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Extension 350 a ‘positive and enabling initiative’

Extension 350 a ‘positive and enabling initiative’
Purua farmers Hamish and Kiri Finlayson.

Hamish and Kiri Finlayson run a family-owned farm 20 minutes west of Kamo at Riponui Road, Purua. The 138 effective hectare dairy unit has a mix of flat, rolling and some steep ground with 60 hectares of steeper hills used as a run-off.

Hamish has known the farm all his life as he was born on the property now run by his brother next door, which was also owned by Hamish’s parents.

“It was originally owned by Kiri’s parents and then my father bought it and its where I’ve been ever since,” Hamish says.

The herd of 280 mainly Friesian cross cows currently produce about 85,000 kgMS and Hamish says there’s every possibility of reaching his target of closer to 100,000 kgMS with some tweaks to the farm’s management systems.

“My best year about five years ago was 97,000kgMS and I think with managing mating and calving better and planting more summer crops I can boost current production to near this figure, if not more.” He farms to a low-input cost system, growing 8 hectares of turnips and supplying PKE when needed.

One full-time farm-assistant helps Hamish, who says that in about five years or so, he’ll be happy to step out of the milking shed and maybe let his eldest daughter take over the reins. She is currently farming on a neighbouring property and studying Agribusiness Management through Primary ITO.

Calving is due to get underway on 20th July and be over by the end of September. This is when Kiri, who takes responsibility for keeping the farm books in order, steps in rearing the calves.

Milk is produced through a 30 aside herringbone shed. No standoff pads are used during the winter months, some cows and heifers are sent away to grazing.

Purua is made up of 50% sheep and beef farms
50% dairy farms/dairy grazing with a few lifestyle blocks scattered in the mix. The Finalyson’s belong to a group of farmers, an initiative known as Extension 350.

Extension 350 is part of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan and is supported by Northland Inc, Ministry for Primary Industrie s, Northland Regional Council, DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

One of the strategies within the Action Plan of Extension 350 is to offer dairy and sheep/beef farmers the opportunity to receive one on one mentoring from an experienced farmer and consultant allocated to each farmer, within a cluster of five farmers.

Each having their own mentor farmer along with the same consultant. Hamish says he’s thoroughly enjoying and benefitting from being part of the cluster.

“It has three main purposes; to lift farming profi tability, environmental sustainability and farmer well-being.”

When NZ Dairy spoke with Hamish the couple had recently hosted an Extension 350 public fi eld day attended by 40 group members. Alongside member farmers were DairyNZ consultants and farm advisors.

One of the key benefi ts in belonging to Extension 350 says Hamish is that one of the tasks, to achieve your own farming business goals, really helps focus how and why you farm.

“Our goals are all things of value to us. They are ‘Ability to grow our family based farming business and produce a top quality product.

Value family, friends and staff, with great teamwork and good basics, provide an enjoyable work environment, with attention to detail and a positive, healthy and happy work life balance.

Be the best we can be. The field day offered a chance for Hamish and Kiri to explain their farming practices. Mentor and consultant meetings are held every six weeks.

This is proving very helpful. Hamish describes Extension 350 as a very positive and enabling initiative. The couple have a positive philosophy to farming.

“We think milk is a great product. As a farmer creating this valuable global product there is only so much you can control. Farming will always have its ups and downs and you can’t look into a crystal ball to know what is around the corner,” says Hamish. His advice to those entering farming is simple.

“Stay positive, be supportive, do and be the best you can. You don’t have to be ‘sharemilker of the year, just continue to try to do the basics better.”

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