Passionate about environmental innovation, Hayden George has relished the opportunities for scientific trials that have been conducted over the last few years on North Canterbury’s Köhakaumu Dairy Unit.
The property is part of Ngai Tahu Farming’s 6757 hectare development in what used to be known as Eyrewell Forest, and is now known as Te Whenua Hou, or ‘The New land’.
Köhakaumu, which translates to ‘the place of learning about food’, is one of eight dairy farms currently in operation in Te Whenua Hoa.
Eventually there will be 14 dairy farms in operation along with six support farms. With 56,000 shareholders, Hayden says it is really just like a very big family farm.
Concluding his fourth season as the dairy unit’s farm manager Hayden says that whenever there was an environmental trial on offer, Köhakaumu was one of the top two or three farms in the group offered the opportunity.
While not from a farming background, Hayden graduated from Massey University with a Bachelors degree in Applied Science and Agriculture in the class of 2004. It was while at University that Hayden was convinced that dairy farming was to be his career of choice.
Apart from a couple of years spent in South Korea teaching English, Hayden has followed his dream, fusing his technical and scientific experience with daily life on the farm.
His career has also included four years managing a Landcorp property near Moana on the West Coast of the South Island, before crossing the Pass to Canterbury.
Now with eight years under his belt working for corporate farmers, Hayden says he enjoys the opportunity to try things that he would not necessarily get to do if working outside of the corporate environment.
“There are good leaders here and good technical support. The financial targets are obviously important—if we don’t hit them we don’t make money and we don’t survive. But there is also a strong emphasis on achieving environmental targets as well and there are high standards. There are also social targets – making sure we’re looking after our people.”
A busy operation, Köhakaumu Dairy Unit milks 920 A2/A2 cross bred cows on an effective platform of 282ha, all under irrigation.
Hayden says the farm uses two Valley centre pivots each with Trimble Irrigate-IQ; which provides individual sprinkler control via a webpage and cellphone app control. He says an electronic map (EM) program reduces water use.
Targeting 430,000kgMS, Köhakaumu supplies Synlait Milk, and recently qualifi ed for Lead With Pride™, which recognises and fi nancially rewards suppliers who achieve dairy farming best practice.
Undertaking trials for environmental reasons, Hayden says that past trials have focused onnutrient loss, the reduction in nitrogen usage, and drought resistance.
This autumn, the farm will commence trials for ‘Spikey’, a weapon against nitrate leaching. Spikey has rows of spiked discs on a frame towed behind a tractor.
The discs make contact with the soil and detect recent urine patches with a high degree of accuracy.
“It then puts a special chemical chosen for the farm on that urine patch to reduce nitrate leaching,” explains Hayden. “There are trials under way in the Waikato already and they are having good responses.”
Hayden’s penchant for environmental innovation was rewarded this year with success at the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards when he was awarded the Massey University Innovation Award.
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