NZ Dairy Winter 2022

92 | nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE CANTERBURY » Grasslands The Grasslands way towards farm ownership Science based approach needed Richard Loader Grasslands has come a long way since its journey began in the early 2000s when North Island dairy farmers Gary and Barb Townshend saw an opportunity in Canterbury for large scale dairy farming that was supported by water resources. Grasslands’ Canterbury business originally comprised 1,608 hectares running 19,500 stock units, which were mainly Merino sheep in Hororata. The rst dairy platform was commissioned in 2004 and over the years several adjoining blocks of land have been acquired. In Canterbury, Grasslands now operate nine dairy units across 2,700 contiguous hectares, along with 800 hectares of leased dairy support land. “We will calve 9100 cows this season and budget for 3.2 million kgMS,” says New Zealand CEO Simon Le Heron. “We’re fully self-contained, wintering all young stock including bulls.” In 2006 Gary and Barb went to Missouri in the USA and bought land there. Grasslands now milks 9000 cows in Missouri. Grasslands expanded into Southland in 2017 with the purchase of a property at Mossburn. Since then, Grasslands has added more dairy units taking the effective dairy platform in Southland to 2,300 hectares, calving 6400 cows this season and budgeting for 2.24 million kgMS. A 1,400-hectare lease farm is also operated in northern Southland, providing support for young stock and wintering cows. Last year Grasslands started buying farms in Oregon and now have 2000 cows there. Across the New Zealand business, approximately 75 people are employed directly by Grasslands. Of the fteen farms, six are managed and nine are contract milked. “By invitation, we allow our contract milkers and managers to become shareholders in Grasslands and six of our contract milkers or senior managers are shareholders now,” says Simon. “We put a lot of focus on people growing their own wealth and working their way towards farm ownership. We talk a lot about what people are doing with their pro ts, particularly from a contract milker point of view and how they can get to a stage of owning Grasslands’ Canterbury business originally comprised 1,608 hectares running 19,500 stock units, which were mainly Merino sheep in Hororata. their own farm. We have two contract milkers who have been through our system and now own farms themselves. Progressive people are the people we are after to look after our farms.” Signi cantly more science needs to be brought to the table when making the kinds of decisions announced in the Freshwater NPS 2020 legislation, says Grasslands’ New Zealand CEO Simon Le Heron. New Zealand owned and operated, Grasslands is a highly successful dairy farming business with signi cant dairy operations in Canterbury, Southland and the United States. Freshwater NPS 2020 requires a freshwater soluble nitrate level of 2.4 mg per litre in lowland streams. “In my view the 2.4mg/litre is not a sciencebased target. The Government is making an emotional decision based upon what they think the target should be. T he starting point is we don’t really know what the impact is going to be yet or what it translates through to in terms of what physical on-farm changes will be required to meet the freshwater quality standards. It will require a change of some level in terms of the intensity that Grasslands currently farms at — not that I believe we are intense by any stretch of the imagination. Those sorts of changes could look like a 20 – 30% reduction in our herd, but the simple answer is we don’t really know.” Simon points to Mike Joy’s recent paper that talks about 11,000 litres of water for every kilogram of milk solids and says that is another example of an emotion-based perspective that outlines the problem without presenting any outline of a solution. “The reality is you cannot just stop farming cows and still expect the world to live. There has to be a solutions-based approach, and until we start to think about that, any restrictions we impose on productivity will just make us worse off globally. Is the 2.4 mg/litre doable? Yes, it is probably achievable, but at what cost? That is the balance we need to think about as an industry and as a country. But, a solutions-based “By invitation, we allow our contract milkers and managers to become shareholders.” LEESTON: (03) 324 3752 NORTH CANTERBURY: (03) 313 6104 Proud to support Grasslands