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Couple settle on sweet spot

Couple settle on sweet spot

Shaun Terry reckons that over the last seven years, he and wife Catherine have tweaked their farming system to the point where they have found the sweet spot.

The couple lease a 220-hectare (effective) farm near Pio Pio, in the King Country.

They 50:50 sharemilked on the farm for three years before leasing.

An 80ha support block winters cattle, grows silage and runs young stock for dairy unit.

It’s roughly a third flat, a third rolling and a third steep.

The flats are clay, which makes winter and spring a challenge.

It’s very easy to damage the soil and once it’s waterlogged, it takes a while grass to grow.

The balance of the property is mairoa ash. “We’ve settled on 2.3 cows per hectare, and we’re producing 350 kilograms of milksolids per cow on a predominantly once-a-day milking system,” Shawn says.

Couple settle on sweet spot

The couple began farming together in 2008 as managers near Tokoroa, then had a year at Opunake (Taranaki) as lower-order sharemilkers before going 50:50 on the current farm.

While satisfied with progress, Shaun would like to expand their farming business through other options while continuing where they are.

The Terrys are assisted by Eddie Descaller (going into his third season) and Jaymee Smith (began in January).

Shawn and Catherine have every second weekend off.

During calving and peak season, Eddie and Jaymee work alternate weekends.

The couple have three children Liam (seven), Piper (five)and Mia (three), and employ a nanny from mid-July to November so that Catherine can work on the farm.

The 530-cow herd is made up of high-breedingworth crossbred animals; it is among the top 10% BW nationally.

The 40-a-side herringbone shed has automatic cup removers and a Protrack drafting system.

Couple settle on sweet spot

Catherine and Shaun Terry with their cows and children (Mia, in Catherine’s arms, and on the ground, Piper (left) and Liam. This page – top, Shaun checks water levels; above, Catherine and Shaun look over their 530-cow herd; lower left, you can never have too many old baths; below, Catherine and Shaun in the dairy.

A feedpad, constructed five years ago, has been “a game changer”, says Shaun.

“It allows us to fully feed the cows while not damaging pasture, especially in spring when we have half the herd calving in nine days.”

Shaun and Catherine also have complementary strengths.

Shaun enjoys figures and budgets whereas Catherine enjoys all things cow-related, such as animal health and breeding. “Cashflow is a big one,” says Shaun.

“That is still a big driver for our business and it is great to see us getting into a more positive position.”

Catherine has completed an agribusiness diploma through Primary ITO.

It took several years of part-time study, but has furthered her understanding and skills.

They rear excess heifers to sell: “This gives us options through cashflow and also for our own herd improvement,” says Shaun.

“We have sold up to 150 dairy weaners. It’s a good alternative to milk production alone and, with the lower pay-outs we’ve experienced in recent seasons. has been an important income stream for us.”

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