NZ Dairy Winter 2022

80 | nzdairy Balancing family Sue Russell DAIRY PEOPLE » Ranginui Dairy Andrew and Courtney Williams are contract milkers on two extensive dairy platforms, each wintering 1100 cows, part of Ranginui Station’s 2490ha property near Mangakino, in the central North Island. The couple are both passionate about dairy farming and love their life on the wonderful property, peppered amongst forestry and native blocks, comprising three dairy units and a dairy support unit also carrying a small amount of dairy beef. “We experience our own weather pattern here. There’s a lot more moisture and its not as cold as it can get in other areas nearby,” says Courtney. The couple work over two neighbouring dairy platforms; with Andrew mostly attending to Dairy Unit 2 and Courtney Dairy Unit 1. Andrew and Courtney work well together, each inputting into the overall business with their distinct skill sets. The third Dairy Unit of 900 cows employs another contract milker and the Dairy Support Unit employees a manager. “I do the business side of things with paying the bills, managing the rosters and Andrew takes care of the farm records and organises the contractors. We also have four children who we home-school so life is very full on but we love it.” The couple are entering their seventh season for Ranginui Station and say a strength of their business is how well they work together, balancing family and farm life, giving their staff good working conditions and their children a wonderful rural upbringing. “We make sure the children are learning their reading, writing and numeracy skills and there are plenty of learning opportunities just being on a farm. There’s also a wonderful home-schooling community in Taupo.” Normally, helping with the children are au pair’s however that hasn’t been the case recently with COVID restrictions on people visiting New Zealand. The power-houses of milk production are two 54 bail rotary sheds, each 12 years old. Andrew says they are good sheds, though a little small for the number of cows put through. “Our milking run takes several hours each day,” says Andrew. 16 Miro Street Taupo • Dairy shed milking plant and water systems • General engineering for the agricultural sector • Feeding systems for herringbone and rotary sheds To aid in on-farm ef ciencies the couple have engaged a technology known as ‘Milking by Time’, designed to reduce the length of time each cow is milked while supplying the optimum milk volume. Andrew and Courtney both agree this development has led to direct bene ts, freeing up staff from some time on milking activities. “In the Milking by Time system ne tweaks are made to the pulsation and vacuum rates. The cow spends the least amount of time on the rotary and the plant never stops, so it is very ef cient,” says Courtney. Better teat health and less risk of mastitis from over-milking are other bene ts that the new regime will bring and especially more time in the paddock eating producing the milk for the next Usually, the cows are milked twice a day until around April and then once a day, however this year the time-frames had been brought in given the weather. Most of the herd is dried off mid-May and calving is set to get underway toward the end of July. Asked, with so many cows, how they manage calving, Andrew says they do have to run a lot of mobs but manage to keep on top of it. “We employ four full timers on each farm and then three calf-rearers. Each day through calving we just milk, have breakfast and then go and collect cows and calves. We don’t use motorbikes in the springer mob and just approach them quietly which works well for them,” says Andrew. The cows are all cross-bred and prior to the couple arriving on the farm there had been no mating programme documented. “When we look back we think of all the improvements that have come in from taking control and really getting things working in good systems.” Improving productivity is always the priority balanced with rationalising production costs and the couple say they are pleased with what has been achieved. Under the current arrangements, Andrew and Courtney have two more full seasons to go before their existing contract ends. “I don’t think we would be against signing up again, but if we do move it’s really important for us to move to a situation where we are challenged. We’re not sure whether we want to go sharemilking though farm ownership is our eventual goal,” says Courtney. “I do the business side of things with paying the bills, managing the rosters and Andrew takes care of the farm records and organises the contractors. We also have four children who we home-school so life is very full on but we love it.” PROUDLY SUPPORTING Ranginui Dairy 1