Good teamwork has been key to making life on the farm work for husband and wife dairy farmers, Rory and Julie Kennedy.
Childhood sweethearts while at high school and together since the age of 16, the couple has made their life together progressing through their dairy farming journey in the West Coast of the South Island.
Rory grew up in a coalmining family but an opportunity to work on a dairy farm milking cows, driving tractors and spraying weeds during the school holidays ignited a passion for working with animals and the land.
Julie grew up on a dairy farm and Rory says she had been milking cows since a wee thing. After leaving school the couple worked as farm assistants on a farm in Cronadun just out of their hometown of Reefton.
After spending three years in that role they became contract milkers on the same farm but having built up their own herd made a move 12 months later to a 50/50 sharemilking job with 180 cows for Moir Farms, again in the Reefton district.
After four seasons, Moir Farms offered Rory and Julie the opportunity to move to a larger property and the couple is now in their 10th season milking between 280-300 cows.
Continually progressing, Rory and Julie also took on a contract-milking job for Moir Farms, milking 480 cows just across the road while continuing to run the smaller farm.
“We’ve got a farm manager looking after the smaller farm while Julie and I are based on the larger property,” says Rory.
“Julie plays a huge part in the farm—she does the evening milking while I do the morning milk. Julie also does the calves on both farms so she’s pretty flat out for three months of the year—then sprays weeds and helps out where needed. You couldn’t do it alone.” The farm that the couple has the sharemilking contract on is 110ha.
Long and skinny either side of the Little Grey River, the land is pretty much river flat with 55ha under pivot irrigation.
“We don’t do any summer crop and we don’t feed out a lot of palm kernel over summer because it grows enough grass with the pivot. We typically produce 115,000kgMS.”
The farm across the road is 220ha effective – a third river flats, a third humped and hollowed and a third rough wet swampy clay soil.
Rory says apart from the clay soils the farm grows quite good pasture but he doesn’t worry about residuals so much on the rougher ground.
“We just let the cows go up and have a pick. That farm produces about 180,000gkMS. We’ve got one staff member helping us on that farm – he’s been with us for 18 months now, straight from school.”
Next season Rory and Julie will take on the challenge of 1000-cow property, again contract milking for Moir Farms in parallel with their sharemilking contact.
“Farm ownership has always been our goal. As we get further along our journey it doesn’t seem to get much closer but we might invest in some residential property in Nelson and grow our equity that way to enable us to reach that ultimate goal.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- West Coast Ag Contractors Ltd
- Trans-West Freighters
- Glen Rua Polled Charolais