It’s been a disastrous season weather-wise for Shannon based 50:50 sharemilkers Michael and Sharon Williams. They had three months of solid rain from August to October followed by extremely dry weather. Things got so bad it led to the family installing an in-shed feeding system quick smart to relieve the pressure.
“We basically asked my parents if they’d consider installing one and two weeks later it was up and running. It’s been a life saver as I’ve never seen the farm look this bad with lots of pugging. I couldn’t even drive into a paddock,” says Michael.
The farm has been in the family for over 100 years and Michael is the fourth generation to work on the land. He says he has been milking since he was old enough to be able to but heading into farming wasn’t his first choice.
He worked for a hay and fencing contractor then headed overseas to do his OE where he met and married Sharon.
When he eventually returned to New Zealand he worked a variety of jobs until a dairy farm worker didn’t turn up one day and Michael’s parents Marie and John asked Michael to step in. Michael and Sharon took over as 11% sharemilkers in 2007 and have worked their way up.
They are now in their fifth season 50:50 and are milking a herd of 280 predominantly Friesian cows through a new 30 aside herringbone shed built three years ago. The farm is 105ha effective with a 70ha run off and a 7ha lease block.
Rain fell mid January relieving the pressure on their system and they are now in the process of working out how to re-establish their pastures to repair the damage. “We’re looking at undersowing and ploughing more paddocks up to re-establish clover.
About a third of the farm needs to be re-sowed,” he says. Buying in feed has prevented them having to dry off but has been costly but they are grateful for the ability to feed in-shed.
They cut silage off their run off blocks and grow 5ha of maize and hope to rely more heavily on feed produced on farm. Recent rainfall has got the farm looking the best it has so far this season. Another focus is reproduction.
Last season there was an 18% empty rate so they have used Kamar Heatmount Detectors in the first and second cycle. They have also ensured there are no lameness issues with their bulls.
While Michael takes on the day to day running of the operation with the assistance of one full time and one part time staff member, Sharon takes on the administration side of the business. John still pops in regularly and offers valuable advice.
The Williams have twin girls aged 14 – Kara and Eve – and a 12 year old son called Henry. Henry in particular is showing aptitude for and interest in farming, milking during his school holidays.
Eve also milks cows and all three enjoy being on the farm. In-shed feeding system ‘a life saver’ Michael admits farm ownership would be great but says it’s a massive step.
He enjoys being close to Shannon, where he grew up, and his brother Hilton and Uncle Ian both farm adjacently meaning the family looks set to stay put in the area for many years to come.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Dilks & Associates Ltd
- Graeme Bagrie Contracts Ltd
- Levin East Electrical