Moo-ve to vending machines
When John Vosper started rubbing peppermint cream on to his cows’ udders to treat mastitis and drenching his cows with apple cider vinegar his old man was ‘‘ reasonably reluctant’’ about converting the farm, which had been in the family since 1916, to an organic dairy farm.
‘‘He was reasonably reluctant at first but is quite happy about it now,’’ he said.
Vosper changed from conventional farming to organic on the suggestion of his wife, Liz MacKay, after she had gone to a Fonterra field day on the subject in 2002.
Before this they had been running 270 cows on 80ha conventionally – 40ha their own and 40ha leased since 1999.
Now they run 256 pedigree jerseys on 85ha, including a support farm in Gordon for the yearlings.
The one thing Vosper hasn’t changed over the years is the breed of cow they farm.
‘‘It is a family story that my great- great- grandfather walked the first jerseys into Matamata from Taranaki with many river crossings.’’
The farm is also very much a family affair, as Vosper leases half the farm from his uncle who lives on the farm; his parents and a cousin also live on the farm.
Vosper said one of the biggest challenges of being an organic dairy farmer was the cost and time spent on compliance.
‘‘I know four farmers who have gone back to conventional farming locally and nine in the Fonterra programme who have gone back because of that.’’
Instead of common brand name teat spray, Vosper uses a commercial mixture of fish oil and tea tree oil. Soil fertility is maintained by regular applications of composted chicken manure.
Animal waste is also an issue; if he has to treat an animal with antibiotics he has to then sell it and not many people are looking to buy one cow at a time.
This means they have to be more proactive with animal health, mineral supplements and feed supply, as rectifying mistakes can be very costly, his son Michael who sharemilks for him, said.
Fonterra’s premium of $ 1.05 doesn’t offset the compliance costs and production limitations so this has inspired Vosper to buy his own pasteuriser and vending machines.
He will soon pasteurise and bottle milk on farm which will be sold in vending machines in Matamata and Tauranga.
Vosper doesn’t think there is big demand for more organic farmers from Fonterra but he does say that farmers should integrate a mix of the best practices of both organic and conventional dairy farming.
Converting to organic has influenced more than his farming style.
‘‘We are more aware of pesticide residues in food and the advantage of having certified organic food is that it gives you a guarantee, we are more conscious of what can be in our food and eat less preservatives and less processed foods.’’
He hasn’t hippy though.
‘‘We don’t dance naked under the moon,’’ he said.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Many members of John Vosper’s family, including son Michael, left, work on his organic dairy farm.