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Barn based dairying a compelling option

October 2021

A 298 hectare Mid Canterbury farm, listed for sale this spring, represents the future of dairy, says the salesperson marketing the property.

Tim Gallagher is selling Aberystwyth Dairies owned by Wyvern and Beth Jones and located at Carew, between Ashburton and Geraldine. A hybrid calving system with productivity through long days-in-milk, management of the 1100 cow farm is aided by a 618 stall barn and a 1250m2 loafing barn.

“Several trends indicate barns will probably become more prevalent in our region. Benefits include pasture protection and performance, both during the winter and the shoulders. Fully-fed animals perform higher, while improving environmental compliance makes sense long term.

“Environmental awareness, including farmers wanting to farm cleaner, makes farming this way likely to become more widespread. If so, the next owner of Aberystwyth will have a head start,” says Tim.

Barn based dairying

Jeff and Kelly Gould have been equity managers since conversion in 2008, building the barns in 2013.

“We saw the need to become more efficient, and recognised keeping our cows under cover is the best way to do that. Traditional winter grazing will not continue long term. Animal welfare is huge: our girls perform better when not wintered out on crop. It’s that simple.

“Looking for an efficient system that utilised barns, we reduced replacements by utilising our empty spring-calving cows to milk through the winter. Adapting our management system, including building barns, was the best thing we have done in our farming careers,” says Kelly.

Aberystwyth is a Dairy NZ example of barns in farm management. A hybrid system, it maximises grazing while protecting cows and paddocks from unfavourable weather, providing an estimated seven per cent of extra grass per annum through reduced impact on pasture. Barns lower the farm’s feed wastage to less than five per cent, while providing more feed options.

Jeff believes understanding nutrition is the key to a successful barn-based dairy farm.

“We grow 20 to 24 hectares of maize for silage per annum, and 45 hectares of barley for silage. We then buy wheat and protein feeds, plus a wee bit of grass silage, palm kernel and waste feed from local potato processors.

“Effluent from the barns is pumped to a two pond system. We put the liquids through our pivots when they are in operation, and spread over the farm during winter via a contractor. This enables precise control of pasture fertility, providing all the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium required for most of the year, aided by minimal addition of some sulphur and lime.

“In our herd 95 per cent of the cows prefer to be inside. To shift them under cover, all we have do to is open the gate, while if you want them out of the barn, you have to lock them out,” says Jeff.

While Aberystwyth mates twice a year, others using barns split their stock into three or four separate breeding cycles, although this can be hard on staff. Aberystwyth’s average lactation is 310 days, compared with the region’s 270 day average, also utilising Westland Milk’s lucrative winter milk contracts.

Tim Gallagher says the system offers multiple benefits.

“Because purchasers want a long-term investment, the underlying asset, the soils, are key. The next item on the shopping list is environmental sustainability. Then comes infrastructure. With its efficient feeding, use of effluent rather than synthetics, and precise application of its MHV irrigation scheme water, this is a premium unit with enviable scale and with its high quality housing, there is simply nothing like it on the market,” he says.

Aberystwyth Dairies is for sale by deadline private treaty, unless sold prior.

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