifting and be as simple and efficient as possible. Last calving Suz had a back operation and she and Joe have really worked to make the system minimise the load in every sense. Suz can rear the calves on her own if need be and while she says it’s still a very busy time through the peak of calving it’s not as busy as it would be if the calves all needed to be manually fed. “It gives me more time, even at that peak period, to keep an eye on the calves themselves. I can see at a glance if a calf hasn’t fed or if something’s up by looking at the computer or on my phone and there are alerts that you can set too. “But it also gives me time to walk

through them and observe – when you’re flat out feeding you’re just on the go.” Once they’re through that peak and all the calves are on the feeders Suz

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says the time savings really come into their own. “Some days I can be up at the shed for just half an hour. I can look at the computer over breakfast and see if there’s any calf I have to deal with – most of the time there won’t be – so then it’s just a matter of going up there and making sure their feeders (grain feeders) are topped up.” Based on their calf numbers and labour savings Suz and Joe calculate the payback period is five years on the machines.

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SPECIAL REPORT │ VET VOICE

Jersey calves at the calfetaria.

Calves – what and when to feed and when to wean Katie Denholm Calves are arguably the most valuable animals in your herd. Rearing them right begins at birth and it’s important to get things right from the word go. Calves need at least 10% of their bodyweight in high quality, first-milking colostrum within the first 6-12 hours of life. Calves are born without fully functioning immune systems and need to absorb antibodies from their

mothers’ colostrum across their guts, into their bloodstreams. Colostrum that is low in antibody and/or high in bacteria can result in calves that have low blood antibody levels; and research has proven these animals are more susceptible to disease and death; don’t grow as well; conceive as well or produce as much milk in their first lactation. A 40kg newborn calf needs 4 litres of colostrum within the first 12 hours of life, but their abomasum (stomach) capacity is only about 2l, so you can’t physically feed this all in one feed. Ideally, a 40kg calf should be fed 2l of first milking colostrum within six hours of birth and another 2l within the first 12 hours of life.

Calves should also be fed second, third and fourth-milking colostrum for four days if possible. Data collected from 106 farms across New Zealand, suggests pooled colostrum for feeding to newborn calves is highly contaminated and very low in antibody. In fact, only 2% of colostrum samples collected from more than 100 dairy farms met antibody and bacteria targets. This is bad news for our highest genetic merit stock – our calves. What can we do to improve colostrum quality in NZ? You can check colostrum antibody levels easily onfarm, by using a Brix refractometer which you can get from your local vet. This allows you to test

Compare your costs. We've put a price on our automated milking system. See for yourself how we compare. www.brightfarming . nz

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Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


colostrum antibody levels day-to-day to check your calves are getting what they need. You can also measure bacterial contamination in your colostrum through your vet. All colostrum collection and storage equipment needs to be scrubbed thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use. Test buckets; colostrum storage vats and calf feeders are often very dirty and aren’t cleaned properly allowing bacteria to build up. Bacteria (and in particular the ones found in faeces) can block antibody uptake at the gut level, so even if your colostrum antibody levels are high; if your colostrum is really dirty, you could still end up with sick calves. First-milking colostrum is the only colostrum suitable for feeding to newborn calves, don’t mix it with latermilking colostrum as this lowers the antibody level of the pool. Collect colostrum from cows as soon as possible after calving to ensure antibody levels are maximised. Antibody levels decline rapidly. Feed your calves with fresh, firstmilking colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Select the cows in your herd that are likely to be giving you the best quality colostrum – if you don’t know who they are; test colostrum from individual cows with the refractometer.

First-milking colostrum is the only colostrum suitable for feeding to newborn calves, don’t mix it with later-milking colostrum as this lowers the antibody level of the pool.

Stored colostrum for older calves should be kept in a clean storage vat with a stirrer and a loose-fitting lid to prevent contamination and bacterial proliferation. You may also like to use a colostrum preservative such as potassium sorbate to control bacterial growth if it is to be stored for more than 12 to 24 hours. You can get this from your local vet.

Feed calves enough milk

After the colostrum feeding period, calves need to be fed 10% of their bodyweight in milk, preferably split into two feeds, until they are consuming

Friesian calves eating hay.

enough grass, meal and roughage to meet their energy demands. NZ-based work has shown calves fed twice daily for the first three weeks are less likely to get sick and less likely to die than calves fed once a day before they are three weeks old. When young calves are being milk fed, they use only one (the abomasum) of their four stomachs, but the aim of successful calf rearing is to develop the calf rumen quickly and to produce a well-grown, healthy, ruminating animal. It’s much cheaper to feed a calf meal and grass than it is to feed milk from the vat. In order to develop the calf’s rumen quickly, calves need to be offered meal from birth. Calf meal aids in the development of the lining of the rumen. Calf starter meal should contain: • At least 20% crude protein (CP) • Minimum 11.5 – 12.5 MJ/kg DM ME • Rumensin or Bovatec to protect against coccidiosis • Vitamins and minerals. As well as meal- calves should be offered roughage such as hay. Research has found six-seven-weekold calves fed concentrate ruminated for fewer minutes (six minutes an hour) compared to calves fed forage such as hay (18 minutes an hour). The hay should ideally be shortchopped and offered to calves in small amounts (10-15% of their diet). Hay

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

should be fed ideally in hay nets or feeders to prevent calves from soiling it or using it as bedding. Fibre makes the rumen bigger and promotes the development of the rumen stomach muscles. Since calf meal is responsible for developing the lining of the rumen and hay is responsible for developing rumen size and strength and for stimulating rumination; calves need both roughage and grain to prepare them for weaning.

When to wean calves

Milk should not be withdrawn until the nutrients from ruminal digestion of calf starters can provide the protein and energy needs for both maintenance and growth. Traditionally calves have been weaned on age, but it is better practice to wean on weights and meal consumption. Calves should be eating an average of the following for three consecutive days: • Friesians: 1.5-2kg grain per day • Jerseys: 1-1.5 kg grain per day • It is best to wean calves at 30% of their mature liveweight. Each herd will have its own genetic liveweight potential targets, so work out how much your weaned calves should weigh based on your mature cow liveweights. • Katie Denholm is a vet and herd health advisor with Anexa FVC in Waikato.

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SPECIAL REPORT │ CALVING Anthony Lamborn says every cow in his herd is a lady and is treated like one.

Smooth deliveries Anne Hardie verbatim@xtra.co.nz

A calm, stress-free environment from day one where animals are treated with respect produces a quiet cow that will happily deliver throughout her life and Anthony Lamborn says there are no excuses for anything less. Lamborn manages a 700-cow herd at 650-metre altitude near Nelson’s Lake Rotoiti and is passionate about the animals in his care and that earned him the DeLaval Livestock Management Award in the West Coast Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year award where he placed third overall. Animal welfare and health are paramount on the farm and his goal is always to produce relaxed, happy cows that have never had any checks as a youngster, are grown out well and achieve longevity in the herd. It’s a challenging farm to achieve that goal with snow on the ground each year during calving and the cold delaying the balance date for grass as late as mid October and sometimes later. In his first year on the farm, 10cm of snow fell in one storm and hung around for two weeks. “And the frosts are mean. It gets bitterly cold and the roads are treacherous. We don’t grow a hell of a lot of grass from the first frosts in midApril and they’re still hanging around in September. So we juggle supplements to make up for it.” The former sheep and beef farm

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was converted to dairy six years ago and sprawls over 660 hectares, though much of that is in native bush and the milking platform covers 250ha. Steeper paddocks beyond the platform reach 750m where some of the cows graze through winter while the rest of the herd grazes nearby on leased land. The setting is spectacular, but calving can be downright unpleasant and as there is only one house on the farm, Anthony takes the night time shift to check calving cows. He uses strips of old car tubes to make collars for the newborn calves with a number assigned to the mother and drafts the calved cows from the springer herd the next day. Because the dairy has automatic

drafting, Anthony brings the entire springer herd in every morning where they get a feed of calving pellets and a teat spray before the calved cows are drafted out, while the non-calved cows head to the feed pad for maize before heading back to the paddock. The system has worked well for the farm which usually has three full-time staff alongside Anthony through the season, though for much of the past season it was just two staff. “Because my staffing structure is small, I had to look at how to do things efficiently and this way just two of us can get the job done and my guys get regular days off over calving. So no-one is tired and irritable.” If newborn calves brought into the calf shed are still wet, they get towelled dry and if necessary, tube fed if they’ve struggled to get going in stormy weather. Everything has its navel sprayed with iodine and goes into the care of Anthony’s wife, Rachel, who refuses to let anyone enter the calf sheds without walking through a disinfectant footbath. “A lot of disease among calves is from overcrowding and poor hygiene, so stock buyers and bobby truck guys aren’t allowed in the sheds. We always make sure someone is there to help get calves on the truck.” When the farm was converted to dairy, a separate shed was built for bobby calves and a concrete pit constructed so trucks can back down into it to make the deck level with the ground, allowing calves to be walked onto the truck without a ramp. Last season there were fewer bobby calves walking on to the truck as all the bull calves that were black, or black and white, were sold to a buyer to raise for

Anthony’s ideal crossbred cow for the highaltitude farm.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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bull beef and that earned the farm an extra $12,000. Inside the replacement heifer calf shed, calves are stocked at 16 calves per large pen with plenty of space for the calves and sunshine pouring in to promote healthy growth. All the farm’s colostrum is kept, stored and fed to the calves, so no milk powder is bought in. For six weeks, the heifer calves are fed twice a day and kept inside the shed, with fresh water, top-quality meadow hay and meal from day one. “The hay is for the scratch factor to get them ruminating. The newbies don’t eat it but as soon as they go into their assigned mobs they’ll eat the hay rather than the meal.” At six weeks they head out on to grass and milk drops to one feed a day, fed to paddocks of 40 calves and a calf feeder with 55 teats so there’s enough room to spread around and avoid competition for milk. Calves that are slower feeders are held back in the shed and only head out to the paddocks when they can keep up with the other calves. “They’re slower-drinking calves rather than later calves – some just take a little longer and I’m never in a rush to kick them outside or to wean them. It can’t just be done on age because it will be doomed to fail. Before weaning them, they have to be eating a reasonable amount of grass and meal or they will check and go backwards.” To avoid other checks in growth, the herd is vaccinated with Rotovac to avoid rotavirus, the calf sheds are cleaned with chloride of lime before the season to “nuke any bugs”, walls and rails are sprayed with Virkon disinfectant cleaner, and once calving begins the milk feeders are cleaned every morning

A concrete pit allows the bobby calf truck to back down for calves to walk straight on.

and night with hot acid water from the dairy plant wash. Removing stress at debudding is also a priority to reduce the risk of growth checks. Debudding is a brutal experience that Anthony says is stressful for both animals and staff. Paying a vet to do the job painlessly and professionally is a no-brainer as far as he is concerned. It’s carried out over a couple of vet visits where the calves follow the milk feeder into the shed and as they are trying to feed, the vet gives them a jab to put them to sleep, gives them a local anaesthetic and removes the horn buds and any extra teats. It costs $5 a calf and Anthony says it is money well spent and should be regulation. “The calves don’t check at all. The calves don’t have a clue what’s going on and when they wake up they have a feed. The next day they’re a bunch of happy calves and aren’t bleeding and shaking their heads because their heads are sore. We’ve had no bleeding, no infection – nothing. It’s money well spent and I believe it should be enforced in the industry.” Getting vets to debud calves – and down the track polled genes maybe – is

Rising two-year-old heifers.

