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Dairy, horticulture a real family affair

Dairy, horticulture a real family affair
The Bailey family of Te Puke (from left): Chris, Karen, Shirley, Steve (in truck) and Ron.

For the farming Bailey family of Te Puke, success looks like the family staying together and making a profit, and it’s been happening for three generations.

The Baileys run a diversified farm – 80 hectares of dairy run by Steve; 36ha of kiwifruit and avocado orchards run by brother Chris; sister Karen looking after bookwork;. Their parents, Ron and Shirley Bailey, were responsible for developing the rough bush and gorse that covered the 84ha dairy farm they bought in conjunction with Ron’s parents, Dave and Muriel, in 1963.

Ron started developing the horticulture business in the 1970s, progressively planting the flat land and, over time, increasing the area in orchard and reducing the dairy farm. By 2000 the dairy land area was down to 50ha and challenging to make profit.

The family bought the 84ha dairy farm across the road, sold 20ha for horticulture and a lifestyle block, and retained 64ha to add to the property and provide a 104ha dairy operation.

“We are in prime horticulture country in Te Puke, and there’s not the same number of dairy farms there used to be,” Steve says. “The landscape has changed a lot.”

While running up to 370 cows at peak, the Baileys continued to plant more avocados and kiwifruit.

The dairy platform has been reduced to 80ha as the horticulture area has progressively increased. The dairy farm is currently stocked at four cows per hectare, with the support of a feedpad.

Steve says his family has been through the highs and lows of farming,. These include the years of the PSA outbreak in the kiwifruit industry.

He says they were lucky to have a dairy farm and a high payout to carry them through at this time. Conversely over the last couple of years, they have been grateful to have the horticulture business to help them weather the dairy storms.

Dairy farm manager Janamjot Singh Ghuman (Joe) runs a high-input system. “I like my cows treated well,” Steve says.

“Animal health, welfare, and the culture of the cows are all huge for me. We don’t have any dogs on the farm, and the cows come when they are called. They are treated with a lot of respect and care, and they have a lot of trust in us.” He works hard to instil that same culture in anyone he employs.

He uses the FARMAX Dairy Pro software system and says it is tremendous tool in helping some of the big decisions made on the farm.

“FARMAX helps us see what the right mix of grass with palm kernel, or a higher concentrated feed, or kiwifruit might look like, and then it tells us how much money is going to fall out the bottom.”

Steve, who is vice-president of Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers, says it would be great if the people sitting at home with some views about farming would look to get involved with whatever opportunity there is to help make the industry better.

“There are a lot of farming people who aren’t putting their hands up to help. Our product is passed through so many different hands before it gets to our customer, and they all get a little bit out of it. Everyone should be helping each other out.”