Sustainability the driver at Linton Farm
It’s James and Hanna Finnigan’s fourth season on their dairy farm in Linton. Nestled amongst lifestyle blocks it’s not an isolated lifestyle with more than 15 immediate neighbours and just a short drive from the town centre. They milk on 115 hectares effective and lease a 25ha runoff block.
Some of the land is “a bit rough,’’ says James, so has been put into retirement. The soils are typically wet and heavy, so there is a lot of work currently going into adding filter zones and fencing off unproductive wetlands.
“We have retired 2ha as well as fencing off all waterways and wetlands since we have been here and have planted just under 4000 plants, it’s been a priority for us.” They’re confident they shouldn’t have to retire any more land and are lucky that it has had little effect on their production.
The goal at the moment James says, like most dairy farmers, is sustainability and that comes before anything else. “It’s more important for us to be doing the right thing than to be making a huge profit at this stage,” he says.
Over the four seasons they have played around with different crops on the farm and are presently running chicory and turnips. In January they plant rape and graze it in May and September with milking cows. “We use that to build cover over the winter and to extend our season a little bit.”
They’ve done it for two years now and are happy with how well everything takes to the land. The buck doesn’t stop with environmental sustainability for James and Hanna. With two young children, Billy (6) and Alice (3), a sustainable lifestyle is high on the priority list as well.
The farm is run in partnership with James, Hanna and James’ mother Christine. For the past 12 years, Christine has operated a once a day (OAD) system on the home farm so when the farm was purchased 3 years ago they began on a OAD system straight away.
“We stuck with OAD for the flexibility, convenience and freedom and not being tied down in the afternoon.” Christine owns another farm in partnership with James’ brother where she is more hands on but is always available on the other end of the phone for advice.
They have a herd of 300 which they bought at the same time as arriving on the property. The animals came from a few different places as Christine sought cows with low somatic cell counts. Some of the cows were familiar with the OAD system but the majority had to adjust.
“Some cows transitioned better than others. We bought a really low cell count herd which probably helped the transition and we haven’t had any cell count issues.”
Production in their first season “was pretty aver-age due to being over-stocked,” James admits, “it was at 100,000kgMS during that first season and we did 122,000kgMS last season averaging 409kg per cow.” James says it took a wee while to get their stock numbers right but thinks they’ve got there now.
“We are happy with where we are at with production but are still looking to increase a little bit. Our average cow weight is 430kg so we would ideally like our production to be there as well. We are at about 91% efficiency at the moment.”
With no employees, James and Hanna manage the farm work on their own and for now are quite content with that and are comfortably staying on top of everything. They operate well within the public eye and James hopes that happy neighbours is a reflection of how well they manage their farm.
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