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part of an animal welfare policy that Anthony says the industry should be heading toward voluntarily. Likewise, teaching staff from the beginning how to treat animals from the time they are young calves. “It’s just having protocols in place on farms of how animals can be handled. I think I was fortunate to be born on a dairy farm and dad was a first-class stockman, while mum was the calfrearer and she treated all the calves like babies – and my wife Rachel does too. They’re little defenceless animals that really need to be loved and looked after to do well. You make a living off them and your future herd starts as a calf. Our stock just love people because it’s how they’ve been brought up.” As the calves mature, the philosophy remains the same to give them a stressfree and well-fed existence so they continue to grow without checks and are relaxed with people. The herd is a liquorice allsorts of breeds as it was made up of carry-over cows two years ago, so calves include all the artificially-inseminated heifers plus the pick of those from natural matings to improve the herd faster. Such a diverse mix of genes means calves are weaned accordingly, with Friesian types finishing their milk feeds at 100kg, crossbreds at 85kg and Jerseys have to reach 75kg. At weaning, the calves get an oral drench, plus B12 and selenium which they will get every three months until they are a year old. From weaning they are run as one mob and rotated around paddocks to get the pick of grass. The mob doesn’t go behind wire until they are eight months old and as yearlings after winter, they still get the best of the grass without being behind wire. Anthony with one of his favourite heifers.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


The dairy is a food production facility that is cleaned accordingly.

Treat them like ladies, not slappers Animal welfare is an issue close to Anthony Lamborn’s heart and he says the dairy industry could be more proactive, including random farm audits and lifting the Code of Welfare minimal condition score. A cow with the minimum condition score of three is emaciated, he says, and though there are always certain circumstances when one or two cows are like that, there are entire herds that are that low. “Years ago people used to have a ‘what if’ silage stack on their farm for a drought or hard winter, but you don’t see much of that any more. I think any farm should have enough feed on hand for four to five weeks if needed.” The herd he manages tends towards fat and that’s the way he likes it and it takes a bit of feeding to achieve it. A cost that he says is returned with milk in the vat and healthy, happy cows. “Every cow in my herd is a lady and they are to be treated like ladies. If you treat them like slappers you will get a herd of slappers. Treat them like ladies and you get a herd of ladies. I treat them with respect because they put in a huge amount of work and they pay my wage. “Animal welfare starts with your staff and you have to start with stockmanship. There are protocols in my dairy shed and no-one steps outside of that.” Tired, worn-out staff can take it out on cows so Anthony says the goal is to keep staff fresh and happy. The farm has the advantage of plenty of automation in the dairy which allows the herd of 700 cows to be milked by just one person. That allows staff to get a couple of late starts in a row. Plus they get a good two-hour break over lunch and the cows benefit.

Animal welfare and nutrition go hand-in-hand because it’s all about feeding the cows well, he says. On a farm at 650m above sea level with little or no grass growth between April and October and the longest walk stretching out to 1.45 hours, the reality is supplementary feed to keep the weight on and producing milk through the season. Anthony chooses biscuit meal, which is a bakery waste with 14MJ ME and because it is a cooked product, it is totally utilisable by the cow and nothing is wasted. He feeds 3kg/cow from calving through to drying them off at the end of May. During spring he also feeds up to 6kg/cow of palm kernel and in autumn about 2kgs, when he gives the cows 6kgs of maize silage each to put weight on before winter. “Then we don’t have to put weight on through winter because we don’t put weight on in winter here.” He’s thrown in a bit of tapioca as well, barley and wheat, all with the goal of being energy replacers and though it costs, he says a fully fed cow has reduced animal health and fertility costs. Overall, the herd costs work out at $45/ cow/year and that includes breeding costs. The result of all the feed is the ability to milk the herd twice a day throughout the season until the last few days of May and total production is about 300,000kg milksolids (MS) from 680 cows at the peak. “Pasture is king, but if you choose to run a system with supplementation, you have to get the balance right.” By that he means feeding the cows according to the feed’s neutral detergent fibre that determines physical fill, rather than simply replacing a kilogram of grass with a kilogram of supplement.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

He rates stocking rate as an animal welfare issue and overstocking is “doing the cows an injustice” because they need to be full all the time. In the high-altitude climate near Lake Rotoiti, the farm runs about 2.8 cows/ha and has to have enough feed on hand to last through the 100-day winter and then enough to get through summer. For pasture management he has carryover cows and the few paddocks that can be mown are made into silage when there’s surplus. The herd of carry-over cows still has a long way to go with breeding to achieve suitable cows for the high-altitude farm and Anthony is steering clear of Friesian genetics which he says don’t cope well and he isn’t a fan of Kiwicross either. “Kiwicross has created so many issues for New Zealand – I love crossbred cows, but crossbred cows I’ve created myself. Kiwicross has no hybrid vigour which you need on this property. Anywhere there is contour or walking distances, your crossbred is the only way to go. BW (breeding worth) and PW (production worth) mean nothing here – they’re just figures on paper.” He buys Jersey semen for Friesiantype cows and vice versa, though this year he is throwing in a few different genes including Brown Swiss and Ayrshire. The Brown Swiss bull has 4.1% fat and 4.06% protein which will go over the Jersey cows to balance the fat/ protein ratio and put more width and strength into the front end of the cows for heart and lungs. “In Switzerland the Swiss Brown are on terrain that makes them suitable for here and they have longevity. They’ve a fantastic option for crossbreeding because they come from a harsh environment and can handle anything thrown at them. Ayrshires have foraging ability and you can have horrible weather and they’re still out grazing. On paper, their BW means you wouldn’t contemplate using them. But you have to pick the right cow for each bull – pick on type.” Otherwise cows won’t last the distance and he says lost longevity costs farmers money because cows are too often being culled at four to five years old. He’d like to eventually have his own farm where he can concentrate on his passion for genetics and nutrition, but doesn’t see that happening in NZ where farm prices are prohibitive. Instead, with an American father making citizenship easier, he’s likely to eventually head to Texas or Missouri where farm ownership could become a reality.

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ENVIRONMENT │ ONFARM

Scott and Sue Narbey with his parents, Murray and Marie

Farming for tomorrow Farm facts and beyond Glenys Christian glenys.christian@nzx.com

The history of Scott and Sue Narbey’s dairy farm shows through in everything they do, judges said of the supreme winner of the Auckland Ballance Farm Enviroment Awards. “They have a really clear vision and goals,” judge and Northland farmer, Ken Hames said at a field day at their property in early May. And that’s very much involved investment decisions to future-proof their business. “We’re not farming for today but tomorrow and the next year,” Scott says. “And farms can be good for the environment. I don’t want to be walking around hanging my head in shame.” They also took out the Waterforce Integrated Management Award and the LIC Dairy Farm Award in the second year the competition has been held in the Auckland area. The 155-hectare property was bought by Scott’s great grandfather, Thomas, back in 1920 who cleared the bush growing there to milk cows. Of his 12 children, Scott’s grandfather and his brother were able to take over the property and build an 18-aside herringbone dairy in the 1960s. His father, Murray and his brother Harris then ran the farm until the late 1980s, during which time they built a wintering barn and carried out an extensive amount of laser drainage. In 1989 Murray and Marie bought his brother out. During this next phase Murray carried out a lot of work contouring paddocks and renovating pastures, showing a tireless work ethic that has allowed the farm to flourish today.

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Scott went to Telford then returned home to the farm to work for wages. Murray and wife, Marie, moved to a 90-hectare runoff at South Head in 2007 and Scott and Sue bought first the herd then got involved in an equity partnership with his parents. They also own a physiotherapy business in Helensville employing 11 people and Scott manages an 80ha beef and maize block at Wainui for Sue’s family trust. Much development has taken place over the last decade. “We wanted to go to a level where we wouldn’t be selling ourselves short in five years’ time,” Sue says. “We were driven by the need to budget it through, retain staff, improve lifestyle and also ensure accuracy of the information coming out of the dairy.” In 2010 they built a calf shed on the farm then two years later started wetland development. In 2013 they built their new 44-bail rotary which was started in January and finished in May. “It was a huge project to manage,” Scott says.

• Location: Helensville, northwest Auckland • Owners: Narbey Farms, an equity partnership between Scott, Sue, Murray and Marie Narbey • Size: 155ha milking platform, 45ha neighbouring lease block, 90ha at South Head used for young stock and beef grazing • Herd: 405 peak cows, spring-calving • DairyNZ system: 4-5 • Dairy:44-bail rotary with automatic cup removers, in-dairy feeding, Protrack and EZ heat camera • Production: 2015/16, 178,400 kilgrams of milksolids • Effluent area: Almost 38ha, effluent ponds with capacity for 70 days’ winter storage.

And the Narbeys were determined it would include the latest in automation with automatic cup removers and teat spraying along with Protrack drafting. Scott says having details of individual cows on-screen in front of him at milking makes life a lot easier. “I can make up a group of cows as I

The feedpad was enlarged in 2014 and the next year the calving pad put in at one end. Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Scott Narbey in the 44-bail rotary which is equipped with a range of new technology. go then at the end of milking can move them,” he says. “So I can think proactively that next week I will be trucking cows out and their details will already be on the computer. I used to have to run down through the cows and mark their numbers in a notebook.” This technology has been added to since with the inclusion of an EZ heat detector camera in the 2016/17 season, making what can be a hard job into something much easier on staff. It allows one person to draft out bulling cows rather than needing to have another person in the dairy specifically for this task. This frees one staff member up to move around the dairy checking for lame cows and making sure that the patches aren’t covered in mud which sometimes means the camera can’t read them. Tail paint was still used as a back-up, confident of maintaining the herd’s low empty rate. They’re also in the process of DNAtesting the herd. “We can have 20 cows calving in one night which can make it hard to match up calves with the correct mothers,” Scott says.

“This will get it exact.” Last season they also changed to AI only, with no bulls and used short-gestation Hereford semen. That moved the last calving group forward by 10 days, reducing the staff workload considerably. Scott says 12 bulls had previously been used on and off, day-about so the cost saving was significant, along with the big reduction in health and safety concerns. A new system allows them to chill milk in the calf vat from 9C to five over the course of milking. And they’re now looking at a remote-sensing management of milk temperature ahead of regulations which will come into effect next year. In 2013 they drilled a new bore for farm water. Although they had an easement to take water from a nearby Watercare dam, the water it supplied had a high iron content, which could be due to old pipes. They also installed a Watersmart monitoring system allowing them to monitor three holding tanks to check on water levels and any possible leaks from their house or the dairy.

‘We wanted to go to a level where we wouldn’t be selling ourselves short in five years’ time.’ If tank levels rise above 90% of capacity the pumps will cut out and an alert will sound if it’s pumping longer than it should be, reducing both water and power usage. “If the pump hasn’t filled up the tanks in three hours it switches off then will be manually reset,” Scott says. Flow meters have also been installed to more-accurately monitor just how much water is being used onfarm. The feedpad was extended in 2014 so it could be used for more than just wintering which was the case previously. The stalls on one side were removed, the concrete base increased and bins built in the middle

Stepping up Farm worker Matt Snedden, pictured, who has been with the Narbeys for two seasons, has taken the big step up to a contract milking position this season (2017/18). Scott and Sue saw this move as a way of retaining a valuable staff member who they have encouraged to attend discussion groups. “One of our drivers was to pick someone who could grow into the position,” Scott says. “He had the potential and drive and wanted to carry on.” The farm had had a lot of old infrastructure 10 years ago, Scott says. “That was hard on staff,” he says. “But now he’ll be making a lot more of the day-to-day decisions.” Matt, who has recently completed his New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Dairy Farming) level 4, is quick to show his appreciation for the Protrack system which he says makes decision-making much quicker. “A lot of the day-to-day details you are looking at quite frequently,” he says. The Narbeys also employ Robert Travers, who has been on the property for several years and has provided stability and a wealth of knowledge from his extensive farming experience. so maize and grass silage along with palm kernel could be fed out. The Kaipara River forms the lower boundary on part of the farm that has been prone to flooding, which means 4050ha can go underwater at any time, with cows not able to go back on the pasture for five or six days. So all the herd can now be

There are firm future plans for more wetland areas. Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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put on the feedpad and fed in a sheltered, warm and stress-free environment. There’s a zero pugging policy which sees the herd moved straight to the feedpad if the weather turns bad. Earlier plans to put a roof on the feedpad have been put on hold but the centre row of bins will be replaced this season. The following year the decision was made to put in a calving pad at one end, which with metre-deep post peelings doesn’t have to be touched through the season. “I originally thought cows should calve on paddocks,” Scott says. “But we visited six to eight farms which had calving pads and I could see that they were much better off than standing in the rain and mud.” His reservation was that he thought it would take some trouble to get cows on to the pad but it proved to be no problem. “You can have 50 cows sitting down in 20 minutes,” he says. “They are where they like to be.”

