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Good team, good systems, good life

Good team, good systems, good life
Family farm: Paul and Christine Vanner with son Mitchell and daughter Kelsey. Photo: Nicky Gray.

Married for 27 years, Paul and Christine Vanner have cultivated a strong working relationship on their South Taranaki dairy unit. Located in Kaponga near Hawera, at 55 effective hectares the farm is one of the smaller units in the area.

The couple milk 180 cows through a 17-aside herringbone shed and aim to produce 400kgMS per cow. Eighty percent of the herd is Jersey, 50% of which are pedigree, with the rest all grades.

No staff – it’s just Paul and Christine and that is the way they love it – good mates on the farm. “We’re a good team,” says Paul.

“We discuss a lot of things together – maybe Christine thinks that I do one or two things on my own – but generally we’re not too far away from each other in making decisions – even down to how many calves we’re going to rear.”

With a good farming system in place, and working well together Paul says they get through the busy springs and morning routines nicely. Their morning starts at 5.15 – bringing the cows in and ready to start cupping at 5.45am. “We do everything like that together.

It’s a nice time in the morning, especially when you have a starry sky and it’s nice and fresh – not pouring down with rain. Once the first row of cups are on, we sit at the end of the pit, have a coffee, fill out the tanker docket, then rip into it and get out of there.”

Over the years the couple have developed a routine – working together throughout the day with cups on again at 4.00pm, out of the shed with everyone settled, cows checked and fed by 6.00pm – back home, fire going and time for dinner.

“It’s not a bad lifestyle really. We’ve enjoyed ourselves on the farm. I don’t know what it is but farming for the last 10 years has got a lot more enjoyable – I’m not sure why. It’s not easier – but you get a bit more satisfaction of doing what we are doing.”

Paul says setting goals and achieving production targets has been one of the reasons for farming enjoyment.

Two adult children, Mitchell, a qualified engineer, and Kelsey who is completing the last two papers of an Agricultural Science degree, complete the Vanner family. Both children are home with their parents most weekends and Kelsey helps out on the farm each afternoon over the busy spring period.

The farm runs two jersey studs – Loch Raven registered with the Purebred Jersey Society and Tasman, which is registered with Jersey New Zealand and started in conjunction with Kelsey. The Tasman stud originates back to Christine’s grandfather who used the stud name in Okato.

Passionate Jersey breeders, the Vanner family attends a lot of A&P Shows. Paul has no doubt that Mycoplasma Bovis will have a big impact on the family.

Chairman of the Stratford A&P Dairy Section, Paul says the society has spoken to all of breeders and those showing cows.

“Most of the country has postponed their shows in respect to the dairy section this year. We’ve taken the same approach until we can understand where this disease is going. At the moment we’re trying to eradicate it and we’ve only got one chance at it, so I’d like to think the opportunity was there. I take my hat off to them for trying.”

Paul says that one message that has come through very clearly from everyone was the need to support the farmers whose cows have tested positive.

“At least get together and be a unit, work together and see if we can’t eradicate it.”

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