Dairy Insight Farmers, Geoff and Julie Stevenson

April 2005
Geoff and Julie Stevenson are among the couples featured in the DairyInsight television advertising series. They are passionate about dairy farming and believe in the need to keep attracting new blood to the industry.

Geoff started out as a policeman but after meeting Julie, the daughter of a farming family, he switched careers and became a dairy farmer more than twenty years ago.

The ownership structure of the property Clovernook, in Rakaia, is a partnership between Geoff, Julie and Julies parents.

They run 720 Jerseys on 264ha of freehold land, of which 216ha is the dairy platform. This was converted from a dryland sheep farm in 1996. Clovernook breeds and rears its own replacements and also rears a number of bull calves. Milk production is for factory supply.

Clovernook is fully irrigated with a stony Lismore soil. It experiences summer dry periods, which are kept under control by irrigation. Rainfall is normally evenly spread with 600-700mm per year and winter is about 90-100 days long. The property is around 150-160 metres above sea level and is all flat land.

Ryegrass pastures dominate the property with some old sheep pasture still remaining; there is a regrassing plan to remove it in time. Silage is brought in from off farm, barley and maize silage is also used. Water is supplied by two bores on the property, for domestic use, stock water and irrigation.

One of the issues Canterbury farmers face is water supplies. A large dairy development not far from the Stevensons property recently had its water right application turned down. While the Stevensons water supply is secure for now, hes looking to the future and is a supporter of the proposed Central Plains Water scheme. If approved, this will draw water from the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers, to be stored behind a new dam. The idea is to reduce reliance on artesian bores.

Clovernook has four staff, (a manager and 3 assistants) and a 50 bail rotary shed. Four Roto Rainers irrigate the dairy platform.

Geoff reckons that pound for pound Jerseys are the equal of Friesians --- they may produce less milk, but they consume less feed too.

His aim is to achieve good consistent production but to retain a good lifestyle too, both for he and Julie and for the staff too.

Geoff and Julie Stevenson are at a stage where they want to pull back from full time farming and with that in mind theyre in the process of entering into a variable order sharemilking agreement with their manager, Clint Carter. Hell share around 30 percent of the income, and he will supply machinery, pay staff etc from his share.

Geoff believes in the need to set up a structure by which staff have a career path, either with a view to ownership or whatever lower level of involvement individuals may desire.

Geoff says dairy farmers need to think outside the square and keep their eyes on the bigger picture. For example, he says, farmers need to be aware of overseas trends such as consumers wanting more naturally produced foodstuffs. With that in mind, hes stopped using CIDRs or inductions on Clovernook.