Dairy­ing through the big wet

Hauraki Herald - - RURAL - TERESA RAM­SEY

‘‘It's been wet since March. We're used to wet but that was re­ally wet.’’

Dairy farm­ing in the wet is sec­ond na­ture for con­tract milk­ers Tea­gan Gray and Ash­ley des Lan­des.

But this year’s wet was dif­fer­ent.

Farm­ing on wet soils was one of the rea­sons the Tu­rua farm was cho­sen as one of five fo­cus farms for the P3 Trust, which in­cludes a va­ri­ety of farms with a range of dif­fer­ent soil types.

How­ever, this sea­son has been par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing on the marine clay soil farm, be­cause of the ex­tended wet sea­son.

‘‘It’s been wet since March. We’re used to wet but that was re­ally wet,’’ des Lan­des said.

The cou­ple deal with wet con­di­tions by us­ing a cov­ered con­crete stand-off fa­cil­ity, where 500 cows are placed to re­duce pas­ture dam­age. The stand-off fa­cil­ity comes with its own set of challenges, in­clud­ing cows get­ting sore feet from stand­ing on con­crete and a higher risk of mas­ti­tis.

The fa­cil­ity also puts ex­tra pres­sure on ef­flu­ent man­age­ment, with ef­flu­ent scraped off the pad daily and stored in the ef­flu­ent pond to be spread over the pas­ture when con­di­tions al­low.

‘‘But on the other hand it’s en­vi­ron­men­tally bet­ter be­cause we don’t have leach­ing off the feed pad, which is why there is a change go­ing to sealed sur­faces like con­crete,’’ Gray said.

‘‘At some time in the fu­ture the [wood] chip stand off pads will be non-com­pli­ant be­cause of leach­ing.’’

Gray said stand­ing the cows off the pas­ture was ‘‘con­trol­ling the con­trol­lables’’, which helped them get through the wet sea­son.

‘‘[This] is, to be hon­est, re­ally all we can do in the wet weather.’’

Milk­ing once a day in­stead of the tra­di­tional twice a day also helped them get through the long wet sea­son.

What they lost in pro­duc­tion, they gained by not hav­ing to spend so much on buy­ing in feed and hav­ing cows in bet­ter con­di­tion.

‘‘What we are do­ing now is set- ting us up for the next sea­son,’’ Gray said.

‘‘It’s about look­ing for­ward in the big­ger pic­ture.’’

This is the cou­ple’s third sea­son on Gray’s fam­ily farm.

The prop­erty is owned by her par­ents Neil and Glenda Gray, who re­cently es­tab­lished But­ter­cup Dairies where raw milk from a separate herd of 20 cows on the 170ha prop­erty is sold from a self­ser­vice vend­ing ma­chine.

This is the sev­enth year farm­ing for Gray, 27, who com­pleted a Bach­e­lor of Agri Sci­ence at Massey Uni­ver­sity. des Lan­des, 24, who has com­pleted an agribusi­ness diploma, came sec­ond in the farm man­ager cat­e­gory of the Hau­raki-Auck­land 2016-17 Dairy In­dus­try Awards.

The P3 Trust was formed to in­crease farm prof­itabil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity for the ben­e­fit of the com­mu­nity. Data and com­men­tary about P3 Trust fo­cus farms are in­cluded in a weekly news­let­ter P3 for other farm­ers in the re­gion.


Tu­rua con­tract farm­ers Tea­gan Gray, left, and Ash­ley des Lan­des.

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