Care of people, environment underpins change
A dairy farming partnership formed four years ago between Pare Hauraki iwi and Landcorp on the Hauraki Plains has proved to be smart and adaptive as it works to achieve dual profitability and sustainability goals.
Pouarua, owned by Ngati Maru, Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tamatera, Ngati Tara Tokanui and Te Patukirkiri, is the largest single platform in the region. It is benefitting from a recent reconfiguration that saw its total dairy units increase from eight to nine and a new state of the art 54 stand rotary shed added.
The total number of cows being milked – around 5,000 cows on 2200 hectares – has not changed, but the new arrangement is proving much more efficient.
“As a result of legacy arrangements, walking distances were too long and infrastructure was stretched,” explains Pouarua’s business manager Gareth Hughes. “The iwi owners had a look at what we could do and decided to reconfigure the farms to address those issues.”
It has taken the pressure off the existing 40-aside herringbone sheds that were previously pushing through 600 to 650 cows.
“When you have long milking hours combined with long walking distances for cows, then you see that attrition in staff. People don’t want to be doing 16 or 18 rows any more. If you want to keep young people coming into the industry, you’ve got to create conditions that are good for people.”
Under the new system, no-one is milking more than 12 rows. “It’s just a lot less pressure and it means the sheds last longer too.”
The improved milking environment will enhance staff retention going forward and that also aligns with the iwi owners’ belief that looking after people is fundamental to ensuring Pouarua’s future prosperity.
“Added to that, the iwi have a strong driver for innovation and the new shed has been designed so it can be easily adapted and upgraded as new technology comes on stream.”
The strongly-built composite rotary dairy platform is already equipped with all the latest energy efficient features and automated processes to ensure peak efficiency.
Pouarua also uses HALO monitoring systems from Tag IT Technologies to keep track of what’s happening on-farm in real time. It means if something goes awry, it can be picked up quickly and fixed without delay.
“Effectively, the farm is live so if we’ve got a water leak, for example, we’ll get a notification on our cellphone that says your usage is unusual compared to the long term average for that time of day. When you’re paying $1.65 for 1,000 litres of water, it makes a big difference to get that alert. Of course, if we’re responding faster to a water leak then that’s also good for the environment.”
Pouarua is keeping a close eye on fast changing technology with a view to further honing its environmental performance over coming years.
As Gareth notes, it is prudent to do so given the bigger picture around dairying.
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