Herd shelter takes the pressure off

Herd shelter takes the pressure off
Huirimu Farms near Mangakino is a family owned operation spread over 850 hectares. The milking platform is 300ha and peak milks 875 cows through a 50-bail DeLaval rotary.

Arohena dairy farmer Robbie Sherriff is responsible for managing the dairy operation of family-owned Huirimu Farms, a large drystock/dairy unit situated 20 minutes from Mangakino, South Waikato.
The farm is spread over 850 hectare in total of which 300 hectare form the effective milking platform , 450 hectare drystock unit and 100 hectares of retired land which is in native bush.
An extra 270 hectare lease block, acquired in 2015, completes the farm’s footprint.
“This is a family company and I am a director and shareholder, along with my parents Alistair and Judy. My sister Joanna and aunty Rose are also shareholders. My father takes care of the dry-stock operation with the help from Anna and I have four full-time dairy staff and a full-time odd-jobs man Troy. One of my dairy staff, Grace, has been on the farm eight years now. My mother takes care of the administration side of the business,” says Robbie.
The farm is located in a predominately dairying area, with a smattering of dry-stock. Before Robbie returned to the family farm, his older brother operated it solely as a sheep and beef business.
When the neighbouring farm became available to buy the decision was made to do a conversion on part of the land. Today the dairy unit peak milks 875 cows though a growth phase before this meant the farm once carried 920-odd cows.
“When we got to that number I felt we were just putting in too much feed so we reduced our herd size to take a little bit of pressure off.”
The workhorse for milk production is a 50-bail DeLaval rotary with Delpro Herd Manager system. Robbie’s core responsibilities are overseeing the dairy operation and managing the staff.
The decision to build a 600 cow herd home last season has signifi cantly changed the farm’s operation, taking a lot of stress out of the system.
Cows are no longer wintered on crops and swedes are not grown any more. Summer crop volumes have also reduced from 40 hectares planted to 15. The amount of maize grown has increased to 40 hectares from 32.
“We were always feeding maize silage in the paddock before the Herd Home and it was a constant challenge during wet weather. We also had a very wet calving and I had had enough.”
The Herd Home has had a massive impact on pasture quality and nitrate leaching levels with a 38% reduction in nitrogen leaching levels achieved.
Robbie says the Herd Home has dramatically increased farm efficiencies, particularly with feed utilisation.
It’s also a pleasure for the herd to be inside, significantly reducing workload over calving. “Out of all our herd we only had about 20 cows that were hard to get in the first time.”
Staff work to a six on two off roster and can operate with just two staff if necessary. As for the future, Robbie and wife Shannan will consider other options, however Robbie feels the current farm will not be sold.
With a mixed-operation budgeting can present with challenges. Robbie says decisions to spend are discussed carefully and not rushed into.
The whole herd is normally dried off by the start of June, but this season the decision was made to utilise the feeding efficiencies the Herd Home presents by milking 550 cows through June. “We’re hoping to achieve 20,000 milk solids out of June,” Robbie says.
Calving is due to get underway on 3 August. Mating took place in 9 ½ weeks with just under four weeks of that through AB and the balance with bulls.
We have been breeding for a larger framed cow with plenty of capacity. I am happy with the cows now so we are just trying to hold their size and crossing cows using Friesian and Jersey straws.
Robbie describes the local community as strong and supportive, something he believes occurs when you live in more isolated areas.
The couple’s two children love farming life. Lachie has just started school and both he and younger brother Toby love the tractors.
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