Now a mentor for Dairy Connect, the DairyNZ farmer-to-farmer support service, Ged says having a network to fall back on is crucial for farmers, particularly in challenging times.
“The biggest thing is to have a network – that’s the handiest thing,” says Ged. “To be able to pick the phone up and talk to someone you know who’s been through that sort of thing.”
Ged has been through downturns in the 1980s and joined Dairy Connect as a mentor to help any young farmers who might be facing their first big financial challenge right now. “I thought I could have a yack to guys one-on-one, see where I could help.”
Born and bred in the city, Ged followed the traditional herd assistant-sharemilker-farm owner path. Now Ged and wife Kay have their daughter and son-in-law Helen and Peter Connole as contract milkers.
Since the reduced milk price, measures have been taken to keep the farm as profitable as possible.
“We dropped 10 percent of the herd last September and we did 10,000kg MS more with the same inputs. This season will be the same or a bit better. A lower stocking rate is a big help. We had 400 cows, we now have 360.”
The farm has a once-a-day herd of young cows which do all the walking but keep condition well and achieve better mating results.
The farm runs a six percent empty rate and an 83 percent six-week in-calf rate.
Traditionally the farm annually brings in 100t maize silage and 50ha silage from the run-off. The 180t PKE (palm kernel expeller) typically fed in early spring and mating won’t be purchased next season.
Approach to next season
Ged says things will be frugal on-farm next season.
“All you need is a working shed, water supply, good races and to feed your cows well,” says Ged. “That said, you still have to look after the animals, you’ll still need to use the vet and provide for those cows. Family is also really important – you have to get out of the place every now and then too.
“When you are full-time hands-on on the farm, having good healthy cows calving and coming in and milking like a train, it’s still very satisfying.”
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy May 2016