Application of new technology has allowed Nic and Kirsty Verhoek to ride out the challenges of the season.


Entering our third year of writing for the Dairy Exporter, it has been good to look back on our past articles. June 2020 was about ‘logistics in lockdown’ where the excitement of a new season, new farm and new home was turned on its head with the emergence of Covid-19. June 2021 was about ‘breaking barriers’ and finding opportunities in the face of challenges within the industry. And then there is June 2022: ‘limping into next season’.

The 2021-22 season has been a challenge for us and continues to be so with the lack of any significant rainfall since late December in the Waikato. Pasture and winter crop growth rates are flailing, pasture covers are well behind target for planned start of calving, production for the season is down by 10%, and expenses are up by 10%.

We were fortunate that we got in some early winter crops which, despite the lack of rain and moisture stress, have at least provided us with some feed for dry cows. Most importantly, cows are drying off at target body condition. This is satisfying knowing we have almost reached our goal of relying on 100% homegrown feed and by-products while still being a system 5.

If you were to ignore our seasonal challenges, one aspect on the up has been onfarm technology.

We are now four months into having Halter onfarm and it is really coming into its own, especially with the wintering of dry cows. No more break fences! No longer are fences and reels being balanced on motorbikes.

It has meant we are able to back fence animals efficiently and therefore get a second go at growing additional feed by redrilling behind the cows. We still have people slowing down and doing a double-take with cows keeping behind a virtual fence that isn’t visible to the eye.

No longer do cows bellow or come to the gate when it comes to shifting as they no longer associate human presence with a new allocation of feed. Staff hours have already decreased markedly with the use of the technology onfarm – which ticks one of our goals of being able to give time back to our staff. We are excited to be going into calving and seeing what Halter can do for us and our farm.

We are entering our third season of 50/50 sharemilking and while we have had our challenges, we have been fortunate to have a great relationship with our farm owner and his full support. We are also entering the second year of our lease block which we use for grazing heifer replacements and beefies.

Again, we are fortunate to have a great relationship with our lease block owner. The ability to have full control over the feeding and therefore growing of our heifer replacements is crucial to having them come into the herd at a target exceeding 500kg liveweight. Even while in a drought, we can feed them to their requirements (even if it does make our pockets lighter in the process) which will pay dividends down the track.

As tradition has dictated, we also got off-farm for the opening of the duck hunting season. This is always met with much enthusiasm by the whole family.

There is nothing quite like kids racing around blowing duck callers all day. This time away always freshens us up and gets us ready for the new dairy season ahead. The only downside was coming home to find it drier than when we left. Fingers crossed the break in the weather is around the corner.