Early action lessens drought impact

Early action lessens drought impact
Greytown contract milkers Jon and Crystal Cranshaw.

Early planning helped southern Wairarapa contract milkers Jon and Crystal Cranshaw to mitigate the effects of a drought in their first year on the Greytown farm they work on owned by Bryan Tucker.
“We made decisions early when drought hit in November and put a plan in place. Having an understanding boss also helped,” says Jon.
They immediately dried off 10% of the herd and put half of the remainder on once a day. This helped ease the burden on feed and kept cows in condition.
Irrigation restrictions also hit the farm hard and profitability dropped meaning they unfortunately had to drop a labour unit. But there was nearly a 10% decrease in milk solids.
This season they have managed to get more cows in-calf early as the cows were in better condition after having been on once a day and mating was pushed forward a week. They had 50% more cows in-calf compared with the same time last year.
The weather has also played kind this season with fewer hard frosts or harsh southerlies in July/August meaning pasture was in good condition to grow more grass.
“We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Jon. The 335-hectare effective farm milks 1000 friesian-cross cows in two herds through a 60-bail rotary shed with in-shed feeding, automatic cup removers and Protrack systems.
There are two herd managers employed instead of a single second in charge which Jon and Crystal have found works better as it takes the pressure off one person and spreads the load more evenly.
Jon cites getting good, reliable staff as one of their biggest challenges. They are still getting to know the farm and identifying areas for improvements. Jon is targeting lower performing paddocks and sowing Italian ryegrass and clover.
If he gets a good result he hopes to roll out a re-grassing programme to take the farm forward. Apart from that it’s a matter of simply getting the basics right to get the farm performing to its potential.
“If you get the fundamentals right then that’s a good base. Then after that we can try some new things but we have to get the basics working right first,” he says. With a large herd Jon says this is particularly important.
“The right policies and procedures are essential. Everyone needs to know their role on the farm.”
While Jon is doing the day-to-day running of the farm Crystal, who has a Primary ITO agribusiness diploma, takes on the administration and human resources side of the business.
She also works full time at CRS Software and says that great forward financial planning has been a vital tool for her and Jon’s farming business in being prepared for a tough season.
The farm also employs two assistant managers and a part time calf rearer. Jon says having a good relationship with the farm owner and ensuring good communication with him is essential.
This season Jon and Crystal are aiming to get things on track as quickly as possible and are already 60% ahead on the previous season.
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