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First farm ‘exciting but a little scary’

First farm ‘exciting but a little scary’
Lana and Peter Giesbers with children Quinn and Sienna. Site preparation and work nearing completion on the new feedpad.

Peter and Lana Giesbers have just purchased their first dairy farm, an investment that is “exciting but a little bit scary,” says Peter.

He is looking forward to the ability to have total control including being able to invest up front in infrastructure to improve productivity, return and sustainablity. Located at Okaihau, the 80ha effective unit will milk a herd of 240 cows.

To get to farm ownership Peter worked for two years on a dairy farm in Whangarei then bought the home farm 15 kilometres west of Kaikohe, which has an 115-hectare 120 ha (effective) milking platform, in an equity partnership in 2004 with his parents Anthony and Clare and his uncle Gerard, who has since exited the partnership.

In 2008 he also took on a 50:50 sharemilking position nearby starting with 250 cows and growing the herd to 400 a year later by buying yearlings. Three years later lease land adjoining this dairy farm enabled the herd to be increased to 500.

Growing cow numbers combined with a good payout enabled Peter to go into a new 50:50 equity partnership with his brother in law Josiah on a 130ha effective farm milking 390 cows in Kaikohe and they are now in their fifth season.

Peter and Josiah entered the 2018 Sharemilker of the Year competition and took out second place for the Northland region.

The running of the new farm will be mirrored on the successful formula they have already established.

Calving will be in autumn on the new farm, as it is on the other farms, to take advantage of the winter milk premium. Peter isn’t a fan of once-aday milking: “We did try once-a-day on another farm and found that the cows didn’t peak as high.”

The farm will also be high input, like the others, and Peter is already in the process of building a concrete feed pad and maize storage areas on the unit.

The farm has a 20 aside herringbone shed with no mod cons. The wet winter weather has been the biggest challenge for the business over the past two seasons.

There are two Herd Homes on the home farm, which together can accommodate 300 cows. In bad weather cows are housed for 12 hours then put on the paddocks for 12 hours.

This also helps protect pastures on this farm. A concrete area between the milking shed and the covered barns is used to allow more space for cows when standing off.

Bad weather also has a negative effect on empty rates, which can vary from 20% in the worst year to 7.5%. Peter and Lana have two girls: Sienna, 7 and Quinn, 4. Lana works full time off farm teaching at the local primary school.

Peter acknowledges that he is not a planner or goal setter and prefers to keep his eyes open for opportunities and seize the moment after analysing and scrutinizing different possibilities and scenarios.

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