Page 1

Summer 2013

Northland firm builds dairy base in south Trevor Barfoote, from Whangarei-based Barfoote Construction, sees more and more dairy-shed business on the South Island dairy horizon. Story: page 26.




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RURAL PEOPLE: Geoff Lindsay

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Alphabet starts with ‘w’ Karen Phelps “The key to it all is to just get off your backside and you can do anything you want in this country. You teach kids that the alphabet starts with ‘w’ (for work) and everything else follows.” This is the personal advice of Geoff Lindsay who owns a cluster of farms in the Drummond/ Oreti area of Southland. He maintains that his success has all boiled down to one thing – hard work. And he is not shy about sharing what he has learned with the next generation of farmers striving towards farm ownership. Lindsay grew up on a sheep farm in Drummond and went contracting driving trucks when he left school. The money he saved enabled him to buy a 63-hectare farm, which he still owns, when he was 20 years old. It was some time before he converted to dairy though; initially he ran 500 sheep on the block and grew grain.

Geoff Lindsay...bought his farm when he was 20. A series of freezing-works strikes led him to reassess his sheep operation. “The freezing works rang one day and asked if I could come and take my lambs home. I said

The key to it all is to just get off your backside and you

no, and they would be the last they would get,” he says. Lindsay continued to expand his business through land acquisitions, and converted everything to growing grain. He also began buying other farmers’ crops, harvesting and on-selling. He, his brother, Nelson, and two other business partners bought a grain company in Winton. Now known as Winton Stock Feed, the business is owned and operated by Nelson, and supplies molasses and palm kernel around the country. Meanwhile, Geoff Lindsay has concentrated on dairy farming. He now has eight farms – a total of 2830ha, and 4000 friesian and friesian-cross cows producing around 1.5 million kilograms of milksolids a year. Gladvale Farms Ltd is owned by Geoff and his son, David. The operation is largely self-sufficient – around 285ha is in grain for stockfeed. Each farm has a manager, and 39 staff are employed across the operation. Gladvale Farms carts all its own stock, does its own agricultural work, crushes its own grain – and employs its own full-time mechanics. The land is very flat, and Geoff Lindsay is a strong advocate for drainage. Around 1500 hours a

Gladvale Farms carts all its own stock, does its own agricultural work, crushes its own grain – and employs its own fulltime mechanics. year is spent on a digger to maintain farm drainage in optimum condition. A new bulk-storage shed is being built and he is in the process of incorporating a 200ha block the company took over on June 1 into the system. The focus is firmly on consolidation after a period of expansion but Geoff sees opportunities in the local area for both himself and other farmers. “I believe that the land use in our area will change over time for various reasons and there will be opportunities for dairy.”

can do anything you want in this country. You teach kids that the alphabet starts with ‘w’ (for work) and everything else follows.

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Northland firm builds dairy base in south Trevor Barfoote, from Whangarei-based Barfoote Construction, sees more and more dairy-shed business on the South Island dairy horizon. Story: page 26.




Flower power awarded

Dairyman born-and-bred

Meat-to-milk right decision

Now offering

Bruce Hore Consultant

0275 760 303

- Independent Soil Fertility Consulting - Animal Mineral Balancing - Hair Testing - Precision Soil Mapping

Jeremy Cunningham Consultant

027 2002 303

RURAL PEOPLE: Mitchell Webster Group

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Mellow yellow: Up to 200 hectares of sunflowers are grown by the Mitchell Webster group at Weston, near Oamaru.

Flower power awarded It’s a great sight when

Neil Grant ‘Nothing succeeds like a toothless canary’ is an irreverent version of the proverb that states that nothing succeeds like success. You can take your pick as to which best suits the North Otago bird seed and farming business, the Mitchell Webster Group. This company was the 2013 supreme award winner of the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Judges’ comments referred to “... remarkable in-business practice, clear lines of communication and demarcation of roles through the development of a formal business structure, maintaining a strong business partnership between the two families.” They further praised the sustainable cropping regime and the community involvement of both families. The group also won the Hill Laboratories Harvest award, the Massey University discovery award, and the Ballance Agri-Nutrients nutrient management award. Nick Webster, one of the directors, says the company’s involvement in the awards was almost accidental “We were shoulder-tapped by a past entrant who encouraged us to go for it, so we did. We weren’t really expecting to do well, but thought we would probably learn something. So, we got a real surprise.” The business has two arms: Topflite Ltd, which produces bird seed and small animal seed; and Mitchell and Webster, the farming side that grows canary seed, sunflower seed, and other crops like feed wheat, barley, lucerne, potatoes, maize and silage. It is the largest producer of bird seed in

they are all flowering. People stop and take photos. New Zealand, and has North Island and overseas competitors. Based on the Mitchell family farm near Weston, which dates back to the 1870s, it was a dryland business until the North Otago irrigation scheme came on stream in 2006. Cropping had always been a part of the deal, along with sheep and beef. Nick Webster’s father, Jock, joined up with Bruce and Ross Mitchell in 1972. In 1976, a formal partnership was established, with ‘farming, the community, and family’ as its basis. “We don’t lose sight of those things,” says Nick Webster. “It’s how we operate. It’s what we do. We have regular structured meetings, making sure things aren’t left unsaid. Everyone has different strengths, and we try to allow them to use those for what’s best for the business. It’s all about getting the timing right, and controlling as many things as you can.” Jock Webster runs the Topflite side, selling 1600 tonnes of birdseed and associated products. Nick, and Ross Mitchell’s son, Peter, look after the farm. Dairy support has become a major aspect. Surrounded by dairy farms, they supply silage and grain, and winter cows on their land – 1350

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hectares of flat to rolling country (700ha of their own, and 650ha leased). The arrival of irrigation water changed the whole system. It had been a fully dryland business with three employees. Now, with 550ha irrigated, the business supports 22 – six or seven in Topflite, three and a half in the office, the rest on the farm. “It had been a simple operation with three or four crops to rotate,” says Nick Webster. “But with the reliability of water, it has become pretty intensive.” In the late 1970s the business was growing perhaps 5ha of sunflowers. Now it’s up to 200ha. “It’s a great sight when they are all flowering,” says Nick. “People stop and take photos (and probably pinch a few. We should put up honesty boxes.) “The awards were great recognition of what we’re doing. It’s a team effort, so it’s great for our employees, too.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Billy & Sharn Roskam


Business Rural / Summer 2013

Couple get the hang of ‘sturdy coat-hanger’ “Everyone is so energised and is putting their hands up to take on responsibilities,” she says. The Roskams are now into their sixth Sharn and Bill Roskam, the 2011-12 Southland season of 50:50 sharemilking, having shifted Sharemilkers of the Year, are now into part south from the Waikato in 2008. Billy was two of their reward for their success. Along with 2011-12 Otago Equity Farmers of the Year managing a 600-cow farm there, while Sharn was leasing a farm in South Auckland. James and Helen Hartshorne, they are coAfter buying a ute which they had to pick conveners for the 2012-13 competition for the up from Te Anau, the couple spent some time now merged Otago-Southland “mega region”. exploring the dairy scene and opportunities in The job began to get busy over the last Southland. couple of months, says Sharn Roskam. Entries opened on November 1 and closed on December “We saw one farm we fell in love with, 20. applied and got the job 50:50 sharemilking She says one of the major benefits of for the Alexander family at Lochiel,” Sharn the merger of the two regions is that the Roskam says. “I sold up my cows, and Billy new “mega region” has the most incredibly and I joined forces.” supportive committee. After two years on the Lochiel farm, the couple moved to a bigger job at Tussock Creek for Evansdale Properties, where they peakmilked 880 cowsuntil their final season there last year, when they milked 930 cows. This season they have a new position on a new farm, milking just over 700 cows on the 252-hectare (100ha of it leased) Ronaki Dairy Partnership at Kauana, Centre Bush, just north of Winton. There is an opportunity to put equity into Ronaki, and the Roskams decided to trial the property for a year before deciding whether to invest. Sharn Roskam says the Ronaki Dairy Partnership has a wealth of expertise behind nside Rd, RD7 GO o d n RE We 97 in it. Four of the five families involved include 77 a Switzers Valley Transport Ltd M ph 29 on accountants from Crowe Horwath; the fifth is e 03 2Janet Copeland, of Janet Copeland Law. nz 02 512 o. 4 fa Roskam describes the farmsias Sharn x 03 202 5120 email svt@farm very sturdy coat-hanger, and says she and her husband have spent this season brushing off the dustofand finding a nice new outfit for it. Holstein Friesian New Zealand are proud to support... The Southland Branch The Roskams’ backyard haswelcome been tidied We wish you a successful Conference and all up, your visitors to Southland the shed has been upgraded with automatic cup removers and a brand-new Protrack system, the drafting pens have been extended,

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Billy and Sharn Roskam, winners of the Southland Sharemilker of the Year award in 2011-12, are coconveners for the competition for the newly merged Southland and Otago regions.

the yard has been upgraded with grating installed in front of the shed, and the effluent system has been upgraded with a small weeping wall and a stirrer. She says the upgrades are heading towards a fail-safe system for the farm, allowing for more efficiency with labour and ensuring just compliance for at least the next 10 years. The farm-owners are now building another house on the farm so that the Roskams can hire another staff member. “I like to run a roster where the whole day isn’t absorbed by milking,” Sharn says. “We’ve had a tough season. The hours in the shed have been really long. We brought this up with the owners and they have been incredibly supportive.”

Roskam says she and Billy aim to achieve the most profitable production possible for the farm. “With 39% heifers, we set a target of 270,000 kilograms of milksolids, but the one thing we weren’t sure of was exactly how much feed had been used in the past,” she says. “There were lots of figures thrown around, so we decided to do what we can without relying on a whole lot of supplements.” The couple have decided to feed a total of 212kg of palm kernel per cow through the autumn and spring, as well as magnesium oxide through the in-shed mineral dispenser to combat milk fever with the high potassium levels in the soil.

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Billy and Sharn Roskam, with son Flynn, pack up in preparation for their their move to their new venture, milking around 700 cows for the Ronaki Dairy Partnership at Centre Bush, north of Winton.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Paul & Tania Greenwood

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Couple in clover after cropsto-cows conversion Neil Grant

Converting from sheep and beef farming to dairying is now commonplace. The farmer is still dealing with animals and pasture. Converting from cropping to dairying requires a whole new mindset. Paul and Tania (Tarn) Greenwood made just such a switch in 2008. “The reason for the change was budgetary,” Paul Greenwood says. “We now get a cheque once a month, but previously we wouldn’t see money for a year down the track.” The Greenwoods’ farm is on the edge of Southbridge township. Their 217 hectares, plus a 48ha run-off, is mostly heavy soils with patches of lighter soils deposited in the distant past by the Rakaia River. The combination suits dairying – the heavy soils hold the moisture during dry spells, and the lighter soil areas are useful when it is wet, providing relief from pugging. Paul Greenwood’s parents bought the farm 52 years ago. It grew barley, wheat, peas, beans, clover and grass seed. Some land was leased from the next-door neighbours, the Densons. After discussion to see if they could get a more definite lease, the result became an equity partnership in which the Greenwoods provided the farming expertise, and the Densons provided capital and business expertise for a dairy conversion. Little borrowing was therefore required. Those paddocks that had clover were drilled with grass seed once the clover seed was harvested. Cereal paddocks had the stubble burnt off after harvest, and grass seed went straight in. Major capital works were refencing, putting in laneways, building the dairy shed, and upgrading the irrigation system. Previously they had had RotoRainers supplied by five pumps above fairly shallow wells. The new system has two centre-pivots and one Roto-Rainer. Automation has reduced the amount of time needed to do what is required. Four of the wells are being deepened to access lower aquifers. “This will keep Ecan happy,” Greenwood hopes. Ecan should also be happy with changes to the effluent dispersal system. Currently a small irrigator spreads it over 40ha of the farm. A dramatically increased effluent pond will cover things if there is a mechanical breakdown or prolonged rain. Monitors will send text messages if there are breakdowns. Once the physical work had been done, getting a herd together was the major task. They cast their net far and wide, and bought cows with good productive worth (PW) figures from nearby farms,

Above: Paul and Tania Greenwood with their children, Georgia and Jacob, in the lush pastures of their Southbridge dairy farm. Below: The Greenwoods’ dairy shed. and North Island ones. The aim is make sure the herd is eventually all friesian or friesian cross. They now have their own replacements coming through, and are pleased with how the 830-cow herd is looking. Greenwood’s father has a little bit of land of his own in his retirement. “He’s always popping over to see how things are going. He’s interested in what’s happening.” The farm has three permanent staff, and a “very reliable” part-timer who also does the calf rearing. “We’re feeling good about how things are going, We’re enjoying the change. We had headaches at first. Running an equity partnership was new. They had their ideas, and we had ours. But we learnt off them and they learnt off us. “Now the main things we have to deal with are staff, and getting the cows in calf.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Bryan Beeston

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Big-herd farmer sees benefits of biological pasture Neil Grant

Mid-Canterbury farmer Bryan Beeston is chair of the New Zealand Large Herds Association. Beeston, who has been dairying for over 30 years, owns three dairy farms, one of which is run by his daughter Frances (above), is a robotic farm.

