NZ Dairy Spring 2021

58 | nz dairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Peirce Family Farm Dianna Malcolm W hen the Peirce family built a barn to miti- gate Southland winters, they never imag- ined how much flexibility it would give their Southland operation every day of the year. Historically this is a sheep shearing-turned-dairy family, which is headed by Richard and Debbie Pei- rce. Richard has won multiple New Zealand open shearing titles and he was the former chairman (including Life Membership) within Southland’s elite echelons of the sport – the Southern Shears. He knows he carries the natural wear and tear of a career spent bent in half, so it wasn’t a hard decision in recent years to include his daughter, Bridgette Smith, 30, and son Alex, 28, in the fam- ily’s 600-cow Gilchrist Rd dairy in the Waikaka Valley, 10 minutes north of Gore. Stepping up and stepping out This is a family that sees the bigger picture and isn’t afraid to step up and step out. In 2012 they built a barn with 550 mattress beds to house and milk their herd through winter. The former owner equity partnership (which had bought the property off the Peirce family during the dairying boom then sold it back to them during the global financial crisis) were milking 500 cows through a 40-a-side swingover herringbone on the 322-hectare (238ha affective milking platform) property. The initial Peirce family brief as they re-entered their family farm was to sidestep Southland’s cruel winter days by building the barn. That rationale has since been expanded as they have come to fully appreciate the decision they made a decade ago. The herd calves twice-a-year, and is split into three herds that includes the fresh, late lactation and colostrum/hospital cows. Production under the 130m x 35m roofline has shifted from its pre-barn pasture-based numbers of 248,000kg MS (413kg MS per cow) to 380,000kg MS (633kg MS per cow) on the same number of cows. Move to mitigate Southland winters The cows are fed in the barn at some point dur- ing the day every day of the year. This was the third freestall barn to be built in West Otago and Richard is clear that there is a difference between how they are choosing to use their barn rather than just a wintering shed for dry cows. Hot days mastered Bridgette said the summer of 2018 clarified it for them. “It was super-hot that year,” Bridgette said. “We are talking 34 degrees Celsius in Southland. It was horrific for the cows. We were milking them in the morning, sending them outside and bringing them in at 11am as it started to get hot. They stayed in there for the day in the shade with air moving around them, with plenty of feed and water. “We’d milk them in the afternoon and put them straight back in the barn. We’d let them go out when it was dark. It was that hot. They sustained their production through that 10-day-period. It has been a massive advantage, and we do that on any hot days now.”She said the investment was easier because they knew they were in it for the long haul and they had time to collect on the return. “We initially built it for the winter because none of us wanted to lie awake stressing all night when it was raining or snowing when we had a choice to do something,” Bridgette said. “But, this last season we started having a bit of a drought from February onwards in our semi-dry micro-climate. We didn’t have a lot of grass, so we upped our silage and grain going into the cows and went 24/7 in the barn almost a month early. “If we had continued to try and graze pasture for those 20 extra days we would have eaten our residuals down so low that we would have ended up with a low quantity of grass in August for our freshly calved spring cows.” Options make solutions Flooding in February 2020 also gave the family the option to get the cows off the paddocks. And, there have been times that can be counted on one hand in the last five years when they have also brought the dry cows in from the crop to give them protection from the weather. “For us, the barn gives us so many options we never considered when we built it,” Bridgette said. “Tomorrow morning we’re looking at a -5 degrees Celsius frost here. That’s not ideal for fresh cows. Maitland Contracting Ltd Call Willy: 0276309032 or A/H: 03-2076879 Email: Proud to support Peirce Family Farm • Grassland Aerator • Soil Aerator/Cultivator • Auto Reset Aerator • T urf Aerator • Mole Plough • Dual Mole Plough • Pre-ripper • Super Ripper • Subsoilers • Super Subsoilers T ipper • Dual • Pipe Laying • Baleage T ow Hitch We Specialise in Phone/Fax: 03 207 1837 For all your Stock Food requirements Driver Deno (027) 555 7792 • Graeme (027) 229 4200 • Rebecca (027) 269 8366 • Office / Fax (03) 208 9464 Email Specialising in the Eastern Southland / West Otago areas Prompt Delivery • Harraways Oat Contracts • Calf Feed • Rolled Barley • Feed Grain ( Whole or Crushed ) • PKM • Soya Meal • Minerals by Arrangement GARDYNE’S GRAIN LTD GARDYNE’ Brother and sister duo Alex Peirce and Bridgette Smith, pictured with Bridgette’s daughter Lucy, are responsible for the day- to-day management of their family’s 600-cow Gilchrist Rd dairy. 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