It’s been a problem in the Nelson region in recent years and this year theileria hit Longbush Farms in Takaka. The blood borne parasite affects cattle and is transmitted primarily by ticks. Theileriosis causes anaemia in cattle and can sometimes be fatal.
Cows during calving and young calves (two to three months) are at most risk from infection. Around 150 cows on the farms owned by Brent and Kathy Page were affected during calving when they were the most susceptible.
Operations manager Nathan Page says that they dealt with the problem swiftly and effectively by removing stress from cows were possible, for example putting them on once a day milking, injecting them with vitamin B12 and feeding them well so their immune systems could overcome the disease. Their mating result was still 75% six week in-calf rate, despite the setback.
“A lot of farms around here have been affected over the past five years so it’s just something we have to farm with. Checking the cows regularly, especially at certain times of the season when they’re under stress, is the key.
“We are detecting some cows at the moment that have it but they’re bouncing back pretty quickly. Once they’ve had it they are immune so we want them to get it – just at the right time of the year,” says Nathan.
Longbush Farms comprises three units: two dairy farms at Takaka and a 600ha dairy support block at Motueka that runs around 1500 young stock, bulls and beefies. They also do some contract grazing on this block for a local farmer.
The home farm is a 270ha effective unit milking 750 predominantly Friesian cows. It has a 54 bail rotary shed with automatic cup removers, Protrack and in-shed feeding system and is run by a manager.
Nathan worked his way up on this farm – from farm assistant to manager. Now, with the recent appointment of a manager, he is free to take a more holistic view of the business.
Nathan is the sixth generation to farm the land and he is proud that Longbush Farms has been accepted in the Century Farms awards this year The other farm next door is 180ha effective and milks 520 cows through a 50 bail rotary with similar technology to the shed on the other farm. It is run by a contract milker.
The farms are medium input with around 250 tonnes of feed (mainly barley, mineral pellets and molasses) bought in each year and fed through the in-shed systems. The run off also provides hay and baleage.
Grass silage is also cut off the home far m and they grow 32ha of chicory over both farms. They also have 15ha of contract maize grown off farm. Owning their own stock truck makes transportation of feed and stock easy.
The main project underway and just nearing completion is a major upgrade to the effluent system on the home farm.
From a basic swirl pool with six days of storage the new system incorporates a 1.8 million litre storage tank and separator offering 60 days storage.
Effluent with be spread via k-line. Nathan says they expect benefits to their production and also to lessen environmental impacts by having more control over when and how much they spread.
They currently spread over about 70ha of the farm but are hoping to extend this to 110ha. The family’s next big project will be to overhaul their laneways and catch up on maintenance in this area.
Other goals for the future include improving soil fertility on the home farm and upgrading the water systems on both farms adding in extra troughs.
Last season the home farm produced 320,000 kilograms of milk solids and the target this season is 315,000 kilograms. Last season the other farm produced 230,000 kilograms and is on track to produce a similar amount this year.
While Nathan takes on the day to day running of the operation, Brent drives the stock truck and does administration work as well as overseeing all major upgrade projects on the farms.
Nathan’s wife Emma also does some bookwork and calf rearing as well as bringing up their young family – Isabelle, 3 and Lucas, six months.
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