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Variety in farming is part of its strength. One high country station has merinos, next door they have romdales. One dairy farm swears by jerseys while the neighbour won’t go past friesians. Nobody minds because everyone can justify their choice. But when it comes to fertilising pasture, the gloves are off and controversy reigns. After World War 2, scientific advances made chemical fertilisers readily available, and farmers discovered that applying plenty of urea, phosphate, or lime led to rapid grass growth. The burgeoning world population was more easily fed. Profits soared, and fertiliser companies became more powerful and influential. But there were always doubters who questioned just how sustainable such progress might be in the long term. Before World War 2, an American soil scientist, William Albrecht, concluded that positively charged ions in the soil, such as calcium, magnesium sodium and a host of others, were important for soil health, and therefore plant and animal health, if provided in an ideal balance. He further claimed that applied nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium formulas (NPK) led to malnutrition, insect and bacteria attack, weed takeover, and crop loss in dry weather. He drew a direct link between soil quality and forage quality, and poor health in livestock, and subsequently, humans. Not surprisingly, the fertiliser companies were less than impressed, and Albrecht and his followers were regarded by many as cranks. Today, followers of Albrecht continue to espouse his basic cation saturation ratio, and some soil scientists here and overseas, enthusiastically reject them. Which leads us to Mid-Canterbury farmer Bryan Beeston. Beeston is the chair of the New Zealand Large Herds Association, has been in dairying for more than 30 years, first contract mlking, sharemilking 150 cows in Northland, then 650 cows in Canterbury. He now regards himself as a dairy-farm investor. He and wife Annette have three dairy farms milking around 3000 cows. One, run by their daughter, Frances, is a robotic farm. The 570 cows, bred on their own friesian and brown swiss studs, come and go into the milking shed as they want, sometimes three times a day. They are aiming for 1100 kilograms of milksolids a day. There is no doubt Beeston knows a bit about dairying. He is now finding out more about Albrecht’s system. Soil scientist Neal Kinsey, one of those who has taken up Albrecht’s mantle, is spreading the good word around the world. Beeston has attended workshops organised by the Neal Kinsey New Zealand Group and thinks there is a lot in the system for his farms. “It’s a whole philosophy change,” he says.

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“We’ve been doing it for four or five years. You have to do the testing. Sometimes your soils are unbalanced to start with. You may not be able to do everything at once, so you list things from one to six, and deal with what you can afford to do. It’s not an instant fix.” Rather than maintaining pasture of just ryegrass and clover, he drills a mix of 1kg each of timothy, fescue, and cocksfoot, 2kg each of white and red clover, and 7kg each of early maturing ryegrass and late maturing ryegrass. The pasture is weed sprayed at eight to 10 weeks, then drilled with 2kg each of deep-rooting plantain and chicory. “It’s a fruit salad of pasture for our cows. It looks incredible. Come back in 10 years. If we’re right it will catch on. “I feel good in myself. It is a balanced approach to pasture growth. We are now measuring the amount of grass we grow every fortnight.” Beeston talks about two Methven farmers with adjoining properties, Jeremy Casey and Kim Solly, who resolved 18 months ago to compare progress if one farmed conventionally and the other biologically. Everything was direct-drilled using the same drill. He went to see how things were going recently, after each had sown new pasture. “On the biological one, the grass had spread out into a full sward. On the conventional one, the grass was still in rows. That gives me the confidence to keep doing this. I believe it is the right approach.” The testing is an important part of the deal. Kinsey has laboratories in the United States where samples can be sent. Beeston intends to use Hill’s Laboratories in New Zealand for faster results, and send samples to the USA so that the results can be compared. The tests reveal the ratios of the important elements in the soil, its organic content and ability to hold water. “If we increase the soil’s moisture capacity, we’ll use less water, less power, and we’ll make more money. That’s good business.” He thinks he’s on the right track, but he is prepared to watch things carefully. Sometimes, such as when alternative medicine proponents push their own barrow at the expense of conventional medicine, you can be nervous about the missionary zeal involved. In this instance, a considered approach backed up by solid testing may take a few years, but the results will be interesting.

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Business Rural / Summer 2013

RURAL PEOPLE: Luke & Anna Cosgrove


Pasture key to plan to tune performance Karen Phelps

Luke and Anna Cosgrove plan to maximise farm performance by improving herd reproductive performance and reducing animal deaths on the Drummond farm where they contract-milk 800 cows.

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Luke and Anna Cosgrove are in their first season of contract-milking 800 cows at Drummond and have plans to make a series of small changes they hope will enhance the farm and production. The 316-hectare farm is one of three dairy units in the area owned by Mike and Kathy McDonald and farmed under the company, Moonlight Farms. The predominantly friesian herd is milked through a 60-bail rotary shed. The Cosgroves plan to concentrate on improving reproductive performance, lowering the empty rate from just below 10% to 8%. They aim to increase production from 517 kilograms of milksolids per cow to 520kg, raising production from 401,007kg milksolids last season milking 775 cows to 520,000kg this season milking 800 cows. One major way they will achieve these changes is by more intense pasture management to maximise grass production and, thereby, minimise the need for supplements. The farm buys in around 600kg of meal concentrate per year and grows 12ha of turnips. Silage is taken from an 80ha lease-block at Oreti, which services all three farms. Luke Cosgrove plans to do weekly farm walks with a plate meter. Reducing animal deaths is another key to improving farm performance. By paying closer attention to animal health, deaths have reduced from 1.2% to 0.7%. He will also look at grass-to-grass re-grassing this season of 23ha of the farm. Luke Cosgrove grew up on a lifestyle block in the Manawatu and, after finishing school, began working as a farm assistant, rising to second-incharge in the first season. He then took a second-in-charge position on another farm for a season before heading to Southland in 2010 to take up a contractmilking position on a 500-cow unit owned by the

McDonalds. Three seasons later the Cosgroves moved to their present contract-milking position on the slightly larger farm. The McDonalds also own a 420-cow farm and 500-cow farm, which adjoin the farm the Cosgroves are working on. Although run separately, the three farms share the use of several lease blocks – 80ha at Mossburn used for wintering stock; 80ha at Lorneville used for young stock; and the Oreti block used for silage and wintering some stock. Three staff are employed to assist the Cosgroves. Anna does the bookwork and works full-time in customer service at Vet South, in Winton. The Cosgroves are aiming for a 50:50 sharemilking position as their next step and have set a target of achieving this of 2015.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Greg & Kelly Kirkwood

Business Rural / Summer 2013

PHOTOS Part of the predominantly Filipino staff working for Greg and Kelly Kirkwood help raise funds for victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines.

Stable, skilled workers key Jo Bailey Building internal and external capability right across their dairy operation is the major thrust of Otago farmers Greg and Kelly Kirkwood. The couple own a large-scale farm near Ranfurly, in the Maniototo, where around 2500 cows are milked in three adjacent sheds. They have recently changed their business structure and moved to a new finance partner, after reviewing some of the external services being provided to their farming business. “Kel and I had a good think about how we wanted to set up the business into the future, and after 15 years felt it was time to make some decisions around the top end structure to complement what was already happening on-farm,” says Greg. Making this change in the middle of an operating

season “threw a level of complexity” into the daily operations and was a bit challenging from an administrative perspective, he says. But the results are worth it. As the business has grown, the Kirkwoods have stepped back from the daily physical work, leaving the day-to-day operation in the hands of their farm manager, Neil Molina, the 2013 Otago Farm Manager of the Year. They shifted from Oamaru to Dunedin where they live in the historic Springfield homestead on the Otago Peninsula with their nine-year-old twins, Max and Phoebe. Although physically removed from the farm, the Kirkwoods work very much as a team on the overall management and administration of their dairy business. “I spend a couple of days a week on the farm during spring, and between Kelly and myself, we are talking to our managers or those providing top-end

services to the business, on an almost daily basis,” says Greg. “We like to think we’re more effective being one step removed.” They also work hard on maintaining a stable staff of skilled people on farm. “We encourage discussions around the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation. Everyone has a valid opinion on what could make the business better, which we sieve down to arrive at the best outcomes.” Greg says this would be more difficult to achieve with a high staff turnover, where more disciplined structures and routine have to be dictated from the top. “When you know the people in your business and you have an open dialogue with them, you can leverage off their capability and expertise. It’s a real team effort.”

• To page 9

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RURAL PEOPLE: Paul & Juanita Marshall

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Five-year plan achieved in two Being fully self-contained is a huge advantage and gives them a great deal of flexibility, they say. The Marshalls are involved in a Dairy New Zealand pilot governance programme and have recently instigated a unique management structure on their farm. While they both remain the directors of their farming company, they have appointed an external advisory board with a mandate that includes educating their children on farm, plus governance process and issues. This season the Marshalls are concentrating on consolidation and debt reduction. They are targeting 360,000kg milksolids from 70 fewer cows than last season as the farm and pastures start to come into their own after the conversion. Breeding will play a significant role in allowing them to reach the production target. “We’re not obsessed with cow numbers; we want herd genetics to drive production from our cows based primarily on the grass we grow,” says Paul. “We used high-breeding-worth, short-gestation bull semen which has allowed us to shift our mean calving date forward a week. This represents an extra weeks’s milk this season, which will make a huge difference to achieving our ambitious production target.”

Having high quality grass available when you need it

Karen Phelps With an average herd breeding worth of 109 Paul and Juanita Marshall have achieved the five-year plan for their new conversion within just two seasons. “This is the direct result of an aggressive culling programme,” says Paul Marshall. “We nominate all our bull semen selecting for the highest breeding worth we possibly can and artificially inseminate all our yearling heifers.” He says concentration on quality feeding has gone hand in hand with their strategy. “Our farm manager, Graham Hand, obsesses about pasture quality and feeding the herd as much high quality grass as possible.”

doesn’t happen by accident – it’s the result of a huge amount of planning, monitoring, reassessing and taking action early.” “Having high-quality grass available when you need it doesn’t happen by accident – it’s the result of a huge amount of planning, monitoring, reassessing and taking action early.” The Marshalls have been renewing 20% of their pastures each year through crop rotation,

Retention of staff rated a priority

Although none of the Filipino staff working at Ranfurly were directly affected by the typhoon their efforts helped raise funds to send back to those hit hard by the storm.

• From page 8 The Kirkwoods currently employ 13 predominantly Filipino staff in the immediate dairy business, plus four permanent seasonal milk harvesters, two tractor operators and a manager for the support land. “We have a staff-replacement rate of around 15% annually compared with a national average of around 60%. We try to retain staff as it’s costly to retrain new people.” Neil Molina has worked for the Kirkwoods for seven years. “Neil has built a great team of managers around him, which allows him to create management or strategy time for the farm,” says Greg. “He did very well to win the Farm Manager of the Year award, and, with his wife, Myra, is a great asset to the business.” Kelly Kirkwood has helped several staff renew work visas and even achieve residency for themselves and their families. It requires a lot of time, but is “very rewarding”, says Greg. Although none of their staff was personally affected by the recent typhoon in the Philippines, many of them raised funds in the local community to send back to the needy.

Involvement with the local community and building strong relationships with their suppliers is another of the Kirkwoods’ goals. “When we are talking to our service people or suppliers on the phone, rather than telling them what I want, I often ask for their suggestions. “They have knowledge about the local area that we don’t, and we’ve had some good open discussions around the intellectual property within Ranfurly.” Last year the farm produced 928,000 kilograms of milksolids – up 28% from its first-year production of 723,000kg off the same land area, five years ago. “We have built the capability of the property and the size of the herd by around 300-400 cows. I’m always reluctant to talk about production because it tells only part of a story; for example, we carry 30% first-calvers in our milking herd, which has its own challenges.” As the couple continue to tweak the operation and its structure, they are eyeing development, possibly through more land and livestock acquisitions. “We will also continue to develop our dairy staff into farm managers, so that they are ready to move into management positions as the business grows.”

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and say the benefit on both quality and quantity of feed has been significant. The drought in their second season proved challenging, but the couple coped by culling poor-producing animals two to three months earlier than normal and buying in palm kernel and silage. They milked once a day from the end of February and ended up just 10% short of their targeted milk production at 325,000 kilograms of milksolids from their 900 crossbred cows. They milk through a 54-bail rotary shed with Waikato Milking System plant, including a conductivity measure of cows tending towards being infected with mastitis. The Marshalls were able to maintain their low somatic cell count last season keeping it below 150,000 and achieving grade-free status for the second consecutive year. The couple are recent converts to dairy farming after 25 years in sheep and beef. After university, they worked in business jobs in Wellington, but even then, both knew they didn’t want to start a family in the city. They returned to Juanita’s family sheep farm in the mid-1980s, eventually buying the property and running 5000 ewes. Economics drove them to use some of the farm as dairy support, rearing heifer calves and winter grazing for other farmers. Paul says this helped them accelerate their move into dairy as they had already been renewing pastures on this part of the farm. Although they hadn’t initially planned on converting to dairy, unprofitable lamb prices, coupled with developing a farm-succession strategy, led them in that direction. Their farm, in a remote location on the edge of Fiordland near Tuatapere, in Western Southland, is 600 hectares in total, with a 300ha dairy platform. Around 222ha (effective) of their land is used for run-off as they winter all their herd on farm as well as rearing their own calves and yearlings.


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RURAL PEOPLE: Graham and Jennifer Lowe

Business Rural / Summer 2013

A back-up generator proved a worthwhile investment for Mid Canterbury dairy farmer Graham Lowe after the October wind-storm cut power to the farm and put one of his three pivot irrigators out of action.

Wild wind-storm proves costly Jo Bailey Mid Canterbury dairy farmer Graham Lowe reckons the October wind-storm cost him around $50,000 in extra feed after one of his three pivots was blown out of action. “Our grass hasn’t grown to its full potential without the water, so we’ve had to bring in a lot more grain and palm kernel than we would in a normal season.” Graham remains philosophical about the damaged pivot which provided around 25 per cent of the irrigation capacity on the 400-hectare dairy unit he and wife Jennifer farm at Ashburton Forks. “It could have been a lot worse. The damaged pivot should be fixed by Christmas, and our biggest pivot irrigates around 190ha, so we were lucky it didn’t get damaged too.” Given the prevalence of severe wind and

snow storms in Canterbury, he can’t understand why there are still many farmers without back-up generators on their properties. “We’re high up on the Plains where it’s not uncommon to lose power for a day or longer in a big storm. Without our generator we’d be tipping away 32,000 litres of milk or around twenty grand a day. “Our generator only cost about $12,000 to install which is a small investment when you consider the value of the property and lost production that can occur.” The Lowes are in their sixth season of milking after converting the family sheep farm, where Graham’s father bought the first block of land in 1960 and gradually added to it over the years. They were among the first in the district to convert, initially partnering with a neighbouring

• To page 11

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October’s wind-storm cost Graham Lowe him around $50,000 in extra feed after one of his three pivot irrigators was blown out of action.



