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Using technology to improve sustainability

Fonterra Communications. 02 June 2022 05:51 AM
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Sitting at the cutting edge of dairy innovation is a comfortable place for Tunbridge farmer Richard Gardner and his family.

Their Annandale property was the first dairy farm in the area after the establishment of the Midlands Irrigation Scheme prompted Richard to switch from dryland sheep grazing to dairy.

Having grown up on a dairy farm, Richard’s knowledge and meticulous research made him confident the move to dairy was the best choice. 

Today, the Annandale operation continues to go from success-to-success, currently milking 1,250 cows on 2,400 hectares – 336 of which are irrigated for the dairy platform.

Richard is driven by a desire to address climate change, citing his concern about reducing farm emissions since first becoming aware of the science 20 years ago.

This desire to improve environmental impacts drove Richard’s decision to change the entire herd to once-a-day milking last season.

“That was purely done as a business sustainability measure. We want to make the operation more sustainable, lower our risks and reduce the pressure on our people and our cows,” says Richard.

“The change has been fantastic. We were expecting a significant drop in milk production for the first couple of years, but, per cow, we only dropped around 12 per cent of production.

“We know that we will be as profitable milking once a day in another year as we were twice a day.”

For Farm Source Paddock Specialist Richard Rawnsley, his work at the Annandale operation provides a great example of Fonterra and farmers working together to benefit each other – and the industry.

“The way the farm is managed is very progressive, with good per-cow production predominantly from a grass-based system.

“The Gardners have set significant pasture harvest targets of 14 tons of dry matter per hectare and they’re trying to achieve that with less than one ton of grain feed. At Farm Source, we assist through feed testing, regular monitoring, and monthly catch-ups to see how that’s progressing.

“As a processor, we are here to support the goals of the farmers we work with. The return to us is that we’re always learning from those farms and can share what we’ve learned with others”.

In return, the Gardners have come to rely on Fonterra and its Farm Source team as valued partners.

“From a Farm Source perspective, we are always accessing the pickup data to monitor our production day-by-day, our fat and protein percentages.

“We also use Farm Source for budgeting and doing our estimates. Farm Source is a big part of what’s happening here in the dairy,” says Richard.
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