The Cordells aim to run a low cost farm with very little bought in supplements.
- Focus on pasture with attention to detail, i.e. regular farm walks.
- Keep on top of costs by regularly reviewing the budget.
- Regular meetings with the sharemilkers ensures everyone is on the same page.
- Get involved early to understand what changes in regional regulations (One Plan) will mean for your farm.
Stuart and Sandra have been dairy farming for over 20 years through 50:50 sharemilking then farm ownership. They have owned the present farm as equity partners for 15 years and have it well setup physically and financially.
The Cordells have employed sharemilkers for the last nine years. Farm management is left to the current 50:50 sharemilkers Mark and Jaime Arnolds who employ 1.75 FTE. In 2016, the Arnolds won the national Share Farmer of the Year title.
Since employing sharemilkers, Sandra has returned to accountancy and was on the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council from 2011 to 2015. Stuart manages the dry stock block and undertakes casual work including truck driving.
When talk first started about possible nutrient restrictions, Stuart and Sandra believed it important to be involved and know what was likely to happen. Early on they had local dairy farm management consultant Scott Ridsdale from RD Consulting Ltd. to do a “One Plan” for them. This gave them knowledge of what was about to happen as well as providing training for Stuart. Overseer predicts N loss of 27kg/ha/yr. They have fenced off rivers and creeks to reduce soil and nutrient loss to waterways.
The Cordells aim to run a low cost farm with little bought in supplements (80 tonnes DM silage from the runoff and 60 tonnes PKE). They believe for their farm to be financially and environmental successful, “Pasture performance is key to everything” and believe this is also the Arnolds’ attitude. The Arnolds have a growing grass focus and, by being proactive, achieve good profitability through good grass utilisation.
The key is attention to detail
- Stuart and Sandra monitor their financial budget every one to two months.
- Meet with their sharemilkers every four to six weeks when, among other things, pasture cover is discussed.
Production is 350kg MS/cow and 1,100/ha - this year is about two percent behind the previous year. The crossbred cows weigh about 450kg.
Feed demand and supply in a low input system
For the Cordells, the key is to get as much milk as possible from pasture on farm. The exception is when a dry summer causes a deficit and 60 tonnes PKE is budgeted to be bought in and about 80 tonnes DM silage is made on the support block and used if needed to fill the deficit.
Achieving good quality pasture and utilisation
- Measure residuals every week and keep excellent records
- Use the LIC feed wedge and DairyNZ feed gap calculator
- Are prepared to put cows back into paddocks to hit residual targets if needed.
9ha of turnips is grown on the farm for pasture renewal and fed out in February or March to fill the summer feed gap. This year the crop yield was about 12 tonnes DM/ha.
There is no autumn or winter N applied as under One Plan they are not allowed to apply any after 31 March.
After dry off, 80 percent of the cows are removed from the farm to the support block; this removes cows during a low growth period and protects soils from winter pugging.
The support block is also used for young stock, 20 beefies, silage or hay, as well as wintering the cows (eight weeks).