Crash course gets Fiona up to speed

Crash course gets Fiona up to speed

After working for Fonterra for four-and-a-half years, Fiona Langford now spends her days at one of the sources of its raw product in New Zealand, her parent’s 1050 cow farm in Putaruru.
Fiona is in her first season on Delta Farms, a 275 hectare property owned by Jos and Marian van Loon. One and a half years of her tenure with Fonterra were spent in Australia.
Her husband Tom remains on the other side of the fence working for Fonterra’s Farm Source in nutrient management. Delta Farms has been in the van Loon family for 28 years and usually employs six staff.
“Coming back to the team was part of the long term plan. Having Dad move into governance meant there was a real need for staff on the ground to manage the farm.
“With my partner and family back in New Zealand it seemed like the right time to move to farming,” Fiona says. Marian “absolutely loves farming, so she’s still on the farm every day”, while Jos oversees finance , budgeting and the overall operation.
Also part of the van Loon portfolio is a neighbouring farm purchased six years ago. As well as being part of a growth strategy, the second farm is part of a succession plan for the van Loon’s four children.
In addition, Jos has significant governance experience and is involved in farm business ventures in Chile and as chairman of a Putaruru rest home; consequently he has less time to spend on the home farm, Fiona says. “We needed staff on the ground to manage the business; my parents couldn’t do it all themselves anymore.”
“I joined in May (2017) and spent the first couple of weeks getting my head around the farming side. I guess my journey is very untypical to most people because not many people would start out managing a 1000 cow farm.”
After a three week crash course with her parents she stepped straight into the role, with ongoing support from them including advice and feedback. Delta Farm produces 530,000kgMS annually, equating to about 480kgMS per cow from a highinput system five operation.
The cows are split calved autumn (25%) and spring (75%) in two herds of just over 500. Supplementary feed is maize, grown on 10ha on-farm and a 54 ha crop block, and grass silage fed on a 500 cow feed pad twice a day.
The maize and silage is supplemented by palm kernel, and distillers dried grain used to carry autumn calvers over winter.
The scale of the farm means consideration must be given to aspects of its management which do not exist to the same degree on a smaller farm, especially the time cows spend walking to the milking shed, up to 1.8 kilometres, and on concrete.
This includes having older cows closer to the milking shed and ensuring farm lanes are very well maintained.
The large volume of effluent is handled by an eight million litre above ground storage system, a significant investment for the farm.
Incorporated in the system is a solids bunker with a collection sump; all run-off from the feed pad and concrete yards runs through the sump.
The effluent storage capacity creates a lot of flexibility around when effluent can be spread during the season. “Jos is very passionate about the system. He sees the effluent as a real asset rather than a byproduct.”
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