Around 20 Helensville College year 10 students attended the field day on the Narbey farm and were very interested in the rotary dairy.

Scott and Sue Narbey take a long-term view when it comes to developing infrastructure on their farm as well as environmental improvements. He also thought the pad would only be used for the first few weeks of calving but now sees big advantages in keeping latercalving cows there as well. He will draft springing cows on to the calving pad two or three times a week and take those with calves off so they can go to their calving shed. “There’s so much less stress on the cows and you can control everything they eat as well as making sure they get the right minerals,” he says. “Our cases of milk fever have been virtually nil.” And he appreciates not having the morning rush of moving fences to give them a new break of feed. When it comes to cleaning, water from their nearby effluent pond can be pumped on to the pad then it can be scraped down, making the job much easier. The judges commented on the Narbeys’ good understanding of soil health management with the predominance of clay on the farm. Visual soil assessment is used along with pasture performance monitoring to pin-point paddocks which are underperforming and need to be renovated

The value of measuring Sue Narbey believes the Ballance Farm Environment Awards were very useful for measuring where their farming business was at and also “where we were as a couple”. “It appealed because it looked at everything to make sure you had a sustainable business,” she says. Their goals are: • To be accountable for the pride in the farm by maintaining the land, facilities and animals to the highest standard • To achieve the best production possible within the constraints of the farming environment • To control the cost of production to achieve a system that is profitable and sustainable on all payouts • To retain high quality staff and mentor staff through the business • To live their succession plan. They acknowledge the hard work and strong foundation laid by Scott’s parents and their support was vital in allowing them to build equity in the business. Murray is still involved daily on the farm and offers valuable advice to Scott. They are also quick to give credit to their long-standing group of advisers. Their accountant has handled the farm’s books for the past 45 years, their banker’s involvement dates back 11 years and their farm adviser has been with them for five. “We’ve used them a lot in our strategic planning.”

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after they’re cropped. Regular soil tests are carried out and nutrient budgeting is used to monitor the feed coming in from other farms. The strategic approach to nitrogen use sees it used little and often so pasture can keep producing at optimum levels throughout the year. They’ve also recently started using Tracmap to ensure proof of placement of fertiliser. There’s a long history of protecting environmental features on the farm with 3ha of bush being covenanted. This work continues with all drains and ponds fenced off and marginal areas of the farm which are unproductive or prone to erosion being retired. Over the last four years 2-3ha of wetlands have been developed in four different areas of the farm. They’ve carried out pest control by baiting, trapping and shooting, and eliminated weeds, then planted a range of natives including kahikatea, totara and manuka. The result has been a big increase in birdlife which has spurred them on to identify further areas to protect and restore in the same way. Glyceria has been a problem along the banks of the Kaipara, clogging up the waterway and resulting in worse flooding. Over the last two years the Narbeys have worked with Auckland Council, Federated Farmers and their neighbours to get a spraying programme underway which has opened the river up considerably. Scott and Sue are members of a highinput farming group based in Northland and their farm is part of Fonterra’s Milk for Schools programme. Every spring for the last six years they have had local schoolchildren come to the farm to raise calves for calf day. Both are very involved in their local community with Scott the president of the Helensville District Rugby Football Club and Sue holding voluntary positions with the Helensville District Health Trust and the Kaipara Medical Centre Board. They’re also help out with the sporting activities of their children Bella, seven, and Ollie, five, the fifth generation of Narbeys to live on the farm.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


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ENVIRONMENT │ ONFARM

Chalk and cheese farms Cheyenne Stein cheyenne.stein@nzfarmlife.co.nz @CheyStein2 Marty Genet is a big believer in science. If the science says changes need to be made onfarm, then changes he will make. Marty and his brother-in-law Myles McKeefry have been in business for 15 years and run two dairy farms in Woodville. Although right next door to each other, the two farms have vastly different environmental challenges. The home farm is a mix of heavy clay soils, rolling hills and a network of streams. It also sits in the middle of the Mangapapa catchment, one of the first to come under nutrient management provisions in the Horizons regional council’s One Plan. Winters prove to be wet and boggy on the home farm, a stark contrast to their second dairy farm next door which is run by contract milkers Mark and Emmy Bethel. Marty says the second farm is a “picture-perfect farm with not a stream or creek in sight”, dead flat and easy to farm. Because of the conditions on the home farm, Marty and Myles had to make some pretty big changes to their system five operation years ago when they started going through the process to get their farm consented under One Plan. The first port of call was dropping their stocking rate, reducing cow numbers from 365 to 320. Production has held pretty well and they hope further reduction in numbers of the next three years to 300 won’t affect their overall production too much. “Stefan Bryant from Baker and Associates was really integral in helping us

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Marty Genet with R1 heifers on his Woodville dairy farm.

Key facts • Two dairy farms • Home farm: 141ha • Cows: 330 • Farm two: 97ha • Run off blocks: 197ha • System 3 • Production: 400kg MS/cow • Total Cows wintered across both farms: 570 through the consent process. He walked us through figuring out our nitrates situation and advised on what we needed to do to improve. “With the One Plan we really just had to work off the advice that science gives us. If the science tells me there’s a problem then we have to address it.”

Both farms run as system 3 with the idea of growing as much grass as possible to achieve their 220,000kg milksolids (MS) production target. They did previously grow a fair amount of maize on the runoff block to fill the gap during wet winters and dry summers. “We found that maize had extremely high nutrient leaching so on the advice of Stefan we knocked maize on the head and buy it in now.” They dropped consumption to a third of what it was previously, mainly down to the low payout and in a bid to rely more on pasture than supplements. About 250 tonnes of palm kernel per cow is typically bought in each year and fed at about 1kg a day, well below Fonterra’s guidelines. In addition to dropping cow numbers Marty and Myles have fenced off all the waterways on the home farm, including

The 600 cubic metre effluent storage tank is part of their plan of being compliant for their effluent consent in October.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Progress on water quality 

Woodville dairy farmer Marty Genet and business partner and brother-in-law Myles McKeefry.

the Mangapapa stream which runs down the back of the farm. “All stock are excluded from that area of the farm to reduce sediment getting into the stream.” The farm is also home to extensive riparian planting with plans for more in the years to come. Nitrogen application has been decreased as well, dropping from 100kg/ha spread across multiple times a year to 70-80kg/ha in two applications. “Storage of effluent when it’s wet was probably one of the bigger issues when it came to our consent and looking at the environmental side of things and that’s the same for a lot of farmers.” To combat the issue they installed of an effluent holding tank. The 600-cubicmetre above-ground tank came with a

The farm is home to extensive riparian planting with plans for more in the years to come.

price tag of $70,000 and is part of their plan of being compliant for their effluent consent in October. Marty says the tank will primarily be used for storage during the wet season. “I say it’s a great tool. It does sit there for 10 months of year doing nothing but in the wet season when you really need it, it’s invaluable. If its pouring with rain and you can’t put effluent on your land, you have somewhere for it to go.” Marty went for the holding tank because of its low footprint in terms of taking up land and safety of knowing he wasn’t going to have effluent everywhere in the event of a natural disaster. “The idea of having ponds doesn’t appeal that much. Down south ponds are starting to show cracks and are structurally unsound from the earthquakes. The idea of having so much effluent in a pond is a big risk in my view.” For the times of the year when they are able to spread effluent on the rest of the farm they use a slurry tanker across the two farms. Along with the two dairy farms they are fortunate to have sizeable run off blocks within a stone’s throw of both farms which helps take the pressure off, allowing wintering cows off the home farm for six weeks. “When it’s wet and nitrate leaching is a big focus point having the run off blocks really saves us.” Having done a fair amount of work before beginning their consent process three years ago, Marty says the process itself was relatively plain sailing and much of that was down to the help and support from both Stefan and the team at DairyNZ.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

At the local Dairy NZ Farmers Forum in Palmerston North, catchment leader Adam Duker shared some of positive things coming out of farmer initiatives around water quality. “There is a really good story to share on Horizons for water quality which is in contrast with lots of the stories we do hear coming through the media about waterways throughout the region degrading. In reality there are really encouraging signs of improvement which are a direct reflection of some of the initiatives and improvements that farmers are making,” Duker says. When talking water quality Duker says there are two important measures. First, the state of waterways and second, the trend. A NIWA report co-funded by DairyNZ and Horizons shows results coming through around nitrogen. Nitrate levels are improving at 58% of the 36 sites monitored throughout Horizons catchments and none are degrading. “In the Manawatu catchment in particular there are 16 sites. None are in water quality decline (with nitrogen levels increasing) and there is a reducing trend in terms of e.coli, sediments and phosphorus which is really great news for the whole region.” Dairy farmers have played a big role in this improvement, Duker says. Trends are improving and numbers show 96% of stock in the region are excluded from waterways. Riparian strips have been planted to manage run off along with many farmers adjusting winter and feeding policies to do their share to reduce nutrient losses. “In the Mangatainoka catchment 45 tonnes of nitrogen has been prevented from leaving farms and going into waterways through farm environment plans and Overseer modelling.” But it’s not just dairy farmers who need to do their part. Everyone has a role to play in improving waterways, he says. A great example of all sectors working together is seen in the Mangapapa stream catchment. The catchment won a river award from LAWA (Land, Air, Water Aoteroa) for showing an improving trend of 13.6% per annum for dissolved inorganic nitrogen over the past 10 years. Award judges commented “the Mangapapa is a small catchment, surrounded by about seven dairy farms. It’s a primary catchment for DairyNZ’s Sustainable Dairying: Water accord. It was one of the first catchments to come under nutrient management provisions in the One Plan and lots of work has been carried out in the area over recent years to exclude stock and remove dairy discharges.” 79


ENVIRONMENT │ RIVERS

Follow the plan Keri Johnson

Horizons recognised that perhaps their plan may not be 100% correct, that managing within freshwater limits has its challenges, and it was being pragmatic in implementing the One Plan. 80 

In September 2016, Fish and Game and The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) took Horizons Regional Council (Horizons) to court for its implementation of its One Plan. Both Fish and Game and the EDS consider the plan was not being implemented lawfully, particularly when dealing with resource consents applications for intensive farming and dairy conversions, and because of this, the plan’s freshwater quality limits would unlikely be achieved. They claimed Horizons was going too easy on farms, allowing high levels of nitrogen to be discharged, and were taking into account the effects on farmer’s financial returns. They claimed this should not be taken into consideration. Horizons mooted the plan at the time as being a “one stop shop” for managing the Manawatu-Whanganui region’s water, air and land. However, it was highly contentious and took 10 years of consultation, legal battles and re-writes before it was eventually signed off in 2014. One of its big issues was the use of the Overseer model – the fact that it changes regularly, however, plan limits did not. A major overhaul of the Overseer model occurred part way through the One Plan process increasing modelled nutrient losses considerably and despite pleadings from those in the know, the target for the plan remained the same. Last month, the Environment Court sided with Fish and Game and the EDS. So, what does this mean? In a nutshell, it means councils will be required to give effect to their plans to the absolute letter of the law. From my reading of the situation, Horizons had recognised that perhaps their plan may not be 100% correct, that managing within freshwater limits has its challenges, and it was being pragmatic in implementing the One Plan. They were still on track to achieving the required nitrogen reductions under the plan and water quality monitoring was showing improvements. They may not have been totally on the straight and narrow in getting there, but it seems the outcomes would have been the same. So now Horizons has been forced to temporarily halt the processing and approving of consents. This will result in uncertainty for applicants and inevitably increased costs as the council comes to

grips with the decision. It will lead to more red tape and lengthier processes in the long term as far more information is going to need to be provided with any future applications for consent. Being unable to take into account financial considerations, any consents granted from here on will be subject to harsher conditions and timeframes for reducing nitrogen discharges.

