DAIRY PEOPLE: John & Erika Fransen
NZ Dairy / Summer 2014
Never discount the value of a good wife Karen Phelps Total determination and a good wife are the keys to successful farming, believes Morrinsville farmer John Fransen. “My wife (Erika) has been very helpful and supportive. In the early years, she was very actively involved in working on the farm as well as raising five children,” he says. “We’ve been through droughts, high interest rates and near bankruptcy, but we’ve stuck with it and never given up.” The Fransens – who today farm their 512-hectare unit, Emeraldvale, at Tauhei in partnership with their daughter, Rita, and her husband, Clayton – come from a varied background. Erika was raised on a sheep and beef unit at Tapawera, near Murchison. John, originally from Holland, arrived in New Zealand as a lad and grew up in Hamilton. It didn’t take long for him to become interested in the cows on his neighbour’s property. He left school and took on a farm cadet role for five years on a unit at Te Aroha, bought his first cows when he was 20, and went sharemilking in Te Puke with a herd of 150. After he met Erika, the couple bought and developed various dairy farms before buying their present property. Emeraldvale, formed in 2005, has grown to milk a mixed herd of 850 cows through a newly built 50-a-side herringbone dairy shed. As a smaller unit – 260 cows before land acquisitions – the farm was producing 75,000 kilograms of milksolids. In 2012-13 its 750 cows produced 250,000kg milksolids in a season of major drought. This season the herd has been increased to 800 and the target is 275,000kg. The land is still being developed (the last land acquisition was 38ha last year) and the Fransens are cultivating and putting in a summer crop – 40ha of maize – to put back into new grasses. Around 1400 metres of water lines have been put in recently, and paddocks are still being re-fenced. Clayton and Rita manage the farm; John is
employed on a wage and helps out where needed. A new all-gravity effluent system has a weeping wall for solids separation and a lined 9200-cubicmetre storage pond. The liquid effluent is spread over the dairy flats through a low-rate sprinkler system. Emeraldvale winter-milks and is concentrating on increasing per-cow production by improving feed, says John Fransen. They presently buy in 300-400kg/cow of palm kernel each season. Apart from this, the unit is self-contained and cows are wintered on farm. The Fransens could never be accused of not diversifying. They are involved in two other equity partnerships. With their son, Ivan, they own a 1200ha sheep and beef-grazing unit in the Bay of Plenty where they run 1700 ewes and 1000 grazers, and grow 200ha of pine trees. They are also involved in a 100ha dairy-goat farm at Tauhei with Stanley and Felicity Wilson. “We’ve worked hard; we’ve had no family money,” says John Fransen. “It’s stubbornness I suppose that meant we have never given up.” His advice for younger farmers is simple: “Be smart with money – there are not many jobs we don’t do ourselves. And, of course, be totally determined to succeed.”
John Fransen: no substitute for hard yakka.
Whether it’s scrub clearing (top) or hay carting (above), the Fransens do most of the work themselves.
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NZ Dairy Summer 2014