Farming with the Hopsons

From left is Toby Hopson 3, Brendan Hopson 32, Tessa Hopson 32, Ollie Hopson 1, Mitchell Young 24, Jaxon Young 1 and Sam Henson 23. Photo: Catherine Fry

Waikato farmers Tessa and Brendan Hopson are in their fifth season of dairy farming in an equity partnership/lower order sharemilking.

In June 2022, they will be moving into a 50/50 sharemilking role on the farm of Tessa’s parents, Stuart and Kaaren Davey.

Both Brendan and Tessa were raised on dairy farms, but Brendan did a building apprenticeship and Tessa studied Tourism Management before they turned to farming.

Their current 108-hectare equity partnership farm peak milks 315 cows and is a production system 3 farm. They grow maize, turnips and make grass silage from surplus grass. PK, DDG and tapioca blend is bought in to feed on the feed pad.

Brendan and one other full-time staff member run the farm with Tessa doing the calving and bookwork and raising the couple’s two young boys, Toby 3 and Ollie 1.

“When we move to the 50/50 sharemilking role, we’ll be milking 650 kiwi-cross cows through a 50-bale rotary shed. We’ll have 215-hectares and run another system 3 farm as that’s what we know and have experience with,” says Brendan.

Tessa grew up on the farm they are moving to, and her grandfather cleared the peat and swamp and broke in the land. When her parents’ long-term sharemilker moved on, Tessa and Brendan took the opportunity presented to them.

Trying new things

Until this season, the R1 calves had been leaving on December 1 to be grazed off farm, taking away a certain extent of control over their growth. This season, the Hopsons grew five hectares of chicory on farm to graze 86 calves, supplemented with PK and grass silage.

“We did have to take them off at some points as the severe drought we have had this season meant the chicory couldn’t keep up, so we’ve learnt from that,” Brendan says.

Despite that, the calves have still gained good weight over the summer, reaching 27kg over target weights. Using modern Gallagher supplied weighing scales on a regular basis has been a game changer for them.

“Being able to weigh your stock frequently gives you data to use to make informed decisions and improvements in your business’s performance and adjust feed as required,” Tessa says.

“We’ve kept 60 hectares of our current farm as a support block for the new farm to keep young stock nearby,” Brendan says.

In 2022 as the drought progressed, they tried three milkings over two days, bringing the cows in at 5.30am and 5.30pm on day one and 10am on day two.

“It will definitely be an option for the future with the 650 cows as we can split them to get the best efficiency over the summer and avoid the heat of the day which is better for stock and staff.

Passion for the industry

The young couple are passionate about dairy farming and are wholeheartedly behind the industry. They have previously entered the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA), winning the 2020 Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmer of the Year Award, and are currently on the committee.

“It’s a good way to push you out of your comfort zone and find your direction and we support our staff to have a crack at it,” Tessa says.

In the 2022 NZDIA awards, their assistant farm manager Mitchell Young 24, was a finalist in his category, and took home the Auckland/Hauraki DIA Emerging Talent Award.

The couple run their own Facebook page - Farming with the Hopsons. As well as day-to-day life on their farm, they also promote products that have impressed them, and support their suppliers and contractors.

“We’ve seen the dairy industry get a bad rap in the past and we want to show what a wonderful and positive industry it is,” Tessa says.

The Hopsons will have four families living on the new farm, with all the staff aged under 30, and all having children under six.

“We’ve participated in an Ignite leadership course with Rural Coach as we don’t just want to tell our staff what to do, but coach them and understand different learning styles. We’ll be having a team coaching session on farm,” Brendan says.

They will be trying a 6/2 roster to keep staff refreshed and keen, with a good family and work life balance.

“We’ll be using auto cup removers, teat spraying and drafting in the new shed, freeing up a labour unit for other work during the day.

Looking ahead, the Hopsons are hoping to match their current 400kg milk solids per cow in their first year on the new farm, rising to 450kg after that.

“We’ve added a new herd with similar characteristics to our current herd and are looking for quality over quantity with an aim to being in the top 5 to 10 per cent for BW and PW in LIC’s Animal Evaluation System,” Brendan says.


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