Awards recognition of a job well done
Placing runner up in the Southland-Otago Share Farmer of the Year competition has clearly shown Miguel Ortiz and Maka Morales that they are on the right track.
The first-time entrants are contract milkers for Gerald and Mark Spain on a 268ha effective/274ha total, 900-cow property in Mokotua near Invercargill.
The couple first arrived in New Zealand from Chile in 2011 seeking greater opportunity. Speaking little English it was a challenge making their rapid progression up the dairy ladder all the more impressive.
Miguel had been working on a dairy farm in Chile and Maka was working in agriculture in customs at the airport.
They set themselves up as dairy assistants on an 1100 cow farm in Waimate for six months then Miguel took on a second in charge position and Maka a calf rearing position on a 600 cow farm in Oamaru.
Two seasons later Miguel was second in charge then manager on a 1200 cow farm in Gore and Maka a dairy assistant progressing to second in charge.
When they applied for and received residency in New Zealand they progressed their careers further taking on their present contract milking position in 2017 for the Spains.
In their first year they milked 800 cows and this season 860 cows.The couple say they entered the awards to benchmark themselves and their business and were pleasantly surprised to do so well also taking out the Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award and the Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award.
Maka says they have strong plans and systems in place around both areas.
They have weekly safety meetings and quickly identify any potential hazards on farm, make a plan then communicate it to staff.
The information is also discussed at monthly meetings with the farm owners.
Due to the farm being a low input system growing good grass is a priority and once again their systems come to the fore including regular pasture walks and keeping a close eye on residuals and rotation lengths.
They produced 14 tonnes of dry matter per hectare last season.
“Miguel likes to joke that the cows are eating chocolate not grass as our grass is that good,” says Maka.
“We soil test sample paddocks meanign all paddocks are tested every three years and apply fertiliser accordingly.
Urea is put behind the cows on the pasture, timing is critical for this.”
The couple also place great emphasis on ongoing training for their team, which includes two full time and one permanent casual staff member.
Staff complete Primary ITO courses to improve their skills.
“The idea is that we grow but they also grow with us,” says Maka.
Last season they did so well that the farm production target had to be increased twice and they eventually achieved 380,000 kilograms of milk solids.
This season their target is 400,000 kilograms.
Their next goal is 50:50 sharemilking which they aim to achieve in three years.
For now they are happy improving the cows and building their herd to take on a 600 cow position.
They have a daughter Ignacia and are also parents to one month old Matteo, which has seen Maka take on more of the administration side of their business but she plans to be physically working on the farm again when she can.
“We’re very glad to be in New Zealand. We call New Zealand home.”
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