Looking back, moving forward

2 December 2019

Five farmers featured in Inside Dairy in 2019 tell us about their year, where they’re heading in 2020 and what they’d like others to know about dairy farmers and the dairying sector.

Mark and Vicki Meyer – Tangiteroria, Northland

Most proud of in 2019?

“On the farming front, we’re proud of how we managed to turn around our end of 2018/19 season. We’d ended up slightly down in production, due to minimal rain in autumn and a lack of grass growth.

“We’d been staring down the barrel of going into winter with skinny cows and not enough pasture for feed. We bit the bullet and made the hard decision to dry off the cows earlier than normal, which enabled us to get cows off grazing earlier and build cover here on the farm. This worked well, as we had awesome winter growth.

“As a result, the farm is going well at the moment. Logan (farm manager) is doing a great job in running the farm; he’s even still getting time to go off fishing!

“On the family front, we had a fantastic two-week family holiday to Hawaii in April and May. This was great to get away and recharge.

“We’re pretty proud of our kids’ sports performances this year too.”

Top of your 2020 ‘to-do’ list?

“On the farming front, we want to get Logan into a contract milking position on our farm. We have always wanted to try and step back from the day-to-day running of the farm.

“For the family, supporting the kids as much as possible is a top priority. Next year, we’ll go from having four kids at school to only having two. It’s fantastic to be part of their journeys.”

Biggest challenge facing our sector?

“There’s a wave of change coming through the agricultural scene: government-led change, sector change, regional change. As farmers, we’re all trying our hardest to understand this change and how it is going to affect us individually and collectively.

“While we don’t necessarily agree with all of the change, we are trying to work our way through it, so that we can still farm in a profitable and sustainable way, both environmentally and socially.”

One thing you’d like non-farmers to know?

“Something we always think about when we leave the cowshed in the morning is that our milk is going to be turned into a product that is going to feed someone, somewhere around the world.

“That, to us, is a pretty awesome feat. Not every person can say that.”

Cheyenne Wilson – Tuhoe and Ngati Awa. Lincoln, Canterbury

Most proud of in 2019?

“Finishing managing the Culverden farm for the 2018/19 season was a huge milestone for me. I also recently graduated from the Agri-Women’s Development Trust Next Level course. It was great to have such an amazing course available for rural women and supported by sector organisations.”

Top of your 2020 ‘to-do’ list?

“Making the most of my first year of [Lincoln] University and continuing to grow my network in the primary industries. I want to set myself up well for when I start my business working with rangatahi (youth), supporting them to get into roles in the primary sector.”

Biggest challenge facing our sector?

“Mental wellness. There are always stress factors on-farm but, at the moment, farmers are feeling more pressure.

“I am proud to be an advocate for Farmstrong and be involved with the work they are doing around the wellbeing of farmers.”

(Farmstrong is a nationwide wellbeing programme for the rural community. For more details see farmstrong.co.nz and also see our article on page 15 of this issue.)

One thing you’d like nonfarmers to know?

“I would love for people to understand the work farmers do in their communities, sometimes perhaps behind the scenes and unnoticed. I think the social impact of the work farmers are doing isn’t recognised, as it’s too hard to measure.”

Marc and Nia Jones – Tokoroa, South Waikato

Most proud of in 2019?

“One of our proudest achievements this year, and indeed in our career so far, was winning the Waikato Share Farmer of the Year title [at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards – see photo on right]. We were also national runners-up in our first year entering.

“One of our other highlights was expanding our family. We had our second child in July, called Hadli Gruff [joining daughter Etta]. Our goal is to grow our family and business simultaneously.”

Top of your 2020 ‘to-do’ list?

“Secure another job that will help us grow towards our goals. In what shape or form, we’re not sure yet.

“We’d also like to upskill as much as possible in the environmental space, to help steer our own future and that of the next generation.”

Biggest challenge facing our sector?

“The environmental space and continuously improving animal welfare. We need to consider these along with the long-term profitability of our businesses, and within that, give all our generations of farmers the confidence to prosper and grow in this current climate.

“We need to demonstrate all the good things we do, making farming attractive for the younger generations to ensure a strong and positive industry for the future.”

One thing you’d like non-farmers to know?

“That we want a better New Zealand by having prosperous communities and a lower impact on the environment without sacrificing social and economic wealth.

“Our pioneering generation did a lot for the growth of this country, and there might have been a few poor decisions made environmentally, but they didn’t have the science to know any different in them days.

“So, as today’s farmers, we’re aware of the need to aim for a more sustainable farming model and kick ass on all these environmental goals. Our farming generation’s legacy is to leave New Zealand and its people in a better state.”

Jilly and Karl Haywood – Methven, Canterbury

Most proud of in 2019?

“We’re most proud of increasing our 6-week in-calf rate by seven percent (from 64 percent to 71 percent). We didn’t use any intervention and the weather through mating was terrible. Putting our lower body condition score cows onto once-a-day milking five weeks prior to mating, and feeding molasses, contributed hugely.

“We’re also proud that we had a 99 percent in-calf rate in our heifers – but we did use a CIDR synchro programme with them.”

Top of your 2020 ‘to-do’ list?

“Our goal is to be more proactive in increasing public awareness and transparency of our dairy farming business. We’d like to start a social media presence allowing people to have an insight into the daily lives of our cows.

“We’d also like to invite people on to the farm to see what we do, starting by inviting a Christchurch school out for a farm visit.”

Biggest challenge facing our sector?

“Public perception and government regulation putting unsustainable financial, social and emotional pressure on farmers and our reputation. We’re responding by continuing to do the best we can for our animals and environment, for example by protecting our waterways through better management practices and reducing the number of bobby calves we send.

“Transparency and education will improve public support for dairy farming and that’s the motivation behind our goal for 2020.”

One thing you’d like non-farmers to know?

“We genuinely deeply care about our animals, environment and people. Our role (and our purpose) is to protect and nurture our environment and our livestock to ensure a farming future for generations to come.

“Farming can be extremely tough with the long hours, isolation and exposure to unpredictable forces such as weather and disease, but it’s our love of the animals, and the land that we farm, that drives us.”

Phil and Becky Wilson – Oamaru, Otago

Most proud of in 2019?

“We had a really good production year for 2018/19 and we have a good team culture on-farm.

“Environmentally, we carried out planting to enhance challenging areas on-farm and we also put in a sediment trap.

“On a personal note – our fourth child Elliott arrived in July.”

Top of your to-do list for 2020?

“Keep running a sustainable farming business and keep our good team environment going. We will continue to help our staff set and reach their goals, so they can be proud of what they achieve on- and off-farm.

“We’ll also continue to support their personal goals and aspirations; and spend time with them socially – whether that’s 10-pin bowling, playing touch rugby or sharing a meal.”

Biggest challenge facing our sector?

“The public’s perception of us from every angle. We’ve also got cyclists coming through our land [via the Alps to Ocean/A2O cycle trail] who see what we do over the fence. We’ve all got things we can improve on and nutrient limits we need to stick to.

“We want to keep the business sustainable, and apply that approach to our environment, animals and people.”

One thing you’d like non-farmers to know?

“I’d invite them to come and see what we do and encourage them to talk to farmers. Farming is what we eat and breathe and we are proud of what we do.

“More farmers and local communities are becoming more environmentally aware, which is great. It takes all stakeholders to contribute to get momentum for improvement.

“We’re all just caretakers of the land, really.”

This article was originally published in Inside Dairy December 2019


Media inquiries:

Vanessa Fever

Senior Communications and Media Specialist

Phone 027 836 6295


Lee Cowan

Senior Engagement & Communications Manager

Phone 021 930 836


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