With calving in full swing last month at the NZ Young Farmers-owned dairy farm in Auckland, a major upgrade to the operation’s effluent system was about to be put to the test.
The Donald Pearson Farm Board’s chair Julie Pirie says about 135 cows were wintered on the 74ha property, up from 115 last season.
And 43 in-calf Jersey heifers arrived on-farm in late-May, bought from the estate of the late Bobbie Backhouse. “The heifers are in the top five per cent for Breeding Worth and are some of the country’s best Jersey genetics.
“The majority were in-calf to an AB mating. Many have had heifers, which is excellent,” says Julie. “We already have more than 30 replacement heifer calves.”
The herd produced 26,370 kgMS in the 2018-2019 season, with production hampered by a wet winter and dry summer. But this season is off to a promising start.
“Milk production is up 50 per cent on the same time last season,” says Julie. “The new heifers are settling in well. The herd is being fed a blend of pellets with added minerals through the in-shed feed system.”
And farm manager Tom Ruki is using the covered stand-off pad to feed grass silage to the cows and protect pastures from damage.
“Tom’s using that facility really well. The cows are in good condition and things are looking a lot better than they were at this time last year,” says Julie.
“Our focus now is on getting as much milk in the vat as possible before the farm dries out in summer.”
A major upgrade to the farm’s effluent system is complete – with a new, fully-lined pond built to handle effluent from the 11-aside herringbone milking shed.
It’s connected to pods and a travelling irrigator, which utilise the valuable effluent to fertilise the soil and grow more grass. “We now have a big amount of storage. The cost of the upgrade is not finalised yet, but it looks to be around $150,000,” says Julie.
Graduates working at Fonterra have been assisting the Donald Pearson Farm Board with long-term planning for the farm. They’ve looked at how the farm can be used as an education tool and to improve the connection between rural and urban people. “They’ve taken ideas from an open day earlier this year and the board’s thoughts. We hope to see some exciting proposals put forward,” says Julie.
The graduates’ report was to be presented to the Donald Pearson Farm Board meeting on August 29.