Big changes to a big operation reap big successes

The 2018 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year, Colin Tremain, with wife Renee and a hungry one-year-old Tahlia. Photo: Merle Foster.

Central Plateau’s 2018 Dairy Manager of the Year Colin Tremain is farm manager for the Tumunui Lands Trust farm at Rotorua.

“Tumunui is huge, it’s developing, it’s a mind game,” says the 30-year-old. “On a good day, it’s unbeatable, there’s nothing like it. On a bad day, it is still unbeatable; you will not win.”

At the region’s Dairy Industry Awards’ field day on March 28 he gave an in-depth insight into how he runs the big operation.

It’s 982ha with 1750-cows, 1100 young stock, with a drystock unit on the back – and 277ha dairy support. It has two 60-bail rotaries with in-shed feeding, and runs as a system 2-3 farm.

The front new shed Colin puts 800 cows through. The other is 20 years old and at peak milks 950 cows.

“I manage all day-to-day operations and because I can’t be split between two sheds we calve all cows through the old shed – up to 70 a day,” says Colin.

“We don’t start the second shed until 900 cows are in. Then it takes 400 mixed age cows.”

Colin has four full-time staff, one part-timer and an extra during spring. “All are on a six-on, two-off rosters – so seldom do you have the same people in shed so having strong procedures and processes in place is key.”

“Last year we achieved 245kgMS per cow so we saw no reason for us to milk twice-a-day,” says Colin, who switched to once-a-day milking.

He’s reaped huge benefits. “Lameness was horrendous last year – a big part of it was the cows were walking up to 12km a day.

“On OAD they’ve halved that. Production – we expected to drop but we’ve had a very good summer and we’re up in our first year of OAD.”

Mating in the past has been poor. “Last year we had a 19 per cent empty rate and 55 per cent six-week in-calf rate.

“This season we 72 per cent six-week in-calf rate and 11 per cent empty rate. It means we’re able to build our herd numbers and cull selectively.”

The Somatic Cell Count has dropped 25 per cent since OAD milking started. “The biggest thing we can put this down to is sheer stress on the cows. They’re just happier.”

Colin says Tumunui is a “stunning place to work” but also very challenging. “It’s big and fast-moving and the logistics side – I enjoy numbers and managing and planning things through in my head so enjoy that mental challenge.

“The personal side of it – I’m married with three children. Some days, especially during spring, I barely see them. My wife Renee can attest to this.”

“One of my biggest challenges is managing work-life balance – it’s still something I work hard on. To step away and actually give my family the time they deserve.”

What does success look like? “Some days it’s getting to the end of the day. But really it’s that the people around me are happy; my wife, my children, my employers, my staff.

“That we’re progressing forward. The farm is still in development stages so it’s ensuring we’re making steps so that we’re in a better position than we were this time last year.”


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