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Adaptation of Dutch farm practice wins top title

27 November 2007

Innovative adaptation of Dutch farming practice wins Winton couple top Lincoln title

Winton-based farmers Abe and Anita de Wolde have won the 2007 Lincoln University Foundation Farmer of the Year title.

The couple operate three Southland farms set to produce over one million kilograms of milk solids this season on 1320 hectares of land, which includes 160ha of forestry.

They won the title and a $15,000 travel award today (27 Nov.) from a field of five finalists in a public presentation at Lincoln University. The category for the 2007 competition was "Innovative Dairying".

The de Woldes´ innovation has been to adapt successfully a traditional Dutch farming concept - indoor wintering of stock - to their Southland dairying system. They emigrated from Holland to New Zealand in 1990.

Their "inside system" consists of a purpose-built free stall barn for housing their cows for two months over winter when the pasture cover drops and pugging starts to occur.

The barn is situated on the milking platform close to the milking shed. Inside the cows are fed silage.

Every cow has a cubicle where she can lie down on a special rubber surface. She is free to lie down, walk around, eat or socialise. Both milking cows and dry cows are housed in the same facility.

The practice has produced a number of benefits and advantages for the de Woldes´ dairying operation including increased lactation length (meaning more milk income), reduced nutrient wastage and more efficient use of feed. In addition all the manure collected (by special automated electric manure scrapers) is stored until spring when it is applied back on to the land by slurry tanker.

With additional property purchases coming on-stream soon, the de Woldes are looking at potentially producing 1.3 million kgs of milk solids next year.

So close was the judging in this year´s 23rd annual Farmer of the Year Contest that the judges decided to award two second prizes, each of $7500.

They went to Wyndham couple Andrew and Jenny Calder and the Ashburton trio of Andy and Tricia Macfarlane plus their Farm Manager Tony Dench.

Innovation on the Calders´ property centres around a state-of-the-art cowshed that allows one person to milk 700 cows in two hours and a whole farm system of automation incorporating many new technologies. For example, DNA testing of all animals has reduced labour requirements both at calving time and mating, as well as giving more accurate results. Each cow is electronically and uniquely identified with individual recordings made for yield, milk health, weight and heat detection. Supplementary feed is delivered in-shed during milking with the system allowing different cows to be fed individual portions of food, generally in relation to the quantity of milk each is producing.

On the Macfarlanes´ Pencarrow Farm their commitment to successful dairying is based around four key objectives - water management, nutrient management, pasture management and extensive use of shelter and biodiversity to improve animal welfare, pasture growth and quality.

Through an innovative management analysis system that has recorded pasture, stock and financial performance information over the past four years, the Macfarlanes have accurate data on which to base present and future decisions.

Through the use of new pasture species technology, a Lincoln University grazing management philosophy to utilise that feed, and other factors such as the maintenance of shelter, excellent staff, good tracks and other means of minimising animal stress, the Macfarlanes and their manager have achieved a high production/high reproductive performance operation.

The Lincoln University Foundation Farmer of the Year Competition is sponsored by Rabobank and Ravensdown, the convenor of judges is Neil Gow and judging includes an on-property visit, examination of the entrants financial statements, individual interviews and finally a public presentation session.

The five finalists this year were Andrew and Jenny Calder, David and Kay Dodunski of Otautau, Abe and Anita de Wolde, Andrew and Tricia Macfarlane and Tony Dench, and Roger and Diane Whyte of Wyndham.


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