People come first on this farm
For Southern Wairarapa contract milkers Jon and Crystal Cranshaw, the welfare of staff is as paramount as the health and well-being of the dairy herd they are responsible for.
They moved to a new position near Greytown on June 1 this year, They are facing head on the challenge of learning the intricacies of a new dairy farm with the two younger couples they employ, who also moved from the Manawatu.
The Cranshaws were previously on a high-input, high-output farm.
And ultimately decided it did not fit with their personal philosophy of animal and land management. “The high-input system of dairy farming isn’t for us,” says Crystal.
“We feel like farming can and should still be a lifestyle, and we want both us and our staff to be able to have a life that is complete with a good balance of play and work.”
The Greytown farm, owned by Bryan Tucker, is a predominantly grass-based system supported by minimal in-shed feeding.
Each couple is rostered for 11 days on and three off, which means they have a Friday afternoon, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. This allows for plenty of family time twice a month.
“It’s just to try and smooth that work-life balance out and create a lifestyle for everybody. It’s a pretty cool system,” says Crystal. She and Jon have four children, aged from seven to 19. Having couples as staff also creates cohesion in the farm’s operation, she says.
The 335-hectare (effective) farm milks 1000 friesian-cross cows in two herds through a 60-bail rotary shed with in-shed feeding, automatic cup removers and Protrack systems.
Situated on flat to rolling contour and terraces, the farm has the Ruamahanga River as one of its boundaries.
The ethic of not pushing the cows too hard is reflected in annual milksolids production of about 360 kilograms per cow, which is just below the national average of 377kg published by Dairy New Zealand.
“In the past we were very much of the mindset of trying to get into a system where we could really start pushing that production per cow and getting them really pumping,” says Crystal.
“We’ve completely turned around our whole view on that now. We are more about just looking after the cow. For us it’s definitely not about trying to push production, it’s about working with what we’ve got available.”
While production is currently lower than the Cranshaws would prefer, the benefits for cows show in reproduction rates, lower somatic cell counts and overall well-being.
Gaining a Primary ITO agribusiness diploma early this year was revolutionary for Crystal.
She says her new understanding of dairy-farm systems and financial management has radically changed the way she and Jon work together.
It has also highlighted there is a place for anyone in a family farming situation to learn about the industry, even if they are not hands-on.
“It can do so much for you and your staff, and the industry as a whole.”
The couple subsequently won human-relations and environmental awards in the 2015 Dairy Industry Awards and have set their sights on entering again.
As well as creating greater confidence in themselves and their ability to better mentor staff, the awards have provided inspiration for the Cranshaws’ staff to achieve their own goals, says Crystal.