The runner-up in this year’s Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards dairy trainee competition absolutely loves his work.
Shannon Bunn, 24, impressed the competition judges enough to scoop $2000 for his efforts in entering the competition. He is a farm assistant on a 270 hectare 720 cow business, Reayburn Dairies, at Heriot in West Otago.
“I’ve never found (another) job I’ve enjoyed so much. I do enjoy working with the animals and others as well,” Shannon says. While he relishes a sleep-in when he can, an early morning coffee and thinking about the tasks ahead for the day is all the motivation he needs to crack into it.
Shannon loves to learn new skills to challenge himself and, on the back of his award achievement, has been promoted to second-in-charge on the farm in the coming season.
“That’s a big draw to stay here.” “There are opportunities to keep learning and (also) not necessarily learn new skills, but better the ones I’ve already learnt.”
Before starting at Reayburn Dairies two seasons ago, Shannon was studying in Dunedin. The farm’s manager is his cousin, Jahvis Benbow and Shannon used to go to the farm during weekends “to get away from student life a wee bit”.
After getting a taste of dairy farming he could see a future for himself and decided to pursue a career in the industry.
His roster is 11 days on and three days off, except this changes to 12 on and two off during the peak two months of the season.
The farm’s 54 bail rotary shed, with automatic cup removers, teat sprayers and automatic washing, means its Kiwicross cows can be milked by one person.
Reayburn Dairies employs four full-time staff and is a high input system with an in shed-feed system and two Herd Homes.
Supplementary feed comprises palm kernel extract and silage grown on farm plus a nearby run-off.
Consequently, cows are fed before and after milking before they return to grazing, as well as having grain available while milking.
This enables seasonal milking to run longer than usual; drying off starts on June 1, with the last cows milked on June 15.
The high feed input, combined with the ability to provide supplementary minerals year round, means the herd averages 560kg/MS milk production per cow each season, against live weights from 480kg and 550kg.
Because of the longer milking season, animal welfare must be closely monitored and lameness can be an issue towards the end of the season; consequently milking was reduced to once a day in May to reduce the walking time. “For our system animal welfare is very crucial.”
“We always keep a close eye on mastitis. It’s something that every staff member is proactive on and knows how to identify mastitis and treat it under some supervision.”
“It’s a farm rule to have a bucket of Saniwise next to you while milking so you can keep your gloves clean.”
Next season Shannon is looking forward to be more involved on the management side of the farm and long-term will be looking for opportunities to climb the dairy ladder, including to create equity. “Anything’s possible, I’ve just got to give it a go and see where it takes me.
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