Contract milkers Greg and Robyn Boswell say it’s not just about the staff who work at on the Tainui Road farm – it’s also about the support those people receive from their wives and children. Putting whaanau first is fundamental to keeping everyone positive and working well on the 240 hectare (ha) farm, especially at the busiest time of the year.
“Monitoring the hours worked during calving is important,” says Robyn. “It’s all about sustaining the team. We use the same roster throughout calving. Our guys are staunch, but if I see the hours are creeping up, I can say ‘time to go home’ – then Greg and I will finish up.”
Farm assistant Ty Wehi and senior farm assistant Tua Heke log their hours on their phones using an AgriSmart app which Robyn tracks on her computer.
To make calving less stressful, the Boswells have changed their milking regime, milking mixed-age cows morning and night, and the transition colostrum cows just before lunch. This season the Boswells have 150 first-time calvers being milked once-a-day all year.
“Milking this way means staff hours aren’t pushed to the limit, the health of our livestock is closely monitored and we get better growth rates with the first-time calvers. Plus, everyone gets home in time to eat with their families,” says Robyn.
“One of the things Greg and I treasured when our own children were small was the ability to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with them, and that’s something we foster with the families who work for us.”
Robyn, who handles the calf rearing, says setting up a cow for a long, productive life starts at calving. This year Robyn will rear 150 replacement calves and the rest (Friesian and Hereford bull calves) will be finished on a new rearing facility at Ruakura either for the beef market or for use as service bulls.
Tainui Group Holdings' values
Mahi Tahi (teamwork)
We work as one to deliver great business outcomes.
Manaakitanga (care in our work)
We take care in our work, for each other, our whaanau iwi and community.
We diligently protect, grow and sustain tribal wealth.
Pono Me Te Tika (honesty and integrity)
We build trust by being honest, open and respectful in everything we do.
Clever calving: Greg and Robyn's top tips
- Have a planning meeting so the team knows what to expect.
- Clean and disinfect trailers, feeding equipment and calf sheds before calving starts.
- Lay fresh bedding for calves.
- Have a snack jar at the dairy shed so staff never go hungry.
- Keep communicating well so everyone knows what's happening in the team.
Get more great calving advice at dairynz.co.nz/calving
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy August 2018