Southland dairy farmers Steven and Hayley Clarke have realised an aspiration this year on entering the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards for the first time, and although Steven says they entered to learn rather than win, they are proud to have come away as runners-up in the Share-Farmer of the Year title.
Steven and Hayley are equity partners with Steven’s mum Julie Clarke and manage their 475 cow 172ha farm at Brydone, near Gore.
They have been on the property since June 2013 and have grown their equity from 16% to now 50%.
The couple are on a good footing with their farm’s fertile soils and a productive herd, with production of 229,500kgs milksolids from a 151ha milking platform last season, 1520kgs milksolids per hectare and 486kgs milksolids per cow, while their friesian jersey cross cows’ average live weight is 475kgs.
Since arriving on farm, the couple have been in development mode, aiming to create a system which allows them to feed the cows well, look after the staff and the land, and spend some time with their kids.
With a brand new baby born early April making three young children, the couple are now hoping to be able to reap the benefits a more efficient farm will bring to their family time.
“It’s a much more efficient farm and allows for better cow welfare, better pasture utilisation, less lame cows who are getting in calf quicker giving us an early calving spread,” Steven says. He replaced the farm’s 34 a side herringbone with a 54 bale rotary in 2014.
He has refenced a lot of the farm to even up the paddock sizes, and relaned which has taken the farm from an average of 50 lame cows for the second half of the season down to an average of two lame cows.
An early calving spread has been facilitated by the use of short gestation semen for the past couple of seasons, and now 82% of the herd will be calving in the first six weeks.
“They give a smaller calf and the cow is fit and ready for mating a lot earlier. We also get 10 more days of milk in the vat.”
The farm’s environmental impact has been lessened with Steven reducing its nitrogen leaching from an average in the mid 40s down to 30 units of nitrogen per hectare.
“We’re keeping a low stocking rate at 3.14 cows per hectare and we’ve gone from using 200 units of nitrogen per hectare to 150 units.
We’re keeping fertiliser levels high but nitrogen levels low.” The farm is growing more grass thanks to plate metering and by being on the right round length at the right time of year.
“Its enabled us to grow a lot more grass and our cows are high BW cows, they are highly efficient at utilising every mouthful of grass and turning it into milk.”
A new calf shed installed last season has further improved conditions on farm, not just for Steven and Hayley but also for their staff. “It has made our working life more enjoyable and efficient,” Steven says.
“It’s not all about us, it’s about our staff as well. They’ve got to be achieving, enjoying, and doing well out of it.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Marshalls Excavating Ltd
- Glover Builders Ltd
- J K Baleage Contracting