Growing more green, for more milk
Donna says she and Corrie have stuck to a “keep it simple” approach throughout their farming career.
At its core, and playing a key to holding costs down, is the mantra to “grow more grass and turn it into milk”, capitalising on what will always be the lowest-cost feed source at hand.
“We do use some supplement, about 100t of PKE (175kg/cow/ pa) over summer to help keep condition on cows when they stop eating as much grass over the hottest days, but that’s as far as it goes, and we’re working on a System 2 approach,” says Donna.
That ability to maximise the cheapest feed possible has been aided by committing to the highest quality farm they could.
The free-draining productive flats around Edgecumbe were not the cheapest when they purchased their farm, but they’ve proven the most capable of generating quality grass. “We first had a property at Otakiri, nearer Kawerau, but it was too dry, and another property below sea level that was on a flood plain,” says Donna.
“There are lots of ways to maximise your profit – ours was to buy a quality asset to grow good grass on. You make more profit from day one, which means you can pay off debt earlier and then you’re ahead.”
Today, the property they’ve added to 14 times is “tidy but not highly automated”, reflecting their simple approach, she says.
Growing plenty of grass has enabled them to hold their farm working expenses (note, this excludes unpaid family labour and depreciation, which are operating expenses) at around $2.90/ kg MS over the past few years, pushed up to $3.50/kg MS for the past year.
“But this was largely our decision, opting to take advantage of the higher payout and spend some more on repairs and maintenance than we usually would,” says Donna.
The usual suspects also appear on their list of increased costs, namely electricity, fertiliser, fuel, rates and supplement.