Friday, July 8, 2022

Paddling to success

Competing in multi-sport events is good for business, according to new Fonterra Shareholders’ Council member Graham Barlow. He talked with Steve Searle about the importance of taking care of yourself, and the challenges of intensive dairying. For his first multi-sport event four years ago Gordonton farmer and new Fonterra Shareholders’ Council (FSC) member Graham Barlow admits to being a little underprepared. “I had done no running and had never paddled a kayak but we went along for the fun of it,” said Graham, whose uncle competed with him while his father Morris was his support crew for the Rodney Coast Challenge. A testing 4½ hours later he paddled his hired kayak ashore at the end of a 10km stretch down the Puhoi River, a bike ride of 40km, half of it off-road, and a 10km forest run – his body sore but feeling pleased with his achievement.

“I knew I could push myself,” he said. He’s a keen mountain biker who had previously ridden a four-day stage race from Mt Somers to Tekapo. The benefits, he said, are both physical and mental – you’re in a better place to tackle day-to-day issues.

“I learned from an Icehouse entrepreneurship course that to look after the business you have to look after yourself, especially if you’re the one driving the business.
“Before all that I was too focused on farming and not focused enough on a life balance.”

Intensive move

Farm manager Robbie Waldron, left, discusses with Graham an upcoming change to the cows’ diet.

On the farm he works with farm manager Robbie Waldron and farm assistant James Harrison who are adept at running the more intensive farm set-up and maintaining a 40-day grazing round from March to July and a 20-day round through spring and summer.

“The profit is in the grass,” said Graham.

He’s successfully created Android and iPhone applications that enable subscribers to use a mobile phone to calculate and monitor grazing requirements, supplementary feed supply and cow health. The apps, GrassMate, MixMate and CowMate, are available on his website

Maize for silage and triticale for straw is grown in at least three paddocks each year although the purpose of the crops is mainly to have about 5ha prepared for pasture renewal.

On the FSC Graham said he aims to encourage more farmer involvement in the governance of their cooperative.

“I began thinking about all this after looking at the offers of another dairy company wanting our winter milk supply,” he said.

“In terms of payouts (they) look good but Fonterra, when scrutinised, is competitive and I like where it’s heading and what it’s doing for farmers. I’m keen to be part of the big picture.”

As a FSC councillor he considers one of his tasks being to phone as many farmers in Ward 8 as he can so that he is up to date with their views on different issues and to discuss the work the FSC is doing for shareholders.

There will be an initial period of “finding my feet” but he is looking forward to being on the FSCs pricing and performance committee.

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