NZ Dairy Winter 2022

88 | nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Victor Rutherford Milking on a far- ung Northland farm Kim Newth Half-way between Dargaville and Kaikohe lies a unique area that feels a world away from town and city life. Since starting his dairy farm operation here 16 years ago, Victor Rutherford has been careful to develop the property in a way that respects people, stock and the environment. “Where we are is quite remote; we’re in the middle of nowhere and the centre of everywhere,” says Victor. “We get 2.8 metres of rainfall a year so it’s a summer safe district and with soil that’s volcanic and free draining. We’re one of the highest altitude dairy farms in Northland at 430m - it’s de nitely colder here, more like Taranaki.” The property – 450ha in extent, 370ha effective – was originally run as three farms. A lot of the early development focus was on creating a uni ed network of races and consolidating paddocks into a workable system. Two rivers running through the farm boast long lush banks of regenerating native bush and forest. These areas have all been fenced off and enhanced by weed control. Further planting with natives such as totara is planned. An active pest control programme over the years has also slashed possum numbers right back. “It’s great to have got the pests under control because we have a lot of kiwi in the bush. One of the staff videoed a kiwi walking down the road last night! You hear them calling at night. Getting the cows in for milking, you hear them quite often. It’s not what you’d expect on a big old dairy farm.” This special district is also home to the protected and endangered kauri snail, as well as kokako and the blue mushroom, (Entoloma hochstetteri). The 700-cow farm, run today by a farm manager, is System 2 for production with once-a-day (OAD) milking. Victor says the switch to OAD was made early on, once it became clear the cows were not coping with a twice-a-day regime. “The cows were doing too much walking. The best we could get was 380kgMS per cow. When we went to once-a-day we had 400kgMS per cow and last year had 385kgMS a cow so we actually increased production. From a work-life balance perspective, it’s so much nicer too as you can get the milking over and have that time to do other farm work.” A recent innovation, installed on farm last year, is a robotic calf feeder. The dairy operation rears some 400 beef calves every year, sold as weaners. A recent innovation, installed on farm last year, is a robotic calf feeder. The dairy operation rears some 400 beef calves every year, sold as weaners. NORTHLAND Spreading Northland The precise way to grow Call us today: Jason Williamson 027 499 2530 Ravensdown Customer Centre 0800 100 123 • We apply what you need, where you need it • Ravtrak advanced guidance • Proof of placement maps • Application history stored online • Experienced local operator • Options for all terrain • Earthworks • House & Shed Sites • Drainage • Roading • FarmRaces • Power Harrowing with Air Seeder • Undersowing • Lime & Fert Spreading • Silage & Haybales Ph/Fax: (09) 439 4788 or Richard: 027 498 4133 DIGGERS • TRUCKS • GRADERS • ROLLERS • TRACTORS • STABILISING HOES • BULLDOZER 25 Station Road, Dargaville 0310 | PO Box 471, Dargaville 0340 “Our local dairy discussion group enjoyed looking at our massive calf shed with robotic feeder during a recent visit here. The truth is it’s getting too hard to drag twenty litres of milk around all the time – people are over working that hard. Of course, you have to train calves to drink from the robot and observe them to make sure they’re con dent, but once they’re started all you need to do is top the robot up, clean the shed and walk away.” Victor says he used to have a second farm in Te Aroha but sold that ve years ago. Looking back, he says it was a logical choice to buy in Northland – “I was able to buy a farm that’s four times the size, doing more than double the production for the same price.”