Opportunity, people sets NZ farms apart

Opportunity, people sets NZ farms apart
650 cows on an irrigated platform at Waikuku, north of Christchurch

Having experienced three very diverse farming systems across three continents, North Canterbury farm manager Ralph Mauricio is set on New Zealand’s pastoral system, the opportunities for advancement and it’s people.
Originally from the Philippines where he was studying a Bachelor of Science and Animal Husbandry at Ramon Magsaysay University, Ralph was offered a placement for on-the-job training on an Israeli dairy farm, an hour from Tel Aviv, as a partial requirement for his degree.
“I was there for 10 months,” says Ralph. “The farming system was quite different. It was a freestall barn system – no grass with all food imported.
We just fed the cows concentrates and premixed feeds.” Israel played a very big part in Ralph’s career, exposing him to the dairy industry and sparking an interest that otherwise may not have happened.
Returning to the Philippines, he was offered another opportunity 12 months later – this time travelling to Petaluma in California to complete a one-year dairy apprenticeship.
“It was the complete opposite to New Zealand. Here we use pasture as the main diet supported by supplement. On the Californian farm I was on, grass was the spring supplement, with barley, clover hay, hay and silage as the main feed. They don’t have irrigation so they just let Mother Nature grow the grass.”
While in California Ralph was invited to let the course controller know if he was interested in a career in dairy farming and where he would like to go.
Canada was Ralph’s initial pick, being the country typically favoured by Filipino workers. Instead, Ralph was encouraged to try New Zealand.
Recently celebrating his 31st birthday, he has now been here fi ve years progressing from farm assistant to farm manager on two separate farms – the latest being in Waikuku.
Ralph, a second in charge and two farm assistants milk 650 friesian/cross cows off an irrigated milking platform of 162ha – increasing to 180ha at peak.
He says wet weather and heavy soils are the biggest problems facing the farm. “In this area our heavy soil is a problem because it holds a lot of water for a longer time,” explains Ralph.
“Last spring was very wet, the paddocks got very muddy and the cows couldn’t graze properly. The ground got very puggy and a lot of pasture went to waste.”
The cows are milked through a 44-aside herringbone shed with in-shed feeding to encourage greater fl ow and more effi cient milking.

Opportunity, people sets NZ farms apart
Assistant farm manager Keens Torres (left) with manager Ralph Mauricio

Seasonal milking, twice a day, Ralph says the farm is targeting 270,000kgMS this season through good pasture quality. “We’ve recently added 50ha from the neighbour’s farm so we’re still in the development stage with our production.
Everything that we do at the moment is being carefully recorded as it will decide what the optimum stocking rate for next season will be.” Ralph says that he is not planning on stopping his farming career or leaving New Zealand.
“You have a chance to prove yourself here and a chance for higher opportunity. The Californian experience was awesome but what separates New Zealand for me is the people. You cannot work a day on a farm without someone smiling and waving at you.”
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