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DAIRY PEOPLE » John & Sarah Assen/Bryce & Amanda Savage

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NZ Dairy

Farm experience in Chile a valuable Sue Russell After leaving school and completing a degree in agricultural commerce at Lincoln University Waikato farmer John Assen was given the opportunity to spend a year learning about very different farming practices in Central Chile. “In 2006 I attended a special high school for students in a poorer area, a school giving them practical farming skills. On top of their normal academic studies their day was extended by a few hours on the school’s dairy farm.” On a trip to Southern Chile John observed the early stages of NZ pastoral system being developed and implemented. “Cows are huge there. Holstein/Freisian mixes easily weighing 750kg, producing an average 35 litres per day, with calving all year round. There were definitely a lot more animal health problems including lameness and foot and leg infections.” After returning from South America John took up a one season assistant manager’s position on a farm in Ngahinapouri. He remembers with great

appreciation the excellent boss he worked for. “There’s a risk entering the industry being put off by a ‘not nice’ boss but conversely the benefits that flow from working alongside someone willing to support your learning are huge.” This job was followed in quick succession by a manager’s position with 450 cows on a farm half way between Tirau and Matamata and then collaborating with friend Aaron Price in 2009 to step up to sharemilking. John says the partnership worked well, enabling them both to achieve sharemilking status much sooner than if they had not combined their resources. “We had $30,000 each, got the bank’s backing and secured a 400-cow sharemilking job in Taupiri. After three years we got a second job where Aaron is based in Tahuna.” The Taupiri farm where John is based is 110 effective hectares and this season calved 400 freisian/jersey calves. The property was originally two farms and has two milking sheds, a 16 and a

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Early start a big advantage Karen Phelps Bryce and Amanda Savage are seeing the advantages of starting their dairy career paths early. By starting to build equity at a young age the couple say they are now in a position to have more freedom at an earlier stage of life including spending precious time with their four children Ben, 6, Harry, 4, Tessa, 2 and Jack, 7 months. Neither of the Savages grew up on farms. Amanda built a career in logistics working for the New Zealand Army. Bryce was introduced to farming at a young age working on his grandparents’ farm during school holidays. He soon developed a strong desire to become a dairy farmer and when he left school started working as a dairy farm assistant on a 200-cow farm at Manaia. At 19 years old he was already taking on his first variable order sharemilking position on a 130-cow farm at Matapu where he stayed for three years. During this time his enthusiasm for the industry led to him being named Variable Order Sharemilker of the Year for the Taranaki region in the 2004 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards. He says this

put him in good stead to take the next step in his career – 50:50 sharemilking. Both his age and his status as a single man proved challenging though. It was a chance meeting with a new client when he was working as an AB technician for Livestock Improvement Corporation that led to his first sharemilking position. “On my first day of visiting a new AB client he mentioned he wouldn’t mind selling his herd if someone wanted to buy it. I said I might be interested. The next day he said he’d thought about it and he’d sell it to me,” says Bryce. Parininihi ki Waitotara Farms, who the farmer still had one year of a three year sharemilking contract to fulfil, was convinced to give Bryce a go so at the age of 21 he found himself 50:50 sharemilking a herd of 170 cows at Hawera. During the three years he was there he met Amanda who joined the business working full time on the farm by year three. The couple then moved to a Parininihi ki Waitotara Farms-owned unit at Grant Road, Hawera, where they are in their seventh season. The couple milk 400 predominantly Friesian cows through a 39-aside herringbone shed on the 134ha effective/144ha total farm. They say their

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NZ Dairy Winter 2015  

NZ Dairy Winter 2015