RURAL PEOPLE: Karl & Kerri-Anne Moore

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Calving spread under scrutiny Karen Phelps Lameness and calving spread are commanding special attention this season from Karl Moore, who manages a 380-hectare (220ha effective) dairy unit milking 700 cows at Taramoa, in Southland. The farm is owned by Graeme and Josie Reid. The first problem has been relatively easy to solve after Moore identified it was simply a case of training staff better not to push the animals so hard when they came into the yard. Improving the calving spread will take longer but gains are already being seen. For the last two seasons any cows that hadn’t cycled and/or were under condition were run in a separate herd, fed better and run with the beef bull for longer. Cows that didn’t cycle were metro-checked. “We’re slowly improving,” he says. “This year we finished calving on October 26; the previous season we were calving into November. We also had a lot tighter first four weeks this year. The aim is to have calving spread over just eight weeks.” The four-week submission rate was 96%

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farm now has a ringway hydrant system covering around 190ha, with central pumping stations that can be connected into the ring system where desired. Moore believes the low-dispersal system should reduce the farm urea requirements. Now in his fourth season on the farm and his third as manager, he started his career path studying engineering at polytechnic. However, a relief milking job he did on the side made him realise his real passion lay in the dairy industry. He went full-time dairying at Oreti, in Southland, progressing to second in charge and then management roles. He employs three full-time staff, and his partner, Kerri-Anne, helps with calf rearing as well as other jobs on farm. Although the Reids basically leave Moore to get on with the job, they and a FarmRight consultant offer assistance as required. Karl Moore is constantly exceeding targets. Last season the farm achieved 254,000 kilograms of milksolids (after aiming for 250,000kg).This season the target is 260,000kg, but the farm is on track to top this by 5000kg.

system covering around 190 hectares, with central pumping stations that can be connected into the ring system where desired. compared with 86% the previous season, which he achieved by keeping the cows on high-energy feed over the mating period. He did this through shorter covers to encourage better grass growth. Moore has culled heavily this season with udder condition a major differentiator. He also started a PG (prostaglandin) programme on the heifers to bring the cows on heat. An injection was given two weeks before, and also the day before, mating. Mating was completed within five days and only 15 heifers did not come on heat in that time. This also enabled mating to start earlier, on October 20, almost a week sooner than the previous season. He is hoping this will bring more

Back-up generator vital piece of equipment in wake of storm

days in milk and increase milk production. Bordered by the Aparima River and at sea level with peat-based soils, the flat farm can suffer from wetness when the river floods. It is supported by an 86ha run-off block. The balance of the dairy farm is used for growing crop for wintering – fodder beet, swede, kale and turnips, 43ha in total this season. Close to 1000 cows will be wintered on the farm. A new 54-bail rotary dairy shed – with Milfos plant including automatic cup removers, teat sprayer, walk-over weigh system and remote drafting – has halved milking time and staff requirements. The effluent system was also upgraded and the

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In 2010, Graham Lowe’s herd of 960 cows produced a total of 380,000 kilograms of milksolids. This season his target is 550,000kg from 1240 cows.

• From page 10 farmer in the development, but going it alone since 2010. Lowe says it took some time to get used to the bigger numbers compared to sheep farming. “We would sometimes make more in a month dairying than we’d made in a whole year sheep farming. But we would also spend more in a month than our yearly expenses on the sheep farm. The numbers were mind blowing.” He says he has learned a lot, and is a much better dairy farmer than when he first set out. “I had no experience, apart from a season milking cows when I was 20. But I didn’t pretend to know everything when I started and wasn’t afraid to ask for advice. “I employed good skilled people around me and listened to the differing viewpoints of consultants and vets who filled in the gaps in my knowledge. It has worked.” The Lowes’ 1240 predominantly kiwicross cows are milked in two herds through a 54-bail rotary. In 2010 their 960 cows produced 405 kgMS/ cow or 380,000 kg. This season the target for their 1240 cows is 450kg milksolids per cow, or 550,000 kg – which is a “fantastic increase” in spite of the difficult spring. Jennifer Lowe balances calving and relief milking

I employed good skilled people around me and listened to the differing viewpoints of consultants and vets who filled in the gaps in my knowledge. It

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has worked. with bringing up the couple’s four daughters. They have three at home, aged, eight, 10 and 15, and a 19-year-old at university. They are assisted on the farm by four staff and plan to add another next year. Graham Lowe says having “honest and open” relationships with everyone – staff, consultants, suppliers, local contractors and the bank manager – is a key factor to business success. “Building trust with people and treating them fairly is something we’ve focused on throughout our farming career.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Peter & Marise Cashmere

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Team Cashmere: From left: Peter and Marise Cashmere, Shaydon Gallagher, Dave Carr, Caleb and Anna Trent and children Amy and Zac.

Reluctant milker now a dairy convert I vowed that I’d never milk a cow because I’d seen Dad struggle on the smaller 32-hectare block milking 60 cows we originally owned...It was a bit of an eye-opener to be fair. The opportunities from coming back just started to happen.

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Karen Phelps Peter and Marise Cashmere have doubled the size of their farm this season. The couple, who farm a dairy unit at Allanton on the Taieri Plains just south of Dunedin, added an extra 99 hectares into their system in June. This extended taking the size of their farm to 200ha. The main focus is to continue to develop the new block and integrate it into the system, says Peter Cashemere. The Cashmeres lease a 70ha run-off, where they are growing fodder beet (10ha of it) for the first time. “Talking to one or two of the locals who had been growing fodder beet when the flood came through, we discovered it tends to survive better under water, whereas we lost the kale we were growing on the run-off. Fodder beet will safeguard us a bit if flooding like this happens again. We are confident of growing a higher yielding crop on less area.” The Cashmeres say they have no firm plans for the development of their business. “We’ve taken the bull by the horns buying the new land and are focused on achieving budgets. It’s nose to the grindstone to pay off debt.” Peter was born and raised on the farm, but says he originally had no intention of becoming a dairy farmer. “I vowed I’d never milk a cow because I’d seen Dad struggle on the smaller 32ha block milking 60 cows we originally owned,” he says. So Peter went to work on a sheep-and-beef block at Clarks Junction learning the basics of

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fencing, working stock and dogs. Two years later he took a position as a shepherd at a freezing works for two seasons then a farm worker job at a sheep and beef property in Lawrence. During this time he married Marise. It was a call from his father,who was recovering from a hip operation that lured Peter back to the family farm. A six-week stint filling in turned into 25 years and is still going. “It was a bit of an eye-opener to be fair. The opportunities from coming back just started to happen,” he says. The Cashmeres subsequently bought the farm and, since taking over the additional land this season, they have been able to increase the herd to 500, from 320 last season. The predominantly friesian cows are milked through a 36-a-side herringbone shed. The new 99ha block was previously a sheep-and-beef fattening block the Cashmeres had converted. Having access to the land from February gave them a head start on the process. For a number of years the Cashmeres have employed a lower-order sharemilker. Caleb and Anna Trent have come from a herd-manager role in Southland and it was a case of trial by fire with the Cashmeres’ farm flooding within the first two weeks after the Trents started. “It was one of the longest times that the Taieri River has been so high,” says Peter Cashmere.”The river receded, then snow came through up to one metre high in the hills. When this melted the river went up again.” The cows are put through the shed in two mobs – younger cows and mixed age/older cows. Two full-time staff are employed.

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RURAL PEOPLE:: Michael & Sue Pelesco

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Farm scale ‘bit of a shock’ Dairy farming is hard

Karen Phelps

Philippines-born Michael Pelesco has overseen a 10% increase in production since taking on the job as manager at Iron Bridge Farm, Winton, owned by Fortuna Group.

Philippine-born Michael Pelesco had milked cows in his homeland, but admits he wasn’t prepared for the vastly different dairy industry in New Zealand. “I had worked on a farm in the Philippines where we milked 15 cows by hand. So it was a bit of a shock to arrive to a farm in New Zealand milking 630 cows through a dairy shed,” he says. The huge transition only makes his rise in the dairy industry all the more impressive. He has progressed to a position as a herd manager on a 830-cow farm in just five years since moving to New Zealand. Pelesco, who has a Bachelor of Agriculture degree majoring in animal science, arrived on New Zealand shores to a job as a dairy worker on a 630-cow farm near Winton. He did a year there, and then took a position on a similar-sized farm, also in the Winton area, for another year before moving to the Fortuna Group-owned Iron Bridge Farm, at Wallacetown. He is now in his third season there, and his second as manager. Pelesco admits it was initially challenging to move from dairy worker to the next level of managing three staff, two of whom also come from the Philippines but speak different dialects. The 285-hectare (effective) farm has a 54-bail rotary shed to milk the kiwicross herd. Pelesco has overseen a 10% increase in production since he took on the job, Last season the farm received a merit certificate from Fonterra for being grade free. Pelesco has also won a couple of Fortuna Group awards – for the cleanest shed out of all the Fortuna farms, and for leadership. Pelesco is modest about his achievements though, citing attention to detail as the main reason for his success. He metro-checks cows and does random blood tests to ascertain nutrient mineral levels in the herd, then supplements if necessary. Weekly pasture walks and strict fertiliser planning have seen pastures improve. Increasing staff efficiency is a major driver, which has seen him identify how staff can best perform jobs on the farm without wasting time. For example, he identified that searching for tools was a major time-waster His response was to initiate a shadow board where tools could be stored and missing objects easily identified. Pelesco is just as strict on himself, undertaking constant training and upskilling with Fortuna Group.

work, but worth it. It feels great. A major challenge of the farm is its susceptibility to flooding. In fact, last season up to half of the farm was under water at times. Pelesco works to counter this problem by identifying key paddocks that are likely to flood and ensuring they are grazed regularly to limit potential wastage. The farm policy is to be as sustainable as possible. Recycling is encouraged and the farm aims for a grass-based system. Barley, molasses and palm kernel is bought in as required. Pelesco’s wife, Sue, helps with the calf rearing. The couple have a daughter, Sophia, who is 17 months. Last season the herd produced 334,000 kilograms of milksolids and this season’s target is 340,000kg. He is aiming for a sharemilking position as his next step in the industry. “Dairy farming is hard work, but worth it. It feels great.”


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RURAL PEOPLE: David & Alanna Clarke

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Monitor farm programme an `eye opener’ It built our confidence.

Neil Grant

Top: Southland monitor farmer David Clarke with wife Alanna and children Isla and June.

This story has become a plug for monitor farms. It started as a story about young Southland sheep and beef farmer, David Clarke. Beef + Lamb New Zealand has promoted monitor farms since 1991 to help farmers improve their businesses through using genetics, pasture management and farmmanagement systems. Clarke took on the role of monitor farmer some four years ago on the family farm at Glenham, south of Wyndham. During that time, he married Allan, an early-childhood teacher, and has become father to two girls. “To start with it was overwhelming, especially when we had 120 people turn up to a field day,” he says. “It was nerve-wracking. I’m not the most confident speaker. I think most of them just turned up to see what the hell I was up to.” The idea is that a group of farmers in a community “identify key issues impacting on local production and farm performance, and then select a farmer and facilitator” according to the B+LNZ website. So, somewhat nervously, Clarke accepted the challenge. “It built our confidence. It opened our eyes to possibilities. We now look more at production and pasture management, and are more aware of the environment. Stock won’t do well on shit grass, or if they are wet and miserable. “We’ve spent a lot on infrastructure like reticulated water, and planted flaxes, tussock and poplars as riparian strips and cordata’s for shelter.” He reckons the programme has opened his eyes to what the farm’s potential is. He now feels better able to make critical judgment calls, and make them early, such as for events

It opened our eyes to possibilities. We now look more at production and pasture management and are more aware of the environment. like the drought two years ago. “We are now more proactive and make the calls early, rather than waiting and hoping for the best,” he says” Monitor farmers work with a committee, and he says it is important they work closely. Sometimes meetings are held on the monitor farm, sometimes on another farmer’s property if there is something worthwhile to show. Experts are called in to talk to or demonstrate to the group. People such as: James Parsons, a Northland farmer who is chairman in waiting of B+LNZ; Warwick Scott, a senior lecturer in plant science at Lincoln University: Julie Everett-Hincks, a senior scientist researching genetic and management methods to improve lamb survival rates. She spoke to the group about body-condition scoring and feeding triplet ewes. Everett-Hincks works at Invermay, and Clarke worries about the effect Agrisearch’s plans to downgrade Invermay may have. “The best value for money is on-farm

• To page 15

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RURAL PEOPLE: Kenneth & Catherine Pottinger

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Highlands to Hinds and handy herd Sue Russell Canterbury dairy farmers Kenneth and Catherine Pottinger’s farming journey has straddled both hemispheres and remarkably different landscapes. The Scottish couple came to New Zealand almost seven years ago, moving from sheep and beef there to dairying here, something Kenneth says has been a really positive experience. “My creed is to do the basics right. We set ourselves some goals early on. Priority one was to provide a secure financial future for ourselves and our then unborn children, and we weren’t going to achieve that in Scotland.” Since settling here, the Pottingers have had a wealth of farming experiences, firstly as stock manager then a season in a second-in-charge dairy position, two and a half seasons as farm managers, and two seasons as contract milkers, all with Synlait Farms. They are now 50:50 sharemilkers on a farm owned by Donald and Fiona Sutton, near Hinds, south abnd seawards from Ashburton. The 1550hectare (effective) property carries 550 friesian-cross cows. It is the Pottingers’ first herd – they bought their stock from five locations in Canterbury with the assistance of Richard Andrews, from Livestock Exchange. “We ended up buying the herd for less than we had budgeted for, which was a good feeling,” says Kenneth Pottinger. “Next season we plan to go to 600, which will be our capacity.” He admits to being very keen to use technologies that are free, and there is an abundance of them in the market, mostly on smart phones. “There is information out there on all aspects of farming, and it is just a matter of finding what

Pottinger possie: Henry, Edward and Milli Pottinger help out with calf rearing. Their parents, Kenneth and Catherine Pottinger, are sharemilkers on a 550-cow farm at Hinds, near Ashburton.

