Landcorp runs three dairy units at Cape Foulwind, just outside of Westport. The three farms are Bassets, Tram and Totara. The farms were put into production progressively going back to 2003 with the last one finished in 2005. In total, there are over 1300 ha effective, with 3,380 cows. Total milk production sits at over 1M kg/MS.
Manager Rebecca Keoghan came to the Coast 8 years ago with her husband Nathan. They came home for Nathan to manage family farm. Rebecca has a medical science degree and a business management diploma. She worked for Holcim Cement for 8 years where she was an Operations Manager. She saw the Landcorp job advertised and got her feet under the desk July 2015.
Rebecca is also a director on the board for the Council Controlled Trading Organisation, Buller Holdings Limited and a Team Leader for the Dairy Industry awards for the Dairy Manager of the Year Award programme.
Bassets, which is the oldest of the farms, is growing around 11 tons of grass annually with a 27ha winter crop of rape being put in. PKE is also in the mix as a supplement. The farm has a mix of winter and summer safe pasture with the newer flipped land coping well in the winter, making it summer safe with the wetter pakahi land.
The property has better organic content in the soil due to age as well as location and the management of animals on the pasture over winter.
Manager Rebecca Keoghan says that with tight times ahead, the whole of the Landcorp business is working hard on cost control and looking at pasture management to optimise pasture growth. She says all the farms are doing weekly pasture walks but with promised lower payouts, their focus will be on maximising the cover utilisation and post grazing residuals.
She also mentions that with the lower projected payout they’ll also be looking at once a day and 16 hour milking versus twice a day.
Each of the three properties has five full-time staff. Bassets manager is Jack Raharuhi. He is 23 and has had 8 seasons on the farm. He has won the AgITO Dairy Trainee of the Year award and DairyNZ dairy trainee awards. The farm is one of the top 5 farms in Landcorp for the 2013/14 season in terms of production and for the lowest somatic cell counts.
Landcorp has done a number of dairy conversions on the coast – flipping land to bring it into production. Cape Foulwind was one of the first and a more recent conversion is the Weka Complex near Lake Brunner.
Flipping land on the West Coast has turned boggy pakihi land, often covered in gorse and manuka, into productive dairy pasture but it’s not without challenges. There have been issues controlling pasture pests like the Manuka beetle which tends to explode in numbers after the soil has been flipped. Rebecca says that as spraying programs are implemented, the properties mature and the organic matter builds up, so the impact of the beetle begins to reduce.
The capital fertiliser, required on what are essentially the bare bones of a new soil, is considerable. Once pasture has struck and is growing, relatively high rates of nitrogen and sulphur must be applied each year until topsoil deepens and organic matter builds up.
Rebecca says there’s quite a difference in the organic matter in the soils on the Cape Foulwind farms depending on how long since they’ve been flipped. She says the Tram and Totara farms are still sulphur and potassium deficient but the fertiliser programmes are lifting quality. With high rainfall they use a “little and often” to maximise utilisation and minimise losses.
Landcorp has strict H & S policies & procedures across all their farms. The company provides inductions and training to all new staff and use what’s called the Coast buddy system until staff can demonstrate competence in each area.
Following two tragic accidents involving quad bikes on the Cape Foulwind farms and identification that the use of quads on farms is the most significant hazard, quad bikes have been removed from all Landcorp farms. Farm injury statistics in New Zealand and Australia overwhelming point to the danger of quad bike usage and injuries caused by quads are seven times more serious than any other hazard. Landcorp has decided that quads are not suitable for use on any dairy farms and they have been removed in favour of side by side vehicles.