The five months that I have spent working here in the New Zealand dairy industry has really opened my eyes even more than I had expected when I left home in January.
Coming from a much smaller farm in Tipperary to working in a business that milks 1,000 cows in the heart of one of the most intensive dairying regions in the world really put me outside of my comfort zone for the first two months to say the least. Coming from college life to getting up at 4.30am every morning was tough to adjust to but is extremely rewarding now when I look back on it.
After settling into our workplace, we were expected to have milking done every morning and evening on time, keep the cleanliness and hygiene of the parlour at acceptable standards and ensure cows are allocated the correct amount of feed daily. This meant calculating the area required by the cows in the fodder crops and in the paddock and putting up the electric fence.
Learn on your feet and make decisions quickly without holding up the whole day’s schedule
The biggest learning curve that I encountered while in New Zealand is the expectation to learn on your feet and make decisions quickly without holding up the whole day’s schedule. These situations have taught me more around animal health issues, feed allocation and fixing problems around machinery, the milking parlour, the effluent irrigator, fencing, etc.
On both farms, an annual and monthly budget is prepared. There is a weekly meeting between both managers and directors where the week is planned and targets are set for both farms. Although the scale of this farm and business setup is vastly different to Irish ones, I believe that if Irish dairy farming is going to expand and survive. Irish dairy farmers can take a lot from New Zealand in terms of their focus on efficiencies in all areas of the farm.
One of the most important things that I have learned here from the manager and his father Stephen is the necessity to run the farm like a business. Their farm is run like any large business would be, with five directors.
Husband and wife Stephen and Lynel are director and secretary respectively. Their sons Daniel, general manager, and Matthew, chief financial officer, are also involved in the business along with an independent director from outside the family who provides an honest, unbiased opinion to the business.
During a bad milk price year, the Roaches believe that finding efficiencies is the aim of the game. Daniel pointed out to me one day that many people make the mistake of attempting to run their farm to a mainstream system and try to copy exactly what other farms do.
The Roach motto for their business is People – Profit – Efficiency
In his opinion, this is what has caused many dairy farmers in New Zealand to fail over the last two years during the bad milk price. He believes all farms are individualistic and should be run like any other business enterprise. It’s about finding efficiency.
The Roach motto for their business is People – Profit – Efficiency.
This motto focuses on the staff in the business. The Roaches believe that if staff are looked after correctly they will give the business a better return, therefore increasing profits and efficiencies.
Ger Boland is a second-year student in the BSc in Agriculture student at Waterford Institute of Technology from Boultheeny, Dolla, Nenagh, Co Tipperary. He received the ASA/Glanbia Group travel bursary supported by the Irish Farmers Journal.