So now Horizons has been forced to temporarily halt the processing and approving of consents. This will result in uncertainty for applicants and inevitably increased costs as the council comes to grips with the decision. It will lead to more red tape and lengthier processes in the long term as far more information is going to need to be provided with any future applications for consent. It will also have national ramifications. Other councils will be reading the decision closely, and the same effects can be expected to be experienced around the country – more red tape, lengthier processes and potentially harsher consent conditions as no other council will want to be accused of “going easy” on farmers. In Horizons’ defence, being the first regional council to tackle water quality and nutrient limits at any sort of scale, was ballsy, but someone had to go first. They have acknowledged their mistakes and that science is not perfect, but at the same time, have never lost sight of the end goal. Perhaps a plan change to remedy things would have been a better approach, legalising the processes they were carrying out. The court decision effectively takes away council’s ability to adapt to the situation before them – the plan is the plan, and that is it – One Plan to Rule them All, forever, the end. 

• Keri Johnston is a natural resources engineer with Irricon Resource Solutions, Timaru.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


plants?

NIWA is doing a nationwide study to discover what makes the best riparian projects. We want to know about as many riparian projects as possible – where they are located and a few other details. Help us give you the knowledge to make the best riparian management decisions possible by taking our 5 minute survey Go to riparian.niwa.co.nz or visit site PC39/41 in the main pavilion at the National Agricultural Fieldays June 14–17

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

81


DAIRY INDUSTRY WINNER Words by Jackie Harrigan

SHARING THE JOYS OF DAIRYING

In the dairy – Hayley Hoogendyke.

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ayley Hoogendyk has conquered the dairy industry regional dairy trainee awards and both regional and national dairy manager awards. Now she would like to give back to the industry. The 28-year-old Manawatu farm manager won the national Dairy Industry Awards dairy manager of the year award for 2017 and wants to help make bright city students think about the possibility of a career in farming – and having trod that path herself she knows what might push their buttons. “I was an able-enough academic student. Looking back I could’ve been dux but was too lazy to reach the top because I couldn’t see the point of getting excellence credits – I couldn’t see any advantage in it.” So she lived to play soccer through her years at Mt Manganui High School. After a sports management and business degree and a couple of years as an event manager she fell into dairy farming when she was once unemployed for a couple of weeks and hated it – the boredom of unemployment, that is. She loved the dairy farming, and especially the fact that others told her she couldn’t do it. She loves proving people wrong, so that made her even more determined. What she really loves about farming and she thinks will appeal to lots of other bright high school students who are driven to compete and work stuff out, is that every day is different and farming requires such a broad range of skills. “I hate being bored doing the same thing and I need to see the incentive to perform, and farming for top production or low

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mastitis or to see staff progress and grow pushes that incentive button for me. “Once you get to the management level, farming has lots of variables and so many benchmarking mechanisms that you can critique your system in lots of areas and always find ways to improve – that’s what continues to challenge me.” Getting staff involved and interested in the improvements and understanding why you bother builds team spirit, Hayley says. “Once they get involved and see it as a competitive thing, then you can really make some progress. The staff both encourage and police each other.” She introduced a new way of controlling mastitis and somatic cell counts (SCC) on the 600-cow Manawatu farm she managed for the 2016/17 season. At every milking, she or the 2IC sprayed a red dot on to the udder of any cow they were suspicious of developing mastitis. “It meant you had to strip her and test her at that early stage and if she was fine then

milk her out but wash out the cups after each milking. “I explained the rationale to the staff – if you have a pusy wound yourself you make sure it doesn’t touch someone else’s – that’s how infection spreads,” she says. “Each milking took an extra two-three minutes and although we had the odd case of mastitis we never had to strip the whole herd and any cases that developed were not passed around the herd. Our mastitis level has dropped by 26%.” “While I had to nag a bit at the start of the season, the staff got on board and watched each other and celebrated the success – it built pride in their record.” Hayley has found a real passion for staff management and won the national Primary ITO Power Play Award for her team management skills. “Having staff and watching them grow and learn and succeed is the top part of my job,” she says.

Seeing staff progress and grow pushes that incentive button for Hayley.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Building a team sees Hayley breaking the ice with a few laughs, getting the new person included into the team and doing jobs as a group in the quieter times. “It’s more fun doing jobs together in the farm dairy on a slow day in winter – it gives you lots of time to yarn.” Yarning for Hayley is not just talking about cows, although she is the first to admit she could talk about cows all day, but it’s an opportunity to talk about life and through a bit of gentle ribbing about feeding yourself right and getting enough sleep, she can give the young ones a few hints about work/life balance. Briefing the team on production, cow health and performance goals helps to motivate them further, Hayley says. “We break the annual milk target into 10day periods and add them up into monthly periods and can track if we are in front or behind and then discuss what to do to catch up.” Mating time also provides a learning and upskilling opportunity. “Discussing whether we are ahead or behind in AI and the reasons for it mean we can all learn from that. If we know we are missing the target we can discuss as a team why we are missing it and refocus on a slightly better direction.” “It makes you all realise that everyone is important and needs to be on board to hit the farm targets.” Drinks after work on occasion and the odd barbecue are good times to have a few laughs, but Hayley said the wet summer put paid to plans for summer barbecues after work. Hayley has completed an effective staff management course and already finished the human resources paper within the Primary ITO diploma course and plans to enrol in the new Primary ITO staff management course when it is released. “I have to travel to the block courses, but you get to interact with lots of different

Hayley Hoogendyk with her Primary ITO Power Play award.

people at the courses and learn heaps from them. “The study tour for the Dairy Industry Awards national awards had lots of cool stories. We spent the whole week yarning. “I love to learn new stuff.” The four staff on the high-input Te Paratai farms property she managed last season worked a 12-on, two-off roster from August to December followed by 11-on, three-off from January to July (with usually someone extra away on annual leave during that time). Hayley says having only ever worked 12-on, two-off rosters she appreciates what the extra day does for the energy levels of the staff. “Having the extra day seems to give people a much better rest and they can sustain higher energy levels much better during the next 11-day stint. “If you have only two days off then one day is for resting and the next for rushing around doing all your jobs so you don’t really get a great rest.” But on the 12/2 roster if a team member is tired they get the opportunity to get a sleep-in and the guys living off farm often get the afternoon off. Over winter when just 150 cows are being milked one person can handle the milking or two staffers do it in quick time and the roster is rejigged so everyone gets three weekends off while the spring cows are dry. The paddocks and a load of feed is set up on Friday afternoon to keep the work in the weekend to a minimum.

INDUCTING NEW EMPLOYEES: • Get the new person involved in the team at the start • You are not trying to make friends with them, but have a few laughs and break the ice • Keep the new staffer with you or the 2IC to start with while learning jobs • Show them how to do each job • Do the job with them • Get them to teach you how to do it – then you can pick up gaps in their understanding • Critique back to them • Go through each job a few times • Some people pick it up after two or three times, others take eight of nine times but learn it really well and do it properly each time. Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Hayley Hoogendyk with her Dairy Farm Manager of Year trophy.

JOB REVIEWS Hayley favours an informal approach to goal-setting and performance reviews with staff, saying it encourages them to be open and honest. When they have been on the job for a few weeks they have a chat about what they want to achieve in the job and what areas they are interested in upskilling in, she says. “And by the time they have been there for three-four weeks we get to know them and find out where their strengths and weaknesses lie and I can decide what I want them to achieve.” She sets a plan around the timing and makes the learning their responsibility by encouraging them to practice and embed the learning. “You need to let them make their own mistakes, but be sure that they have been taught well enough that they are not set up for failure.” When Joe Lines, her 2IC at Te Paratai farms, expressed an interest in learning how to allocate pasture Hayley taught him how to do it for the 600-cow high-input herd. Then when the farm adviser suggested they split the herd and run a smaller group separately Joe was given the job of allocating all of their feed. “He just about fell off his chair when I nominated him to manage one of the herds and was quite worried, but he really took ownership of the task and did a great job. He knew he could come and talk it through with me at any time, but he didn’t need it – and now he is capable of handling the whole farm.” “It’s been great to see him grow and develop – he is ready to step up to management.” Her new farm manager role for the Passeys at Kairanga takes her and her own nine cows to a high-performing top genetics 570-cow herd and new challenges. While she is quietly working her way up through the industry Hayley will be putting her considerable grit and determination to another problem – how to appeal to young people like the girl she used to be – bright, capable problem-solvers looking for the career opportunity that would provide enough variety and interest to challenge them and push their Go button. 83


Clay and Joy Paton with their daughter, Isla, and son, Roman.

DAIRY TRAINEE WINNER Words by Anne Hardie

SETTING A FAMILY GOAL

A

t 24, Clay Paton has achieved a few serious milestones in short time – he married his high-school sweetheart, Joy, in February last year, they had their second child this year while competing and then winning the West Coast Top of the South Trainee of the Year in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards and then claimed the national prize in Auckland. It was the impending responsibility of a young family that initially steered Clay toward a career in dairying because he could see a clear pathway to provide for his family with a lifestyle that suited them all. Like so many young adults, the career path chosen at school didn’t pan out as planned for Clay and time in the work force opened other opportunities. Back at school he had a knack for design, so headed to university to follow a career in landscape design, only to decide a year or so later that he was sitting behind a desk too much for his liking and longed to get outside and use his hands. The need to escape and find a better path

Clay’s life plan and tasks are detailed on the wall so he is reminded of them every day.

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led Clay and Joy to Central Otago for a threemonth contract on a large dairy support property where they quickly learnt the ropes for wintering 800 cows, 800 rising two-yearold heifers and 400 yearlings. Dairying was familiar territory for Joy who had grown up with sharemilking parents, but it was a new experience for Clay and he found he liked it – a lot. So much, they had visions of working on farms around the world to combine travel and careers. Except a baby bump came first and instead of travelling, financial security headed to the top of their list and the need for a full-time job led to work with a fencing contractor. It hadn’t been on Clay’s preferred job list, but for a few months it taught him valuable skills, to work hard and get the job done right. But time on the dairy support property had shown them a career path that appealed and by the time their daughter Isla arrived, he was keen to find a dairy assistant position and start climbing the ladder. “I could see a clear, successful pathway to provide for my family and provide a lifestyle with financial security, so fundamentally the goal is to buy a farm for future generations.”

