NZ Dairy Autumn 2022

22 | nzdairy Flaxburn ‘an asset for future generations’ Russell Fredric Featherston Presbyterian Church Farm has a long legacy, but significant investment in its infrastructure is forward-focused and designed to ensure it will be profitable and sustainable for generations to come. The 257 hectare south Wairarapa farm, Flaxburn, was established about 1878 and has been sharemilked by Keith and Jo Dennis for the past 20 years. It is owned by the Presbyterian church of Aotearoa NZ property trustees and is administered in perpetuity accordance with the deed of the will of C A Clark Estate. There are two parts of the deed that are significant. The original title comprises 140 hectares which cannot be sold or borrowed against while the profits from the farm go to charity. Keith is conscious about the legacy of the farm’s operation and the challenges that come with that. “It’s about thinking for the future needs of people who are going to be working on this farm beyond our time so it’s a unique place to run in that sense.” The farm peak milks 772 Kiwicross cows just north of Lake Wairarapa. When Keith and Jo started as a 50:50 sharemilker couple 20 years ago, the farm was miking 430 cows. The church trustees progressively increased its landholding over the years buying land and leveraging this to acquire more land as opportunities came along. After attending a once-a-day milking conference, Keith was convinced of the viability of the OAD system, and sees this as long-term future of the farm. “Currently we have close to 50% of the herd on once a day and by Christmas (2021) the whole herd will be OAD. The past five years has been focused on just getting better udder conformation and improving the age range in the herd.” At the moment the herd’s BW [breeding worth] is 170/56 PW [production worth] 207/66 and is 98% DNA verified. Dean and Suzanne Alexander have a self-contained operation in Southland milking 1800 cows, producing 900,000kgMS. DAIRY PEOPLE » Featherston Presbyterian Church specific traits.” With the assistance of Samen NZ, the current breeding programme is geared towards developing a three-way cross herd of Jersey, Friesian and VikingRed to ensure hybrid vigour along with good health and longevity traits. “It’s a work in progress. Next season will be the first season that we’ll have some VikingRed in milk so we’re soon going to be able to gauge the impact of that on production.” The couple’s dairy operation is into its fourth season using CowManager ear tags that provide real-time information on the fertility, health and nutrition of their cows. That, in turn, has given them the confidence to invest in sexed semen for the last two matings. “We select the top 600 cows into one shed for mating to get the sexed semen while all the other cows get the beef straws – Wagyu and Belgian Blue. It means we’re getting all our replacements out of the top third of cows.” A key component in allowing this to happen has been having the same identification, drafting and weighing systems across all farms. They have consolidated the dairy shed operations, with everything now running on the same Tru-Test system. Recently, they invested in upgrading a clay-lined effluent pond with a new synthetic liner that gives a lot more flexibility and assurance around effluent management. • from page 20 “We are now shifting focus to improving the herd’s productive ability by removing the low performers and mating only from the top 60% of the herd using sexed semen. “We have set a threshold not breeding from the bottom 30% of the herd. These animals are mated to beef breeds.” Keith believes it could take up to four seasons for the herd quality to be good enough to transition to full once-a-day and is aiming to try and match current production as a OAD farm. “The young stock responds really well to once a day and it shows in first round of mating with 87% submission rate for the two year-olds.” “It’s pretty hot in the afternoons here, there’s a lot of heat stress on the cows its more efficient to move them to fresh pasture and water than to bring them to the shed when its 30 degrees. It is also easier on the team and nice to be able to give them more flexibility and variety with their work time, he says. The considerable investment in infrastructure has included tree planting, water and soil monitoring technology and building a new effluent pond with a 2.5 million litre capacity with solid separation. Monitoring of water bores and soil moisture is especially crucial with a very high evaporation rate during Wairarapa’s hotter months. The irrigation system is vital to the farm’s operation and covers 215ha and takes up to five hours a day to shift, check and maintain. “The long lateral irrigation system has been here for 20 years. We are currently looking at options for what a new system would look like for the farm. The current farm dairy was established in 1997. Keith likens the juxtaposition of the age of the farm and its many upgrades over the years to an old axe with new head and handle. “Right now, we are viable dairy farm, with an awesome team working, training and building skills for their futures. “We expect Flaxburn to remain an asset for future generations, creating jobs and economy for people in the district.” The highly valued team in the farm office: Anatolii Holovashchenko, Hamish Dennis and Lily Martin. VETSOUTHARE PROUDTO SUPPORT DEAN AND SUZANNE ALEXANDER BALCLUTHA | GORE | WINTON | INVERCARGILL | LUMSDEN | OTAUTAU | CLYDEVALE | TAPANUI 0800 VETSOUTH | Dean & Suzanne Alexander Specialists in all your earthwork and bulk cartage requirements Jeremy Bennett 027 4444 321