A drought in Southland earlier this year made Aparima dairy farmers, Hadleigh and Jolene Germann, realise that changes were needed if they were to reduce their reliance on palm kernel and avoid grading under the Fonterra regulations which have just come into force.
Luckily they had been trialing growing a paddock of turnips and this helped them out this year during the dry summer along with sourcing grass silage.
They plan to grow two paddocks of turnips in future along with keeping quality baleage on hand to safeguard their business and further reduce usage of palm kernel.
The couple are in their fourth season of an equity partnership with Simon and Mo (Monique) Topham and Simon’s parents, Alan and Jeanette Topham in Fast Track Dairies.
It was while preparing for a Dairy Industry Award five years ago, the Germanns practiced their management presentation with Simon and Mo as their audience.
They became finalists in the awards, and last year Jolene was also a finalist in Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year. All of this added up to Simon and Mo seeing them as suitable equity partners, says Hadleigh.
In addition to being shareholders in Fast Track Dairies, which owns the land, livestock and Fonterra shares, the Germanns are employed as lower order sharemilkers on the 197ha dairy farm which peak milks around 520 cows. They say they are always looking to improve, particularly their six week in-calf rate.
They have been using hereford bulls to mate to non-cycling cows to reduce reliances on CIDRs and are moving the herd towards a kiwicross.
“They are quite effi cient – not overly large and with good characteristics from both breeds,” says Germann citing their preference for the breed.
Of course they are also aiming to improve production by focusing on pasture management, keeping body condition scores at the right level and doing the basics right.
Environmental concerns are also a focus and they are continuing a programme of riparian planting with the usually hands-off equity partners giving a helping hand on projects such as this.
Last season the farm produced 234,000 kilograms of milk solids and this season the target is 245,000 kilograms.
The couple is also busy with off-farm roles: Hadleigh is Federated Farmers Southland dairy chairman and Jolene, who holds doctorate in the biochemistry of the clover root weevil, is a partner in Agribusiness Consultants.
Hadleigh cites the big issues facing the region as being environmental compliance and mycoplasma bovis, which has created uncertainty around traditional stock movements such as winter grazing, where people might source milk to rear calves and stock trading.
This has created last minute problems for farmers who might suddenly have to source alternative suppliers in these key areas.
Fast Track Dairies’ herd has had one test for the disease which has come back negative and is currently awaiting results of the second test.
Hadleigh says he is fairly confident the herd is clear but admits it will relieve the uncertainty once the test result returns. Fast Track Dairies employs two full time staff and a relief milker.
Hadleigh says the labour market is tight, partly since government tightening of immigration policy, and it is a matter of offering an attractive package to get the right staff.
The couple had their first child seven months ago, named Harry, and so they are kept busy. Hadleigh says they are very fortunate to have found the right equity partners to take their careers and business forward.
They plan to buy more shares in the company as they become available and to continue to develop the farm to its full potential.
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