Next season we plan to go to 600, which will be our capacity. fits our objectives. Dairy New Zealand is a great resource.” He would like to get automatic cup removers installed in half the 40-a-side herringbone shed. Doing this would reduce staff fatigue and the risk of over-milking. “The benefits to the farm team and cows far outweigh any cost to us,” he says.

Dairy fatigue is something he is conscious of. As the owner of the business, he understands his responsibility is to step in to take up the slack when workers are stressed and need a break. Next year he plans to take on an extra farm-worker for the first half of the season. “My job is not so much to be thinking about today and tomorrow, but a couple of months out,” he says. “But it is also important to step in and be hands-on when needed. This season Eddie Trounson and Robert Lark have been great additions.” It has been a busy time on the family front as well, since arriving in New Zealand. With three children – Milli 5, Edward 4, and Henry 2 – and with another on the way, family life is full on and

very satisfying. The children do their bit, helping out with the calf-rearing. Kenneth and Catherine availed themselves of the Dairy NZ Mark and Measure course. learning designed to support strategic planning and financial management. They say it gave them confidence and reinforced what they already knew. “It created an environment for Catherine and me to sit down together and work out where we are going,” says Kenneth. The farm-owners, while hands-off, are very supportive, something the Pottingers believe gives a good balance. “This farm is the old family farm. I think their relationship to it runs a little deeper as a result,” says Kenneth.

On-farm research ‘best value’ • From page 14 research. Invermay is really good at that. Julie’s got kids, and she’s passionate about what she does. Once you lose these people, you won’t get them back. “I hope they hold their ground. They’re good at what they do, and we’re lucky to have them in this country.” The Clarkes have used electronic identification (EID) in their flock to monitor ewe condition score and to monitor triplet ewes that are now being monitored through a parentage gate with Farm IQ. This is used to find out how many lambs each triplet ewe has reared and how heavy they are. . The Clarke farm was traditionally friesian beef steers, and romneys lambing at 130 to 140%. Hoggets were grazed off the farm. But involvement in the monitor farm programme has led them to make changes. Sheep are now one quarter texel/romney base using Mt Linton sires, and now, also, some growbulk rams. This year lambing is 150%. They have reduced the numbers of beef cattle, but have taken on dairy replacement

grazing. They now lamb the hoggets on farm, this year tailing 90%. Two Clarke brothers are nearby dairy farmers, and their mother and her partner have a run-off farm. “We’ve got Wyndham surrounded,” says David Clarke. “We’re far enough apart to be out of one another’s way, but close enough to help one another. It’s a very fortunate situation. “Mum has done a very good job of growing the business.” The family history in the district goes back almost 100 years. A bit of a do is likely. “Not many companies last 100 years, so it’s worth celebrating.” As for being a monitor farmer: “I would do it again. I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s a leap but you get rewards out of it if you are prepared to put the time in and are open to change. “We are progressing and look forward to achieving 160%-plus lambing. “The committee has been great and we’ve all learned off one another and kept one another motivated. When you are working alone, it’s hard to get motivated when you wake to hear the hail and sleet and shit on the roof.”


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ON FARM: Caleb Holmes/Carl McNaught

Business Rural / Summer 2013

In-shed feeding system boosts production Kelly Deeks A new grain-feeding system in the dairy shed is a step towards maximising per cow production on the Holmes family farm on the Taieri Plains. Caleb Holmes is lower-order-sharemilking 600 cows on the 240-hectare farm, owned by his parents, Gerald and Karen Holmes. He is in his fourth season on the farm, after farming further south for eight years. With Caleb in the shed, Gerald is chief calfrearer and now spends most of his work days taking care of the cultivation. The grain-feeding system was installed in the shed last July, with Holmes saying he just couldn’t get enough production feeding grass only. “We were having problems getting them in calf. Condition post-calving was stripped off the cows.


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They were still doing the production, but not the other things cows are supposed to do.” Last season the cows averaged more than 480 kilograms of milksolids, mostly on grass with a bit of palm-kernel extract when the farm got dry. Holmes says the herd is very good, with a high breeding worth, and bred to produce milk. “But the feed we were giving them was going straight through them into the milk vat. With the new feeding system, we’re now feeding grain and molasses and looking to get as much production out of the cows as we can.” With a record forecast milk price from Fonterra for the 2013-14 season at $8.30 per kilogram of milksolids, Holmes is confident the grain-feeding system is a good investment. He is targeting 520kg milksolids per cow this season, which will pay for the feeding system. “They did 480 last year, they’ve got good genetics behind them, and they are capable,” he says of the friesian and friesian-cross cows. “They’re not big. They’re probably only about 475kg, so they’re doing well above their body weight on grass only.” After calving, he was happy with the results from feeding grain and molasses. “We’re well ahead on this time last year. Postcalving they’ve gone up .2 of a condition score from the same time last year, and they’re cycling really well.” After mating, he will be looking for an improvement in the empty rate. He says he will be happy with anything under 10%; if he gets more, it will mean he has done something wrong. Another change has been a move away from fodder beets as winter feed. The new grain system has eliminated the need to put condition on the cows over winter, he says. That land is now used for grass silage. Holmes says he is doing more feedpad wintering, feeding silage and balage, and palmkernel extract if necessary. The “pretty much” self-contained, 240ha property has its own support land; the milking platform takes up 180ha and the remaining 60ha is used for grass silage and grazing young stock.

Caleb Holmes familiarises his sons with the cowshed.

Grain-belt stint crucial as young Karen Phelps Working in the United States in the ‘Golden Mile’ harvest helped broaden Canterbury farmer Carl McNaught’s horizons. After 10 months in the grain belt, from Texas to Idaho, he says he has a greater understanding of how New Zealand farming fits into the world picture. “People in the USA are very wary of what they eat. I became aware of how fortunate we are in New Zealand,” he says. “We don’t have to be worried about our food because it’s produced pretty clean. It’s shown me why we have such a niche market for our products/” Born and bred on a dairy farm in the North Island, McNaught went to Lincoln University and was part-way through a Bachelor of Agriculture when the earthquakes hit, affecting the continuity of

his course and thrusting him unexpectedly into the working world. After a season harvesting crops in the USA, he returned to New Zealand to take a second-incharge position on a 180-hectare (effective) farm at Oxford, North Canterbury (it is owned by Graeme and Sheryl Henderson and their son, Cameron). At the end of his first season there, he progressed to manager and is in his second season in that role. The farm milks 630 predominantly friesian cows through a 50-bail rotary shed with Protrac, automatic cup removers, automatic drafting and in-shed feeding. McNaught says the farm, now in its third season after conversion, is still evolving. It is run on a pasture-based system. The whole farm has been re-grassed to get on top of grass grub and browntop, and is now being replaced with longer-term varieties. Last year‘s mating was not as successful as

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ON FARM: Liam Kelly

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Liam a born-and-bred dairyman Karen Phelps Liam Kelly has been on a dairy farm since he could walk. Now, at 26, he is already sharemilking a 192-hectare (effective) unit at Huntingdon near Ashburton. After leaving school at 18, he worked for his parents on their dairy farm at Dannevirke, in southern Hawke’s Bay, for eight years – three years of in management. He then headed south to manage an 850-cow farm at Temuka for Greg Robb. After a year there, he took his present position in 2012. The move came because Kelly’s bank manager connected him with the farm-owner who was looking for a lower-order sharemilker for his new conversion. Kelly, who managed the conversion, says the biggest challenge was a wet August in his first season: it made it difficult to fully feed cows without damaging the pastures. However, the farm made the targeted production (301,000 kilograms of milksolids) with 700 cows, had a grade-free season and a 7% empty rate. “We stood cows off a lot and put heifers on once a day. We didn’t take any short cuts. We were aggressive with blood testing, so we had the nutrients right,” he says. “Our success in the first season boiled down to having a good farm and good staff.” The farm employs four staff, three full-time and one part-time. It is supported by two nearby run-off blocks, totalling 150ha and used for running young stock, winter grazing and growing supplement. Farm owner Tony McNab helps with tractor work. A single centre-pivot covers 160 hectares and there is 30ha of k-line irrigation. Effluent is stored in a two-pond system and is spread via the centre pivot over 70% of the farm.

Liam Kelly is aiming to use higher cow numbers to build on the good results achieved in his first season managing a new conversion.

This season 820 crossbred cows are being milked through the 54-bail rotary dairy with automatic cup removers and a system to measure mastitis levels. Pressure has been put on the system as the conversion process is still being completed with 12% of the farm being sown in new grasses.

The farm house has just been completed and fencing is being finished. Despite this work still going on, farm production is 30% ahead of last previous season. The production target is 370,000 kg milksolids. The aim is to make the calving pattern more compact with the aim of getting more days in milk

Kelly says his relationship with farm-owner Tony McNab and farm adviser Mike King has been important for him: “They pretty much leave me to get on with things, but they are there when I need them or have a question. We got good results in the first season and now it is just a matter of building on this with the higher cow numbers.”

manager grabs opportunity hoped - largely because the farm was short-staffed (just McNaught and the owner). McNaught will be concentrating on reducing the empty rate to 10% this year by being more proactive and metro-checking cows earlier. He also has 2IC and a farm assistant. “Attention to detail over the whole operation is the key,” he says. “Because we have more staff this season, we’re already seeing better returns in terms of milk yield, and somatic cell counts (averaging 100) are well down. The farm has huge potential and is still developing – as long as we keep refining things. it should continue to improve.” He is also finishing the farm landscaping.

Last season the farm produced 412 kilograms of milksolids per cow; this season’s target is 440kg. The Hendersons also own a farm in the Waikato and are based there, which leaves McNaught responsible for the day-to-day running. He says he would like to go back to university to finish his degree, but says the opportunities he has received in the industry have been too good to pass up. “I’ve progressed quickly, I guess, and I’m keen to establish myself as a farm manager and take any opportunities that come my way. At the moment I see more benefit in being where I am. I’m learning a lot.”



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ON FARM: Oraka Farms

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Family aims for New Zeal Jo Bailey

We’re milking a total of 1980 mainly crossbred

Fourth generation Southland dairy farmers Graeme and Blair McKenzie say working off the farm has brought new skills and attributes to the family business. “Dad always encouraged us to get out and gain some life experience before coming home. Now we’ve been back a few years, we’re focused on progressing our operation and using our economies of scale to continually grow” says Graeme. Each of the brothers currently has a 24% shareholding in Oraka Farms, the family’s substantial 763-hectare (711ha effective) dairy operation in the Waituna/Woodlands area, near Invercargill. “Over the past two years we’ve become focused on succession and progression with the goal to gradually increase our shareholding,” says Graeme. “Our business consultant, Tony Robertson, in conjunction with our lawyer, Fraser McKenzie, and accountant, Dave Mitchell, have been invaluable in helping Dad, Blair and me to clearly define our roles and make sure we are concentrating on the right skills in the right places.” Graeme did a Bachelor of Science at the University of Otago, then worked in both Auckland and Wellington for the Food Safety Authority before returning home three seasons ago. As business and run-off manager, he works closely with his father, Gordon, on business planning, looking after the property’s young stock and running their three run-offs which total around 724ha (600ha effective). Blair has been back on the property for five seasons following a stint as a stock agent with PGG/Wrightson and Progressive Livestock. He is the property’s “hands-on” operations manager, responsible for the day-to-day running of the three dairy sheds and overseeing the three farm managers, plus staff, who report directly to him. As part of his role as overseer, he still milks in the sheds when required. “Our roles have evolved quite easily,” says Graeme. “The nature of Blair’s background as a stock agent meant it was a natural progression for him to manage the operational side of things, whereas I’m more involved on the business side.” Succession has been a strong philosophy throughout the generations of the McKenzie family, he says. “Our family has worked together to build and grow its dairy businesses to the point where they

cows this season, but will winter 2150 next year... it will be the first season we’ve milked over 2000. are big enough to enable individuals to go out on their own and succeed if they want to do their own thing.” Gordon McKenzie understands this process as well as anyone. He started farming at Seaward Downs, the McKenzies’ original family farm, with his two brothers, Grant and Brent, and his father, Graeme. Around 19 years ago Gordon bought a dairy unit at Waituna from the partnership to farm in his own right. Grant still farms Seaward Downs, while Brent has also established a farming business in his own right. “Grandad still holds a keen interest in the farms and visits when he can,” says Graeme. Gordon McKenzie has acquired neighbouring land and built two more sheds, to extend Oraka Farms’ total area to 763ha. The property’s third shed started supplying in February 2013, and is operating well in its first full season, says Graeme. “We had purchased some more land, so it seemed logical to build a new, more central shed and switch cow numbers around a bit to make things more viable.” Although the herd is split into three across the three adjoining “farms”, each with its own supply number, the cows are effectively treated as one big herd, and the farm is run as one big management block. “We’re milking a total of 1980 mainly crossbred cows this season, but will winter 2150 next year by bringing our own stock through the system. It will be the first season we’ve milked over 2000.” A mild winter and good spring sees production tracking ahead of the budgeted 400 kilograms of

• To page 20

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Business Rural / Summer 2013

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ON FARM: Oraka Farms

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Dairying operation increasingly a family affair

Oraka Farms cows enjoy winter grazing at Colac Bay.

