Bad seasons fuel farm frustrations

Bad seasons fuel farm frustrations
Hawera sharemilkers Tanya and Andrew Dobbin

Hawera lower order sharemilker Andrew Dobbin has no illusions about the nature of the business he and his wife Tanya are in, but admits to some frustration about a string of years which have conspired against their personal goals. The couple are in their fifth season on Trevor Hurley’s 130 hectare effective Hawera farm, south of Mt Taranaki.
Although the farm is normally summer safe, at the beginning of the year they were in the grip of a drought which followed a bad winter and spring last year on the back of three bad payout years.
Late December and early January the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Communities, Damien O’Connor, classified the drought as a medium-scale adverse event across Taranaki, parts of ManawatuWhanganui and Wellington, and the Grey and Buller districts of the South Island’s West Coast. “Everybody’s in the same boat, but we are probably slightly better than some,” Andrew says.
“That’s farming, but it is frustrating. Every time you are starting to get everything moving forward, something comes along that’s beyond your control.”
The Dobbin’s took on their present role when the farm gate payout was $8.35 with a budget in place to be able to buy a herd of about 250 cows in three years, based on an average payout of $6.00 “That obviously hasn’t eventuated.”
Managing setbacks is part of being a dairy farmer and the ability to recharge through recreation, which for Andrew is hunting and fishing, is vital.
“My happy place is about three miles deep into the bush with nobody else around.” “It’s not how well you can beat yourself up, but it’s how well you can go away and come back fresh. That’s for both of us.”
Tanya’s work includes pasture management, farm budgets, calf rearing and keeping records up to date. Last December she graduated with a Diploma in Agribusiness Management.
Tanya says that the skills gained from the diploma have allowed her to have a better understanding of the business of dairy farming, as well as the day to day management tasks.
This is especially true around financial planning, being better able to understand the language used by accountants and bankers and the things they want to see.
“We are trying to upskill, to become involved at industry level. Those are the things that differentiate you when you are trying to move through the industry,” Andrew says.
Andrew does not have any academic qualifications but comes from an academic family and believes this has influenced his view of the industry. “I am very aware of where the technology and the latest research is going.”
This year he became involved in the Dairy NZ Dairy Environment Leaders programme which is promoting stewardship for the future and to develop leaders in responsible dairying.
The Hurley farm lies at an elevation ranging between 280m and 350m above sea level; it receives nearly 2000mm of rain annually and is largely grass-based, supported by supplementary feed inputs of turnips, hay and silage.
On average its Kiwicross herd produces 105,000kgMS annually, but due to the drought will likely manage just 85,000kgMS by the end of this season.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

  • Craig Corrigan Electrical Ltd
  • PG O’Rorke Contracting

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