Gavin and Jody / Back to the future

Gavin and Jody’s story

Six years ago Gavin, and his partner Jody, shifted from the Waikato to Northland to take up a job offer. They are now in their fifth season 50:50 sharemilking in the Bay of Islands.

Dairy farming wasn’t Gavin’s first career choice. “I was brought up on dairy farms, and in and around the dairy industry,” he says, “but when I left school the last thing I wanted to do was milk cows. I did an apprenticeship with the Post Office, went to Australia and drove trucks and courier vans.”

However, after meeting Jody, Gavin had a change of heart and ended up back where he started, on a dairy farm in New Zealand. It has been the right move for him. “I get on well with animals,” says Gavin. “They trust you a lot more than people. I couldn’t work in an office with people; it would drive me round the bend.”

He also gets a kick out of giving his grandchildren the opportunity to run around on the farm.

Why a smaller herd?

Smaller herd farming suits Gavin. He has worked in large herd businesses but they weren’t for him.

“If I had a big herd I would have to deal with staff,” says Gavin. “At the end of the day, when you have only got yourself to worry about, you’ve only got yourself to blame. You are responsible for what happens, and you are also responsible for any mistakes,
it is very simple.

“You get to know your animals. They know you, you know them. They are used to the routine. Here there is a part of the farm where the cows need to walk down the road and across a one-lane bridge. I can let them go and they will walk up the road and go in the gate to the next race by themselves; they know where they are going.”

What do smaller herd farms bring to the industry?

Gavin believes many innovations have their genesis on smaller herd farms. “By necessity people on small farms have to come up with ways to fix problems themselves,” says Gavin. “If small farms weren’t around I think a lot of the No. 8 wire inventions wouldn’t happen because people aren’t out there in situations where they have to come up with the solution to problems.”

He also thinks smaller farms allow people to follow their dreams. “On smaller farms probably a lot more work goes into breeding to fit purposes,”

he says. “I know a guy whose sole game is production. He milks 40 cows, winter and spring calving, and his cows average 6-700 kg MS/year. That is his passion, seeing what you can get a cow to produce. You couldn’t afford to do that on a big farm, you couldn’t put that work and effort into it. Without little farms you are not going to get people who put their life into following their passion.”

What has he gained from SMASH events?

Gavin is on the Northland committee for SMASH and he gets a lot of value out of his involvement.

“When you go to events you meet different people and you get to hear things from different perspectives. You get ideas for solutions to some of the problems you might have, as you find out how other people are dealing with them.”

“There is no way you could afford to hire some of the speakers to come and talk to you on your farm for half a day. It gives you the opportunity to tap into their brains as well.”