• From page 18

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milksolids per cow or 792,000kg milksolids this season. “We budgeted these figures as a bare minimum and think breaking the 800,000kg milksolids mark is easily achievable.” The McKenzies run a grass-based system with very little supplements brought in. They have three run-offs, at Fortrose, Colac Bay and Tuatapere, where they grow a mixture of self-feed silage, short-rotation perennial ryegrass, kale and swedes. “Dad and I look after the Colac Bay and Tuatapere run-offs and bring in casual labour in the winter for the Fortrose block which is closest to the dairy farm.” The brothers’ wives are also involved in the farming business. Blair’s wife, Brooke, takes control of rearing replacements across all the farms. She also reliefmilks, supports Blair in his operations role, and teaches dance classes off the farm. Graeme and his partner, Jessie Parker, are looking forward to their upcoming wedding in January.

Gordon McKenzie...’taking a step back’. “Jessie is a partner in a law firm in Invercargill, but is really interested in becoming more involved in the farming business and helps me when she can.”

Younger brother Brad is working in the new shed on the farm. “Brad has worked as an insurance broker in Invercargill and Auckland and is helping us out on the farm for six months,” says Graeme. “He’s at the stage Blair and I were a few years ago. After the wedding he’s going to travel overseas, but also has a keen interest in the farm and may come back more permanently.” After driving such strong growth, and seeing the next generation start to pick up the reins, Gordon McKenzie is “really satisfied” with the progress of the family-run operation, says Graeme. “Dad and his partner, Rose, who has been actively involved in the farm, are now taking a step back from the business, although he is still involved in the hands-on and the governance side of the things.” “Now that we have good systems and structures in place, we’re concentrating on building a top herd and getting the most out of our cows. “Our next goal is to be recognised among the top 5% of dairy farmers across the spectrum of dairy farming challenges – it’s something we’ve always strived to achieve.”

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RURAL SERVICES: Timaru Metal Recyclers

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Metal muncher: Timaru Metal Recyclers offers local farmers an extensive farmyard cleanup service.

Rid the farm of that junk Kelly Deeks Timaru Metal Recyclers offers farmers an extensive farmyard clean-up service, with all the equipment needed to collect all shapes and sizes of scrap material and machinery, without interrupting the farmer’s working day. Timaru Metal Recyclers managing director John Hepburn says farmers with scrap metal lying around the farmyard can give him a call, and he will come out to have a look and sort out how to get it cleaned up. “Then we’ll turn up with a truck and transporter and pick it all up,” he says. “It could be a piece of really prime scrap metal like an old baler or plough, some clean fencing wire, and anything in between. The farmer doesn’t have to sort it out, and we can pick up scrap metal from all over the farmyard. We try to inconvenience the farmer as little as possible.”

03 684 4701 0274 326 934 48 Redruth Street Timaru,

Hepburn says recycling metals is especially effective as metal can be recycled almost indefinitely, making recycling metal extremely friendly to the environment. “Nearly all types of scrap metal can be recycled, with most metals having an almost endless life cycle,” he says. “Recycling of scrap metal is a great way to help the environment and reduce your carbon footprint.” Timaru Metal Recyclers offers a drop-off service where the disposer brings metal to the Redruth St depot in Timaru, where it is weighed and evaluated. It also provides a collection service, including weekly collections, for site clearance, farm, and industrial pick-ups, and total scrap metal solutions for factories. The company’s fleet of vehicles is available to make and collect all shapes and sizes of scrap metal, including cars, and oversized machinery and equipment. Depending what it is, most times Timaru Metal

Recyclers can pay for scrap metal, and recycles both ferrous metals like steel, and non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium and brass. Timaru Metal Recyclers also has a salvage demolition service, and demolishes all types of buildings. For the past three years, the company has had staff working in Christchurch, assisting with the demolition phase of the earthquake recovery. On average, 85% of recovered materials are recycled from each demolished building. Hepburn has owned Timaru Metal Recyclers since 1999, after spending years running his own truck repair business and dabbling in metal recycling. He has built the business up from one small truck and forklift, to four eight-wheel trucks and trailers, three telehandlers, and three diggers. The 30-tonne digger operates a shear to cut through metal for baling to 0.5sqm dimension for export.

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RURAL SERVICES: Southland Vegetation Services

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Southland Vegetation Control operates four vehicles equipped with the latest global positioning system technology for greater accuracy.

GPS part of spraying service Karen Phelps Business continues to grow steadily for Southland Vegetation Control Ltd as the company provides an essential service to farmers, says company owner Bretton Taylor. “Farmers need to produce. We help them to do this,” he says. Bretton started Southland Vegetation Control in 2001 after working for a number of years managing a spraying business in the North Island. He made the move south after a chance conversation with someone working for a chemical supply company led him to believe there was a need for a spraying service in Southland. Today Southland Vegetation Control covers west and south Otago and eastern Southland. The company does mainly boom spraying.

We kill things and help things grow. Clients may want to kill off weeds or to spray nutrients onto their paddocks. It’s about helping them to improve their production. “We kill things and help things grow,” says Taylor, explaining the opposing nature of his job. “Clients may want to kill off weeds or to spray nutrients onto their paddocks. It’s about helping them to improve their production.” Taylor is based near Gore with two staff in other locations. Alan Thompson takes care of South Otago. His background as a farmer means he has a sound understanding of the needs of rural clients, says

Taylor. Mark Potter is based at Wyndham and has worked for the company for around five years. Both have completed advanced GROWSAFE courses as well as chemical handling certifications proving they have the knowledge and practices required for safe, responsible and effective use of agrichemicals, based on the industry standard NZS8409 Management of Agrichemicals. “Without good staff I can’t run a good business. They are a big part of our success and I value my

staff hugely,” says Taylor, who is also hands-on in the business. Bretton Taylor is a registered chemical applicator and a member of Rural Contractors New Zealand. He has clocked up 20 years’ experience in the industry across a wide range of spraying techniques and situations. Taylor says he recognises that farmers are spending big money on spraying and that it is a vital part of their farming success. That’s why he has invested in the latest technology to ensure he is doing the best possible job for his clients to maximise their results. “If farmers use a contractor that does a really good job for them – is reliable and professional – it increases their chances of growing a good crop.” Southland Vegetation Control operates four

• To page 27

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RURAL SERVICES: Aratuna Freighters

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Growth calls for bigger base Kelly Deeks West Coast-owned and operated transport company Aratuna Freighters has moved into new, larger premises on the back of a couple of years of expansion – more clients, more staff, more trucks. General manager Andrew Havill says some clients’ businesses have also grown, so demand is increasing. “We have developed a strong base of loyal customers, whilst also vastly improving the size of our fleet. We have had the opportunity to extend our services to scores of customers.” In June Aratuna Freighters acquired the Fastway Couriers franchise for the West Coast, and runs three courier vans out of Greymouth. Havill says this was a great opportunity for the company to get involved in the growing courier market. “There are not a lot of small parcels carried by general freighters any more, since courier companies have really catered to that market with tracking services and good prices. With on-line trading on the increase, we have taken this opportunity to get involved.” Aratuna Freighters originated as a one-truck business in 1985 started by West Coast farmer Durham Havill and his wife, Lorraine. Their son, Andrew, and his wife, Monique, are now fully involved in the business. The rural side of the business – a constant focus since day one – has expanded and is booming, says Andrew Havill. “That was one of the first things we started doing, and our rural clients are very important to us. Our rural operation now has two stock-units, nine bulk-units, and three curtain-sider trucks and trailers.” It is run from Aratuna Freighters’ second yard in Hokitika, which was acquired in 2003, and is managed by rural manager John Hutchison. With an overall staff of 74, the firm now carries fuel, frozen products, general freight, bulk freight, and livestock from the West Coast mainly to Nelson and Christchurch, but its trucks can be sighted anywhere around the North Island. The company had a strong rural focus in its early days, and four years after its inception, won

Aratuna Freighters started as a one-truck business in 1985. The company now employs 74 staff and carries fuel, frozen products, general freight, bulk freight and livestock. the distribution rights for BP, and formed petroleumdistribution division. Two truck-and-trailer units, two semi-trailers and eight tanker drivers are now based in Greymouth as part of this division. A refrigerated division was formed in 1992, with the acquisition of Polar Express’s one truck-andtrailer unit, and Transalpine Refrigeration’s one line-haul unit. This division was expanded in 2001 with the purchase of Williams Transport. Andrew Havill says Aratuna Freighters’ food and fuel distribution services are key: “Food and fuel are daily requirements and need to be transported every day.

Technology improves accuracy • From page 26 trucks equipped with the latest global positioning system technology including auto section control. “This gives greater accuracy as we know exactly how big the paddock is and how much needs to be sprayed. “We can also see exactly where we have sprayed and if any spots have been missed. We can print off maps and show our clients proof of placement,” Taylor says. He believes Southland Vegetation Control can help farmers save time and money: “Using us, there is no wastage or doubling up or missing areas. We can supply product so farmers only have to order exactly what they need to use. “ Using us is also safer as obviously dealing with chemicals is best undertaken by experts.” Southland Vegetation Control has continued to grow year on year, and Taylor says his main aim

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is simply to keep up with demand as well as to continue to improve his equipment. “If we weren’t doing a good job, then 12 years down the track, people would not still be using us,” he says. “I enjoy meeting people and the satisfaction of a job well done.”

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RURAL SERVICES: HerdHomes® & Systems Ltd

Business Rural / Summer 2013

HerdHomes® shelters include a clear and curved, commercial grade steel trusses and a special design to optimise air flow.

Development of shelter continues Karen Phelps It’s easy for farmers and their staff to use and it can markedly improve animal health and production, according to Hamish McMillan, chief executive officer of HerdHomes® & Systems Ltd A HerdHomes® shelter is a covered area in which animals can relax, be fed and lie down in comfort – all with a built-in and sustainable effluent system, he says McMillan says the system is unique in the market and combines the best features of traditional stand-off areas, feedpads and loafing areas – with the added benefit of protecting the animal from the elements. The shelters were invented by farmers for farmers, he says. The system was developed by Northland dairy farmers Tom and Kathy Pow, who were dissatisfied with wintering facilities for their livestock. They tried the usual possibilities oft the time – cubicle barns, stand-off areas on concrete, metal, wood chips sawdust and sacrifice paddocks. They discovered that all the systems worked, but not for long enough periods and with associated problems. They developed the HerdHomes® shelters

with the help of farmers and AgResearch. Their shelter has a unique combination of features, including a clear and curved roof, says McMillan. The special design optimises air flow to ensure the barn dries out and remains cool in summer and warm in winter. The sides are open and it has feed strips along the side. Concrete grated floors and underfloor bunkers are used to collect effluent and maintain the area in a safe and healthy condition for cows. The floor design is presently being patented as it allows straw to be naturally ground up and passed through the slates to the storage bunker below. He says the product is constantly undergoing improvements. In the last 12 months, the roof has been redeveloped and is now made from commercial-grade steel trusses to give a stronger more robust result. The roof hs also been widened to improve airflow and make the floor area drier for cattle comfort. HerdHomes® & Systems Ltd also offers roofs to cover concrete feedpads and barns, shelters and free stall barns. One project recently completed by the

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uct d o Pr w e N

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Business Rural / Summer 2013

RURAL SERVICES:Ludemann Sheep Dipping & Spraying


Dipping service widens net Kelly Deeks Ludemann Sheep Dipping and Spraying has spread its way from its Oamaru base in 1967 and now covers the areas from North Otago into the Maniototo and Central Otago. David Ludemann and his wife, Anne, took over the company in recent years from David’s father, Harry, who bought it in 1967 when David left school. David joined his dad in the business, which was doing only sheep dipping in the early days. He branched out with the purchase of a spraying business eight years ago. Ludemann says that for the last 15 years, dairy farming has been taking over a lot of North Otago’s sheep farms. “We were dipping about 400,000 sheep in North Otago, and now it’s about 40,000,” he says. “That’s why we needed to go outside of our main area and move on.” Another change in the industry is the timing, with people starting to dip their sheep earlier to combat fly strike. Dipping used to start in February, but now it starts in early December as sheep farmers become more proactive about preventing fly strike. “There has always been a fly problem, but in the past 15 years with the Australian flies around, they have made things a lot more aggressive,” Ludemann says. “If you’ve got a fly problem you’re cleaning up sheep every other day. Now people are getting proactive and dipping before the problem arises, not rushing around in the summer when they’ve got hay to make and other stuff to do.” He says the advent of new chemicals has made dipping treatments a lot more effective for both lice and fly control. Insect growth regulators (IGRs) can provide up to 12 weeks of fly protection and sheep may need to be dipped only once a season using Ludemann Sheep Dipping and Spraying continuous replenishment shower dips. “The old organophosphate wasn’t really user friendly, and its efficiency wasn’t that great in controlling fly strike,” Ludemann says. “You would only get two to four weeks of fly control, and four months of lice control. The new chemicals are getting up to 12 weeks of fly control, and 20 weeks of lice control and are much more user friendly.” Just as important as the chemical is the

David Ludemann, trusty dog and mobile dipping unit (left). Sheep may only need to be dipped once per season using Ludemann Sheep Dipping and Spraying continuous replenishment shower dips (below).

