AUGUST 2018 New Zealand Having farmed through some pretty severe droughts down here, I can identify with the problems they are facing.” While understandably reluctant to give advice, Olin does place emphasis on having a plan in place to farm through difficult times: “You can’t micro manage a drought and you can’t keep watching every cloud and hoping there’s rain in it. My attitude has always been to have a rolling plan from week to week, with a plan of further action if it hasn’t rained in two weeks’ time. Questions around destocking and increased supplementation are obvious elements to be considered. I did find out quickly that while the grass is burnt there’s still some feed and dry matter value in that dried out pasture. Cows can often be more content than if the grass is there in abundance and it is pouring rain. So utilisation of available grass is very high. We tend to keep up the rotation and then introduce silage as necessary. Because the drought came early in Ireland the cows are still milking well, so adding extra feed makes sense as long as the milk price justifies the cost. When we get a late drought in New Zealand we tend to go once-a-day milking to reduce feed demand and maintain body condition score. Give me a dry summer over a wet winter anytime. You can farm reasonably well through a drought but a wet time really stresses everyone and there are decisions to be made almost every hour about paddocks and poaching and so on, as Irish farmers experienced last spring. It’s really the lesser of two evils.” A calving onslaught The phone call to New Zealand found Olin with a head torch attached as he monitored a cow calving in one of the paddocks: “It’s early night-time and temperatures have dropped to two degrees. The cow has just delivered a lovely Jersey heifer calf. We’ll get some colostrum into the calf and her mother will be ready for the milking shed in the morning.” The new farm has a two hundred and twenty hectare milking platform. It’s a relatively new farm being converted from forestry and scrub land just thirty years ago. The soil is able to take a lot of water without flooding but there is a flip side as Olin points out: “In the summer, with the high soil temperatures things can get very dry with an impact on grass growth. But that’s more than made up for in the wetter times of the year when there is less risk of poaching than on the previous farm. At the moment (July 16) we have 2300 kgs of grass cover so we are in a good position. Remarkably, despite the stress of being loaded onto cattle trailers for the two hour journey to the new farm, the cows are in good health and calving without difficulties. Condition score is on target with upwards of two hundred due to calve by July 20.” A family farm One of the non-business reasons for choosing this particular farm was because of its proximity to services, including schools, shops and hospitals. The two Greenan boys, Jack and Noah, are approaching school-going age and that was an important consideration, with the town of Hamilton close by. The family home is also much closer to the farmyard, making it easier to keep an eye on the boys while also getting on with farmwork. Olin and Anna place a lot of emphasis on the value of farm family life and the opportunity to integrate the family fully into what happens on the farm. Strong targets The initial share milking contract is for five years. The Greenans own the six hundred and fifty cow herd and the farm owners do not live on the farm so most of the management is in the Greenans’ hands. There are regular updates of progress with an advisor on behalf of the owners. It is a bigger farm platform that the previous farm near Auckland so there are more opportunities to grow the business: “There are extra challenges as well. We have another labour unit, a Sri Lankan man, in addition to Paddy from Kilkenny and Padraig from Waterford. Our targets for the coming season include producing eleven hundred kilos MS per hectare, that’s a total of 242,000 kilos of milk solids across the entire farm. I’m feeling some of the pain for Irish farmers as they struggle through the drought. Having farmed through some pretty severe droughts down here, I can identify with the problems they are facing. The actual budget is for 220,000 kilos so we hope to surpass that. Other targets include seventy eight per cent in-calf rate at ten weeks with less than six per cent empty rate.” There are also solid financial targets to be reached so that the whole exercise makes good profitable sense. Fourteen tonnes of forage utilised per hectare is another realisable target for the Greenan operation. That figure includes maize silage produced on the farm. Challenges ahead The milk price outlook for the coming season is positive, according to Olin: “Fonterra have come out strongly, with a seven NZ dollar indicative price for the year ahead. This may reflect some pricing competition from other processors with a Canterbury-based processor planning to develop a site in the Waikato region in the coming period. The government has put constraints on immigration so it is becoming more difficult to secure labour. We have developed a bio-security plan for the farm because of the ongoing issue with M. Bovis. So there are plenty of new challenges for us as well as getting familiar with our new farm.” 17