Dry weather is proving challenging for family business Creekside Pastures Ltd. Based in Clydevale, and owned by Gary and Alison Stirling with their son Christopher and wife Sarah. The business incorporates two dairy farms and a run off. Gary has lived through drought before in the 80s.
“My experience with droughts like this is they don’t finish when you think they will. I remember in the 80s in Canterbury we had around 20 inches of rain per year for two years.
This drought feels the same,” he says. The family has prepared by feeding four to five kilograms of summer turnips to their herd of 800 cows along with silage and grass.
Around 20mm of rain mid-January perked up their pastures but they are taking nothing for granted and have purchased 220 bales of lucerne to prepare for the long haul if necessary.
Growing up on a sheep, beef and crop farm at Mayfield in Mid-Canterbury, Gary and Alison moved to their Clydevale farm, which they ran as sheep and beef for seven years before converting to dairy in the mid 90s.
The original farm is 185ha and milking 370 cows through a 36-bail rotary with automatic cup removers.
They bought the farm next door, which as a separate unit milks 430 cows on 212ha through a 50 bail rotary with automatic cup removers and Protrack.
Christopher returned in 2010 and worked for the share-milker for a couple of seasons before the family set up Creekside Pastures Ltd.
The business includes a 386ha run off located 11km away for wintering cows, growing 40ha of kale and silage. They also grow 20ha of kale on the dairy farms and 20ha of summer turnips.
To their credit they are keeping pace with production from the previous season and have dropped their expectations slightly – from 420 kilograms of milk solids per cow to 395-400 kilograms.
With 77% scanned in-calf with five weeks of AI they shortened their AI to nine weeks from 12 weeks to tighten up their calving pattern.
Empty rates have increased slightly from 4.8% to 9%. They continually focus on herd improvement and use Herefords over their lower BW cows with their progeny destined for the beef operation.
The Stirlings raise 300 beef cattle on the run off, which Gary is largely responsible for. The beefies are sold at 18 months. Christopher manages the dairy farms with the help of four full-time staff.
It is a true family business with Christopher’s wife Sarah rearing the calves, while their daughter Alice, 4, also likes to lend a hand and enjoys being on the farm.
Alison has an administration role in the business. Currently the cows are on 16 hour milkings and a 35 day round.
The next move could be once a day milking and an early cull if there is not sufficient rain. Fingers firmly crossed, like many other farmers in the region.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- N M & T W Roy Contracting Ltd
- J & R Lyders