We were dipping 400,000 sheep in North Otago. Now its about 40,000. application method. The gold standard is saturation dipping, which includes the continuous replenishment shower dip method to ensure a good coverage of the chemical to skin level, over the areas of the sheep most prone to strike. Ludemann believes New Zealand sheep farmers should put more emphasis on dipping. A struck animal may take six weeks to regain lost weight after treatment, and up to eight months for its fleece to recover. “It is a major animal health problem,” he says. “If you’ve got lousy sheep, it can lose you up to 80c in every $1. The cost of dipping is a small price to pay for an increase in your return of up to $10 per animal. If you lose a lamb to fly strike, the cost of dipping is about $1 and that’s a small price to pay to save an $80 lamb.”

Cow demand drives shelter use

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HerdHomes® & Systems Ltd also offers roofs to cover feed pads and barns, shelters and free-stall barns.

• From page 24 company was to cover a feedpad for a client who was having issues with the local council over effluent compliance. Effluent now dries in situ and forms a crust, which is a cushion for the cows to rest on. McMillan says farmers usually find they are using the shelters more than they thought they

would because cows love them. “We have the perception in New Zealand that paddock is best, but in bad weather especially, when given the choice, we have seen cows literally run from the gate of the paddock to the shelter. “Cow comfort, plus the fact paddocks can be damaged in wet weather, mean a shelter is the right choice for a more profitable farm.”

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RURAL SERVICES: Barfoote Construction

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Dairy shed with a difference Karen Phelps Barfoote Construction has been building cowsheds for many years, but only really entered the South Island market 18 months ago. The firm has now built seven sheds in the South Island, and has five more in the pipeline. It has also built sheds in Tasmania, Australia and the United States. The distinctive cowsheds blend with the landscape but also command attention through a design that mixes functionality with an aesthetically pleasing silhouette. Rising from the landscape the roof gently curves over the structure mimicing the rolling hill landscape of many New Zealand dairy farms. “Basically, if anyone is considering building a dairy shed, they shouldn’t build without looking at one of these first, says Barfoote Construction owner Trevor Barfoote. “The style, the design and the functionality has impressed many farmers who have come to look at them.” The Barfoote dairy shed is split-level with offices, smoko room, toilets and viewing areas on the higher floor. This makes the shed easier to clean, says Barfoote. The curved roof allows more light in, which makes for a more comfortable and functional workplace. The all-concrete structure is sturdy and durable, and provides a more consistent temperature in the shed and a quieter environment. The interior is open plan and the vats are under cover to keep milk at a more constant temperature and help save on power bills. Barfoote Construction does both herringbone and rotary dairy sheds, feedpads, concrete raceways, cattle underpasses, silage bunkers/pads, feed troughs, palm kernel bins, fertiliser bins and specialist farm buildings. It has built milking sheds through Northland and the central North Island, and its export division has operated in North and South America, and Europe. Trevor Barfoote owns a dairy farm with his

The curved roof on the Barfoote dairy sheds allows more light in, and the all-concrete structure enhances consistent temperature within the shed. Milk vats are also under cover, helping keep milk at a consistent temperature. father, and says he has a sound understanding of what the rural industry requires. And commercial and industrial projects bring spin-off benefits for rural clients: “For example, we are qualified to work in live switch yards for Transpower and have just completed a $2.2 million project at Marsden Point/

• To page 31

Basically, if anyone is considering building a dairy shed they shouldn’t build without looking at one of these first. The style, the design, the functionality has impressed many farmers who have come to look at them..

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Business Rural / Summer 2013

RURAL SERVICES: Otago Metal Industries


Scrap merchant has recycling in the blood Neil Grant Recycling, like other environmental activities, has assumed almost religious status. It is credited with saving the planet’s resources, reducing greenhouse gases, saving energy, reducing air and water pollution, and just generally making us feel good and worthy. Graham Rollo’s life has revolved around recycling. His father became a scrap metal merchant in Christchurch in the 1940s. The business expanded to cover much of the South Island. Graham Rollo came into the business, starting at the bottom, and working up to becoming the Dunedin based buyer. When his father died in 1977, he bought the Dunedin branch, and in 1985, merged it with the Dunedin branch of Copper Refining, owned by Wayne Andrews. The new company was called Otago Metal Industries Ltd. Since then they have bought out competitors in Invercargill and Cromwell, established a car crushing branch, and become a major Dunedin supplier of hired skips. Rollo reckons that metal recycling is perhaps the second oldest industry in human history, coming just after prostitution. (Despite his own history of merging, that would be just one merger too far, apparently.) Some facts and figures give a bit of perspective as to why it is so important even today. American recyclers claim that recycling iron, or ferrous metals leads to 75% savings in energy, 90% savings in raw materials used, 86% reduction in air pollution, 40% reduction in water use, 76% reduction in water pollution, and 97% reduction in mining wastes. Every ton of new steel made from scrap steel saves 1,115 kg of iron ore, 625 kg of coal, and 53 kg of limestone. Similar savings are made in the recycling of aluminium, copper, lead and zinc. Otago Metals needs to keep a close eye on the

world markets, which change constantly. China was a major buyer of ferrous metals for a while, but is now a much smaller market. Most steel is now exported to Indonesia, and the developing market in India. “We like to support local industries. We’re better off dealing with local companies,” Rollo says. So a lot of what they process goes to foundries in Christchurch which deal in high grade steel or copper, for instance. Metal destined for overseas is sent via Macaulay Metals, a long established recycling and broking New Zealand business. “We have set traders we deal with. We have been burnt dealing with overseas companies. It’s better staying with people you know in New Zealand. You build up personal relationships.” Part of the trick of being successful in the business is knowing what to buy, and what to take away for nothing as a service to clients. There is not much return for roofing iron, for instance, so they will take it, clean and crush it into a compact block, and then onsell it, but there is little profit to be had after processing and transporting it. This approach is also what led to the expansion into rubbish skips. They started providing skips for regular steel supply customers. It soon became apparent that there were advantages for themselves, as well as their clients. Picking up a skip full of metal is much less costly than having to take a loader to a site and pick it all up loose from the ground. Once word got around, it became clear that general rubbish skips would be a useful adjunct to the business. There are now three skip trucks servicing 160 skips in Dunedin city. Rollo says he does not have to do much advertising. He reckons his big red trucks loaded with processed and crushed metal products, and word of mouth, are all the advertising he needs to keep this business providing a service throughout the south, and keeping his competitors honest. And he needs a bit of spare time to race his bright red rally car..

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Agriculture sector a speciality • From page 30 The high level of skill we require to complete such jobs is also used on our rural projects.” The cowshed design is a case in point. It is an officially registered design and cannot be copied by other companies. Trevor Barfoote, who has around 30 years of building experience under his belt, started his company almost by accident. His uncle asked him to build a cow shed, and it was such a success he carried on. Barfoote Construction has been operating in Northland since 1989. Based in Whangarei and Otago, the company works on building

structures for clients in the commercial, industrial, infrastructure, agricultural and specialist residential markets. It is supported by Barfoote Contracting, an excavation business run by Trevor’s brother Terry, and Gareth Barfoote Trucking, a trucking company run by another brother. The construction company employs a multiskilled workforce capable of undertaking precast concrete, earthworks and roofing in-house. It employs its own engineers, project managers and trade-qualified carpenters. Although the company does do commercial and industrial builds, the agriculture sector remains its specialty.

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RURAL SERVICES: Cullimore Engineering

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Solar backing gate first of its kind

The CEL backing gate, developed by Cullimore Engineering, is a completely wireless, solar powered system.

Karen Phelps A new backing gate invented by an Ashburton engineering company is the first of its kind in the world, believes Luke Maginness, managing director of Milka-Ware Ashburton. The CEL backing gate developed by Cullimore Engineering is unique in that it is a wireless, solar powered system. Cullimore Engineering has been developing the design for the past four years. The idea for the product came from a request from a client and discussion with local farmers. “We realised that a major problem farmers with rectangular yards faced was cables running down the side of the yard,” says Maginness.

• • • • • • • •

“The cable was constantly catching and was expensive to replace. Gates were also getting out of alignment and jamming.” The CEL wireless backing gate can be used as a top gate to bring up small numbers of cows at a time, or as a dividing gate between two herds. It operates on a low-voltage 24VDC system powered by batteries that are charged by three large solar panels eliminating the requirement for cables./. “This solar charging system will continue to power the backing gate even after a week or two of cloudy conditions. A radio transmitter in the dairy shed sends a signal to the backing gate for its different operations. “The low-voltage system used, along with the lack of a troublesome cable down the side of the yard, means that any stray voltage issues that can

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be caused by backing gates is eliminated,” says Maginness. The backing gate also has a steering system that will slow one side down while speeding up the other, causing the CEL wireless backing gate to track evenly down the yard eliminating alignment and jamming issues. The main frame of the gate has been built from steel pipe and the design means it is extremely lightweight yet strong and robust. The radio-controlled unit is hard-wired into the main console in the dairy shed, which means it can be operated by whoever is at the cups on the console, says Maginness. The gate also comes with an auto-stop feature (it will automatically stop when it reaches each end of the yard) and adjustable timed forward movement. Wheels are machined by Cullimore Engineering to match the profile of the top rail of the fence. This helps provide better traction. Optional extras include load sensing and four wheel drive. Work in the dairying area is a growing part of

Cullimore Engineering’s business. Sister company Milka-Ware Ashburton handles the installation and sales of the backing gates, along with supplying and installing Milka-Ware rotary platforms and milking plant. Backing gates have so far been sold in Canterbury and the first gate has been supplied to the North Island. Maginness says the aim is to expand backinggate sales in New Zealand. He says Cullimore Engineering has had interest from engineering companies who may want to sell the product.. Cullimore Engineering was started more than 30 years ago by brothers Kevin and Ian Cullimore. They still own the business. The company employs 10 staff and predominantly works Canterbury-wide, but does get involved in projects in other parts of the New Zealand. The company’s engineering services include general machining, CNC machining, fabrication, design solutions and product development.

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ON FARM: Graeme & Sue Carran

Business Rural / Summer 2013


Family affair: Sue and Graeme Carran with children Libby, Charlie and Jonty and family dog Missy.

Meat-to-milk the right decision Sue Russell In his third season since converting his sheep farm to dairy, Otautau farmer Graeme Carran is enjoying his new farming lifestyle. Graeme and wife Sue had more than a decade as sheep farmers on their 154-hectare (effective) farm before making the decision to convert, for what Graeme says were 99% financial reasons. “It was just the way the meat industry was going and it didn’t look like things were going to improve. That, along with thinking ahead to a time when I wouldn’t want to be fully hands-on, were the key reasons why we went to dairy.” The couple decided to visit their bank to start the process and, after a period of not really getting a clear answer, were eventually turned down. “It was right on Christmas time in 2010. Looking back at what happened, our old bank led

us up the garden path. We had already started pulling down fences and working out where to lay the races and milking shed to best suit the farm’s configuration, so we visited a bank in Invercargill who gave us the thumbs up.” The farm’s 40-a-side herringbone shed has room for another 10 cups to be fitted, and each season’s milksolids production has been better than the last. Last year’s total of 167,000 kilograms of milksolids was 20% up on their first season – which Graeme Carran puts down to “the farm adjusting, more fertiliser and better grasses.” He describes his milking herd of 440 mainly cross-bred cows as a “bunch of everything”. He says the choice to go with a smaller-framed cow rather than bigger friesians was sensible given the soil and weather conditions in Southland. A river and road separate the main block from a nearby run-off, and Carran says he would

be interested in buying adjacent land should it become available. The 50-year-old says he has no plans to pack up and move off the farm for something bigger. The lifestyle suits the couple and their three children Jonty, Charlie and Libby, aged 11, 10 and 8 respectively. In winter the couple spend a lot of their spare time taking the children to their sports. Sue takes care of the farm’s administration and also rears the calves. Calving this season began on August 1 and went well. Milk production is up 3-4% so far and the farm milks twice a day to supply Fonterra. “We made the decision to supply Fonterra because it provided a bit of security to the bank. While Carran keeps his hand in by milking three or four times a week, his thinking is largely tuned to the overall operation and planning. He makes a point of involving manager Murdoch Rogers, who has worked on the farm since the conversion, in discussions along these lines.

“Things are more positive the longer we go, and our goal is to eventually produce 180,000kg milksolids. Jack Balsam, our adviser from Livestock Improvement Corporation, is the main hinge to the operation. If he says jump, you ask how high. He’s that important to our achieving our goals.” Balsam visits every six weeks or so to assess stock and pasture condition. Carran says it is vital to have a fresh set of eyes looking over the farm. “When you’re on the farm all the time as I am, you don’t always notice changes. The support and advice Jack’s given to me as a newcomer to dairying is incredibly valuable.” Though he still has an interest in what is happening over the fence on the neighbouring sheep farms, Carran has had long enough in dairying to experience the benefits. “I could never have had a manager situation when this was a sheep farm. It is a good life for the family as well.”

