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Reducing bobby calf numbers key

Reducing bobby calf numbers key

Tararua 50/50 sharemilker Aaron Passey says his love for farming leap frogged a generation from his grandparents to him. Growing up in the Hutt Valley, just out of Wellington, Aaron used to love spending time on his grandparent’s farm, hanging out with the animals and just getting in the way.

While at Massey University completing a degree in applied science majoring in agriculture, Aaron met his future wife Jo, also doing a similar degree. Born and raised on a Central Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farm, Jo shared Aaron’s love for animals and the great outdoors.

After completing their degrees the couple decided to go dairy farming, heading to the Taranaki for a few years working on various farms, developing and honing their farming craft.

Returning to the Tararua eleven years ago to take on lower order sharemilking and contract milking roles, the couple decided the time was right to start a family.

Now with four children aged between 10 and two in tow, the couple is into their second season as 50/50 sharemilkers on land owned by several Maori family trusts and administered by well known and respected Tararua farming identities Koro and Mavis Mullins

. Aaron says that 250 cows are milked off a platform of 95ha with a 30ha support block.

“The farm is pretty much flat land that is predominantly heavy silts. We’re summer dry and average about 1070mls of rainfall a year. It can get quite wet but it also dries out quite quick. It doesn’t get very puggy but low points seem to fill up with water and we get lakes and ponds.”

He says that there is three kilometres of river frontage along the Manawatu River and the Trusts’ owners place a big emphasis on environmental awareness along with the need to reduce nitrate Tararua sharemilker Aaron Passey with son Robbie leaching and the impact on the river.

“We’re in the early stages of putting in a 1200sqm cow barn for use over the winter months and also as shade in the summer months. We’re just waiting on quotes to come back at the moment.”

This season the farm is peak-milking 250, predominantly cross-bred cows – 200 spring calvers and 50 in the autumn.

The farm has been milking once a day for the last four years but it was the first time Aaron had experienced it when he and Jo took the sharemilking role.

“I love it. I don’t know quite how I would go back to twice a day,” says Aaron. “The cows seem to do better with it. You don’t have to worry about coming back to do a 3.00pm milking. There are still plenty of jobs to do on the farm that you can do that you wouldn’t normally do.”

Aaron values the lifestyle that once-a-day milking enables, with the ability to spend more time with the kids, and fulfill his role with Federated Farmers as the local chairman and national vice-chairman of their sharemilker section. Aaron says that the cows are on target to achieve 340kgMS/cow this season.

He says the farm and cows are still in development phase. In the long term he hopes to achieve 400kgMS/cow once grass growth has improved and greater self-sufficiency has been achieved through a more robust cropping regime.

The couple place a strong emphasis on reducing bobby calves numbers, wanting to get to a point where they have none.

“We think it’s a waste and lost opportunity and it does have bad public perception. We use beef semen on the bottom half of the herd, rearing some beefies then selling them as weaners.”

With dairy farm ownership definitely on the couple’s horizons, Aaron feels that buying or leasing a drystock block might be the first step in that direction.

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