His first job on a 230-cow farm gave him plenty of opportunity to gain experience – the owner broke his ankle during winter and the 2IC left in spring, forcing Clay to step up and run it physically by himself through to mating. “That was a big learning curve, especially looking for mastitis and different issues. And I was trying to run the farm and teach young guys from school who were helping me out. But I had a lot of help from the owners and I’d started studying Primary ITO level 3 and milk quality courses which was great extra knowledge. It meant I could apply what I was learning and we had no mastitis in the milking herd and got the somatic cell count seasonal average down from 150,000 to 55,000. So I took a lot of pride in that.” When it was time to move on and gain further experience, he headed to a 2IC position on a 480-cow farm at Dovedale near Nelson belonging to Brent and Michelle Riley. Two thirds of the farm is made up of steep dryland hills where you wouldn’t take a quad bike, so crops on the other third of the farm are a vital part of the dairy operation. Some 30ha of chicory is grown under irrigation and

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


“I COULD SEE A CLEAR, SUCCESSFUL PATHWAY TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY AND PROVIDE A LIFESTYLE WITH FINANCIAL SECURITY, SO FUNDAMENTALLY THE GOAL IS TO BUY A FARM FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.’ the milking herd feeds on fodder beet through the autumn. Maize and grain is added into the system through calving and mating and palm kernel added for the rest of the season. It all adds up to more knowledge and skills for Clay who at 24 is the country’s 2017 Dairy Trainee of the Year and is now set to take up a manager’s role on the Rileys’ dairy farm near Collingwood in Golden Bay which milks 550 cows on 185ha. “Every year has been a big milestone and it has been so good, so rewarding, doing it alongside my family. I had a goal to be managing a dairy farm by 24 and I am achieving that and though it will be a big challenge, I’m ready and driven. “At the same time I want to be remembered as a good dad, though. I make the most of the breakfast and lunch times, but I’d like to be able to spend more time with them. “We’ve moved house almost every year and I’d like to stay in Golden Bay for more than two years because moving is hard on family.”

es e Isla reach ey want to By the tim th l, o o h iate sc e base. intermed anent hom rm e p a e v ha

The goal is to have a 50:50 sharemilking contract by the time he is 28 and hopefully for the couple to have their own farm by 35 so they can put their roots down by the time their eldest, Isla, heads to intermediate. Joy remembers changing school often with sharemilking parents and the challenges for a child, so it’s an important factor in their career planning. That plan, which is detailed on the wall, includes becoming an accomplished dairy manager or owner in the top 25% of dairy farms in the country with a grass-based system. Sticky notes on his wall plan cover

Isla’s dolls house tha t Clay designed and built.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

daily jobs as well as family goals and it’s there on the wall so he can see it every day and make sure he is on track. His knack for design and using his hands is put to good use now he has a young family and Isla’s wood and stone dolls’ house as well as cot were late-night projects he has completed. One day down the track when time allows, he plans to set up his own workshop to tackle a range of carpentry projects. Before he has time for that, the high achiever has a dairy pathway to follow with the goal of contract milking or lower-order sharemilking in a couple of years. At the same time he wants to study for an agriculture business diploma to gain financial knowledge and help them achieve their goal. “I don’t want to be just focused on a career though because you need a balance between work and family and I’d definitely like more time with my kids.”

Clay’s winning video can be seen on www.youtube.com/ watch?v=po-Ft1prKH0

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DIA AWARDS Words by Hugh Stringleman

Blake Anderson credits his grandfather John with getting him started in the dairy industry with basic skills, advice and opportunities to learn.

Top gun AT DAIRYING

T

he New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards were a very positive experience for Northland’s trainee of the year, Blake Anderson, aged 19. He learned a great deal from the regional and national events, visiting different farming systems in South Auckland, and the subsequent de-briefing and interviews with judges. That was part of the three-day study tour of farms, Fonterra headquarters, and the Tip Top ice cream plant. The only drawback he could identify was the national event held on the opening weekend for duck shooting. “When so many dairy farmers are duck shooters, the award organisers need to take care with the calendar,” he joked. Blake said his outdoor interests included duck and deer shooting, for which he travels around Northland and occasionally further afield, playing squash and tennis, and touch rugby in the summer. He takes advantage of rest days and offseason holidays in the nine-on and two-off 86 

year-round roster. Blake is employed as a farm assistant on the 180-hectare farm of Carlton and Michelle Smyth, at Kaiwaka, about 100km north of Auckland, along with two other workers at the height of the season. It is a system 2/3 with 420 spring-calving cows, mainly Holstein-Friesian and Kiwicross.

The Smyths are across the road and down a little from Blake’s home farm, which is the lower north partner farm for DairyNZ, sharemilked by Innes Anderson and Tania Dropulich (Dairy Exporter, May 2017). That 225ha farm is owned by John and

Audrey Anderson, Blake’s grandparents, and he credits John with getting him started in the dairy industry with basic skills, advice and opportunities to learn. He enjoyed the life and wanted to be a dairy farmer right from a young age, Blake said. While covering a maize silage stack with Carlton more than two years ago, he must have showed his neighbour some aptitude and attitude because that first job offer followed a week later. Otamatea High School, at Maungaturoto, also provided opportunities to study and gain certificates in chainsaw safety, tractor safety, quad safety, health and safety, and pest management. Blake started with the Smyths on Queens Birthday weekend two years ago, with calving and milking due to begin on July 15. The 2IC left after three months, which increased the workload and steepened the learning curve for Blake. In his second season he was put in charge of pasture management, including fertiliser needs, growth monitoring, topping, and spraying and re-grassing. His ambitions for the third season include herd management and his plans include Primary ITO courses. The 2017 season turned out well, being the second-best for the Smyths in terms of total milksolids, despite the poor spring. Blake attends all the discussion groups in the district, including the field days on the Anderson partner farm. Hearing all the comments from other farmers who attend the home farm field days was a very good way to learn about farm management options. When asked if he intended to go back home sometime in the future and work with his father, Blake joked that his ambition was to take over as sharemilker. The Dairy Industry Awards were a great motivator along the career pathway in dairying, he said. It was an honour to represent the Kaiwaka district, along with Niall and Delwyn McKenzie, this year’s Northland Share Farmers of the Year (Dairy Exporter, April 2017, June 2017 page 11). Grandparents, dad and step-mum, and his employers all travelled to Auckland for the national awards dinner, which had been a very enjoyable evening. The networking was a big benefit of entering the awards and representing his region, Blake said. The field trip visited an organic farm, one with robot milking, a goat milk farm, and another focused on good environmental practices. “I learned quite a bit about different approaches to dairy farming.” “The pathway is before me – I can see a future, but it is going to take some work.”

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Keep your employer informed

RECRUITMENT

Rural Directions managing director Brent Paterson says farming changes quickly and people can become stagnant in their roles if they are not continually growing.

Words by Anne Hughes

Check out the new boss

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ob seekers need to demonstrate experience, outline their career goals, carry out their own due diligence and then make the most of a new career opportunity from day one. Job applicants spend a lot of time compiling their CV and cover letter, but they should also be doing their homework on the property and its ownership or management team. Brent Paterson is managing director of recruitment and human resources specialists Rural Directions Recruitment & HR Limited. Paterson says it is important to work for someone with a brand you are happy to be associated with. “Job applicants can ask to speak to referees to find out more about the person and/or company they are considering working for – whether that be a former employee, a stock agent or someone else who has worked closely with them.” From the moment you land your first onfarm job you need to focus on learning the craft of farming and continue building on those foundations, Paterson says. He strongly recommends new entrants to the industry find a mentor – ideally someone who has already gone through similar career paths, with similar values, who is willing to share what they have learnt. Deciding when to move on and take the next step can depend on what you have learnt and your career goals. A mentor could offer good advice. Paterson says people can become stagnant in farm roles and stay too long. Typically, you might stay one or two years in your first shepherd or shepherd general role, then longer in each position as your career advances.

“Farming changes really quickly. Techniques change and unless you’re continually growing you need to be mindful of people passing you. “Our industry was historically about getting people and locking them in for life. Employers have changed their mindset.” Staff turnover to some extent can be good for farm businesses, bringing in new people with different experiences to take a fresh look at the operation. When it is time to look for the next career step, don’t get too hung up on job titles. Paterson says the job description is the most important thing – this demonstrates what you will be doing, what will be expected of you and the skills and knowledge you can gain. A job description is also important when applying for jobs, so you can demonstrate to prospective employers what you have done and the skills you already have. “Validating what people have done is what we’d like to see more.” A job application needs to be 100% accurate with no spelling mistakes or typos. Ask someone to proof-read your application for you. Paterson says the application is your only chance to get to the next stage. “Our job is to look for holes and people with the least amount of holes go through to the next stage.” Outline your own development plan – what you hope to get out of your next role and where you ultimately aim to be. This demonstrates you are organised and professional. If you make it to the interview stage, the first impression is vital. “People make a decision on you in the first 20 seconds, but it is what people see at

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

The more you communicate with your employer about your career plans, the better. Brent Paterson says being open about your plans to start looking for a new job might not go down well with every employer, but if you have a strong relationship you should keep them in the loop. Such honesty could even create opportunities. Your employer might be thinking of buying a farm down the road and want to hire you as manager, especially when they hear you are ready to take a step up in your career. Paterson says when it is time to hand your notice in, consider the situation from the employer’s point of view. “If you can possibly give someone more notice than what is in the employment agreement, you should.”

the interview that is their expectation of you going forward. “You have to be able to live up to it.” Applicants shouldn’t be afraid to promote themselves and demonstrate skills and strengths. Likewise, it helps to be honest about the areas you need to improve on. If you are missing out on jobs, ask for feedback and how you might improve your chances. “The most important thing is to understand why you missed out. It could be as simple as being too nervous at the interview and you might need a bit of coaching.” If you are offered the job, don’t jump at the chance without being sure it is the right career move. “Once you’ve done it it’s hard to get it out of your CV,” Paterson says. “You just need to demonstrate what you learnt there – you might have learnt what not to do.” If you do take the job, make the most of the opportunity from day one and constantly review your progress. Formal reviews are necessary, but an annual review is often too late, Paterson says. “Once you’re in the job turn up on day one knowing what you want to learn and how this job is going to help you get there.” The basics of punctuality and good communication are still important. Professional farm management positions on large farms can be very demanding. Technology is there to help, but Paterson says this is becoming such a big part of the job that people are losing focus on the fundamentals. “It’s getting blurred by reports. Farming’s tough and there is a lot of pressure times. Fundamental values still define a good farming operator.” 87


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RESEARCH WRAP │ OWL FARM

Precious green stuff – why home-grown feed matters Louise Cook

The stuff we grow at home is always given more time and attention than anything else we might offer to cows in a year.

T

he truth is, farmers can’t take credit for making milk. That honour belongs to our fantastic, four-legged crew that eat plant products and produce white stuff. That means the farmer’s job is about getting the cows the right amount of plant products to eat and mending the four-legged friends when something goes wrong. When you look at it, I reckon farmers spend about 70% of their time in a year in one way or another arranging meals for cows. Whether it is planning the next paddock to graze, putting up fences, arranging contractors to cut silage or plant crops, getting new grass in the ground or doing farm walks and feed budgets to plan what changes are needed in the next days or months.

Regardless of just what proportion comes in the farm gate, the stuff we grow at home is always given more time and attention than anything else we might offer to cows in a year. Then there is arranging fertiliser to be onfarm and getting it spread or spreading it, time spent removing weeds from paddocks with a helicopter/truck/ backpack-sprayer/grubber or arranging for the cows to be moved off pasture to prevent pugging or over-grazing. Then of course there is the time spent sourcing other food that comes from outside the farm gate. Even the job of getting cows in for milking involves a lot of time we generally spend thinking about all of the jobs above as we drive past paddocks at various different lengths of cover.

