At Huirimu Farms, near Mangakino, achieving a more efficient and environmentally sustainable farm operation has been a key priority.
Managing the dairy side of the equation, on a 300 hectare milking platform at Arohena, is Robbie Sherriff and his wife Shannan. The dairy block was converted from sheep and beef country in 2007.
Taking care of the property’s 450 hectare drystock sheep and beef unit is Robbie’s father Alistair who, with wife Judy, first started farming at Arohena in 2002. Completing the family’s property is another 100 hectares of retired land, mostly covered by QEII Trust covenants.
There has been extensive riparian planting over the years and all major waterways have been fenced off, (including 4km fronting the Waikato River).
Robbie says it has been gratifying for everyone on the farm to see areas of retired land regenerate into native bush.
“A lot of that country is very steep. Letting it go back into bush seems like the best use of the land from an environmental perspective.”
On the dairy platform, a 600-cow herd home was recently installed bringing fl ow-on benefits for animal welfare, pasture quality and the environment.
A new effluent pond is also under construction and is due to be up and running next season, giving much more storage.
Ensuring the right systems are in place has been expensive, but Robbie is now confident that they have a well-refined operation.
“Certainly, having a herd home in a dry season like this takes the stress out of it; we can milk more cows for longer. We’ll still at peak numbers now and will be until we dry off.”
Some 840 cows are milked at peak through the farm’s 50-bale DeLaval rotary shed, but the exceptionally hot and dry summer means production for the season is projected to be a little lower than usual overall, (around 460,000kgMS).
“For us, this has been our driest, hottest summer in a long time. The tap turned off for us on Christmas Day, though we did get good rain over two days in January. Thankfully, we’re finally getting some rain again now.”
The dairy operation has four full-time dairy staff, some of whom have worked with Robbie for many years now. Robbie’s father remains a force to be reckoned with on the drystock block.
While Alistair may have reached retirement age, it seems he much prefers getting out and moving stock than putting his feet up. The family is currently reviewing how they manage that block.
“There’s always been such a reliance on dairy support. Wintering is the hardest time of year, having to free up so much land for cows and supplements for cows.”
Now the focus is swinging back to carrying more dry stock through the winter and getting to be more self-sufficient with replacement stock for the dairy herd.
Meanwhile, at the time of writing, Robbie and Shannon were celebrating the birth of their new baby – a playmate and baby brot her for Lachie, 6 and Toby, 4. “It’s a great lifestyle for our kids on the farm!”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Osborne’s Transport 2000
- Malloch McClean Chartered Accountants
- Broomfield Construction Limited