Day 14

Aerial view of the dairy barn

It was an exciting final day in New Zealand. This morning we departed our hotel at 8:30 am for a very impressive robotic dairy. This was the 4th dairy we have seen since we landed here, but it was far different from any of the others because it was much more similar to a North American style of operation. Their animals were confined and fed a ration in a freestall barn that consisted of corn silage, alfalfa silage, grass silage, and a mix of canola, soy hulls, and other ingredients. The cows had mattresses to lay on and all of the floors were covered in rubber. In addition to the robot milkers, they also had automated manure scrapers to rid the barn of the “effluent” or manure as we call it.

Fresian cow standing on the rubber mat freestall bed, also shown is manure scraper and rubber flooring
Our Dairy Club Members Bennet, Katelyn, Kirby, Katelyn, and Angel
Another difference from this dairy and the others that we saw was that they do not do any bull breeding, they do all artificial insemination. In their AI program, they are seeing success with 65% conception rates in their herd. As for their production, they were currently milking 1400 cows, whose average ages are 7 years old, and last year they shipped a total of 800,000 kg of milk solids. The milk they were harvesting from the cows was 9% solids (Fat+Protein). The robots were getting 1800 liters per day while averaging 2.1 visits per cow across the entire herd. Over the course of a lactation, their average “kiwi cross” (Jersey x Fresian) would produce 600 kg of milk solids. This dairy was very impressive, we really enjoyed getting to see robots work in a larger herd like this instead of the smaller herds we see back home. This farm did have higher costs for producing milk, about $5.00/ kg of milk solids, but they had much higher production than some others, and they feel that the future of dairy farming in New Zealand will move away from pasture systems due to environmental restrictions. 

This is what our group looks like when we are searching for lunch….
 After leaving the dairy farm we headed to the town of Timaru for lunch and maybe do some shopping. After all of the driving, we have had on this trip we all enjoy our time off of the bus. Once everyone had eaten and seen the sites in Timaru, it was on to the next farm.

….and this is how we look once we have found our food

We traveled to Orton to the crop farm that belonged to Raymond and James Bowan. They farm 3,953 acres with 988 being wheat, 988 acres of feed barley, 617 acres of potatoes, and 500 acres of grass seed production, with the remainder being planted into fodder beet and kale. Their farm is 100% irrigated, and they pull ground water for their irrigation, but have a 10 day backup supply if needed. In their area, their annual rainfall is around 27 inches, but they can put down about a quarter inch of irrigation down every day. The farm’s main product is potatoes, and they grow two different varieties of potatoes, with one being for potato fries production and the other being for potato chips.
Cody enjoying some of the equipment at the Bowman farm

They only include potatoes in their rotation every 6-7 years to let the disease inoculum reduce down to a level that can be controlled without using fumigants in the soil. They are near the southern edge of the country, so their growing season is quite comparable to South Dakota and they can only use short to medium maturity potato varieties. They mostly use wheat, barley, and grasses as crops to fill in the gap in the break between potato crops. For wheat, they supply the mill in Timaru with soft white biscuit wheat, and hard red wheat for bread. On their irrigated ground, their average yield for wheat is 155 bushels per acre. Barley is grown as a feed crop, but they used to grow some malt barley but quit that now. The average yield of their barley is 133 bushels per acre. The remainder of their acres are dedicated to the production of fodder beet and kale, which they lease out to neighboring dairy farmers for their 6-8 week dry period. The acres they plant will feed 2500 to 3000 for the eight weeks, with the fodder beets producing 10 tons of dry matter per acre.
Carrot harvest in progress

Once we left our final farm tour of this amazing trip, we were on our way to Christchurch for our final night in New Zealand. Once we got to Christchurch, we drove though parts of town that were devastated by an earthquake back in 2011. This natural disaster killed 195 people, and damaged infrastructure that is still being rebuilt and repaired to this day. We also went out to dinner at the Pedal Pusher.


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