Wednesday started with a drive to Dipton where we were able to find out about the organic farming in New Zealand at Glencairn. We stepped on farm to meet Strahan, the operations manager and Jess and Sean from Aquila sustainable farming where they gave an insight in to the operations and management systems of running Glencairn where they have three dairies and a total of 2750 cows spread between them. Since first registration it took two years to gain full organic certification. Glencairn is a dry farm with 91ha irrigated, cows are wintered on farm and sent away for winter grazing. Calving is managed on farm and sent away between December and January once they have hit target weight. When going in to their offices it was great to see all the information on the walls from how to weigh crops and how to dry off cows to how to treat a bee sting and responsibilities of your rolls on farm.
Aquila Sustainable Farming (ASF) is an asset management company responsible for the management of six dairy farms and two support blocks in New Zealand. ASF focuses on the management of crops and pasture, livestock health, milk production, staff performance and retention, organic compliance, environment compliance, health and safety and financial performance. Sean is the general manager of the business and Jess is in control of producing management plans and keeping track of stock numbers, classes of stock, crop details, emergency treatments, send in an extract monthly of cows that have been treated and inputs to the farm, for example, fertilisers, pest treatments and weed treatments.
We then set off to Winton for lunch with Lindsey Wright from Farm Strong, Good Yarn and Rural Support for the help and support for mental health and awareness for farmers in New Zealand. From my own personal experiences with trying to help my friends and family with mental health I found this meeting with Lindsey invaluable. Lindsey spoke of what made him start looking in to mental health and the avenues to take to be able to get counselling and how difficult it was. The story he told was hard to hear and a bit upsetting but hearing how he has managed to get himself going by seeking help was great to hear, a lot of farmers won’t do that. Through his Farm strong and Rural Support programs through major, local and personal events they are utilised as being a contact, facilitator and an ear to listen. I really enjoyed this chat with Lindsey and I believe we should incorporate more systems like these in to our own mental health programs for farmers.
The next farm we were off to was Stefan du Plesis where he is a 50/50 sharefarmer with his 3 daughters and been on this farm for 11 years. Stefan and his family arrived to NZ in 2001 where they climbed up the sharemilking ladder and now milk peak 660 cows through a 46 bale rotaflow which was very interested to see as I had never even heard of one.
They have heavier soil where they are and lose 4-6 paddocks to flooding from the waterway nearby. Stefan uses the wintering barn for his herd and even has waterbeds for his cows. Stefan has 3 fulltime staff that are all Filipinos. They try to run a low cost, high performing system. I quite enjoyed Stefan’s farm where he showed us a lot over the farm and was full of information.
The last meeting of the day was meeting Katrina from the Women’s Dairy Network, she was a fun and vibrant lady and great to listen to. WDN is a not-for-profit organisation. Their primary focus is to create occasions for women and men to get off farm and connect with others, they do this in a number of ways that have been developed by women in the industry to suit busy lifestyles. DWN network develop, facilitate and promote events and initiatives. They will be hosting a DWN conference in April that I would love to go to with workshops and speakers over two days, it looks very informative but I will have to check with the bosses.
After a day full of information we were happy to get to back on the bus, sing some songs and head to Queenstown in a lovely house up a very steep hill, fair to say some of us have sore muscles now.
– Rachael McGrath