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ON FARM: Brendon & Debbie Frost/John Ellis

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Farming system driven by weather Karen Phelps Sideways rain and howling southerlies are all in a day’s work for Southland farmers Brendon and Debbie Frost. The couple are now in their fifth season 50:50 sharemilking a 600-hectare (270ha effective) farm at Awarua, between Invercargill and Bluff, for the Invercargill City Council. The peat-based soils and high rainfall means the farm can get extremely wet for the 710 crossbred cows that are milked through a 50-bail rotary shed. “Rain can often come in sideways,” says Brendon. “The soil doesn’t drain well, so we focus on on-off grazing. We have a low stocking rate of 2.6 cows per hectare and use a calving pad. Basically, when it’s wet, you just have to keep them moving.” The balance of the farm is dedicated to stock grazing or is simply too rough to farm. Brendon says the farm has an “elastic boundary” – he can move the animals around the farm as need be to protect pastures and to get the herd to drier ground. “It all depends on how the grass is growing and how far I want the cows to walk,” he says. “It’s a flexible farming system driven by the weather.” Feeding the cows better is a real focus. Turnips are grown for summer feed. He re-grasess 40-50ha each year. “The farm doesn’t grow grass like other places in Southland. Growth is hit and miss. We try to run an all-grass system because feeding out is hard in the wet.” Improving herd quality is another way in which they hope to increase production over time. For the past several seasons they have used DNA-proven semen with a high breeding worth. “In the past we’ve sold our better-quality heifers for cashflow, but with the pay out the way it is,

Brendon and Debbie Frost, with children Lucas and Isabel and family moggie, are in their fifth season sharemilking 700 cows at Awarua, between Invercargill and Bluff. we will cull heavily this season and keep our good heifers. “The payout hasn’t affected how we farm though. We still do all our own contracting work for example. We want to put the money in our pocket and it will be good to get ahead with the business.” Brendon grew up on a farm in South Taranaki

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while Debbie was a townie. The couple met while studying at polytechnic: Brendon was doing a computing degree and Debbie a degree in business administration. When a herd-manager position came up on the 320-cow farm owned by Brendon’s family, he stepped in. Within two years the couple moved to Southland to a lower-order sharemilking position on a 270-cow unit for a season, before moving to Dacre where they contract-milked 450 cows for two seasons.

A 50:50 sharemilking position in Winton followed on a 320-cow farm, then a 50:50 position in Canterbury on an 1100-cow unit before they arrived in Awarua. The Frosts employ three full-time staff at Awarua, including an assistant farm manager. Debbie does the accounts and rears the calves. The have two children: Lucas, 6 and Isabel, 5. Last season the farm produced 240,000 kilograms of milksolids from 680 cows. This season the Frosts are on target for 280,000kg.

It’s a corporate world nowadays Sue Russell “A river runs through it” best describes the large dairy farm near Otautau, an hour away from Invercargill, that John Ellis manages for MyFarm management group. The 369-hectare property is split down the middle by the Orauea River. Two 54-bail rotary sheds, one on either side of the river, milk 600 cross-bred cows each daily. Surrounded by dry stock, sheep and beef farms, John has been managing the property for nine years now and being part of Myfarm has brought definite benefits, he says. “We were in an equity partnership with Quadrant Pastoral, but the partnership eventually dissolved with everyone wanting to go their own way. Now, being part of Myfarm, has meant a step up in management.” Myfarm management group is owned by investors who employ their own supervisor, who visits the farm monthly to discuss farm policy with Ellis and to gauge how production and the farm is

performing. “It is very much a business. We have certain standards to meet and the reporting to Myfarm isn’t over the top. It keeps everyone up to date and works very well.” Calving on the farm’s concrete feed-pad and chipped Calving pad went really well this season and though spring didn’t warm up as much as Ellis would have liked, production is tracking at 4% above target. The milksolids goal is 475,000kg. Having feeding strategies is important when dealing with uncertain weather patterns. Cow feed intake is about 80% grass with supplements in the shoulder seasons to maintain condition. Southland is blessed with more rain and more grass growth than other dairying areas in New Zealand – .“The perfect place to milk cows,” he says. There is the potential for the farm to grow bigger, and with the management/governance infrastructure Myfarm operates, Ellis says expansion would be easily managed, though he remembers feeling a little daunted when he came into the operation. “The corporate world is very much here in farming now. It is all about honesty. You are reporting about a business.

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Business Rural / Summer 2013

ON FARM: Drew & Jacqui Miller/Mark & Tracy Adam


Fodder beet: it’s all in the prep The faster you can get

Karen Phelps Preparation and transition are the keys to success when using fodder beet, believes South Island farmer Andrew (Drew) Miller. Miller, who farms in an equity partnership with his wife, Jacqui, and parents Jim and Jan, on a 300-hectare unit milking 740 cows at Outram, first came into contact with fodder beet about 20 years ago when working for Wrightsons in Australia. Seeing the huge potential for yield that Kiwi farmers using alternative crops weren’t getting at the time, he kept fodder beet at the back of his mind. When he returned to the family farm he was keen to give it a go. After researching the new crop thoroughly, something he advises other farmers to do, he discovered a farmer down the road was importing fodder-beet seed and bought some off him to trial. Miller admits he didn’t fully understand the logistics of growing the new crop at the time. Fodder-beet seed was a big up front cost so Miller says he quickly realised it was important to get everything right to maximise his investment. Precision planting was key to avoid seed wastage. He aimed for 80,000 – 100,000 plants per hectare depending on the fertility of the paddock. That first paddock planted in 2000 was a success. But subsequent sharemilkers on the farm were not willing to give fodder beet a go until 2008 when Tracy and Mark Adam decided to take a risk and invest in the more costly crop, even though they had never tried it before. The following year the Adamses became equity partners in the farm. The farm now grows around 11ha of fodder beet which is used mainly at the end of the season to put condition on cows when they feed 5 kilograms dry matter maximum per cow each day when in milk, and hope to feed up to 10kg dry matter per day when the herd the herd is dried off. Preparation before sowing fodder beet gives a better chance of success.

it to grow early in the season, the better the yield. If anything gets in the way, such as weeds, it halts growth.

Outram farmer Drew Miller is growing around 28 tonnes dry matter of fodder beet per hectare. “The faster you can get it to grow early in the season, the better the yield. If anything gets in the way, such as weeds, it halts growth. “This is true of all crops but because of the cost of sowing fodder beet, farmers need to be even more on top of any issues.” Other tips include using soil with good base fertility and applying capital fertiliser in the autumn prior to growing if necessary. “The good thing is once it’s established you can

down Myfarm “Myfarm is very open about having the right people on the farm. Val does the book work and in this sort of situation it is really important to be able to work well with your partner/wife.” Managing people has become one of his bigger roles as his journey in farming has grown. He remembers starting his career in dairy farming being employed on a farm in Tuatapere 15 years ago. He also remembers the excellent support and encouragement he received from the farm’s owners, Alan and Jeanette Topham. “When you can look back on your time in farming and see that journey, where you started and where you are at now, it is very satisfying to be able to keep in touch with those who gave you such encouragement in those early days.” So far this year is stacking up to be on track or better and barring any unforeseen factors affecting production adversely, he is expecting to look back on another growth season. As it is, with the backing of Myfarm’s advisory support structure, he believes he is in a good place to cope and deals with the unexpected in his stride.

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pretty much walk away from the crop and leave it. It’s about putting in the time at the establishment phase as early on fodder beet is not as forgiving as other crops.” Transitioning the herd onto the much richer

feed is vital to avoid acidosis, says Miller. He also advises working closely with contractors as understanding the timing and requirements of the crop is vital. The Millers are now growing around 28 tonnes dry matter of fodder beet per hectare. They don’t believe they have reached full potential in terms of the rewards they are getting out of their fodder beet crop but say each year they are learning more. They consider they could achieve 30 tonnes per hectare. Fodder beet costs them around 9.5 cents per kilogram of dry matter to grow, which is comparable with kale crops, but the yield and feed quality is considerably higher. They are looking at how they can winter-graze their herd on the crop and also feed fodder beet out in the spring to balance the high protein pastures at this time of the year. “It’s an intense crop to manage initially. Go into it with your eyes open and use the experience and knowledge of others who have already been using fodder beet.”

Tel: 03 225 8822 Fax: 03 225 8820 E-mail:

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SPECIAL REPORT: South Island Mining

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Waikaia Gold steps up production Jo Bailey Production at one of New Zealand’s most significant alluvial gold mining operations, Waikaia Gold Ltd, is now well under way. The $18 million alluvial gold mine, on the Waikaia River flood plain in northern Southland, started operating ahead of schedule in early October, and is now reaching full production, says managing director Warren Batt. “The development phase went according to plan and we are very pleased to have met our deadlines and budget,” says Batt. “With an estimated resource of 145,000 ounces, the mine is a significant alluvial gold producer by New Zealand standards.”. Waikaia Gold’s privately owned dredging operation plans to mine 10,000-20,000oz a year for the seven to eight-year life of the mine. Batt says the company’s bespoke floating recovery plant, developed by Nelson firm Reliance Engineering with significant components built by Equip Engineering in Greymouth, is sited on the flood plain of the Waikaia River in a pit up to 16 metres deep. The pit will move around 80 metres a month down old river courses on the flood plain, reaching deposits goldminers didn’t have the technology to access during the gold-rush days at the turn of the 20th century. “Waikaia has a significant gold mining heritage, with the district first panned for gold in the early 1860s,” says Batt. “By the early 1900s several dredges were operating in the region, but able to dredge down to only six or seven metres. “Our new plant is working on deposits in previously unworked ground at 15-19 metres deep.” After Batt and the March family from Christchurch secured the option over the property in 2009, it had sat dormant for a number of years. “L&M had an option over it back in the 1990s and it was extensively explored by both L&M and the permit-holder Eureka Mining from 1995 to 1999. However the gold prices were extremely low at the time and the project didn’t proceed.” Batt and operations director Sam March are two of five directors in Waikaia Gold, with Batt “coming

Waikaia Gold’s privately owned dredging operation plans to mine between 10,000 and 20,000 oz per year over seven to eight years. out of retirement” to work on the project. “When the opportunity came up in 2008-09 the Global Financial Crisis was looming and I could see gold had a bit of a future.” In the last four years, Batt and the March family have raised a significant amount of private equity, which is crucial to the operation’s success, says Sam March, who runs the day-to-day operations.

He says the local community has adopted the project “pretty wholeheartedly”. “It’s a big thing for a district like this to have its economy suddenly grow by $15 -20m a year. We have also employed men and women from the Southland area to work on the project and expect staff numbers to reach 35 to 40, and contractors when we hit full production.”

Batt (a geologist) and the March family (founders of Christchurch construction firm March Construction) have worked together before. They operated the Island Block gold dredge in Central Otago from 1993 to 1996, and carried out all the feasibility work and drilling on the Earnscleugh project (now operated by L&M Mining) in 1999.

Smooth run for tailings upgrade Jo Bailey A significant upgrade to the tailings storage facility at OceanaGold’s Macraes has gone without any major hitch says Lonnie Dalzell, the company’s civil engineer who oversaw the project. “The new facilities are operating well, including all the pumping, pipeline and electrical services.” The development saw the construction of a new earth tailings dam around 6 kilometres from the processing plant. Stage one of the dam is around 35 metres high and 800m long, built almost solely of materials won from the minesite. Further construction is expected, with a maximum consented height for the dam of 560mRL (height above sea level). Construction began in November 2012, but significant earthworks were required before the construction of the main dam could start – most of the first few months were spent in erosion and sediment control and drainage work. The new dam was designed by Engineering Geology in Auckland. As part of the new tailings storage facility a major power upgrade had to be completed, says Dalzell. “The upgrade was completed early on in the project to tie in the first five-day shut the plant had ever had since it started in 1992. We upgraded the 40-kilometre main feed from Ranfurly to ensure there was enough power on site to deal with the new infrastructure. ‘This upgrade included months of planning and was undertaken over a three day period with

Big job: many items in the new tailings facility were pre-fabricated remotely and then shipped to the site, including the switchrooms. 120 linesmen from seven companies and three helicopters. It turned out to be one of the biggest line upgrades completed in New Zealand history.” A 6km pipeline was laid between the new dam and the minesite, with electrical and mechanical services a key part of the project. “Because of the location of our existing processing plant the new pipeline had to go over a large hill between our old and new facilities. A new pump station had to be constructed to provide the required pressure.” Dalzell, and a few other project members,

worked on the project for around two-and-a-half years before its commissioning in early October. The physical construction benag in November last year. “Procurement of the equipment had to be planned as the slurry and return water pumps had to be ordered before the design was completed. The project had several other long-lead items including a new 20MVA transformer which had a 14-month delivery time.” Dalzell says OceanaGold managed the entire project with assistance from external consultants

when required. The pumping station and pipeline construction by itself included 32 individual contracts with a combination of supply and installation contracts covering all facets of construction. “It is more cost effective to run a project this way,” says Dalzell. “However one reason for keeping the project and construction management in-house is to keep the knowledge within our team. External consultants often take their knowledge with them once a project is complete.”

Business Rural / Summer 2013

SPECIAL REPORT: South Island Mining


Gold price looks likely to remain depressed Hugh de Lacy Try as you like to talk up the price of gold, every new indication of the global financial recovery is trending it downwards in the medium term – and that’s having a direct impact on the activities of New Zealand’s two biggest goldminers. Certainly the price spiked briefly in July/August, topping $NZ1800 an ounce at the end of August as a result of the United States Federal Reserve delaying the winding down of its $US65 billion a month money-printing stimulation package. But because the Fed’s call was found to have been so close, that relief lasted barely a week, and through September the precious metal plummeted to around the $NZ1550/oz ($US1300/oz), the mark it reached after its long fall from a September 2011 peak of $NS2340 ($US1920). It bounced along in a narrow range at around that level over much of October, and was largely unaffected by the 16-day US Congress stalemate over raising the federal government’s debt ceiling. In the interim it became clear that Europe is

Gold’s appeal as a bolt-hole in times of uncertainty is diminishing.

definitely on the road to recovery at last – even the stricken Greek economy showed quarterly growth for the first time in years – and with emerging markets like India and China only chugging along, gold’s appeal as a bolt-hole in times of uncertainty is diminishing, and its reverse links to the value of the greenback are as rigid as ever.

