Carters Dairy & Kiwifruit

July 2011

Survival and regeneration after flood damage on a dairying and kiwifruit property

BOP dairy farming family builds a vision and a farm platform for themselves and the next generations.

No farms at Awakeri were being sold at the time Bay of Plenty couple Brian and Judy Carter were looking to expand their farm so they started looking to develop lease blocks.

There’s four boys in the family and three are on dairy units. The fourth son bought in to an organic kiwifruit orchard.

Brian Carter has been in farming for 40 years, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

His father Hubert, known as Hori, bought 41ha under the Returned Servicemen’s Rehabilitation Scheme after coming home from flying bombers in the Pacific during World War Two.

At 22 Brian was managing his father’s farm and a 230-cow herd, and was soon to enter his first lease for grazing replacement stock in the Waiohau Valley.

He has served on the Bay of Plenty Livestock Improvement regional board for 27 years after being the youngest board member to be elected back in 1973. He has also served as president of the Whakatane Racing Club for three years.

Brian says farming has to be sustainable for it to be long-term, so that it’s still there for future generations.

Brian fell asleep at the wheel, exhausted by the long hours of work required to restore production following the July 2004 floods that swamped Edgecumbe. He drove into the back of a truck which resulted in his son Brent ‘firing’ him. He was told to let others do the running around for a while.

Their three home farms at Awakeri were 70 percent under water. Brian has hair raising stories of swimming to safety whilst trying to rescue stock.

During his one week lay-off, 53-year-old Brian thought about what they had developed and where they were heading. He agreed to take a step back from hands-on work.

After the floods the Carters organised a two-day strategic planning conference where the farms’ management practices and goals were discussed with their accountant, farm consultant, bank manager and farm staff.

They looked at other issues such as the need to retain good quality staff and to consider personal goals and development.

Brian and Judy resolved ‘to work less, play more’. It’s a vision that has needed more capital input.

The philosophy is that their farms are not just for them to have, and nor is it for them alone to pay off. The Carters want to encourage, as well as make provision for, their children and their children’s children.

The Carters have an involvement with grower-owned kiwifruit post-harvest company Eastpack.

The kiwifruit interest began in the early 1970s when Brian Carter turned three hectares into a kiwifruit orchard on his grandfather Norm Carter’s 13ha farm next to Awakeri School. A further 4.5ha was planted in Angle Road. They have grown feijoas and still have one hectare, and have also grown and since abandoned: grapefruit, tangelo, mandarin, blackcurrant, deer, sheep and racehorses.

They’ve bought farms as they’ve been able to and leased where they’ve not been able to buy. There are a number of dairy units.

Dairy 1 is their home farm at Awakeri.

As well as their several lease blocks, known as Dairy 2, they bought 62ha of flat rising to the hills in Waiohau Valley, plus an attached lease on 20ha, which they called Dairy 3. It was a farm that had produced up to 33,000kg MS but offered potential for more production.

Dairies 2 and 3 at Waiohau have been linked with a walking strip added, in a land transfer with a neighbour. They have experimented with once a day milking on the heifers and three years olds to reduce the extra distance to walk to the milking dairy.

There is also a dairy unit 4 and 5.

There’s heifer rearing operation as part of the business. This has raised as many as 1000 spring and autumn calves; mostly the progeny of 1400 in-calf cows standing on the other four farms.

Brian and Judy have been down the A2 track and started developing an A2 herd. The cows were tested and tagged. They were believers in the idea and had begun to develop a supply arrangement with a bottling company in Auckland.

Brian says when one big financial backer of A2 passed away tragically, the impetus for A2 faltered.

They still take an interest in A2 Corporation but no longer supply A2 milk to anyone.

Milking platform: 447ha effective.

Other area: 210ha effective for young stock, 88ha effective run-off

Herd: 1245 Jersey, Friesian and crosses

Production: 310,000kg MS; 2004/05 target 420,000kg MS, milk solids per cow (2004/05 target) 270-370kg, milksolids per ha (2004-05 target) 600-1200kg Supplements: (2004/05) 162ha silage, 41ha hay, 16ha maize

Full-time staff (equivalent): 10