Efficiency drive brings boost in productivity

Effi ciency drive brings boost in productivity

Dairying couple Ben and Susan Carter have made a big impact on the dairy farm in Ohakune where they have been contract milking for the past two seasons.
The farm is part of a larger 1300ha sheep and beef block. Ben has worked closely with the block’s overseer Richard Harker to ensure the entire operation is now much more closely integrated than in previous years.
One flow-on effect of this is that the dairy farm is set to have zero bobby calves this season, with the emphasis instead on producing replacements for the beef farm.
Since taking up the milking contract, the number of cows being milked has risen from 330 to 375. It is a mostly Friesian herd but now also includes 30 Ayrshires. “We bought some pedigree Ayrshires and have got our own stud now too,” Ben says.
“We have a Friesian stud as well; we’re diversifying by having both breeds.” The two breeds complement each other in many ways, with the Ayrshires proving effective hill grazers.
“They do quite a good job of keeping everything clean.” In production terms, their ultimate goal is to achieve annual average production of 400kgMS per cow.
When they arrived production was sitting at around 820kgMS per he ctare. Last season they hit 900kgMS per hectare and are aiming for 950kgMS this year.
“Our five year goal was to get to 1000kgMS per hectare but we’ll get there in four years.” The couple had their work cut out to begin with.
Infrastructure like fencing has needed a lot of attention. They have developed an environmental plan for the farm with the support of Fonterra’s Tiaki Sustainable Dairying Programme. Swampy areas and water races are being fenced off and native planting rolled out in other areas.
“We’re rotating a bit more of the farm to Manuka as well … The beef farm has gone into bees as well so there are now 200 hives over the whole farm, including 50 hives on the dairy farm all year round.”
A whole farm soil test has been carried out, which is part of an extensive re-grassing and cropping regime. “We’re going to a two year cropping plan.”
A significant proportion of stock was unrecorded when they first took up their contract but Ben says more than 90 per cent is now recorded. Another improvement has involved lifting the capacity of the calving sheds from being able to house just 80 calves to 150.
Calving on the farm has also been condensed from 15 weeks two seasons ago to nine weeks. Ben and Susan will continue to seek efficiencies on farm, having recently renewed their contract for another four years.
Susan has an active role, running calf rearing and relief milking. The couple are also busy taking care of their family of three, aged 10, 12 and 18 years.
In just two seasons, Ben and Susan have turned around a situation where beef/sheep was subsidising dairy to having a dairy operation that is profitable in its own right.
“It’s all about getting the basics right and watching every dollar,” Ben says.
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