It was staffing issues that first prompted Andre Meier to transition the 250ha farm he manages, owned by Ao Marama Farms Ltd, to year round once a day milking.
“We had one staff member on extended leave and another leave unexpectedly which prompted the once a day discussion and it’s been a really positive move,” he says.
Andre says that animal health has improved, the empty rate has dropped to 6% from 7-8% and the six week in-calf rate is now 85%.
Although there has been a drop in production that is to be expected during the transition phase but Andre expects this to pick up and overall farm profitability to remain constant, as they will increase herd numbers from 750 to 800 next season.
It has also been a positive move for staff resulting in lifestyle benefits and more time to spend on other jobs around the farm. It’s been a full on year for Andre who has been running the Pongakawa farm on his own with the help of casual staff.
From 1 April new herd manager Ethan Winter will assist him. Andre, who placed third in the Dairy Manager competition in the Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards in 2017, didn’t come from a farming family.
He grew up on a lifestyle block but with dairy farms nearby it wasn’t long before he tried his hand at dairying.
He did weekend work on farms while at high school and at age 17 started a full time job as a farm assistant on a 200 cow unit progressing to herd manager after just a year.
He first met farm owners Ann and Will Nettleingham through family friends and when he heard they were looking for a herd manager on their 350 cow farm at Allport Road the opportunity was too good to pass up. Andre was working for an agricultural contractor and had grown tired of “driving around a paddock”.
One and a half seasons later he moved to the company’s larger 750 cow unit at Pongakawa Bush Road, managing that for a couple of years when the opportunity arose to take on an overall management position on both units.
The Allport Road farm has recently been sold and is now leased back to Ao Marama Farms Ltd. Lindsay Williams is the herd manager on this farm and is an old school mate of Andre’s.
He will return on the 1 April after a year spent recovering from a broken ankle. Andre credits the Nettleinghams as a key part of his successful dairy career.
The opportunity to progress with Ao Marama Farms is something Andre is grateful for and his overall goal is to keep improving the farms as much as he can.
He will stay working for the Nettleinghams and see how he can progress further within their business. “Ann and Will have been farming a long time and offer a wealth of knowledge.
“I’m always picking their brains and trying to follow in their footsteps.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- MILKING & WATER SYSTEMS LTD
- Kiwiland Excavators LTD
- Jordaan Contracting Ltd (JCL)