Hobby becomes part of the business
An uneventful season without any major weather events is high on Manawatu Plains farmer Craig Rowe’s wish list. While this may seem like hoping for a generalelection campaign devoid of drama, Craig, a director of family-owned Maire Farms, is motivated by the need to see some normality after two adverse seasons.
He and his brothers, Duncan and Alastair, and their wives operate Maire Farms Ltd properties at Rongotea, parts of which have been owned by the Rowe family since 1870.
The home farm comprises 270 hectares, and 670 holstein-friesian cows are peak-milked through a 54-bail rotary shed.
A further 430 cows are milked on a second dairy platform nearby through a 30-a-side herring-bone shed.
The home farm is supported by an 80ha run-off which winters 350 cows, plus 350 calves at three weeks old, taking pressure off the paddocks of wet rongotea clay.
A 125ha heifer block at Sanson runs all the dairy-replacement heifers through to in-calf heifers, while two bull blocks take 350 bull calves, which are either sold as service bulls or killed at 300 kilograms carcass weight at 18 to 22 months.
These blocks are also used to grow maize for the dairy farm. Four staff, two of whom have been with the Rowes for 15 years, make a significant contribution to running the overall operation.
“We feel the key to staff retention is finding where their interests lie and giving them the opportunity to follow that,” says Craig. “We try to accommodate their interests outside of work and roster regular time off to keep people fresh.”
Craig and Chantelle are pedigree breeders and members of Holstein Friesian New Zealand. Among their star performers is a four-year-old bull, Maire IG Gauntlet-ET.
In July this year he beat 17 of the country’s top registered holstein-friesian sires to win the Mahoe Trophy at the Holstein Friesian New Zealand national awards in Cromwell.
Craig sees the Mahoe Trophy as the pinnacle of bull-breeding recognition in the industry.
“I think he’ll be of interest to most people no matter what their farming system,” he says. “He has good protein, low somatic cell count, good fertility, and exceptional farmer traits.
He’s a breed leader for capacity, great udders and overall conformation.” Another bull, Maire Mint Fire-Up, is New Zealand’s present number-one protein sire.
“We have three bulls on the friesian RAS (ranking of active sires) list; Gauntlet (LIC), Geronimo (CRV) and Fire-Up (LIC), and they are the only full-pedigree bulls on this list.”
Originally just a hobby, stud breeding is now part of the farm business and provides an additional income stream.
“It has always been my passion since I was quite young. I’m particularly proud of the bulls we have out there at the moment doing very well.”
Maire Farms’ cows are also top performers, producing an average of 500 kilograms of milksolids a season.
Last season’s overall production of 315,000 kilograms of milksolids on the home farm was down from the typical 320,000350,000kg.
This year’s target is 325,000kg, but Craig emphasises that maximising profit per hectare through a greater degree of self-sufficiency in feed is a key driver.
Maire Farms’ beef operation provided a much needed boost during the low-payout seasons: “Over those years the bull and beef side was quite profitable, so we put a little more focus into that.”