‘Finding the joy’ makes all the difference

‘Finding the joy’ makes all the difference
Farm worker Ireyna feeds the calves on Malcolm Hyde and Raelyn Lourie’s 184ha farm at Kowhitirangi on the West Coast.

Malcolm Hyde and Raelyn Lourie operate a successful dairying unit on 184 hectares in the upper Kowhitirangi valley, near Hokitika Gorge.
The property includes five hectares of bush and five minutes away is a 65 hectare support block purchased a year after buying the farm.
The couple got together in 2009 having both farmed in the district before. Raelyn’s son Aaron owns and runs her first farm on the West Coast, bought in 2005 when she moved into the district.
At this time Malcolm was farming in Canterbury but moved to the Coast not long after Raelyn. Now, eight seasons later their farm is thriving under their care. Raelyn puts this down to a number of factors.
“We have complementary skills and interests around the farm. I look after the genetics side of the business and all the administration. It’s always been my passion, while Malcolm attends to the day to day running of the farm, along with three full time staff,” Raelyn says.
The 450 cross bred herd will produce 214,000 kgMS when milking is over this season, a massive increase on the 116,000 kg figure the farm was producing when they first took over.
Another contributing factor to the success of the farm has been that both Malcolm and Raelyn have put their energy into areas other than milking the herd.
Raelyn says this has been key in that it has freed them to concentrate on putting appropriate resources on the farm to enhance productivity.
“We are production driven. It’s not just about the money, it’s about striving continually to attain the best performance from this farm. It’s the same for us with our staff. We ask ourselves what can we do to make the working environment better and the job enjoyable. We encourage and support agricultural training.” A two-herd system works best for the farm.
Once 250 calves have arrived the herd is split, with the young cows in one and the older girls in the other. Malcolm says this simple process pays direct benefits to all the herd.
While the area receives a lot of rain Malcolm says regardless of the weather, the cows are fed the same amount of feed.
“If you start adjusting the amount of feed depending on the weather conditions you lose valuable productivity as the cows condition adjusts accordingly, so we maintain a consistent feeding level year round , their BC score reflects this,” says Raelyn.
Palm Kernel is applied as a lever in times of grass deficit or adverse weather as it is readily consumed by the herd . During the winter months when cows are dry feeding levels are maintained at 14 Kg dry matter per day.
This ensures cows calve in good condition and this is reflected in high early season production. We mate over 8 weeks with 76% in-calf at six weeks with an empty rate of less than 10% which is exceptionally good,” says Raelyn.
The farm is located on old river bed and copes well with the rain. All the supplements fed are grown on the farm and support block. Continual improvement applies to all aspects of the business, not just milk solids production.
Raelyn says they are just as much concerned about improving performance in areas such as health and safety and environmental management. A philosophy which strives to find the joy in farming is something Raelyn says makes all the difference in the world.
“Without that attitude, it can feel just like hard slog. When there’s been down-turns in the industry you have to adjust but you never cut back on the essentials that go toward maintaining animal health and caring for your staff.”
As for the future of the industry Raelyn says more could be done at secondary school level to advance dairying as a real career option. “You know when you want to be a nurse you learn the theory and then apply it in the hospital.
I would like to see more pathways relating to learning the good basic principles behind farming practise accessible for school leavers, so that when they step on a farm, they have some learning behind them.”
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