Regardless of just what proportion comes in the farm gate, the stuff we grow at home is always given more time and attention than anything else we might offer to cows in a year. For us at Owl Farm, we’ve added the task of head-scratching and peering over the fence as green-eyed monsters looking at the tonnage of feed nearby farmers can grow and then getting on with the process of getting Owl Farm growing more grass than it has in the past. We know that the payback is huge and the timeframe for those returns to show up is short and so last year the programme kicked off with around 20% of the farm into new grass. The regrassing programme this autumn has involved around 50% of the farm either coming out of chicory into new grass, sprayed out and sown in annuals for next year’s chicory, sprayed out and into new permanent pastures to fix totally run-out paddocks or patching up paddocks filled with summer grass by undersowing with Italians. It seems like – well actually it IS – a lot of the farm to be tackling, but when we know the value of lifting our home-grown feed to the overall performance of the farm and we know how poorly some of the farm performs, there weren’t many other choices. The wet summer and early autumn played favourably to us getting this underway, however the continued autumn rain delayed the new grass getting in behind the chicory – so it didn’t all quite go to plan and the rapid cooling in May didn’t help either.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Despite the challenges, this year we have seen an increase in home-grown feed harvested of 120 tonnes drymatter (DM) across the milking platform. Our home grown feed harvested has gone from 11.5t DM/ha to 12.3t DM/ha this year. A combination of new grass paddocks outperforming the unimproved version, the rest of the farm being managed more strategically to grow a little more and a really strong yielding chicory crop that averaged 13.3t/ha between December and March. This meant we were able to reduce the amount of bought-in palm kernel and pasture silage by 180t DM and this has led to cash savings of about $90,000 in genuine cost reductions – mostly feed, but also labour, vehicle costs and fuel. The best bit is that the cows produced 1.4% more milk, a secondary reward on top of the cost savings that improves the numbers sitting on the bottom line as profit. The coming season we’re hoping to see a similar lift in yield, with more paddocks in new pasture and a continued focus on getting the best out of this precious green stuff we grow. This includes some long hard thinking about not just cleaning up our species to grow more grass, but also how we go about minimising damage to our pastures and the impact that has on our tonnage. It’s the same set of challenges faced across farms in any part of the country so we’re not alone in the quest to drive profit from pasture. • Louise Cook is the Owl Farm demonstration manager at St Peter’s School, Cambridge. 89


Time for a winter once-over

T

he introduction of compulsory annual milking machine testing was reviewed in this column last month. Machine testing and maintenance for many farmers has been scheduled for winter on farms where the cows are dry. But with all farms now needing an annual plant test, there are not enough qualified testers to test all dairies in winter, when milking machine technicians are flat out doing plant modifications. Many plants will need to be tested outside the winter dry period. So for those farms especially whose test and maintenance is during the milking season, a winter onceover will help to keep the plant in good working order. A good inside job for a cold day outside. Here’s a broad list of the common milking plant maintenance items to attend to in winter. Milking machine technicians can provide further advice. VACUUM PUMP: • Check the drive belts for damage and tension. Replace both belts if either is damaged. Correct tension means you can twist the belt by hand 90 degrees, mid-way between the motor and vacuum pump. • Couplings for directly driven pumps, or pumps coupled in tandem should be in good condition, with little or no “slop”.

• Make sure that the vacuum pump exhaust is unobstructed, to maximise pump efficiency. • For vane-type vacuum pumps, check the rate of oil flow (drops per minute) into the two sides of the pump meets the manufacturer’s recommendations. Oiling wicks should be replaced annually. Oil recyclers should be drained, cleaned, and have new filters fitted if the existing ones can’t be cleaned. • For liquid ring vacuum pumps, measure the water flow rate out of the pump. If this is below the manufacturer’s specs, remove the water inlet and outlet, and clear any restrictions, (usually chemical deposits or sediment). Empty the water reservoir, clean it and refill it with rain water. The reservoir should be covered. • For “blower” type vacuum pumps, grease the drive end bearings with high temperature grease. They only need a couple of pumps of the grease gun. Top up the oil at shut-down; and drain and replenish the oil prior to start-up. The vacuum oil supplied with the pump should be used. VACUUM SYSTEM PLUMBING, (INTERCEPTOR TO RECEIVER): • Check that all the seals including those for the interceptor, sanitary trap, and drains are in good condition and clean.

Clean the interceptor to prevent it contaminating the vacuum pump. • Check that all unions are tight. • Pump some grease into the nipples on the rotary gland, while the platform is turning, and remove any birds nests from this. • Clean the regulator filters. MILK SYSTEM, (RECEIVER TO CLUSTERS): • Perspex faces on receivers should be clear so that milk and cleaning solution levels can be easily seen; and free from cracks which can leak. Make sure the receiver seals are not perished and are clean. If bubbles rise from the seals when water or milk is in the receiver, then the seal is leaking and needs to be cleaned or replaced. • Tighten all milk line unions, while the plant is under vacuum. Put a level on each section of the milk line to make sure there is fall to the receiver. In herringbones, make sure that the milk lines have not turned in their brackets. Milk line inlets should be no lower than the “2 o’clock” position, giving fall into the milk line. For herringbones, shine a torch into one end of the milk line, and look into the other end. There should be no milk deposits evident, and no sign of damaged seals. • Check all the milk-contact rubberware, a source of thermoduric bacteria. Check

The rubber bends which connect the droppers to the milk line in herringbones carry the weight of the cluster, and are prone to cracking. Cracked rubberware provides the ideal environment for thermoduric bacteria.

Extend the life of compressors by regularly opening the tap at the bottom of the tank and draining the tank. 90 

A “C spanner” is needed for tightening larger unions, while a large pair of polygrips will handle most unions up to 75mm. Rotary milk line unions often work loose and should be tightened under vacuum, with a pipe extension on the C spanner. Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


with your milking machine technician that the liners are compatible with the shells used and cows milked. If liners have split, you may have milky deposits in the shell, long pulse tube, pulsator, and pulsator air line. All should be cleaned if necessary. The rubber bends which connect the stainless droppers to the milk line in herringbones carry the weight of the cluster and are prone to cracking, so replace these as needed. And replace perished or leaking claw shut-off valves. • Replace any cracked claw bowls which can leak air into the milk system. Air admission holes should clear. The maximum size for air admission holes is 1.2mm, though 0.8 is a more common size. This can be checked with a pricker supplied by a milking machine company, or a drill bit. MILK PUMP: • Check the belts for damage and tension and replace or adjust as required. • Check the oil level in the sumps and gearbox of diaphragm type pumps, and top up if needed. • Remove the end plates of diaphragm pumps and check for cracking of the diaphragms. • Centrifugal pumps are generally low maintenance, but a check should be made of the mechanical seal for milk deposits from the underside of the housing. A torch is usually needed for this. Replacement of this seal is best left to a technician. MILK DELIVERY SYSTEM: • Dismantle and clean the non return valve, checking the seals and O rings for damage. • Tighten any loose unions in the milk delivery line between the non return valve and the vat. PULSATION SYSTEM: • In herringbones, check the pulsator air line for contamination by shining a torch in one end, and looking in the other, and clean out any contamination. Tighten the pulsator air line unions. • Replace any claw tubes which are perished or split. • If the pulsators have filters, remove, clean, and replace these. Foam filters are best cleaned in hot soapy water. • Make sure filters in electronic pulsators are thoroughly dry before re-fitting to avoid short-circuiting the pulsator. • Clean the filters of filtered air lines. With in-shed feeding, these should be cleaned as needed throughout the year. • Clean the filter screens of filters like “pulseguards” in the pulsator twin tube. CUP REMOVERS: • Remove the pistons from the cylinders,

clean, grease, and reassemble. • Replace the diaphragms in the sensor units, if this is a recommended annual maintenance practice. MILK RECOVERY SYSTEM: • Drain the milk recovery system compressor tank to prevent corrosion of the tank. • Remove and replace the paper filter fitted at the milk line connection, (above the non-return valve).

Sponge filters in these Waikato M series pulsators are among the many filters in a milking plant that need cleaning.

FLUSHING PULSATOR: • Run the wash cycle and make sure that the flushing pulsator is working effectively, bringing a large dump of wash water into the receiver. • Clean the flushing pulsator filter. JETTER CLEANING SYSTEM: • Clean the jetter tub suction strainer of any debris. • Check and fix any leaks in the jetter line. Leaks are usually at unions or rubber sleeves connecting the sections of pipe. Also check for leaks at each jetter, often due to jetter damage or broken clamps. Replace perished jetter cups. • Check that the hot water cylinders are bringing water up to the required temperature for the chemicals used. • Fit a lid to the jetter tub if it does not have one, to prevent contamination by birds, etc. SILO WASH SYSTEM: • Check that the silo wash rose ball, and the suction strainer are completely clear. The silo wash line unions should be tight and the recirculating connections in good order. GENERAL: • While giving the plant the once over, it’s a good time to attend to any other outstanding housekeeping issues. • Chemicals should be labelled and stored safely. Chemicals not associated with milking are best kept in another safe area, away from the dairy. • Guards must, by law, fully enclose all moving shafts, pulleys, and belts. • Lubricate moving parts like jetter line swing down systems, cup remover paddle switches, herringbone milk line slides and rotary bail gate hinges. • Safety equipment like glasses and gloves should be checked and replaced if necessary. • All lights in the dairy must be shielded. Once all these items are ticked off and a full machine check is carried out with faults rectified, the dairy will be in the best possible shape for the coming season. Give yourself your best shot at more milk, best quality, less mastitis, quicker milking time, fewer breakdowns. 

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

Perspex faces on receivers should be clear and free of cracks. The seal should be replaced if it is perished or damaged. These are favourite places for birds to nest and should be checked regularly.

The lower connection houses a non return valve which should be cleaned of debris. The upper connection houses the milk recovery filter which has a replaceable paper element.

All filters need cleaning and filters are everywhere in a milking plant. This one on a pulsator filtered air line.

Perished rubberware like these claw tubes should be replaced. Milk-contact rubberware is more critical, to prevent thermoduric grades. 91


DAIRY 101 │ TRACTOR MAINTENANCE

Check, before you kick it in the guts... Tractors which are classed as over dimension need flags, hazard warning panels and extra lights.

I

t could be your pride and joy, or it could be the boss’ pride and joy. Whichever, when it comes to looking after a tractor it’s up to the operator. Before jumping into the seat, there are a few things to check. Some of these are things you should be looking for whenever you climb into the cab, others take a bit more time and should be done on a regular basis depending on how many hours the tractor is doing and how long ago it was last used. Don’t assume the person before you checked the vitals such as oil and water when they last turned the key on. Start with the fluid levels – that includes the engine and transmission oil, water and coolant, hydraulic fluid and fuel. Pull out the dip sticks and check the gauges and be aware that some loaders may have a separate oil reservoir. Also check underneath the tractor – can you see any fluid leaking or pooling on the ground? Check the tyres to make sure they are fully inflated and there are no cuts or breaks in the tread or the sidewalls. Make sure there is enough tread on the tyres, that none of the wheel nuts are missing and they are all tight. Rust weep can be a sign of loose nuts. Batteries should be securely held down, the connections should be clean, the casing undamaged and the electrolyte levels where they should be. Grease wheel bearings and other points as recommended in the tractor’s operating manual. Clean the grease nipples before greasing to stop dirt getting in and do not over-grease universal joints or sealed bearings as it will damage the seals. Check the wheels for free movement, alignment and that there is no sign of wheel bearing wear or obstruction. Check wheel cylinders and that there are no brake fluid leaks. Make sure brake pads, linings and brake fluid levels are fine.

