Dairy grazing with a focus on quality
When Gary Bos met his soon-to-become wife, Ineke, at a young farmers meeting in Holland, he had a warning for her: “If you go out with me, you’ll end up in New Zealand.” Nine months later, they emigrated.
Both Gary and Ineke come from dairy-farming families. Ineke trained as a school teacher and Gary did a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, then worked as a farm adviser in Holland.
He had travelled to New Zealand to complete the practical component of his degree and fell in love with the country. Their first job in New Zealand was as farm hands on a 500-cow unit near Reporoa for one year.
They then went contract milking at Orini, near Morrinsville, also for a year, before gaining their first 50:50 sharemilking position in Eketahuna.
They followed this up with another sharemilking position at Pahiatua where they stayed for seven years before entering an equity partnership on a 900-cow farm near Te Tipua, in Southland.
Twelve years later they sold out and moved to Conical Hill, between Tapanui and Waipahi, in West Otago, where they bought a dairy grazing business. With both of them in their 50s at the time, it made sense.
“It was the height of the pricing of dairy farms and this farm fitted our budget,” says Gary.
“We could see options to improve what the previous owner had done, and we were too young to retire and too old to learn new tricks.Although it didn’t take long to get used to getting up at 7am instead of 4am.” The couple graze around 800 rising two-year-old heifers and a similar number of dairy calves.
Gary says there is no secret to what they do apart from keeping their finger on the pulse when it comes to quality and quantity of feeding which they do with success.
For example, in the first week of May last year they delivered a mob of friesian heifers back to their owner at an average of 524 kilograms – the recommended target was 470-480kg.
Aiming above industry recommendations ensures even the lightest animals in the mob are delivered at an acceptable weight, says Gary They break-feed and top to ensure grass quality in spring.
Balage is made when quality is highest and they grow 30ha of swede, fodder beet or kale for winter feed.
Minerals are given in the drinking water via a Dosatron, and the animals’ blood and liver are tested to monitor levels.
The Boses say they have deliberately concentrated their business on customers who seek quality rather than the cheapest price, and they aim to exceed expectations.
“We used to graze out our young stock as dairy farmers, so we know what we wanted – a hands-off approach as we were always so busy with other things on our farm. Clients are welcome to turn up any time they like, but we send regular reports about weights and treatments so that they can track the progress of their stock without having to do anything much.”
Gary and Ineke take care of all animal health and work in with customers when it comes to mating.
For example, when a client wishes to synchronise the heifers, Gary and Ineke will bring them into the yards a number of times for their treatments.
They have focused on supplying top-notch facilities, amongst them yards and a weighing crush from Te Pari Products, set up in a 40 metre by 25m shed with a concrete floor, built by Alpine Buildings.
Gary says he can weigh 100 animals on his own in half an hour, rain or shine.
The couple share the workload, with Ineke taking a key role in the administration side of the business including the Nait movement records, and Gary in the day-to-day running of their operation.
They aim to fine-tune their business and be the top graziers south of the Clutha River, and then extend that to south of the Waitaki River.