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Grassroots NZ suits the Mabonga family just fine

Grassroots NZ suits the Mabonga family just fine

Moving to New Zealand in 2003 from their native Zimbabwe meant a big change in farming direction for Edwin & Fungai Mabonga who are in their seventh season sharemilking in the equity partnership on a dairy unit at Otautau, Southland.

Edwin initially tried shepherding when he first ventured into working on the land here in New Zealand but was directed towards dairy farming as he did not own shepherding dogs.

He started as a farm assistant for one season for Loie and Tony Penwarden in Taranaki before going Contract Milking for three seasons for Andrew and Angelea Fleming.

The family then shifted to Southland in 2007 as sharemilkers for Paul and Linda Clement of Waikaia for four seasons before forming the equity partnership in Otautau.

The farm on Bayswater Road extends over 270 hectares of dead-fl at river-fl at land, with the purchase of an additional block of mainly peat.

The farm was converted from two sheep and beef farms in 2010 and was in operation in 2011. “Our paddocks can dry out quickly and flood when the water-table is up,” says Edwin.

He describes the farm as a medium input operation with grain supplied in-shed to the 840 Friesian cross herd in spring and though the farm could take up to 900 Edwin is happy with the existing herd size.

“We have three full time staff on the farm and I am also fully involved with its day to day operation. Fungai does calf rearing and bookwork. A run-off 10 km away is used for young stock.”

Calving started late July and will continue through October. While it was going well Edwin says his normal practice of getting up at midnight to check on the herd makes sense.

“I wouldn’t feel good waiting to see what happened overnight. It’s just something I have always done.”

The 54 bale milking shed with Waikato plant operates well and production levels of 330,000 kg/MS are expected to be achieved this season, slightly up on volumes produced last season.

“Our herd is getting older and many are now at peak milk production, hence the increase.” Edwin says he enjoys the lifestyle dairy farming in Southland offers.

“It’s a good way to bring up kids and we do get away from the farm.” The couple have three children, aged 19, 16 and 11.

One of their sons goes to High School in Winton, 28 km away and the youngest is at Primary School in Otautau. Their oldest daughter is studying in the States on a sports scholarship.

“We’ll be heading over to see her when we have some down time here,” Edwin says. When asked about securing good farm staff Edwin says he’s found it relatively easy to find staff.

“We try to provide an environment and culture which makes farming an enjoyable career which leads most of the people who have been part of our team to progress further in the industry. It is always bittersweet when good staff leave for bigger and better things but when that happens we also know we have been good advocates for the industry.”

He is proud of the farm which borders the Aparima River. “I am proud of the farm but there is always room for improvement. We’re constantly working on it, including shelter-belts.”

As for future plans Edwin says it is about consolidating debt. He says he and Fungai have no plans to move on with their farming at this time, given the children are well settled at school.

“This is a great community we’re in and there are plenty of activities for us to get involved in.”

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