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Two out of three ain’t bad for Opunake farmer

Two out of three ain’t bad for Opunake farmer

While the weather put a dampener on firsttime contract milker Fabian Milham’s plan to increase production on Thomas Ardern’s 230 cow Opunake dairy farm this season, he has still been able to reach two of his other goals, managing to decrease the farm’s empty rate and increase its six week in calf rate.

Fabian has been in the dairy industry for six years, starting off as farm assistant for one and a half seasons, then moving to a 2IC position on a Taranaki Rugby Trust farm for sharemilkers Charlie and Jody McCaig, the same year the couple won New Zealand Sharemilkers of the Year.

From there he took a 2IC position on another Taranaki dairy farm which turned into farm manager, then moved to the Ardern farm to start contract milking this season.

Fabian runs the farm with the help of his partner Jessie Myer, who does the calf rearing and helps with milking when needed.

The couple’s son Jerome has recently turned five years old. Fabian came to the Ardern farm with hopes of improving on last season’s production of 88,000kgs milksolids to 90,000kgs milksolids.

“But that’s not going to happen,” he says. “I’m still hoping to get 82,000kgs or 85,000kgs, but the weather hasn’t been on my side this season.”

From the start of the season, when it just wouldn’t stop raining, followed by muddy conditions and pugging from the milking cows not the calving mob, then a complete stop of rain and the farm quickly became dry.

“Normally the cows would be wintered on the run off block but due to issues on the Arderns’ two other local farms they stayed home this winter,” Fabian says.

“During the wet period I kept the cows in the yard at night time to limit their movement in the paddocks. Now it’s turned dry, I’m just trying to Fabian has been in the dairy industry for six years, starting off as farm assistant for one and a half seasons, then moving to a 2IC position on a Taranaki Rugby Trust farm for sharemilkers Charlie and Jody McCaig, the same year the couple won New Zealand Sharemilkers of the Year.

From there he took a 2IC position on another Taranaki dairy farm which turned into farm manager, then moved to the Ardern farm to start contract milking this season.

Fabian runs the farm with the help of his partner Jessie Myer, who does the calf rearing and helps with milking when needed.

The couple’s son Jerome has recently turned five years old. Fabian came to the Ardern farm with hopes of improving on last season’s production of 88,000kgs milksolids to 90,000kgs milksolids.

“But that’s not going to happen,” he says. “I’m still hoping to get 82,000kgs or 85,000kgs, but the weather hasn’t been on my side this season.”

From the start of the season, when it just wouldn’t stop raining, followed by muddy conditions and pugging from the milking cows not the calving mob, then a complete stop of rain and the farm quickly became dry.

“Normally the cows would be wintered on the run off block but due to issues on the Arderns’ two other local farms they stayed home this winter,” Fabian says.

“During the wet period I kept the cows in the yard at night time to limit their movement in the paddocks. Now it’s turned dry, I’m just trying to feed them as much as I can, and we’re still milking twice a day.”

Fabian is used to the coastal land in Taranaki from his past six years of dairy farming in the area, but this farm while coastal, is also about as close to the mountain as it is to the beach, and therefore gets a bit of extra rain.

The Ardern family own three farms in the area, and one is on the same road as Fabian’s. “We got 20mls of rain the other day, while the other farm got 8mls.”

At the start of this season, Fabian also looked to improve empty rates, which he has got down to 11% this season from 14% last season, and the six week in calf rate which he has raised to 65% this season from 64% last season.

The farm’s best six week in calf rate is 74%, and Fabian is now looking to get it up to around 70% next season.

He hopes to finish this season with plenty of grass cover built up for winter time, and is working on cow condition to make sure they don’t have to struggle through winter.

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