Farmer, family man, firefighter, farmers’ rep …

Farmer, family man, firefighter, farmers’ rep ...
Future farmers, Leroy 4, Ruben 2, Taj 8 and Julian 1; Wagyu cross calves.

Though he was brought up a ‘towny,’ Nick Bertram remembers visiting his uncle on a farm as a youngster and enjoying holidays on friends’ farms.It was from these formative experiences that Nick knew he wanted a life working on the land.At age 20 he went overseas, working in agriculture for three years in the UK and one in the USA.
“Managing a farm was my last job in England and I knew by then that when I returned to New Zealand I wanted to come back into dairying.”Track forward nine years and Nick has progressed well through his career working as a 2IC on a 700-cow farm near Masterton for two years then on to farm management in Featherstone.
It was at this time that Nick had his first taste entering the Dairy Industry Awards, receiving an award for most promising farm manager.His breakthrough came in 2014 when Nick was awarded New Zealand’s Farm Manager of the Year and following another year contract milking and through hard work, was in a position to go sharemilking.
“We waited two more years though, because the payout wasn’t that great back then and I didn’t want to go sharemilking on a small farm, so we leased out our cows so we could return to share-milking on a larger farm at the right time. During these two years we contract milked on a 700-cow farm in Dannevirke,” says NickThat’s over four years ago now and Nick couldn’t be happier with his current situation – third year 50:50 sharemilking.
The 200ha farm on Martin Road, five minutes from Woodville, has an effective milking platform of 150ha with the balance used as a run-off. Calving this season went well.The 450 strong cross-bred herd performs well.“I like cross-breds. You get the best of both worlds, with higher litres from the Friesians, and the milk-fat from the Jerseys.”
Assisting on the farm are two staff, 2IC Leon McDonald in his second season and Peter skinner in his first season. Nick says both have promising careers in the industry, something he is keen to support.The 37-aside herringbone milking shed is designed to work efficiently with one operator and the farm itself requires two workers to operate well.“We have a 10/3 roster.
I work most days in the morning and have the afternoons off when both staff are on farm, so everyone gets a break regularly. In their 10-day shift the staff do seven early and three late starts.Life off the farm is busy too for Nick and wife Rose with five children from age 12 to one.
“It’s important to us that the older children have access to farm life and get out and about on the farm in the weekends so we have in place safety systems to ensure they can enjoy being out on the farm.” The decision to settle on a low input system came from number crunching on profitability with a program called Farmax.

Farmer, family man, firefighter, farmers’ rep ...
Woodville sharemilkers Nick and Rose Bertram; Nick is also a member of the Woodville Volunteer Fire Brigade

Milk solids production is on track to produce 190,000 kg/430kg per cow up 10,000kg from last season which was also a new record in production.When not busy on the farm Nick is also a member of the Woodville Volunteer Fire Brigade, an activity he thoroughly enjoys.
“They were wanting more people available during the days so this worked well for me.”It was during a leadership course, part of a Dairy Industry award prize, that Nick discovered more about the important role of Federated Farmers. Today he is the regional sharemilking rep tackling issues such as Horizons’ 1 Plan Change.
“A few years ago Fish and Game took Horizons regional council to court over not implementing all the environmental compliances of the Plan and as a result we have a messy situation now with some farms operating without compliance, and with no compliance applications being processed until it is all resolved.”
At a national level Nick says one of the most important matters currently on the Federated Farmers’ Sharemilkers Section table is a review of the different types of contracts that apply to contract milkers and low-order sharemilkers.
“We’re very concerned that the contract should enable a descent return to contract milkers and low-order sharemilkers, even when the pay-out is low. Unfortunately some farm owners don’t care about those working on their farms and we want to secure their rights.”
As for Nick and Rose, there’s no intention at this time to necessarily strive for farm ownership. They are very happy with the situation of their farming business and enjoy operating the farm and have bought a plot of land to raise Wagyu calves on.“We hope to build our own home on it before too long.”
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