A fresh perspective – Graham Smith

When you suddenly find yourself going from minimal debt to a large debt, stress is where it’s at. It was good to have some friends who listened and commiserated. But in the end, it was up to me to find my way out. I chose to go out and learn how to dance, because it was something that I couldn’t do.

I chose Ceroc dancing, a type of sexy Rock and Roll, developed at the front during WW1. Classes were in Hamilton and this was a new type of pressure as I learnt the moves and got in the groove. I came to know Tess and over time we got together, and eventually she agreed to marry me. Which happened in February 2004.

What I found with dancing was that I couldn’t think of my problems whilst I was thinking of the next dance move and listening to the music. I would return home refreshed, and in the morning when milking, I would be mentally rehearsing the moves.

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So, with the head cleared I pondered how to make more money. I had noticed over the years the numbers of fishermen who came and went on the stream which bounds two sides of the farm. The opportunity to cater for them came when I felled my pine blocks. All the wood went to China and they paid well for it. Off just over four hectares I netted $101,000 which was very good for 21 year old trees growing on steep country. It worked out at about $1100 per hectare per year, a good return. So quite a bit of that cash went into building our existing facilities, and we were in the accommodation business. I also took the chance to update the power supply, amongst many other things, and set the farm up for the future.

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Having visitors on the farm has been an enjoyable experience for Tess and I, and many of them have become friends. We now see the farm through other people’s eyes, and they get to enjoy the fishing or the scenery. Some venture into the dairy with me, or meet the calves, or are happy to pat the dog. I always take the opportunity to teach them how the farm works, what we do with the effluent, and answer many questions related to farming. They enjoy a meal with us and then we learn about them and their lives.

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One rule I made early on was that every extra enterprise started on the farm could not detract from the profitability of dairying, which was the main source of income.

This is a small commercial dairy farm, and because I milk 78 cows, people think it is a lifestyle farm. So, at the moment, the cows are producing 2.2 kg MS, and about 6.3 kg MS/ha. They are on a 23 day round and are getting 2.5 kg PKE per cow. I have started mowing ahead of them to ensure the residuals are correct. Condition score is 4.4 and they are on target for 90% submission for the first three weeks. I milk kiwi cross, which suits my plans for a medium size cow. AB to premier sires will be for about 4.5 weeks, and then I AB to SGL sires for another 4.5 weeks. No bulls run with the herd at all. I find this works very well. The yearlings were AB’d for 15 days by which time only two had not cycled, so I put the bull with them, and he got those two over the next two days.

Finally, if you have questions about my operation I am happy to answer them.

2 Comments

  • Great article. I attended the SMASH field day you hosted back in the autumn. What an interesting diverse farming operation, it was an inspiring day.

    • Hi David

      Thanks for your compliment, glad you enjoyed it.

      Cheers
      Graham

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