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Waikato forum to unlock secrets to $3/kg MS farm systems

Friday, 29th April 2016

For immediate release

Waikato forum to unlock secrets to $3/kg MS farm systems

Dairy farmer Gary Rowlands says running his farm at a cost of under $3/kg milksolids (MS) is thanks to a simple system.

Gary and wife Debra’s farm is among the 10-15 percent of New Zealand farmers who operate below $3/kg MS FWE (farm working expenses).

The Rowlands put their $2.21/kg MS FWE system down to simple farming – including an all-grass focus, basic machinery, doing their fertiliser application/silage/topping themselves and looking after their cows well.

“It’s a simple system. We just do the basics well and don’t spend if we don’t have to,” says Gary. “Every aspect comes into it.”

Gary is among a line-up of speakers presenting to dairy farmers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum, May 17-18, at Mystery Creek in Hamilton.

During the workshop, he and two other farmers will give their perspective on the key ingredients to operate a farm at $3/kg MS FWE and how they have set up their systems to run at a consistently low FWE level.

“Some of it is gut feeling – knowing your farm and cows, and making your own decisions,” says Gary.

Gary winters 270 cows on their 83ha Whakatane farm and buys in 24-36 tonne of palm kernel extract (PKE) each season. A 13ha support block is used to graze young stock. Their Friesian-Jersey herd averages a 6-8 percent empty rate, through attention to the basics of tail painting and heat identification.

Pasture eaten last season was 16.5 tonne DM/ha, higher than the Whakatane average of 13.8 tonne DM/ha.

“We make the most of our grass. We put on no more than 120 units of nitrogen a year and some whey from the dairy company. We put lime on every year and sulphur too. It just works for us, the pastures are older pastures but they’re still good.”

The farm also goes once-a-day milking every Christmas, something Gary says contributes to good cow condition and health.

The farm’s 395kg MS/cow production is on par with other farms in the region, but Gary’s cost efficiencies has set the farm’s operating profit at $5515/ha (Whakatane’s three-year average is $2919).

DairyNZ senior consulting officer Wilma Foster is facilitating the Farmers’ Forum workshop, which she hopes will inspire farmers to find cost-saving opportunities in their own businesses.

“Farmers that are low-cost tend to spend money on things that will make them money. They manage costs really well and don’t tend to change their system,” says Wilma.

“For them, operating at $3/kg MS FWE is the norm – it is attained every year.”

Wilma says these farmers also do the fundamentals of farming well – pasture management, cow health and feed budgeting tend to be key focus areas.

The Forum workshop will feature a Q&A session with the three farmers.

The two-day DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum at Hamilton’s Mystery Creek Events Centre is expected to attract over 700 farmers.

Keynote speakers include Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, Fonterra CEO Theo Speirings, Rabobank head of food and agribusiness research and advisory, Tim Hunt.

The biennial event will give dairy farmers insight into how to adapt their businesses in the current challenging times and how the global environment will shape the future of New Zealand milk production.

The DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum is free to levy paying dairy farmers and their staff.

Registrations are open and essential prior to the event. To view the full programme or register, visit

DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum 2016
May 17-18
Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton

Speakers include:
- Deputy Prime Minister Hon Bill English

- Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings

- Fonterra chief operating officer – velocity, Jacqueline Chow

- Rabobank head of food and agribusiness research and advisory, Tim Hunt.

The Farmers’ Forum is free to levy-paying dairy farmers and their staff. Registrations are essential. Visit


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