NZ Dairy Autumn 2022

56 | nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Stewart Dairy Lands Flexible approach Sue Russell Carrying a legacy that extends back five generations is a privilege for James Stewart, managing director of Stewart Dairy Lands, which operates two dairy farms side-by-side in Hiwinui, in the Manawatu region. “We have support blocks around our farms and all up it’s around 600ha, providing us with good scale,” James says. Great Great Grandfather David, moved to New Zealand in the 1880’s and through hard work and astute land acquisition built up the farming business, passing it on down the family line, to the sizeable farming entity it is today. James has been looking after the family’s dairy operations some 20 plus years and says there’s not only been rapid growth during his time as custodian but also a gathering emphasis on matters environmental. “For the last five years I’ve seen the most change. We have solar power on the dairy sheds, collars on the cows. Data and technology connectivity is providing us with so much more information at arm’s length. “The fourth industrial revolution talks about the emergence of technology and data to drive operations and that’s what we’ve got happening here,” James explains. One challenge, James says, is the constant growing demand for more and more information to be able to supply. When he thinks about his forefathers James says it was a lot about grunt and hard physical labour, clearing bush and scrub to create pastures for animals. “They used to cut trees down. It wasn’t that long ago, and now we are investing in planting native bush areas on the farm to reduce nitrate leaching, provide important shade and shelter and not to mention add to the aesthetic look of the farm.” The herd is mainly Friesian based and James says they rear their own bull calves. A 36 aside herringbone and a 54 bail rotary process the daily milk, supplied to Fonterra. “The rotary has a few bells and whistles, including automatic cup removers, teat spraying and drafting and one person can easily operate it. We flood wash the yard using recycled water.” Three full time staff and several milk harvesters complete the human-resources operating the farms. Agricultural students from Massey University also work the weekends, to gain experience of working farm-life and financial support. “We are fortunate to have a great team of people who drive performance.” Father David Stewart is still hands-on. He keeps the operation ticking over doing most of the R&M Farm investment this year included cow collars (top) and solar panels on the dairy shed. work, planting crops and managing the young stock. “He does a lot of planting of trees. His environmental and landscaping work will be his legacy. He is a perfectionist when it comes to fencing and development.” A typical day for James is hard to describe, except its enabling. He says it’s about making things run as smoothly as they can and driving the strategy. And when needed he will still do the mahi in the milking shed. The farms have heavy soils, quite clay-based and can be very wet at times and also dry. “We don’t irrigate and we plant summer crops. The farm has a good feedpad and we have quite a low stocking ratio. The dairy platform is 360ha, with 800 cows, so there isn’t too much stress in our system.” James says that simply ‘listening to the land’ set them up for what grows well and underpinning all activity is the drive toward good economics frameworking management systems. A priority is creating the best working environment for the team and this is achieved in part by ensuring cow condition is maintained. In-shed feeding is provided in the rotary and when NZ Dairy spoke with James early February, the herringbone herd was about to drop to once a day. “We adapt to the conditions and adjust the use of supplements. At the end of the day the system is pretty steady with whatever the pay-out is.” The area Stewart Dairy Lands is situated, quite close to the Ruahini and Tararua Ranges, is a mixed-bag of farming operations. James says he has borrowed more than any other generation in the clan, with good reason. “We are starting to pay a lot back and when we’ve borrowed its been for good strategic reason. We’re currently using the higher pay-out on capital projects such as upgrading our water scheme to get better performance. “Over the years quite a lot of development of infrastructure had been set aside, so at this time we’re attending to these things because we can afford to.” A whole farm environmental plan has been resourced and developed to ensure future compliances will be fully met. The farm’s strategic plan looks at all aspects of its operation and documents its strengths and weaknesses. James says key to future success is having a flexible approach to seizing opportunities as they come along. Recently, a small piece of land, not important to the dairy operation, was sold to a life-style developer to take advantage of such opportunity. “I think that you have to be open and always considering the opportunities as they present. That’s the role I have for my family overseeing our farming business today.” Let’s start talking We focus on providing business advice and accounting solutions, so they can focus on what they do best - running a successful farming operation. We’re proud to be a part of the Stewart Dairy Lands Team. t 06 357 0640