Simplifying operations and boosting production

Simplifying operations and boosting production
Hawke’s Bay Pastural farm manager Gerard Boerjan with partner Marlene Honings and children Jeroan 14, Claudia 11 and Oliver 16.

Gerard Boerjan had already been farm manager for two years when Trevor and Harriet Hamilton bought the farm he was working on in 2014 and renamed it Hawke’s Bay Pastural Ltd.
When Trevor and Harriet, with their company T. H. Enterprises, bought the 645 hectares of mostly fl at land, with some rolling hills and a gully running through it, they had a clear strategy for redevelopment in mind, according to Gerard.
“It took about a year to get all the work done. They built a new 80 bale rotary cow shed pretty much straight away, and then as part of a consent to milk more cows they put in a new effluent system which more than tripled the area where the effluent was spread.”
The farm has transformed from milking 1060 cows through a 46 aside herringbone, with maxi-mum production in a good year of 420,000 kgs of milk solids, to this year milking 1470 cows and hitting their first major production target.
“The plan was to reach 600,000 kgs milk solids. We had 598,000 plus last year and this year we just hit 600,000 kgs a couple of days ago so we think we’ll do 630,000,” says Gerard.
“They’ve done a lot of work with the fencing to get a better subdivision of the farm and put in an entirely new water system keeping only the old troughs to which they added a further 120.
“They’ve concentrated on increasing pasture production with the help of a Ballance representative and a programme designed to address any lack of nutrients in the soil and maintain soil fertility to an optimum level.”
The cows used to have to take a dogleg down to a narrow bridge across the gully and another steep dogleg back up the other side.
“They just did not like it,” says Gerard.
“So we put in a major crossing involving 144 sections of concrete piping to make a culvert so now the cows don’t even notice and the council are pleased too because there’s no run off from the bridge.”

Simplifying operations and boosting production
PHOTOS: Staff members Sean Taylor, William Harris, James Gulliver, Gerard and Kasey Hayman; Marlene and Gerard in the pen with the calves; milk tankers arriving at the milking shed.

As part of the redevelopment they added 25 hectares to the 375 hectare milking platform bringing it up to 400 hectares where they now run 1500 cows with consent for another 100.
One thousand of these are wintered off with a nearby third party to make sure they’re well fed without overloading the home farm.
Since the farm was purchased by the Hamiltons they’ve stopped growing any crops as they work to simplify the system.
“So what you see on the farm is pasture, pasture silage and palm kernel,” says Gerard.
“We grow about 15 tonnes of pasture a year which is definitely an increase. The whole farm is in pasture apart from the non-productive area which is about 45 hectares.”
They went from split calving to spring calving which further simplified things and that combined with the new cowshed and doing away with the crops means the number of permanent staff has gone down from eight to seven.
“It’s a simpler system overall,” says Gerard, “and it’s replicable. Trevor and Harriet own several farms all run in a similar way. They’ve purchased another farm nearby called Dunlee Pastural Ltd. and I’ve got a supervisory role there as well as being farm manager here .”
Born in Holland, now 51, Gerard worked on his first dairy farm straight out of school back in Portugal.
He came to New Zealand in 1997 with his wife Marlene and continued farming until in 2009 they went to Brazil for three years to establish a dairy farm for a group of investors.
He’s experienced a variety of farming systems including a system five.
“It’s a system where there’s a lot of input, a lot of supplements being fed, so I’m enjoying the change.  I like the simplicity and the increase in production.  It’s more enjoyable being out on the farm and actually doing the work. I thrive on efficiencies and production and I like it better.”
It clearly works all round with Gerard being named New Zealand Dairy Farm Manager of the Year in 2018. The family seem to be enjoying it too.
The three children Oliver (16yrs), Jeroen (14yrs) and Claudia (11yrs) are still at school but help out on the farm when they can.
On top of running the family Marlene rears all 1500 of the calves of which they sell 1100 and keep 400.
It’s so far so good with the streamlined systems introduced to Hawke’s Bay Pastural Ltd, and, as far as Gerard’s concerned, long may it last.
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