Farm Profiles View Latest Profiles

Back to farm profiles

Maori Trust grows business, generates returns

Maori Trust grows business, generates returns

2013/14 Season

Owners: Otanemutu Trust
Farm location: Opape
Farm size: 209 ha
Herd size: 480
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P0891 and P0791

The Trust administers five blocks with a total of just under 1,350 Maori shareholders and farms a total of 209 ha at Opape, 12 km east of Opotiki. The Trust's goals are twofold - to generate good returns for its shareholders and to grow the business. Each year 20% of the net profit is paid back to shareholders with the remainder earmarked for business growth. This is currently directed to the development of a 163 ha (eff.) dairy block and diversification into kiwifruit.

The dairy operation was run by sharemilkers up until the 2010-11 season when the Trust made the decision to purchase their own cows. The farm is now run by Farm Manager Aaron Johnston with the help of Farm Consultant Graham Hill.

"The trustees wanted more control so the farm could be further developed. Their budgeted target was to produce 120,000 kgMS even though the farm had only averaged 111,500 kgMS over the previous 11 years" says Aaron. "We blew that out of the water and produced 143,000 kgMS in the first year".

The farms' 480 cow, mainly Friesian herd, had already reached 140,000 kgMS in February 2014 and is on track to produce 165,000 kgMS (344 kgMS/cow or 1,012 kgMS/ha) in the 2013-14 season.

In their first season under new management, the Trust pulled together a herd of 410 cows from about six farms. A large area of the farm is steep hill country which used to be covered in gorse so they also purchased around 60 carryover cows. These were used to clean up the steeper country ahead of the milkers.

“You can make a carryover cow work really hard and she will still be in condition score 6 at calving” says Graham. “If you do the same with a beef animal it won’t do very well”.

“Their budgeted target was to produce 120,000 kgMS”. “We blew that out of the water and produced 143,000 kgMS in the first year.”

The carryovers come out of the herd, or are purchased in the late autumn and then sold 12 months later as in-calf cows, or brought back into the herd the following spring.

“We only buy or keep younger empties and each cow gets just one chance in the carryover herd” says Aaron. “Cows which turn up empty a second time are gone so we don’t breed infertility into the herd”.

Cows calve from 1 July onwards and are fed maize silage from calving through to mating and then a mix of maize silage supplemented with palm kernel until early December, when the grass really takes off. Maize silage feeding starts again in April when the new crop is in the stack and continues until around 20 June.

“We make two above-ground maize silage stacks – one for late lactation and one for the spring” says Aaron. “It’s easier to manage two stacks than opening and closing one big stack”.

Each year the farm plants around 14 ha of maize on two dedicated cropping paddocks on the run-off, and one milking platform paddock which has been tagged for pasture renewal. This season they have planted Pioneer® brand P0891 on the run-off and Pioneer® brand P0791 at home.

“We plant Pioneer® brand hybrids because we get high yielding crops with a good grain content, as well as excellent technical back-up from our Pioneer representative Robin Billett” says Aaron. “This year the paddock of P0791 behind my house yielded 29 tDM/ha”.

Aaron used maize silage before he came to the Otanemutu Trust farm and he believes it will always have a place in the Trust’s farming system.

“Maize silage is great for putting weight on the cows at the end of the lactation and excellent for filling feed deficits and driving milk production in the spring”.