Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Environment award the highlight

Avatar photo
Second time was the charm for this year’s Taranaki sharemilker/equity farmer winners in the Dairy Industry Awards (DIA), Rachel and Kenneth Short. They entered for the first time last year but failed to make the top six. A year later, and having attended one of the DairyNZ Mark and Measure workshops, some further finetuning saw a different result. The Shorts are 20% equity partners in a 168ha coastal Taranaki property near Opunake with Rachel’s parents, Barbara and Louis Kuriger. They are also 25% variable order sharemilking the 450-cow operation.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rachel started managing the farm for her parents in 2005, which two years later developed into lower-order sharemilking. At that stage Kenneth, a builder by trade, was working off-farm. The birth of their first child, Zac, in 2008 saw him spending more time on-farm and at home while still building part-time.

In 2010, Rachel and Kenneth went into an equity partnership with the Kurigers, another step towards enacting their succession plan. They took a 20% equity share with a plan to increase that every three years. At that stage, Kenneth finished building to work full-time on the farming business. Their second son, Max, was born in 2011.

This year they will be increasing their equity stake in the business with the target being to become 50% equity partners by 2016.

Growing their equity is one of their main business aims at this stage, complementing the farm succession plan in place with Rachel’s parents. The ultimate goal is 100% ownership of the home farm, but they are not ruling out other opportunities along the way, such as venturing into other equity partnerships.

The property is run as a system 1 operation with all stock grazed on-farm year round with no brought-in supplement. Benchmarking figures are based on a 142ha milking platform with a 26ha runoff allowance.

The herd is mostly Jersey and production sits at around 320kg milksolids (MS)/cow. Rachel said profitability and sustainability are the target rather than milk production for its own sake.

“At the end of the day, production is a good target but profit’s the goal. We are running a system 1 operation and we are getting a good profit out the bottom … it’s all got to be sustainable in terms of people and the environment as well.”

They operate what Rachel calls a “mouths before mowers” approach, making supplement only if they see a true feed surplus. On average that translates to 400 round bales, at 220kg drymatter (DM)/bale. Some years there will be more, some years less. As no supplement is brought on to the property that means the drying off date depends on autumn/winter feed budgets developed early in autumn.

“If we don’t get the hay we just end up drying off a bit earlier,” Rachel said.

The Shorts also took out the DairyNZ Human Resources Award. They attribute a lot of this success to their use of industry aids like the DairyNZ Quickstart Recruitment Guides and AgITO training.

“They gave us such a simple tool to use to go right through recruitment and the induction programme through to health and safety,” Rachel said. “Our farm assistant is doing the AgITO Modern Apprenticeship as well, so we use that for all his performance reviews.”

They also took out the Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award, and the Westpac Business Performance Award. Lifting the first award was one of the highlights for the couple. They have put a lot of effort into minimising water wastage, with Kenneth putting his building background to good use modifying the yard wash system to save around 6000 litres of water every day.

They also installed a simple water leak monitor that will alert them to any unusual water take from the reticulated farm system.

A stream runs along one boundary of the farm. It is fully fenced off and they are now just two years away from completing riparian planting along its length.

The farm also uses no plastic wrap for silage or baleage. Hay and turnips are the only supplements to pasture grazing used in the system. They have access to gear to harvest and bale the hay themselves, cutting it at the same length other farms would cut their silage.

“We’ve had a number of people come in over the years and say our hay is better quality than a lot of people’s silage. And we don’t have all the wrap,” Rachel said.

Second- and third-place getters were both 50:50 sharemilkers; Bryce and Amanda Savage of Hawera and Meremere-based Ben and Belinda Price.

The Savages also took the Abacus Group Strategic Management Award and the Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award.

The Prices won the Federated Farmers Leadership Award and the Honda Farm Safety and Health Award.

The Reeves Middleton Young Innovation Award went to Warren and Mary Patterson, Okato, who also took out the LIC Recording and Productivity Award.

The Taranaki DIA Variable Order Cup was awarded to Aaron and Olivia Waite of Kaponga and the Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award went to Josh Cooper and Alex Smith of Manutahi.  

People are also reading