Good season aids career shift
James Holgate and partner Tracy Kivell say that going contract milking has been a big change. It was made easier though by the fact they stayed on the same farm they had previously been managing, a 353-cow unit at Midhirst owned by Tony and Lorraine Lash.
Add a good season into the mix and the timing couldn’t have been better for this significant step in their career.
James has been focusing on maintaining pasture; dropping out paddocks for supplement and topping as required – as the grass grows rapidly. Weekly farm walks help him keep on top of things.
He has already made 20 bales of silage plus 90 tonnes of pit silage with another 9ha about to have silage cut off it. A big change has been going from employee to employer.
James has hired staff member Brandon Holdt. “We wanted someone with experience who needed a little help to get to the next step. We use an app to load in jobs so we can all see what is happening and what needs doing. We tick off jobs as they are done.
I’ll give a list of priority jobs in the morning then Brandon and I pick off the other jobs as we can,” explains James, who says he prefers to give his staff autonomy to fill in their day.
Tracy, who hails from a farming background, works full time off farm as an accountant in Stratford. She completes the farm bookwork and also fills in as needed.
James didn’t grow up on a farm but moved to a lifestyle block when he was 10 at Cardiff near Stratford and got relief milking jobs on neighbouring farms while he was at school.
He then moved into a full time farm assistant position on one of those farms before moving to Ngaere to take on a similar position on a 350 cow farm for three years before moving to Midhirst. Earlier in 2018 James won the Taranaki dairy manager of the Year title.
He was named runner-up Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year in 2014 and says entering the awards helps to give an outside point of view as well as getting his name out there. He completed two seasons as a herd manager on Tony and Lorraine’s farm before moving to contract milking.
The Lash’s farm totals 130ha effective/140ha total and milks a herd of jersey cross cows through a 40 aside herringbone shed with automatic cup removers and in-shed feeding system.
The farm is supported by a 28ha run off lease block in-between Stratford and Midhurst used for replacements, young stock and growing supplement.
Stock is wintered on farm. Tony and Lorraine live in New Plymouth and have input into the farm at key times of the season.
This season target production in 150,000 kilograms of milk solids. A 50:50 sharemilking position is the next goal for James and Tracy, a dream they hope to achieve by 2022.
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