Phil and Jocelyn Riley, Matariki

September 2005
Phil and two older brothers grew up in an expanding dairy farming family in Golden Bay, which began in the 1950s with parents Don and Norman Riley. In 2001 the father and three sons farming partnership, with 2000 cows on four farms, was dissolved and the three brothers are now farming on their own accounts.

Phil, his wife Jocelyn and two children, stayed on one property, at Matariki , near Tapawera, and formed Bush End Farms Ltd. It was converted from sheep and beef farm 11 years ago by the Riley family, to diversify away from the Golden Bay district. At that time the property was 280ha and the first season began with 500 cows.

The home farm at Matariki is now 360ha (325ha effective) with the addition of a further 80ha adjoining. The farm is 200m above sea level and on mainly river terraces, which are stoney and fertile, with a base P level of 35. This year it is calving 900 Jersey-cross cows and should be milking around 875.

The Rileys own a second dairy farm nearby, 3-4kms, on the south side of Matariki on the Sherry River Rd. This was purchased in June 2004 and is 175ha effecitive, running 490 cows.

They also have a run-off 7-8kms away of 150ha where some of the home farm cows go in winter, plus the calves and the two-year-olds, right up until calving. The home farm has a 60-bail rotary and runs two herds of 450 cows each. Phil employs five full-time staff members, all living on the farm.

The best production has been 332,000 kg of milksolids from 850 cows, which is 390kg MS/cow or 1021kg MS/ha. Cows are paddock-fed with maize and grass silage and hay from March through September.

The climate is summer-dry with 1200-1300mm annual rainfall and cold winters with many frosts, although this winter has been milder. Phil would expect only 7-8kg DM/ha/day growth in the winter, but this winter is getting 10-12kg.

The property has irrigation from the Wangapeka River over 140ha with a K-line system.

Calving starts on August 12 and Phil tries to keep milking until the end of May (nine and a half months, 290 days). He will feed maize silage to keep the herd milking in autumn. All calves except the AI heifer calves are sold at four days. Most of the property has been regrassed in the decade of ownership, using Yatsyn and Vedette and more lately Bronsyn ryegrass.

The second dairy farm is under manager James Somerville, with 490 cows. When purchased by Phil and Jocelyn it had an old 40-bale herringbone dairy which has now been replaced with a new 50-bail rotary, just commissioned. The building began in autumn and it contains Waikato milking machinery with automatic cup removers and a dry feeding system to each bail, through which Phil intends to deliver palm kernel supplement.

That property did 143,000kg MS last season from 440 cows (325kg ms/cow, 817kg MS/ha) and the target for the third season (2006-07) is 180,000kg MS. The property has been in dairying for some time, in a district in which there are not a lot of dairy farms and the opportunities to expand are few and far between. Phil liked the structure of the farm and believes it can produce more.

Phil, his brother and father and one other large dairy farmer have pooled their money for hay and silage machinery, purchasing a medium square baler, a self-propelled maize chopper and a 150hp tractor. They were working this machinery themselves, but now anticipate employing a driver during the summer and autumn months. In total this machinery pool will do 7000 hay or baleage bales, 100ha of maize (25ha on Phils run-off) and 300ha of grass silage annually. The only drawback to shared machinery and costs is the four hours drive between Tapawera and Takaka or Collingwood over the notorious Takaka hill.

Takaka plant was damaged by a spectacular fire in June and Fonterra has announced that the milk powder processing facility will be rebuilt, but not the butter or casein capacity. This means one third reduction in workers.

As the milk powder plant will be at capacity with only the Golden Bay suppliers, the milk from Nelson region, like Phils from Tapawera, will have to go elsewhere. At this stage he expects it to go to Brightwater, Kaikoura or possibly even Clandeboye, near Timaru. We did wonder if they would rebuild after the fire, but we are pleased about the decision to do so. It is up to the company to take our milk, so we were not worried about the future of dairying in Nelson.