‘Getting right people always a challenge’
After 27 years in the dairy industry and two years managing one of the eight Hauraki Collective-owned Pouarua dairy farms on the Hauraki Plains, Roger Griffin is starting to remember quite fondly the pumice soils at Taupo, where he is originally from.
“This has been the wettest spring some of the locals have seen for 25 years,” he says.
It has affected his empty rate, having had a good first season on the farm and an empty rate of just over fiv e per cent from 1300 cows and an 86% six-week, in calf rate.
“We could have reacted a bit quicker,” he says.
“All the cows were milking once a day in the spring, but we could have done it earlier and for longer. With only one feedpad, we were milking some cows in the morning and some cows at night.
The only way we could feed them was on the feed pad. We ended up with a 12% empty rate, which wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the result we wanted.”
Still, it was a one-in-25-year problem. And the peat soils are definitely not as bad as the clay soils at Raglan where Roger used to work.
Roger came out of self-employment to take up the management job at Pouarua, saying as the milk pay-out dropped, farm-owners in the private industry couldn’t afford to keep the same contracts going for the same people.
“My wife was doing level four and five AgITO; some of the people in her class were told they no longer had a job. That didn’t happen to us, but we got to the end of our contract and went our separate ways with the farm-owner on very good terms.”
That was a 400-cow farm, and now Roger is managing a 1330-cow farm. “A large herd is not much different from a small herd.
Each cow gets treated as much as an individual as we can. It’s more about getting the right staff in place, and that’s the biggest problem with large herds, and small herds as well.”
He employs his own staff at Pouarua, and says getting the right people has always been a challenge.
“I play social hockey at Ngatea where I’m talking to farmers in the district and we’re still having the same issues. Good staff will always move forward. There are no bad staff to a point, if you’re willing to train your staff and help them move forward.”
He says this philosophy has seen him not having to advertise for staff at times, as people will seek him out, knowing he is there to help them make their way through the dairy industry.
Roger and his wife have raised five children (all daughters) while they’ve been in the dairy industry.
Their eldest is coming back home from Auckland to fulfil a six month fixed term contract before applying to join the police force.
The second eldest works for the Inland Revenue Department, and is moving on up that system at age 20.
The third daughter has always loved animals and is studying agricultural management at Waikato University, The two youngest are at home and in years eight and 10 at school.