Dairy business thriving in Hawke’s Bay
Sue and Ivan Knauf bought a sprawling sheep, beef and deer farm in 2001, 40km west of Hastings in what is known as the Kereru District. They subsequently converted part of the property to dairy.
Ivan describes the decision to take advantage of the more reasonably priced cost of land in the Hawke’s Bay as the best decision they could have made, and now 17 seasons later their business is thriving.
They run 1700 Friesian/Friesan-cross cows over a 430ha effective milking platform from a total farm footprint of 995ha which includes 160 hectares bought last year.
Some of this additional area has been absorbed into the dairy platform and the rest used for grazing an increased number of dairy replacements, rearing beef calves and dairy support.
“We’re tending to move the genetics back to straight Friesian as beef calf rearing has become an important part of our business and cross breeding reduces the number of animals available for the beef market,” says Ivan.
The farm’s milk production operation is split equally between autumn and spring calving.
The past two seasons has seen a growth in herd size, given the decision to cull heavily in 2016, removing poor quality cows from the herd at a time of high meat prices.
With last year’s additional parcel of land Ivan says its been great to not have to deal with sending young stock off farm to grazing, particularly with the present threat of mycoplasma bovis.
When NZ Dairy caught up with Ivan mid August spring calving was going well and despite a very wet winter, throwing up a challenging milking period through June paddocks were now growing very well.
And family connections continue with the business ‘Wairua Dairies’ with son Lewis taking up the role of operations manager.
“He runs the day-to-day operation and another son, Carl, looks after the dry stock and young stock. Mel, Lewis’s wife is a calf rearer while my wife Sue babysits grandchildren while Mel feeds calves, runs the administration and is involved in key decisions.”
In total 12 staff work in various roles on the farm. Ivan says it will take another three or four seasons to bring the farm to its full potential with increased stock.
“We began rearing crossbred bulls last year. These are grazed on-farm providing herd tailing bulls and are then sold to meat companies once their job is done, in the process adding value to a less valuable resource.”
On-farm storage dams are currently being developed. Ivan says securing access to reliable water is key to future development and production. Last year a small dam was completed and consent was granted for another, with construction due to start this coming summer.
The couple have achieved success at the 2016 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, taking out four prestigious awards. Earlier this year Ivan was co-opted to Irrigation NZ, an organisation that represents and lobbies for the interests of Irrigators throughout the country.
The Knauf’s farm is the only dairy farm for 50km and Ivan says the view from their homestead is second to none.
“Our home is 100 metres above the dairy platform and we have a 180° vista stretching for as far as the eye can see.”
The power-house for milk production is a 70 bale Waikato plant rotary installed in 2001. It has the unusual feature of a centre exit where the cows exit forward rather than backwards.
“The reason for this is all about time efficiency. With so many cows to put through it takes half the time to walk forward than to step backwards.”
When asked for his opinion on the general state of farming Ivan says he’s concerned at continued misunderstandings about farm practices by the public, particularly on issues relating to water.
“We struggle to find a significant voice. Farming still needs to improve water quality but is making good progress.”