Words by: Denise Knop

I’m a firm believer it’s important to surround yourself with positive people, who not only motivate you but inspire you to strive to constantly do better.

With a number of challenges facing the dairy sector, I believe this is more important than ever, and we need to continue supporting each other towards our vision of being the best in the world.

After all, as Nelson Mandela said, “none of us, acting alone, can achieve success”.

Many of you are always willing to offer advice to other farmers on what works well for you, sharing your learnings at discussion groups or opening your farm gates, and this is something that makes me proud to be a part of the dairy sector.

I’ve seen this taken to the next level here in Northland in a cross-sector project called Extension 350.

The farmer-led project, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, aims to lift the sustainability, onfarm performance and wellbeing across 350 farms in the region.

While that may sound an aspirational goal, two years into the three-year project, we’re already seeing some good results.

The project involves partnering a core group of ‘target farms’ with ‘mentor farms’ to help them achieve their goals. They also have the added support of a farm consultant and dairy, or beef and lamb, representative for advice. These target farms then share their learnings with other farmers in the region.

Farmer-to-farmer learning invaluable

Whangarei dairy farmers Hamish and Kiri Finlayson run one of the target farms involved in Extension 350. The couple are partnered with nearby farmer Des Going, whose advice they say has been invaluable.

“He’s really helped us and has great ideas,” Kiri says.

The support the couple have received has seen them make significant improvements through making small changes over a two year period.

Their cow numbers, milk production and in-calf rates are up, they’re managing their grazing better and debt is down.

They now have their sights set on further improvements, including how they can do more to look after the environment.

“Being involved in the project has made us look at ourselves and think ‘where do we want to be, and how do we get there. It’s helped us determine our vision, which is to be the best we can be,” Kiri says. The couple are excited about what further improvements they can make in the third year of the project, and beyond.

They encouraged other farmers in the region to consider getting involved in the project.

For those keen to find out more, contact your local consulting officer. Alternatively, keep any eye on the DairyNZ events webpage to attend a field day near you in April or May.

  • Denise Knop is a DairyNZ consulting officer based in Whangarei.