Stick to your knitting, it always pays

Once-a-day milking has paid off this season for Penelope and Blair Drysdale at Te Miro, near Norsewood, Penelope writes.

IT’S HARD SOMETIMES to stick to your knitting, with so many systems on offer on how to gain more with less in the dairying industry: autumn calve, spring calve, split calve, once-a-day, 16 hours, regen, conventional, organic…. and the list goes on.

What works one year, won’t the next, what works on one farm, won’t on the neighbours’. The grass is always greener mentality can be a hard one to get away from, but if you stick to your knitting and roll with it, your system will pay off.

Once-a-day paid huge dividends for us at Te Miro this season, with the relentless rain making conditions very challenging, we still felt like we were on top with our once-a-day system. We’ve been once-a-day for seven seasons now and some years it has been little bit temping to think about putting the cows back on twice a day, just to squeeze that bit extra out of them. Some years we’ve felt maybe with our once-a-day system we were capitalising on a good pay-out or a good season. But we are sound believers that if you stick to what works for you it always pays off in the end.

With already over 700mm of rain this year, and well over two metres last year, it put massive pressure on our cows, our paddocks and on us. Being once-a-day we knew we had taken as much pressure off our cows, our people and our pastures as we could. The cows milked well and we remained well ahead of last season, which wasn’t a comment we were hearing from many.

Lameness was still an issue but we managed to keep on top of it using natural remedies and careful management. Our empty rate was well up on last year at 9% (from a less than nine weeks’ mating) it was still a great result for us given the challenging conditions we had.

They say slow and steady wins the race. The cows may have only peaked at 1.6kg milksolids (kgMS), but they remained doing this for months and now are doing 1.1kg MS late in the season on an all-grass system. But we are happy with this, our cows are in great condition going into the winter and we feel great about how our system has performed for us this year and how well set up for next season we are.

Production isn’t a key driver for us, but our system must still be the most profitable we can make it. Happy healthy farm = happy healthy cows = happy healthy farmer. That’s what drives us in our organic once-a-day system; a whole ecosystem approach.

We have owned Te Miro Farm for five years, our first farm, in Norsewood at the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges. We are organic and will be fully certified this October, and running a once-a-day system fits in well with the organics.

We have a farm vision to regenerate a thriving ecosystem at Te Miro and everything we do is aimed at achieving this. We have two children Billie (8) and Joe (6) who are homeschooled and we love everything about working with our kids by our side, however challenging it may be at times!

Environmental restoration is a large part of what we do, and we have had a community project running for four years restoring 18 hectares of land along the Manawatu River. This project has led to the building of a wananga nursery onfarm, where we propagate all our own native seedlings with seed gathered from on the farm.

This year we have grown roughly 10,000-plus plants in the nursery with half of them gifted to the local school for a fundraiser and local hapu restoration projects. These connections with the local school and hapu will continue on as we work towards regenerating a thriving ecosystem and allowing opportunities for reconnection and education.

We love the individuality of farmers and farms and the opportunities we have to learn from each other along the way. We have a bit of a saying “we’ll do us and you do you”.