NZ Dairy Spring 2021

38 | nz dairy ‘Walking backwards Richard Loader “Entering the award was about recognising the work that my dad had done along the Matarawa Stream. Dad started riparian planting about twenty-five years ago and that was his passion.” T here is a Maori proverb - ka mua, ka muri – which means ‘walking backwards into the future’. The proverb is about looking to the past to inform the future and that really is at the heart of Flavall Farm’s approach to farming. Located in Tokoroa, South Waikato, the 100-hectare/95-hectare effective farm has been in the Flavall family since 1924. Seven years ago Sarah Flavall and her husband Douglas Nicholson returned to the family farm after a long absence. Having completed a Bachelor of Resource and Environmental Planning and a Masters in Science, Sarah had been away from the family farm for the best part of 20 years working in New Zealand, Vanuatu and Western Australia. From Vanuatu, Douglas had never worked on a dairy farm before. “The family’s relationship with the land was a big driver for coming back to the farm and keeping it in the family,” says Sarah. “But it was also about giving our children an opportunity to experience farm life too.” Douglas worked for the existing sharemilker for three years learning what to do and Tokoroa and District Vets were helpful in getting him up to speed with animal health and treatments. Douglas and Sarah are now in their fourth sea- son sharemilking and while Sarah was initially very involved in the day-to-day work on the farm, she now focuses on the farm’s paperwork and has a full time off-farm job with Downer, leaving Douglas to run the farm. Harrie and Douglas Nicholson. DAIRY PEOPLE » Flavall Farm: Sarah Flavall & Douglas Nicholson Last year Sarah and Douglas decided to get a measure of their farm performance by entering the Waikato Ballance Farm Environment awards. “Entering the award was about recognising the work that my dad had done along the Matarawa Stream. Dad started riparian planting about twenty-five years ago and that was his passion. He would go off into the bush, find seeds and grow them himself, because it’s quite cold here. He was reasonably ahead of his time doing those plantings. The Matarawa Stream Care Group was one of the first stream care groups. So that has been his pas- sion and legacy along with trialing different ways of doing it.” The Matarawa Stream runs for about a kilometre through the Flavall’s farm and eventually finds its way into the Waikato River. Sarah says entering the award provided an opportunity to get feedback about the things they were doing well along with those things that could be improved on. “Being sustainable is still being profitable, so it was how to increase profitability by looking at the overall farm picture. One of the considerations was around optimising productivity. We did a Farmax model to see where our sweet spot was. The model told us that we weren’t getting the most milk that we could from the cows, but if we drop the num- bers with the amount of grass we had we would improve milk production. We dropped our cow numbers from 300 to 270 and we have increased production. There’s more grass per cow and that’s all being transferred into extra milk production.” Sarah says another option would have been to bring in more feed, but that didn’t match the farm philosophy. Tokoroa & Districts Veterinary Services Full 24 hour Veterinary care Caring for all creatures great and small - Best Practice Veterinary Care The greatest asset we can offer you as a veterinary practice is our team of veterinarians, qualified nurses and support staff. Tokoroa Clinic Ashworth Street, Tokoroa • Ph 07 886 6119 Whakamaru Clinic 8 Tihoi Rd, Whakamaru • Ph 07 882 8094 57 Ashworth Street, Tokoroa 3420 P: 0800 347 364 W: E: Earthworks/Trenching GEA Milking Systems Pumps & Water Security Systems Thermography Refrigeration Farm Effluent Heat Pumps Electrical Solar