Mac and Lynda Pacey live on the edge of the idyllic Rerewhakaaitu Lake, where they have farmed for over 30 years. The Paceys run a family operation with their son Mark and his wife Adelle, who 25% sharemilk on the property with one staff member to help. Mark’s goal is to buy into the herd so that he ends up 50:50 sharemilking.
Mac says, “We came to Rerewhakaaitu in 1981 from a sharemilking job on the Hauraki Plains. We bought our first 50ha farm and milked about 130cows. Today we have 116ha milking about 323 cows through a 24 aside shed, with a 45ha support block.
“Our farm is on a very fertile soil type and we try to keep to an all grass system, although we have a feedpad, and use some PKE at times during the season if we have to, and some biscuit meal in the spring.”
Why a smaller herd?
Staying small has worked well for Mac and Lynda, Mac says, “Lynda and I are passionate about dairy farming, I love the industry and love being a farmer. We’ve never got terribly big, and that is how we plan to stay while we help our son, and his family, get into the business.
“Lynda and I have liked the day-to-day work, and we think we have a reasonably nice lifestyle, we have a nice home and a bach, and a good business which fulfils all our needs.”
He adds, “I didn’t want to take on a lot of staff and I didn’t want to be the organiser of people, I just wanted to be involved.
“I am a real fan of family farms. When we came here there were about 60 little dairy farms and a lot of young farmers bought their first farm here. We had a wonderful community. Now I think we are down to 25 farms and the community involvement is nowhere near what it used to be.”
What have they gained from SMASH events?
Mac is an enthusiastic participant in dairy events, he says, “We have enjoyed learning while we have been farming. We’re keen discussion group goers and we’ve been to several SMASH days. We have tried to support SMASH wherever we can.
“Our first involvement with them was going to the conference in Matamata in 2010. I was really keen to go. I remember ringing up because I wondered if we could go since we had over 300 cows. It wasn’t a problem, they welcomed us along.
“The health check at that first conference was pretty interesting. They found my cholesterol was high so I went to the doctor and discovered I had an odd form of leukaemia. That was a real bonus because we got it really early and the end result has been good! I went to the health check at the last SMASH conference and everything was fine.
“There have always been really good speakers who have been relevant, and this year the young farm manager I brought with me to the conference enjoyed it as much as I did. I am not a great networker, but I catch up with the people I have seen before, and talk about what has been happening. I have enjoyed all the days.”
Some of the highlights for Mac:
- Mel Eden and Josh Wheeler at the 2012 conference – I could listen to them every day because what they say is so much commonsense, and we have made some changes back on farm as a result.
- Martin Hawes at the 2013 conference reinforced what we were doing. We thought it wasn’t a good idea to rely on our pension. We’ve also tried to get involved in investments off farm so that we have a buffer, just in case we have a poor season with a 50:50 sharemilker.
- Rick Pridmore talked about a subject that I was really interested in and reinforced what we are trying to do. We are making efforts to control our inputs into the lake here. We are trying to get by without putting N on, we are extending our effluent area and we have just put in an automatic weather station which will tell us when we can irrigate. We are thinking putting GPS on our effluent spreaders.
- I heard about a lot of these things first from Josh Wheeler when he came to speak at our local focus group about technology and innovation in cowsheds and on farm.
Mac thinks SMASH hits the mark for smaller herd farmers, “You can go to discussion groups sometimes and the big boys run it, and often the smaller farmers don’t have a lot to say because they feel a bit embarrassed, or they think “Oh well, we are just small farmers so we don’t know what we are doing.” I think SMASH has certainly opened up the door for people who may not say a lot to be more vocal.”