New Zealand producers Newmont Waihi and OceanaGold have found themselves in similar positions, with the margins for their opencast mining now thin enough for them both to be looking at downsizing operations even as they discover enticing new prospects. Newmont has admitted shaving $NZ300 million

of its spending and shedding 200 jobs in the last two years. At the same time it has gained consent for its new billion-dollar Correnso underground mine directly below Waihi township, which is expected to yield 600,000oz over 12 years. Newmont is also mulling a drive for the estimated two million ounces sitting invitingly below the ageless Martha Pit, which has produced eight million ounces since it was broached in 1882. In the South Island the 260 jobs at Oceana’s Globe-Progress open pit on the West Coast are in jeopardy as the company considers mothballing it in 2015. But Oceana is not putting away the cheque book just yet, shelling out $11m in October to buy the 80% of Pacific Rim Mining Corporation it didn’t already own. Pacific Rim controls the disputed El Dorado project in El Salvador and has been battling the El Salvador government for eight years. Meanwhile, Oceana is doing a pre-feasibility study into its Birthday Reef on the West Coast where eight deep holes have indicated a 600,000oz resource at a startling grade of 21 grams of gold per tonne of ore.

Glenys – not afraid to give it a go

For West Coast identity Glenys Perkins, mining is in her blood. She talks to Jo Bailey about a lifetime spent in an industry she loves.


hen Glenys Perkins and her late husband discovered evidence of old gold-mine workings on their farm, it was the beginning of a 40-year love affair with the mining and minerals sector. “We sold our new car at the time and purchased a gold screening plant. “It has certainly been an interesting journey from those initial tentative beginnings,” she says. Today, Glenys Perkins is recognised as one of the industry leaders on the West Coast, renowned for her vast project management experience and knowledge of the mining and minerals sector in the South Island. She is currently project manager for Titan Resources, manager of Taylor Coal, a director of Birchfield Coal, on the board of the Coal Association of New Zealand, and a trustee of West Coast Minerals. As if that isn’t enough to keep her busy, she continues to gold-mine with her son and daughter on the home farm, where they have also developed a dairy support unit and bed and breakfast tourist venture to complement the mining operations. In 2013 she Glenys was inducted into the Worldwide Who’s Who, for Excellence in Mining. “To be accepted by this prestigious organisation of professionals was a surprise and really satisfying,” she says. Perkins grew up in an “active family”, with a father who worked as a general contractor in land development, river protection, bush contracting and later as a coal miner throughout the West Coast. After his death, her mother asked for Glenys’ help to run the family coal mine, where she found herself bagging coal and answering the phone. “I quickly learned that coal is a very complex mineral and that every coal mine on the West Coast mines a different coal specification. “Understanding the dimensions of this coal chemistry from formation, mining and processing through to the combustion process has been an intriguing and challenging journey.” It was also around this time Perkins learned that while gold mining might be considered the “glamour industry, with the perceived romance of a quick fortune”, coal mining is for the steadier resource harvester, seeking a stable long term investment. She is still involved in the family business concentrating on sales, marketing and

Glenys Perkins: “It’s all about attitude and how motivated you are to succeed.” representation of the coal industry, “probably as my machine operator skills have diminished”. These days she mostly drives a laptop rather than a machine, working at the “marketing, innovation and management levels” within Titan Resources, Taylor Coal and Birchfield Coal to ensure their future development. She is also happy to serve on industry organisations, saying it is important the “grass roots voice of those in touch with the “coal face” is represented. “The day-to-day challenges facing these industries must be articulated so they are understood when policies are applied for the efficient extraction of any resource.” The “valuable and essential” contribution made by West Coast coals to the South Island economy shouldn’t be underestimated, she says. “Almost one million tonnes of coal per year are used in the processing of milk, meat, wool and horticulture. “The supermarket shelves would be very bare if it was not for coal used in the processing of these essential everyday products.”

The Australian mining industry is well supported, both politically and by the public, in comparison with our extractive industry in New Zealand.” Perkins says her gender has never been a barrier to working in the extractive industry. “It was not difficult for me because I was born into the industry. “However I established credibility early on because I was keen to learn new skills and give it a go. I don’t buy into the negative response to difficult challenges. It’s all about attitude and how motivated you are to succeed.” She would like to see more woman take advantage of the “myriad of opportunities” within the resource sector; and see a greater percentage of women moving into management and representation positions. “The women entering the industry whom I have met recently are brilliant women, who I hope will

go a very long way to furthering not only their own careers but expanding the opportunities for our minerals resource industries in New Zealand.” She is also keen to see some of the established initiatives from the Australian mining industry introduced here. “The Australian mining industry is well supported, both politically and by the public, in comparison with our extractive industry in New Zealand. “I believe our local mining industry would benefit from the introduction of initiatives such as the Australian ‘Minds in Mines’ programme, which supports not only the mining industry, but rural communities in promoting the wellbeing of our greatest resource – our people.”


RURAL PEOPLE: Chris & Jenny Stewart

Business Rural / Summer 2013

With a small milking shed and a wee trek for the cows, North Otago contract farmers Chris and Jenny Stewart have upped herd numbers with jersey cows to target once-a day- milking

Jerseys hired as pinch-milkers Kelly Deeks North Otago dairy farmers Chris and Jenny Stewart are making what they’ve got work for them with a new run-off block and an increase in cow numbers this season – from 510 to 800, with one herd milking once a day. The Stewarts are 15% equity partners with John and Michelle de Veth in Railside Dairies, near Oamaru; they are now contract milking on the farm, having started there eight years ago as managers. Chris Stewart says there is a good working relationship between the partners, with de Veth having been instrumental in the couple developing their business and increasing their equity, particularly over the past three years since the partnership has been in operation. This season the partnership has leased a 130-hectare run-off block with the goal of becoming

self contained with R1 and R2 grazing and winter grazing. Just under 300 cows were bought to increase the size of the herd, which has been split into two – 450 crossbred cows are milked twice a day on the original 115ha farm, and 350 jersey and first-calver cows are milked once a day on the new run-off block. Because of the combination of a small, 30-a-side herringbone shed, and the 350-cow herd having a wee way to walk, the partnership bought jersey cows to raise herd numbers and to target once-a-day milking. “The once-a-day milking works well. We milk everything in the afternoon,” says Stewart. “We’ve seen good results. “By the time the first-calvers are three years old, they will go into the twice-a-day herd.” With the new cows on the new block. the rising two-year-olds were grazed out for the first time

this year. This left the Stewarts free to look after the dairy cows and this year’s calves. All the cows were wintered on the new block. Apart from the new cows, there has been no other capital investment in the farm, but some things will need to be upgraded to meet compliance, he says. At the moment, the partnership is investing in Fonterra shares and a new house for an additional staff member to join the farm’s two full-time and two part-time staff, and the full-time relief milker who started this season. Chris Stewart says the farm has heavy soil and he spends his winters trying to avoid damaging pastures. He plants barley for silage in September, yielding 15 tonnes per hectare, then direct-drills rape for winter feed behind that. The cows are also wintered on grass silage. They are fed palm kernel during the milking season – 900 kilograms per cow to the twice-a-day herd, and 400kg per cow to the once-a-day herd. The Stewarts have set production targets for this season of 500kg milksolids per cow for the twice-a-day herd, and 340kg milksolids for the once-a-day herd.


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RURAL PEOPLE: Ryan O’Sullivan

Business Rural / Summer 2013


More research needed on N leaching losses, mitigation means Neil Grant Being cautious about the dairy market and land prices sounds like good thinking in a volatile period for farmers. “It’s easy to over-commit, to over-extend, but the market won’t stay where it is for ever,” says Ryan O’Sullivan, provincial dairy chair for Federated Farmers in South Canterbury. “Farmers need to take a realistic look at their business, at what their breakeven payout is. “With high prices you get volatility that leads to low prices. So, putting something away in the good years means you survive the bad years. You’ve got to be conscious of what you’re doing about capital investment and so on.” Which all sounds like common sense, but can be difficult in a year when farmers are facing a lot of pressures to be good environmental citizens in ways that invariably cost money. Thinking about his own farm at Cricklewood, south of Fairlie, as an example, O’Sullivan says if the conversion they made five and a half years ago were happening today, they would probably trigger a resource consent regarding leaching. “Our model, including wintering on the margins, produces 26 kilograms per hectare of leaching. If the limit is 30kg per hectare, a consent would have been granted.” The farm conversion included plenty of effluent storage, so they are able to manage well. They also have lighter, free-draining soil areas they can put cows on in wet weather, so pugging is not a problem, and they do not feel the need for stand-off or feeding platforms. “Of all farming practices, wintering is potentially one of the bigger polluters in terms of nitrogen

leaching. There needs to be more research done on what the losses are, and mitigating them. Putting cows on a pad for even part of a day reduces the load, especially the urine load. But there is a huge capital cost involved, and you have to make a business case for it. “There may be other mitigants available, such as crops, and eco-n on kale.” The other aspect of water quality, as identified in a recent report by the parliamentary commissioner for the environment, Jan Wright, is the state of the country’s waterways. She noted there had been much progress, but there was still much to do. “There are concerning aspects,” O’Sullivan says, “but the whole environmental thing is real, and all farmers need to address them. Significant steps have been taken to mitigate this, especially recently, for example, by fencing streams. It is still too early to for those benefits to come through. Steps are being taken by farmers as we speak, so let’s wait and see if there are improvements.” The Fonterra botulism scare is another potentially economic concern for farmers on the land. “I heard on the radio that 80% of Chinese recognise the Fonterra brand, but 40% of those didn’t realise that the botulism scare was a false positive. The news has not penetrated the market, so there is lots of work to do there. Otherwise, the potential is lost business.” It used to be said by city dwellers that farmers were always moaning about something. As a representative of farmers who produce so much of this country’s income, Ryan O’Sullivan presents a case for seeing the problems, and using research and best practice to deal with them in economically viable ways. City dwellers should feel encouraged.

Of all farming practices, wintering is potentially one of the bigger polluters in terms of nitrogen leaching. There needs to be more research done on what the losses are and mitigating them.

Farmers need to address environmental issues, says Ryan O’Sullivan, provincial dairy chair for Federated Farmers in South Canterbury.



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RURAL PEOPLE: Southland Demonstration Farm

Business Rural / Summer 2013

Demo targets people, planet, profit, platform Kelly Deeks Clear objectives at Southland Demonstration Farm revolve around the four Ps – People, Planet, Profit, and Platform. The farm aims to achieve positive outcomes in all four, while providing a focal point for the circulation of information to help southern South Island dairy farmers. The farm’s business manager, Stacy McNaught, says the mission statement is to identify what success means for the farm in the four Ps and demonstrate that for the benefit of southern South Island dairy farmers. Those running the farm seek to achieve this by continuous, sustainable improvement. Barry Bethune, who is into his fifth season as manager, says his daily duties include looking outside the square and keeping really good records. “We’re able to show that certain things work well, and other things don’t,” he says. “We’re always learning, and sharing that learning with the farming community.” Over the past five years, the Southland Demonstration Farm has moved to the point where all of its stock are now wintered on the property; PHOTOS: Right, upper: Southland Demonstration Farm manager Barry Bethune says looking outside the square and keeping good records are part of his daily duties. Right: Barry Bethune with farm-workers at the farm. Below: A lane’s-eye view of the working parts of the Southland Demonstration Farm near Invercargill

previously a couple of hundred of the 780 cows were sent off farm for winter. This move, along with the farm’s inclusion in the Southern Wintering Systems project, has helped the management regain control of cow body condition over winter. It has also allowed people to visit the farm too at the wintering process and techniques. Bethune says last summer’s drought left the farm going into winter with substantially less feed than the previous year. This necessitated a very close eye being kept on feed allocation, and cows were fed according to body condition scoring (BCS). During the winter, some low-lying crop paddocks were flooded from the nearby Oreti River a number of times. The key lesson from that was paddock selection, says Bethune. “We’ve said ‘No more crops anywhere near the river’. We’re using fodder beet, which is a high yielding crop, so that we can have less area in crop to feed the same number of cows. “We also put some swedes in so that we can double-crop and have a longer rotation before we get back to them. This way, we can keep doing what we’re doing and winter all cows on farm.” The Livestock Improvement Corporation

did a study of the farm’s mating management programme lat season. Intervention tools such as metrichecking, CIDRs, and prostaglandin, were used to improve the six-week, in-calf rate. “These things worked quite well,” Bethune says. “Our vet has said that since the focus day, where we presented those findings, quite a few more farmers have been enquiring whether it could work for them.” For the past two seasons, the demonstration farm has also used the Why Wait programme to short-cycle cows and to get them in calf earlier. This has resulted in an increased number of replacement heifer calves, a big lift in days in milk,

and a lift in milk production. Along with getting already cycling cows in calf earlier, the farm is proactive in identifying and treating non-cyclers, says Bethune. The benefits of higher pre-calving and premating BCS are clear. The farm has been reducing the number of interventions by about half for the last three seasons, from 250 down to 65 this season. Early metrichecking and interventions are important to getting a positive result. “We have to give the cows the best possible chance to get back in calf,” Bethune says. “We’re trying to feed our cows better, “We have found that our cows in early lactation can’t get enough energy from the grass to meet the production and BCS targets we have set, so we use supplements to make up the energy shortfall. Focusing on feeding the cows to those targets has resulted in significantly fewer cows with noncycling issues.” It all goes back to the winter, he says. “If the cows come out of winter in better condition with a body condition score of five or more, and if we can minimise the body condition score loss post calving, they carry on in good condition into mating. “Every good BCS outcome you have affects so many other things in the farming operation down the track.” Weekly updates at the Southland Demonstration Farm are available by going to www.demofarm. and subscribing to the newsletter.


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Business Rural South Summer Issue  

Business Rural South Summer Issue

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