92 

Check steering linkages, ball joints and sockets. Make sure the rubber boots covering the linkages are free from mud and there are no blockages or signs of wear or damage. Clean all steering hoses and inspect for scuff marks and leaks. Make sure all safety guards are in place and are in good condition and the power take-off (PTO) guards are functional and there are no missing or broken pins or bolts in the PTO attachments. Drive belts should be in good condition and the tension meets the manufacturer’s specifications.

Make sure the steps into the cab are free of grease and dirt to stop slips and falls. A fire extinguisher mounted in the cab ready for use if needed.

Check under the hood before starting the tractor up, and if it is in spring, do it after lunch even if you have been working the tractor in the morning. Starlings and other birds like nothing better than to build a nest there against the engine and what they build their nests with is usually highly flammable.

Check fuel, air and oil filters have been cleaned and replaced also according to manufacturer’s specifications. Check there are no holes or corrosion in the exhaust and a spark arrester, if needed, has been fitted. Before getting into the tractor make sure the steps into the cab are free of any grease or mud as is the cab floor. Once inside, check the seat belt is working, the seat is adjusted to your height and that the windows are clean and

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


Make sure none of the wheel nuts are missing and they are all tight. there is good all-round visibility. When you turn the key on all of the consoles’ warning lights should flash until you engage the engine then only one should still be on which is the park brake light. With the engine idling, turn the steering wheel to make sure there is smooth movement from full left to full right and put your foot on the clutch to make sure there is adequate travel before resistance. Turn on all lights (field, head, tail and external warning lights) and then get out of the tractor to make sure they are working. Back in the cab, check the horn works and the mirrors are clean and set in the right place. Check there is nothing under the brake pedals (or under any of the pedals), and the brake pedals both lock together. Put the tractor in gear and release the park brake and once you are moving check the brakes are working. Check the hydraulics by wiping all hoses and fitting surfaces with a clean rag with the engine off, restarting the tractor and cycle all the hydraulics until the oil reaches operation temperature, lower attachments to the ground then turn the engine off and check all the cleaned areas show no sign of dampness. Be careful not to place your hands around hoses or connections when they are under pressure. Check for excessive hydraulic creep by starting the tractor and lifting the bucket or attachment to its full height and then turn off the engine and watch how quickly the raised equipment drops and refer to the operating manual for drop rates. Make

Clean hydraulic hoses and fittings are a sign there are no leaks.

sure no one enters the drop area during this test. If the tractor is going on the road, make sure it is registered, has a registration plate and the licence is up to date and it is the correct one. There are two options for tractors – one is conditional on the tractor’s on-road speed not exceeding 40km/h, the other is not limited to speed for tractors that are faster. For both the fee is paid annually with the limited speed a lot cheaper than the unlimited speed. The limited speed also does not require a Warrant of Fitness. However, if you get caught going over 40km/h and you have the limited licence, the fine can be hefty. Also make sure your own drivers licence has the right endorsements. The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website has all the information. Tractors classed as “overdimension” by the NZTA (again check on their website) will need flags, hazard warning panels and extra lights. Lastly, always check under the hood before starting the tractor up, and if it is in

spring, do it after lunch even if you have been working the tractor in the morning. Starlings and other birds like nothing better than to build a nest there against the engine and what they build their nests with is usually highly flammable. Insurance companies will tell you a starling can build a nest in less than 20 minutes and birds’ nests are the leading cause of tractor fires. Always “stop and pop” before getting in the cab and keep a fire extinguisher in the cab just in case. Besides a fire extinguisher, it’s a good idea to also carry in the cab a first aid kit, personal protective clothing such as gloves and ear muffs and also reflective vests. A full maintenance checklist for tractors can be found on the WorkSafe website. 

Check the oil before you start out for the day.

Always pop the hood to check for bird’s nests, especially in the spring, before starting the engine.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

93


DairySolutions Monobox system cleared for US market

G

EA’s Monobox automated milking system has gone on sale in the United States after being cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the production of Grade A milk. “We always make milk safety and milk quality our top priorities,” Matt Daley, senior vice president of sales for milking and dairy farming says. “We are delivering farmers some of the most advanced milking technology on the market, and we worked extensively with state agencies and the US Food and Drug Administration, so our customers can be confident that the milk harvested from our equipment is of the highest quality possible and meets all necessary regulatory standards for saleable Grade A milk.” The Monobox incorporates the same robotic milk module and milk rack as GEA’s DairyProQ automated rotary – just in a box-style configuration. GEA’s

Attachment.

The Monobox automated milking system.

in-liner-everything technology ensures efficient milking in one quick, uniform procedure. After attachment, each milking step – stimulation, teat cleaning, forestripping, milk harvest and post dipping – is done inside the liner. With a fast milking process, cows spend less time at the milking box and more time eating and resting. Plus, it allows for more milkings per robot per day. “The efficiency of the milking process is what takes the Monobox to the next level in automation,” Daley says. “The time of flight camera on the milk rack matches the teatcups to the teats for the fastest unit attachment in the industry. It’s an extremely efficient and proven system giving dairy farmers an automated milking option unlike anything else on the market.” High-tech sensors analyse milk colour, conductivity and temperature and the backflush process cleans and disinfects the

Rinsing.

Stimulation.

Pre-milk.

milking unit between each cow. “Dairy farmers continue to look towards automated milking as a solution to reduce labour expenses while maintaining a highly productive herd,” Daley says. “The Monobox rounds out the automated milking options offered by GEA to include box style configurations in addition to our robotic rotary.” The Monobox Automated Milking System can be seamlessly integrated into any cow traffic system and works with many different management styles. Its surface box mount makes it easy to install in new or existing dairies. Maintenance is quick and convenient with the servicefriendly robotic milk module. Certified Monobox dealers and GEA’s support team provide expert resources and herd management Services from planning and installation to start-up and beyond.  More? Contact your local GEA sales representative or phone 0800 GEA FARM (0800 432 327).

Milking.

Post-dip.

Gallagher adds solar kick to energisers Smart technology has given Gallagher’s latest energiser range a new level of flexibility and reliability making them suitable for use in even the remotest, toughest farming locations. The new MB (mains-battery) MB1000i, MB1800i and MB2800i Energizers are founded on the wellestablished reputation of the company’s mainspowered i Series Energizers, but have incorporated a battery-solar power source capability into their systems.  top pg95 94 

A solar installation of the MB1800i. Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


 continued from bottom pg94 The latest models have a socket system that enables a connection direct to mains power, or can be connected to a solar-charged battery for use in locations where mains power is not an option. Gallagher product manager Brian Rose says the system has also incorporated much of the intelligent technology built into the company’s hugely successful portable Solar Energizers that have revolutionised electric fencing flexibility with batterysolar technology. “The MB Series have a regulator mounted with the solar panels to maintain the amount of solar energy needed to charge the battery, while the unit itself has the smarts to know the status of the battery and regulate its power output accordingly.” Should the unit go for a sustained period of low sunshine hours, it will adjust the level of power output and pulse frequency to maximise the battery’s life and maintain fence operation. With 10 joules of stored energy the MB1000i has the ability to power up to 40ha, whereas the MB1800i and MB2800i power up to 75ha and 120ha respectively. Along with the robustness of i Series Energizers, the MB Series incorporate the ancillary features that make that range so popular with farmers. “They include the remote faultfinding feature that enables the farm to be separated into zones that report back to the Energizer. It enables alerts to be sent, should a fault be found and ensures that fault is a lot easier to identify within a certain area of the farm.” The new MB units will be on display at this year’s National Fieldays at Mystery Creek, and will be in rural service stores by May.

Where durability, wellbeing and nutrient efficiency meet Dairy housing is definitely not about concrete and steel, the largest building company or cheapest quote, Cowhouse Consulting and TechniPharm chief executive Harmen Heesen says. With more than 10 years of experience in the New Zealand market of assisting farmers with farm system changes he says dairy housing can be very attractive on many fronts but it’s not a silver bullet for all farmers. The environmental impact of the current emphasis on low-input pasture-based farming systems or “all outdoors” can in many areas have a negative impact and nutrient losses often are a good indication of that. Production and animal wellbeing can also be impacted, resulting in a double whammy on profitability, compounding losses often resulting in adopting an even lower-cost system which in the end will also have environmental compromises. Harmen believes all-grass low-cost dairy farming often goes hand-in-hand with low efficiency. This vicious cycle can only be broken by taking a good look at the total farm system and particularly identifying where the efficiency losses occur. A number of very simple measures can be taken onfarm to establish efficiency and once we have done that we know where the holes are. Plugging the holes could include dairy housing, but could also mean lower stocking rates or employing better systems and technology, or a total change to another sector of farming. In the last 10 years the understanding of and ability to design a farm system to meet the sweet spot has paid off handsomely for Harmen’s clients. Several are around or below the 10kg nitrogen leaching, well below most NZ farms. Some produce well over 600kg milksolids (MS)/cow at a

Cowhouse’s farm system design starts with a total system assessment and a five-year future blueprint. cost below $4kg MS and they use a large amount of their collected cow effluent nutrients to replenish the NPK needs of their pastures and crops. One client has reduced his fertiliser bill by nearly $200,000. Cowhouse’s farm system design starts with a total system assessment and a five-year future blueprint. The latter is produced in conjunction with Ray Macleod, of Landward Management, Dunedin. This gives the farmer a plan for all aspects of production and infrastructure cost and benefits, but also includes the cost impact of the construction period and a time line to move the farm from one system to another. The objective is always to ensure a commercial rate of investment return and establish free cashflow. “If we cannot do that it’s unlikely the bank will support the new system,” Harmen says. “Banks, however, need to start developing a greater understanding of what is happening with our farm systems, and a reliance on just land value to support lending is not helping. It is technology and automation which will drive efficiency, not land. “Technology and automation applied correctly can underpin productivity which in turn can underpin land values.”

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PROPERTY │ AUCKLAND

Dairying near Auckland’s west coast

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ight in the heart of some of the best farmland in South Auckland and set up for a couple to run by themselves without employing labour is a 48-hectare dairy farm for sale that averages 65,000kg milksolids (MS). The owners are motivated to sell the farm which is located just five minutes from Waiuku and close to popular destinations including Karioitahi Beach, Manukau Heads and Clarks Beach. Spreading over flat contour fenced into 29 paddocks, the farm is well-raced to connect paddocks and lead to the 16-aside herringbone dairy which has a molasses lick ball system as well as a Dosatron inline.

Brendon Moore from Barfoot and Thompson says the farm has a manager at the helm who winters the 150-cow herd elsewhere, makes silage and brings in molasses as well as a little palm kernel to achieve the three-year average of 65,000kg MS. “It’s a very fertile, flat farm that grows a lot of grass. It’s also a very tidy farm and not a great deal of work to be done – the cow shed works well with great flow, it has good shedding and a good travelling irrigator. A new deep bore supplies stock water and a very solid family home which is very spacious and

has a large country-style kitchen.” The four-bedroom-plus-office brick homestead with its step-down lounge and high-raking ceilings sits 70km from Auckland’s CBD and 50km from Manukau city. Among the ample shedding on the farm is a four-bay shed including two lockup bays, a three-bay implement shed and a single-bay shed used for storing palm kernel. The farm is for sale by negotiation and the herd is available at valuation. To view the farm visit www.barfoot.co.nz/595250 and for further information contact Brendon Moore on 0272 386 660.

