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Healthy cows, calves and grass the focus

Kim Stewart Dec 12
Healthy cows, calves and grass the focus
Northland farmer Ian Trotter (second from left) with Andrew, Sid and Michelle (background) and Eileen and Ron (Ian’s parents).

Northland dairy farmers Ian and Joanna Trotter are nearing completion of buying out the family farm ensuring the next generation is carrying on the family legacy.

The farm located near Matakana, 4 0 minutes from Auckland, has been in the family for over 115 years and Ian and Joanna are currently farming in an equity partnership with Ian’s parents Ron and Eileen.

The 130ha total/120ha effective farm milks a herd of 340 crossbreed cows through a 30 aside herringbone shed.

Technology and the resulting efficiencies and benefits on animal health have played a key part in the success of the farm and the family is constantly experimenting.

For example a Batt-Latch timer gate opens automatically to allow the cows out of the field each morning so that when the Trotters arrive at the shed the cows are already waiting for them.

Ian says this not only saves them time but is better for animal health as the cows can walk at their own pace.

They are looking at the possibility of being able to change the time the gate opens via mobile phone, which would give him greater flexibility to adapt to changes in weather etc.

In the shed they have the latest automatic ADF dipping and flushing technology so rather than needing to teat spray and flush the cups manually this is now all automated.

Once again the animal health benefits have been a welcome result with the precise nature of the technology reducing somatic cell count to an all-time low.

This fits in well with the Trotters overall focus on the cow condition. They are in the top 1% in New Zealand for production worth and the top 10% for breeding worth.

They operate a system three farm and feed palm kernel to remove the variables from the season, keep the cows in the best possible condition and producing milk for the maximum number of days possible.

They also focus on culling smartly. “Healthy calves, healthy cows, healthy grass is our focus,” says Joanna.

In order to achieve healthy grass they have had great success with soil testing and applying the right fertiliser at the right time. This has reduced milk staggers in the spring hugely. For example last spring they only treated one cow out of the whole herd.

The Trotters also run around 300 beef cattle they take through to fattening over a total area of 190ha on various plots all within a half hour drive from the main farm.

Healthy cows, calves and grass the focus

Joanna and Ian Trotter with long serving staff member Brad Tucker. Part of the herd grazing on their Northland property.

Ian says this gives them an interest outside of dairying. The farm is still a truly family affair.

Joanna’s role is to take care of the business office management as well as do her share of relief milking as required. Ian manages the farm and Ron, now 83, still helps out. The farm employs two staff.

Long serving staff member Brad Tucker, who Joanna says is more like family now, has been working for the family for nine years so they are sorry that he will be leaving shortly.

They will also focus on upgrading buildings and machinery. The couple have three children aged 11 to 17. Eldest Michelle is keen to become a vet and hopes to study at Massey University next year.

The Trotters’ goal is to continue to grow their business to get themselves into a position where they can take on any opportunities that come their way.

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