Matter of ‘less’ for ‘more’
Less work for the same profit. It’s the holy grail every dairy farmer is seeking. Northland farmers Brian and Carolyn Hutchings believe they have found the key. And it involves milking less, not more, often.
They are in their second season of once-a-day milking, a move prompted by inclement weather, And they say their workload is markedly less.
Their production is down from 330-340 kilograms of milksolids per cow to 280-290/cow, but they expect to get to at least 300kg once the cows fully transition to the new system.
Economically, the move has stacked up as costs have been reduced.
Brian says it has also made life much easier as he and Carolyn do all the work on the farm, assisted occasionally by casuals.
The extra time off to pursue his love of cycling has been a bonus. Brian grew up on a farm at Kerikeri and, after leaving school completed a Diploma in Agriculture at Lincoln University.
He went sharemilking on the family farm with brother Roger. He married Carolyn and the couple bought their first farm together in 1987.
They milked 100 cows on 61 hectares for nine years, then bought their current farm at Dargaville where they now milk a herd of 240 predominantly ayrshire cows on 175ha effective/195ha total.
The farm is supported by a 29ha run-off across the road, which is used for making supplement, rearing young stock and wintering.
Brian, who is a director and past president of Ayrshire New Zealand and past president, is an advocate of the breed.
He started his stud, Kauri Ayrshire, when he was just 15. Both his grandparents and parents, Malcolm and Marilyn, also had ayrshires and stock from his parents’ Lodore Stud formed the basis of Kauri Ayrshire.
Brian says the family favours the breed’s survivability and hardiness. He breeds for production balanced with a good functional animal.
Acknowledging that the breed pool is limited, he looks to CRV Ambreed and Livestock Improvement Corporation for genetics, mixing these with Semex genetics to bring different bloodlines in.
Over the years he has noticed that his animals have aged well and 15 per cent of his herd is now 10 years-plus and still milking well.
Brian and Carolyn usually sell 12 or so in-calf rising-two heifers each year at the combined Lodore-Kauri Ayrshire sale, held on the Lodore property at Kerikeri in April.
They also like to show their animals at local A & P shows. Brian says ayrshires can compete well amongst other commercial cows.
but the way breedingworth figures are calculated doesn’t reflect their true worth. This, he says, is a disincentive to sharemilkers who need a higher indexed herd to take into their jobs.
“They are low maintenance animals that look after themselves and eat anything. That suits me down to the ground – keep things simple.”