Leading regions lead increasing dairy farm sales The number of dairy farms sold in New Zealand this season has increased about 20%, compared to last season, according to analysis completed by NZR Rural salesperson Peter Barnett. “This may come as a surprise to those involved in dairying in the smaller regions of the country, where generally less dairy farms have sold than last year, however in the larger dairying areas, sale numbers are actually up quite strongly. We would expect this to change and flow through into these smaller regions, like my patch in the Manawatu, in the season ahead, based on the following rationale. The accompying graph shows the number of dairy farm sales recorded in each regions over the past four seasons (13/14 season through to current 16/17 season – running left to right). It is evident that the larger regions (Waikato/ Coromandel, Taranaki) have had a step up in activity this season, while the smaller regions have tended to have fewer sales. “Both buyers and sellers gain confidence by seeing other sales occurring, which helps them make decisions to sell or buy, and the market gains momentum. In areas 96 

like the Waikato and Taranaki dairy sale numbers are up 30% and 38% respectively in the current season with also apparent larger ‘clearances’ of farms for sale, based on the number currently advertised for sale on www.realestate.co.nz.” Smaller dairy regions like Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Manawatu and Wanganui (combined in the graph as Lower North Island (LNI)) and the West Coast, have seen lower numbers of transactions happen and have relatively higher

numbers of farms advertised for sale. “This will change in the season ahead I believe, as this momentum will flow through from these larger regions. In much of the same way we have seen the so called ‘halo’ effect of the Auckland market flowing through in the smaller regions’ residential markets, I think more confidence around decision making will flow through into the rest of dairy land market in the coming season and more transactions will follow.”

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


PROPERTY │ SOUTHLAND

Tuned for production at Tokanui When a 156-hectare farm near Tokanui in Southland was converted eight years ago, its layout and infrastructure was designed to run a simple operation and today it is a cost-efficient, productive dairy farm. The Fortrose farm, with its easy to medium rolling contour, milks 400 cows to produce about 160,000kg milksolids and is for sale. Wayne Clarke from Southern Wide Real Estate says distant owners have employed a young couple to manage the farm who have run it with ease due to the simplicity of its layout and modern, efficient infrastructure. “It’s been very well thought out and planned when it was converted eight years ago and there’s no capital to spend. Because the owners manage it from a distance, they gave a lot of thought about laying it out and the young couple managing it think it’s the bees’ knees because it’s simple to run with modern infrastructure. “The owners are very fastidious people so you wouldn’t find a tidier farm. It’s been completely regrassed over the last eight years and it’s a very productive grass-based system which makes it very cost-efficient.” Soils are generally free-draining loams and overall the farm has an estimated 133ha of grazable area, with 5.5ha of that

in new grass, 4ha in winter feed and the balance in permanent pasture. Each paddock has a 1100-litre trough supplied water from a 76-metre bore into rock. Paddocks are connected with well-formed internal races leading to the dairy and support buildings. The 40-aside herringbone dairy has Waikato plant and a 450-cow yard, with a 150-cow side yard. Effluent is directed through a double stone trap and double weeping wall with stormwater diversion to a 60-day storage pond before being applied to pasture through an automated K-line system. Nearby is a large, quality calf shed with a central race and the adjoining woolshed is used for storage. A three-bay implement shed includes a manure bay while another implement shed has two bays. A concrete silage pad adjoins a calving/feed pad consented for 200 cows and drains into the effluent system. Among the three accommodation facilities on the farm is the main house which is just two years old with four

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

bedrooms, office and modern amenities that Clarke says is sunny and warm to make it a great family home. The second is a tidy, partly-modernised threebedroom home and the third is a onebedroom cottage built in 2005. Clarke says the managers are keen to stay on the farm if new owners want it managed and stock is for sale at valuation, making it easy to take over ownership. The farm can be viewed at www. southernwide.co.nz ref SWI1547 and for further information contact Wayne Clarke on 0274 325 768 or Dallas Lucas on 0274 325 774. 97


PROPERTY │ CANTERBURY

Winter grazing options near Cust Up to 1200 dairy cows have been wintered on Ryelands Farm in Canterbury which has the water, soils and highend infrastructure for multiple farming options. The 222-hectare property in the highly regarded Cust area has a deadline sale and can be purchased in its entirety or as separate 164ha and 58ha parcels, with water consents in place, pivot irrigation and fertile soils that Peter Crean from PGG Wrightson Real Estate says makes it stunning property. “This property would rank among the best of its type to be offered for sale in central Canterbury for some time. Currently it is an intensive cropping and finishing farm, and also grazing large numbers of dairy stock in recent times.” The vendors have a comprehensive cropping programme with a mixture of short-rotation crops grown, including barley, oats and grass seed. During the 2016-17 season, about 800 tonnes of barley was harvested and 350t of oats. Grasses are mainly annuals with some grown in combination with oats and feed

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crops such as rape and kale have been grown extensively. The entire property now has either new grass, grass and oats, or crops including kale or rape. In recent years lambs have been finished to heavy weights before or through winter and 4000 are on the farm going into this winter. Both young dairy stock and cows have been intensively grazed and wintered for a number of years. Ryelands Farm is entirely flat, with the 164ha block split into 16 paddocks flowing into a laneway, while the 58ha block has eight paddocks. Stock water is supplied from a bore or the Cust River, while water for irrigation is from bores, the Cust River or a small number of Waimakiriri Irrigation Limited shares and spread via pivots or gun irrigators. One of the many outstanding features of the property, Crean says, are the wellmaintained pine and leyland shelter belts around the majority of the road boundary on one block to provide shelter and privacy. Good internal shelter belts provide further shelter on both blocks. Infrastructure is outstanding on

Ryelands Farm with a large number of quality buildings including a large utility shed with two lock-up roller bays, a fivebay implement shed with a granary and lock-up workshop that has a pit, a fivebay implement shed that can be closed off with shutters for grain storage and a four-bay shed. But it doesn’t stop there. A large industrial shed has a concrete floor and there’s an 180-tonne V-bottomed permanent silo, a 2016 Weststeel silo 2405 with fixed plant containing a suck-up drying system including a stirrer, and a two-stand shearing shed with a four-bay shed attached. In line with the farm buildings, Crean says the large four-bedroom homestead is impressive with its expansive windows, Millbrook-designed kitchen and wide veranda that is surrounded by large lawns and mature gardens. Ryelands Farm has a deadline sale date of June 16. It can be viewed at www.pggwre.co.nz ID CHR26028 and for further information contact Peter Crean on 027 434 4002.

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017


June Events National Agricultural Fieldays, 14 – 17 June 2017 Mystery Creek, Hamilton

CONSULTING OFFICERS – CONTACT DETAILS Regional Leader

Chris Neill

Find us at stand PC 46 in the Mystery Creek Pavilion, on the Village Green for Rosie the Cowbassasdor or in the Careers & Education Hub.

Far North

Chris Neill

027 499 9021

Lower Northland

Mark Forsyth

021 242 5719

Whangarei West

Corey Thorn

027 886 0221

027 483 9820

New business section Looking for tips to get ahead? Visit DairyNZ’s new business section, which includes tips, tools and templates to help your business thrive. Visit dairynz.co.nz/business.

South Island Dairy Event, 26 – 28 June 2017, Lincoln University, Canterbury New Zealand’s premier dairy event, organised by farmers for farmers. The theme this year is “Controlling the controllable” and with a great line up of speakers and presenters this is THE event for motivation, inspiration and new ideas. For the full programme and to register, visit side.org.nz.

Discussion Groups

Northland 027 499 9021

North Waikato Regional Leader

Phil Irvine

South Auckland

Jamie Haultain

027 486 4344

Hamilton North

Phil Irvine

027 483 9820

Matamata/Kereone

Frank Portegys

027 807 9685

Morrinsville/Paeroa

Euan Lock

027 293 4401

Hauraki Plains/Coromandel

Annabelle Smart

021 242 2127

Regional Leader

Wade Bell

027 285 9273

Te Awamutu

Stephen Canton

027 475 0918

Otorohanga

Michael Booth

027 513 7201

South Waikato

Kirsty Dickins

027 483 2205

Regional Leader

Sharon Morrell

0274 922 907

Western Bay of Plenty

Wilma Foster

021 246 2147

Central Bay of Plenty

Kevin McKinley

027 288 8238

Central Plateau

Colin Grainger-Allen

021 225 8345

Eastern Bay of Plenty

Ross Bishop

027 563 1785

South Waikato

Bay of Plenty

Taranaki

Interested in farm systems, reproduction, progression, pasture management, budgeting, people management, or milking smarter? We hold a range of different discussion groups on specialist areas of interest as well as other topical field days and road shows around the country. Find out what’s on near you at dairynz.co.nz/events or phone your local consulting officer.

Change of Address If you’ve shifted farm or changed your supply company, make sure you’ll still receive your copy of Inside Dairy – visit dairynz.co.nz/address and let us know your new details.

Regional Leader

Katrina Knowles

021 831 944

South Taranaki

Erin Hutchinson

021 246 5663

Central Taranaki

Sarah Payne

027 704 5562

Coastal Taranaki

Michelle Taylor

021 276 5832

North Taranaki

Lauren McEldowney

027 593 4122

Regional Leader

James Muwunganirwa

027 499 9020

Horowhenua/Wanganui/South Taranaki/Southern and Coastal Manawatu

Scott Cameron

027 702 3760

Lower North Island

Wairarapa/Tararua

Tim Ferguson

021 244 3428

Hawke's Bay

Gray Beagley

021 286 4346

Central/Northern Manawatu/Rangitikei

Jo Back

021 222 9023

Top of South Island/Westland

Farmer Information Service – 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969) Answers to your dairy farming questions are just a phone call away. We can also help you with: • Event information • Industry contacts • Ordering publications and resources.

Regional Leader

Wade Bell

027 285 9273

Nelson/Marlborough

Mark Shadwick

021 287 7057

West Coast

Wade Bell

027 285 9273

Canterbury/North Otago Regional Leader

Virginia Serra

021 932 515

North Canterbury

Teaghan Lourie

021 246 2775

Central Canterbury

Natalia Benquet

021 287 7059

Mid Canterbury

Stuart Moorhouse

027 513 7200

South Canterbury

Virginia Serra

021 932 515

North Otago

Trevor Gee

021 227 6476

Southland/South Otago Regional Leader

Richard Kyte

021 246 3166

South Otago

Richard Kyte

021 246 3166

Central/North Western Southland

Nicole E Hammond

West Otago/North Eastern Southland Liam Carey

021 240 8529 027 474 3258

Nathan Nelson

021 225 6931

Teresa Anderson

027 702 2219

Z

Eastern Southland Western Southland

WIT

H DAI

RY

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Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

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The most comprehensive Dairy Livestock network in New Zealand.

PGG Wrightson has more than 100 specialist dairy representatives, involved in trading 150,000+ head of dairy livestock annually. We focus on adding value and developing strong relationships with our clients. Our dairy team can facilitate all of your livestock needs: completing herds; surplus cows; weaners, yearling or incalf replacement heifers; in-milk cows; pedigree dairy stock; bobby and feeder calves; cull and boner cows; and service bulls. With a nationwide network, we broker sales on-farm and via private treaty as well as at auction. We offer quality advice in all aspects of livestock selling and purchasing, with a clear understanding of animal evaluation records combined with the practical aspects of dairy farming.

Contact your local PGG Wrightson Dairy Livestock representative today for more information.

Freephone 0800 2466 5463 www.agonline.co.nz

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Helping grow the country

Dairy Exporter | www.nzfarmlife.co.nz | June 2017

New Zealand Dairy Exporter June 2017  

Dairy Exporter June 2017

New Zealand Dairy Exporter June 2017  

Dairy Exporter June 2017