Ayrshire breeder grabs space to take step back
Stewart and Marice Riley are looking to take a step back from the day-to-day operation of their two farms with son Ashley, 27, and his wife, Kayla, taking on a contract-milking position on the 200-hectare (150ha effective) Riverlea property at Collingwood, 150 kilometres north-west of Nelson.
It’s the first time the Rileys have had a contract milker but there still seems plenty for them to do.
“The hope is for more time off,” says Stewart with a smile. “It’s good to see the next generation taking over and it gives Ashley an opportunity as well as a way for us to step back a bit.
“Of course, sometimes I feel I wouldn’t have done things the way Ashley does, but as long as the end-result is as good if not better, I’m happy.”
The farm milks a herd of 435 ayrshires through a 40-a-side herringbone shed. Most of the herd is pedigree under Riverlea Ayrshires. Stewart is on the board of Ayrshire New Zealand and on the Semayr and finance committees.
He says his ultimate aim with his stud is to produce bull calves accepted for the AB sire schemes, and he’s had a number accepted already.
“I aim for a functional cow that is easy care, easy maintenance and can handle the extreme weather conditions while producing 380-400 kilograms of milksolids without an excessive amount of supplement.”
Last season the herd was hit with theileria, which a lot of farms in the district fell victim to.
Although the herd bounced back well after treatment, production took a hit, ending up at 151,000 kilograms of milksolids compared with the usual 158,000kg.
The family also owns a 440ha dry-stock farm 30 kilometres away at Rakopi.
This unit is used for cropping and raising stock replacements. Stewart will now be able to spend more time at this farm as well as catch up on maintenance work on both farms.
He takes 80 dairy-beef-cross calves through to two-and-a-half, then sells them to the works as prime cattle at an average weight of 280kg.
Around 300 cows are wintered on this farm as well as the yearling heifers, 80 beef calves, 80 rising two-year-olds, 15 bulls and 20-25 empty dairy cows.
Hay and balage is made from this farm and 360kg of palm kernel per cow is bought in each season.
Wet weather over winter and spring this year has left issues with pugging as well as slow growth and lower grass use.
But Stewart has a long farming history, which equips him to cope with challenges. In the late 1800s his great-great-grandfather bought Riverlea, the family dairy farm, at Collingwood.
Stewart went to work on the farm straight out of school after studying for a certificate in dairy-farm management.
He took over the management of the farm in 1982 at the age of 24 and three years later, went into equity partnership with his father.
Ashley and Kayla employ one staff member and a part-timer; Marice does the bookwork and fills in as needed. The couple have two children – Laken, two and a half, 2½, and Hudson, eight months.