Matamata farmer, Cam Houghton, is an enthusiastic once a day milking advocate, and is always keen to add to his farming knowledge.
He has been farming at the base of the Kaimais for his whole career.
“I started very young,” says Cam. “An Auckland doctor bought the farm across the road in 1982. We rung him and said do you want a sharemilker? He said ‘Yeah, I do’, so I went across there and sharemilked. I had just turned 19, I owned ten cows and a Honda 500. I had to buy a herd in the middle of July, so I bought some of Dad’s old cows, and then went to the Morrinsville sale, bought whatever we could find, and milked 125 cows.”
“I did that for a couple of years till that farm sold. I got in young but I had Dad as a consultant and helper. He reared all my calves for me. I used to bring them in, he would feed them all in his shed, and once they were taught they would come back down to my place.
“Lynne and I purchased the family farm off Mum in 1989, after Dad died. Back then it was 78 ha, I’ve grown it a bit bigger.
“With OAD I think I can get another ten years out of myself. I enjoy milking, it doesn’t worry me, it is just the afternoons I don’t like. Once you start OAD it is like this big pressure has come off you, you are finished in the morning and that’s it. If you haven’t got a feedpad why are you milking twice a day? Financially it is so much better.”
Why go to SMASH events?
Cam gains a lot out of attending SMASH events. “The SMASH events are bigger, well-run, and a lot more in-depth on a subject. When you go to a discussion group it is more for the local farmers to talk about whatever issues they are having, then you have a quick look at the cows, a chat and a sausage, and head off. The SMASH ones, you are really trying to learn something on whatever the host farmers are doing.”
Cam attended a recent event which focussed on mastitis, and how the hosts consistently maintain their herd’s grade-free status. “I got some really positive stuff out of that one about why they have a lower cell count than myself. One of the keys to their success was that they dry-cowed and teat sealed every cow on the farm.
“I think some people are shy to walk into an event on their own. The way I think about it is if you go to an event and learn one thing, quite often that thing will make you a lot better farmer. There are a lot of practical ideas you can pick up, like that low cell count event, teat spraying the colostrum cows before they strip them, and teat spraying their hands regularly, that sort of idea is just something you pick up and then you save yourself a couple of cases of mastitis. You can always learn something.”