Ranginui Station, near Mangakino in the Central North Island, is focusing on increasing production as well as retiring land not suitable for dairy farming.
It may sound like an impossible goal but farm supervisor Mark Johnston says the Maori owned partnership, which owns the station, is achieving its goals. Ranginui Station totals 2489ha and comprises three dairy units and a dry stock unit.
A total of 3120 friesian and friesian cross cows are milked producing, last season, 1,020,000 kilograms of milk solids for Fonterra and Miraka.
Mark says retiring land that is not suitable for dairy farming makes sense both environmentally and economically.
“It’s about identifying the best land use options for each class of land. Depending on where it is land not suitable for dairy farming can be planted in radiata pine or natives.”
The station currently has around 330ha of forestry including 257ha of eucalypt. Mark says the move towards pinus radiata is being made as it delivers a better return.
There is around 260ha of native bush on the station. There has been a big increase in production from the 2016 figure of 825,000 kilograms of milk solids.
Mark says this has been achieved with a number of key changes including the decision to winter some cows off farm and having in-shed feeding systems in all the dairy sheds.
The 563ha dry stock unit grazes all of the replacement heifers for the units as well as wintering 600 cows. Only around 650 cows are wintered off farm.
Around 100 beef stock are also run on the dry stock block. Each cow is fed around 700 kilograms of palm kernel and dried distillers grain each season.
The other key change has been using a helicopter for fertiliser application. Due to the farm’s rolling contours, this has allowed for fertiliser application in the hard to reach areas as well as a better and more accurate spread.
The aim is to achieve 1.1m kilograms of milk solids, which has been targeted as a sustainable level of production for Ranginui Station.
By controlling cost structures – the target is $4.30 farm working expenses per kilogram of milk solids – profitability will be further enhanced.
“We’re growing more grass each year and have a strong strategy of utilising all the grass we can. We have identified the class of land suitable for cropping on each farm to make best use of the land. We aim for a five-year interval minimum for cropping. We don’t crop steep areas or land that is at risk of erosion or near waterways,” explains Mark regarding the combined focus of profitability as well as custodianship of the land.
He says people are also a key focus for the business and the aim is to attract and retain good staff. Ranginui Station employs 17 staff.
“We have been fortunate to retain our four farm managers, providing stability for staff and the business. Investment has just been made in three new houses on the farm along with renovating several others.”
The business is governed by a board of directors with an independent chairperson, John Dawson, a farm management consultant based out of Morrinsville
Mark reports to the board regularly and the board meets every two months with the executive committee meeting in the interim months to ensure everything stays on track and Ranginui Station continues to reach its goals.
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