For Waikato family partnership, Riddings Farm Limited, being named runner up in the national Dairy Business of the Year competition is all about teamwork.
“We’re never afraid of asking advice and never to proud to seek help. We all work together,” says Chris Stacey who runs the business with wife Jude and father Richard.
Chris grew up on a small 40ha dairy farm in the Waikato and after leaving school completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) majoring in farm management.
Jude hailed from Auckland and was a lecturer in sport management before marrying Chris.
Their farm at Korakonui was purchased by the family partnership around 13 years ago and totals 240ha giving a dairy platform of 155ha.
Around 40ha of the farm is native bush and 45ha is used for grazing young stock. Chris says they entered the competition to benchmark their business and learn new things. He says it was a very positive atmosphere.
“Everyone was very humble and open. It didn’t feel competitive and was a real learning experience with everyone wanting to learn from each other,” he says.
So what did they learn that might result in changes to how they farm? Chris says they will look at de-stocking slightly to 415-420 cows down from a peak of 450-460.
Although they produce good cheap crops they want less reliance on this and to increase per-cow production. Currently the farm grows 18ha of maize, 9ha of fodder beet and 4ha of turnips.
“It gets very dry in summer so we grow a lot of crops for that period but in doing so we’re in a feed deficit for a larger part of the year. So we aim to have more in pasture, dropping around 4-5ha of cropping, and buy in maize if we need to,” he explains.
Chris says a key learning from entering the competition was the importance of profitability.
“There is a saying that production is vanity and profit is sanity. It’s easy to keep and eye on production and income and forget about expenses but that is equally important. In the past we’ve produced more milk but been less profitable.”
He says the fact that there was a spread of 380480 kilograms of milk solids per cow amongst the finalists stresses the point.
Another small tweak will be changing their breeding policy to bring more Friesian genetics back into their herd after noticing their Friesian and Friesian cross herd was becoming too weak and fine using Jersey genetics.
The aim is to increase strength but ensure the cows do not get too big for the hill country farm, he says.
Riddings Farm Limited also took out the Lowest Environmental Impact award at the Dairy Business of the Year competition.
They have an effluent line encircling their farm linked to hydrants in each paddock meaning they can spread over 110ha of their milking platform.
Green water from the shed is used to flood wash the concrete feed pad saving water. Wetlands have been fenced off and they have planted thousands of New Zealand native plants.
The family all shares duties: Chris takes on the day to day running of the farm with two full time staff, Jude is the chief calf rearer and assists with general farm operations as well as taking care of Tom, 4 ½ and Stella, 2 1/2. Richard helps with the bookwork.
All are involved in strategic decisions. Last season Riddings Farm Limited produced 173,000 kilograms of milk solids and this season are targeting 185,000 kilograms.
Chris says the next step for him and Jude might be entering another equity partnership or a 50:50 sharemilking position.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Ricky Storer Earthmoving Ltd
- Ron Russo Bulk Spreading