Smart farming helps couple on their way to ownership

16:01, Mar 20 2014
Te Rua o Te Moko sharemilkers Michael and Ruth Prankerd
ON SHOW: Te Rua o Te Moko sharemilkers Michael and Ruth Prankerd present facts and figures about their farming operation to a field day.

The team focus of the sharemilkers on a Taranaki dairy farm that's a finalist in the Ahuwhenua Trophy has been identified as crucial to its success.

Michael and Ruth Prankerd are the second 50/50 sharemilkers on Te Rua o Te Moko's Normanby farm, where they are milking a 490-cow herd.

Over Te Rua o Te Moko's four seasons of operation, average production has been 172,000 kilograms of milksolids (MS). It's likely to exceed 200,000kg this season. Production at peak this season was 2.3kg MS/cow.

At last week's Te Rua o Te Moko's field day, Ruth Prankerd said cows were key to the farming success of her husband and herself. "They will lead us to our dream of farm ownership and help us achieve the dreams of others that we meet on our journey."

She said the couple's key values were:

-Creating a team culture of fair reward and recognition of success. For example, they paid production- based bonuses and bonuses in the area of animal health.

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-Goal-setting and staff appraisals.

-Communication with staff and Te Rua o Te Moko's directors.

-Pride in the home and work environment.

Michael Prankerd said the biggest constraint on the farm was the old 28-bail cowshed. "But we get through the challenges to run the farm successfully."

Milking the two herds took five hours morning and night, but he managed the roster so each of his two managers worked an eight-hour day.

On the farm this season the couple grew 11 hectares of maize and 14ha of turnips to provide essential feed during the summer dry period. They bought 200 tonnes of palm kernel expeller on contract - at a cost this season of $265/tonne, delivered. They also made 130 tonnes of silage, well above the expected figure of 70-80 tonnes.

A weekly planning session after an 18km farm walk set the scene for his herd managers who were each responsible for feed budgeting for the two herds on the farm. "They're excellent role models for the students."

In conjunction with Land Based Training, Te Rua o Te Moko's has established a farm training school for descendants of owners and other young Maori aspiring to a farming career.

Eight students from the first intake have jobs and a second intake has just started.

Farm supervisor Rob Gollan said all 6.5km of riverbank on the farm was fenced and would be planted by the end of the next dairy season. All effluent was discharged to land.

Te Rua o Te Moko would milk its own animals by the 2015-16 season. Already, it owned 300 jersey cross-bred cows born since 2010 and leased to different farmers, including to the sharemilkers. Instead of spending up to $1.2 million on a herd, he estimated the cost at $700,000.

Taranaki Daily News