Growing up without stresses, strains and bad influences – the heifers at Riverlands Dairies enjoy their own company without pressure or bullying from their older cousins.
The result has been happy heifers that have grown to be bigger animals at the end of the season and generally performing better during their second lactation, says Riverlands Dairies farm manager, Simon Rooney.
Located on the Canterbury Plains in the little rural settlement of Te Pirita, 10 minutes south of Hotorata, Riverlands Dairies is part of corporate farmer The Land Farm Group’s collection of twelve dairy units in the South Island. Most of the farms are in close proximity, with a couple of Canterbury outliers further afield.
“We wanted to have all our heifers calving on one farm to take the pressure off them. It allows the heifers to grow throughout the season with a lot less bullying from older cows.
I think without that exposure they do get bigger and there is not as much competition for feed.” Once the heifers reach R3 age they are distributed as replacements to the other dairy units in the group.
Riverland Dairies covers a total area of 640ha in total but the milking platform is 520ha, irrigated by five pivots and five roto-rainers.
The farm is blessed with breathtaking views of Mount Hutt and the Rakaia River. Interestingly, the farm sits on five terraces, which Simon says is very much like a giant set of steps.
No fewer than eighteen pumps push water up to the top terrace. Each terrace has its own soil structure, ranging from quite stony ground at the bottom to very heavy soil at the top.
While run as one dairy unit with the cows are shifted according to where the grass is, the farm operates as two farms with a 44-aside herringbone at the bottom and a 54-bale rotary shed with Protrack at the top. This season 1100 heifers and 550 cows were calved down. It’s manly a kiwi-cross herd.
“Down the bottom farm we have around 600 heifers. Up the top we have 500 heifers with the cows in separate herds. We may go to three herds up the top during calving. While the heifers and cows up the top have remained on twice a day we went once a day January for the bottom herd to retain condition.”
With Simon’s role focusing on overseeing the operation, ensuring targets are met and the right decisions made, a team of 10, which is bolstered to 12 during spring calving, supports the busy operation.
“I try to get the guys to think for themselves and give them a bit of rope to make decisions—because they’ve got to grow as well. It’s quite cool watching people develop.”
Simon says that it is typical to employ a couple of back-packers within the team for periods of up to 3 to 4 months before they move on and two new ones are employed.
“It’s great experience for them and its also great for us—it brings a different perspective.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Ellesmere Chemical Applicators
- James Bowan Baling
- Ellesmere Transport Co