Trust seeks to bolster dairy business

Trust seeks to bolster dairy business
Whakatohea Maori Trust Board Robert Edwards (centre) wants to create efficiencies in its dairy business to improve the trust’s business.

Whakatohea Maori Trust is continuing to expand and refine its business and will this season assimilate its Amokura dairy platform of 91ha effective/120ha total into its Waikeke dairy unit, 124ha total/91ha effective.
Both units have been purchased within the last four years and chairman of the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board, Robert Edwards, says the aim is to create efficiencies to enhance Whakatohea’s business. The 370 cows will be milked through a 36 aside herringbone shed.
Dairy farming is one of the Trust’s core business activities and its current dairy operation located on the Waioweka flats has an effective milking platform of 238 hectares The Trust currently milks 740 cows and has set a target of 264,000kg milk solids for this season, which Robert says will be exceeded due to particularly good weather this year.
He says the aim is to continue to improve pasture management, as well as manage the feed regime more efficiently.
A 40ha support block purchased several years ago supports the dairy farms. The Trust is big on seeking outside opinions of its dairy operation to enhance what it is doing.
In 2010 Price Waterhouse Coopers and Dairy NZ were engaged to review the Trust’s dairy operations, which saw two milking sheds reduce to a brand new 60 bail rotary under one operation.
In 2011 a new feed pad was built to accommodate 600 cows as well as a new effluent pond to manage any effluent off the dairy unit. The Trust plans to have another review of its dairy business shortly to see what further improvements could be made.
Robert says all farming activity is undertaken with a conscious effort to manage environmental aspirations. He says this will be further enhanced when treaty settlement negotiations are completed freeing up capital for further investment in the business.
“We are aiming to grow the goose that lays the golden egg. At the moment we only have a chicken,” he says with a laugh.
The dairy business also includes a 395ha support block at Motu that it leases in partnership with the Trustees of Whakapaupakihi 6 & 7.  The block is used for grazing of young dairy stock, heifers, calves, carryover cows, fattening of beef stock as well as providing grazing services to other parties.
A local farmer is employed to manage the property and Whakatohea has invested a considerable amount of time and funds into improving the pastures, fencing and water systems.
“We have a long term lease arrangement and vested interest in ensuring this property serves us well into the future,” says Robert.
Looking to the future Whakatohea is excited about the opportunities that might be presented with the opening of the new Maori owned milk processing plant proposed for Kawerau.
Robert says there will be synergies between the Maori initiatives and it will fit in with the Whakatohea philosophy of promoting social and economic benefit for the region.
The Trust Board has made steady progress since 1952 and has grown its asset base to include dairy farms, kiwifruit orchards, forestry shares, property investments, fisheries assets, aquaculture ventures, social, health and education services.
Robert says that through strong leadership and a clear vision the Board has set a path for the next 50 years that focuses on improving the wellbeing and prosperity of its people.
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