The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.
“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us.
“As well as that, I learned that there are plenty of things that will give a better work-life balance for farmers and their staff – and that can actually improve productivity.”
Sam and Jacqui (a qualified lawyer who also contributes time to the Rural Support Trust) moved to Eureka at the start of the 2016/17 season. They continue to factor learnings from MP3 into their decision-making and future planning.
Laying the groundwork
Inspired by MP3, the Owens made the following changes in 2018 and 2019:
- Created weekly and daily ‘jobs to do’ plans.
- Sam completed a Diploma in Agribusiness.
- Experimented with different breeding options.
- Better targeted and timed nitrogen (N) fertiliser use.
- Used ‘less-N’ sires at mating, to reduce N leaching.
- Recycled plastic and silage wrap.
- Planted trees and identified other areas for improvement.
- Updated feed budgets, reducing bought-in feed by 20 percent.
- Continuously updated their sustainable milking plan (SMP).
- Used PaySauce software for wages and tax.
- Used more smartphone tools (timesheets, maps, apps, DairyNZ’s Facts and Figures).
“Those changes are hitting the ground now and we’ll carry on with these,” says Sam.
Transitioning into 2020
Next, year, the Owens intend to:
- transfer SMP data into a farm environment plan (FEP)
- expand their effluent area to catch more runoff
- use a recently acquired small lease block to grow replacements and the herd
- have Sam do further study at Massey or Lincoln.
“Overall,” says Sam, “our future focus will be on improving our profitability while maintaining or improving our environmental footprint.”
The next generation
With his role as a DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leader (DEL) and a board member for the Port Waikato School Camp, Sam’s also got a passion for getting young people into the sector. In his own next generation, daughter Abbie won a significant science fair award this year (see page 22 of this issue) and she and brother Rhys are on board with DairyNZ’s water quality campaign, The Vision is Clear.
“On a recent beach visit for a Surf Life Saving day, they told everybody to pick up one piece of litter each,” says their proud dad.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy December 2019