Meet DairyNZ’s Scott Farm Team
We talk to Ben Fisher, farm manager at DairyNZ’s Scott Farm near Hamilton. The team’s combined focus on farming and research provides them with unique challenges and rewards.
What does the Scott Farm Team do overall?
I get people looking wide-eyed at me when I say we’re a team of seven managing a 360-cow farm – normally you’d only need two, maybe three people. We do everything commercial dairy farmers do, but on a research farm, it’s at a more intense level. For example, we herd-test every week and check liveweights and body condition scores every fortnight.
While we do all the usual farm jobs, we also get to be a part of the research side, taking what farmers have told us they want investigated and making that happen.
What are the specific roles in the team?
I have two senior farm assistants and a group of four farm assistants who are school leavers and university graduates. It’s a great team with lots of different strengths.
We all work across the different projects and I try to share the farm duties around the team as much as possible so everyone is learning what it takes to run a dairy farm.
How does the farm team’s work fit in with the research being done on the farm?
We’re a key part of putting the research theory into practice. We have multiple research projects running on the farm at any one time. The largest project currently underway is the three- year Forage Value Index Validation (FVIV) project. It involves 10 individual herds of 14 cows per herd; each herd is managed as its own independent farmlet and the paddocks are spread around the farm.
It takes three to four people every day to get all the groups of cows to and from the cowshed and then back to their specific paddocks. Then there’s all the break fencing and feeding out needed to ensure each herd gets its specific needs. During calving we have lactating and dry cows, so we can have up to 30 herds to manage, in and around all the project work.
What are you and your team most proud of in relation to your achievements recently?
We’re most proud of the way we work together and our team culture – everyone gets on really well and works hard to support each other. We’re also really proud to be part of the hands-on side of research that is working towards positive change for New Zealand’s dairy farmers.
How can people find out more?
DairyNZ has multiple projects underway at Scott Farm and its neighbour Lye Farm – you can find out more at dairynz.co.nz/research
Where possible, DairyNZ also occasionally hosts visits for groups of farmers (by arrangement) and we hold open days at our research farms.
It’s also worth looking at dairynz.co.nz/careers – working on our research farms provides a great stepping stone into dairying.
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