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Simple sytems, more off-farm fun

Simple sytems, more off-farm fun
Off farm, Rotorua farmer Michael Spanbroek is a serious mountain biking competitor, recently winning the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in the over 50 class. Inset: Michael and Jane with daughters Ruby, Ria and Alice.

A simple low-cost farming system is helping to set up Michael Spanbroek and Jane Seath for more time to pursue their off farm passions. Both Michael and Jane grew up on dairy farms.

Michael worked as a farm assistant after leaving school before completing a diploma of agriculture at Massey University. He headed off on his OE for five years including spending time working on a farm in Holland.

He then worked his way up the system in New Zealand with management and second in charge positions in the Waikato, then sharemilking in Matamata where Jane joined him.

Jane, a nurse, vowed never to marry a farmer until she met Michael and the rest is history. The pair took on a sharemilking position together on a 280 cow farm in Morrinsville where they stayed for two seasons.

They then spent four years sharemilking a 440 cow unit at Te Poi and three seasons on an 800 cow farm in Rotorua where they milked once a day – half the herd in the morning and half at night.

In their second season they purchased the farm they are now on and employed a contract milker on their farm in order to finish their sharemilking contract before moving to their farm in 2009. They milk a herd of 335 jerseys on the 110ha effective unit in Rotorua.

Usually, herd numbers are higher – 365 – but two wet seasons, meaning cows couldn’t fully utilize the feed, has affected their empty rate, which currently stands at 20%.

He is fine-tuning pasture management – monitoring pre and post grazing with an eye-ometer on residuals – to maximise every blade of grass grown.

It’s important, as there is no bought in feed and they make silage on farm for winter feed as all animals are wintered on. It’s typical of the simple low cost farming system the couple favours.

Last year their farm working expenses were just $2.24 per kilogram. They have a 32 aside herringbone shed free from technology. They employ one full time worker and Jane does the calf rearing and relief milking in addition to working off farm as a nurse in Rotorua.

Kids Ruby, 18, Ria, 16 and Alice, 14, also help out on the farm. Their aim is more time off farm as they both have sporting interests.

Michael is a serious mountain biking competitor and recently won the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in the over 50 class as well as placing second in the 40 plus class.

In 2017, when the first round of the Enduro World Series were held in Rotorua, he placed fifth in the 40 plus class and first in 2015.

Jane also likes mountain biking but off road running events are her main interest. She just completed an Ultramarathon, an 87 kilometre race through the forest in Rotorua.

The couple are aiming to employ a 50:50 sharemilker in the next five years to give them even more time to indulge their off farm passions.

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