Ron and Shirley Bailey arrived in Te Puke in 1963, buying a rough gorse-covered 84 hectare dairy farm. With an old rotary slasher behind the David Brown tractor on steel spiked wheels, Ron cleared the scrub and increased the herd to 180 cows.
After contracting brucellosis in the 1970s, he started developing a horticulture business on the property. He progressively planted up a lot of the flat land, and over time, the orchard got bigger and the dairy farm got smaller (down to about 120 cows).
In 2000, the family bought the 200-cow dairy farm across the road and combined the two herds and carried on planting; increasing avocados and kiwifruit.
Keeping it in the family
Son Chris manages the now 40 hectares of horticulture and other son Steve with the now 86 hectare dairy operation within the 164ha property on rolling Bay of Plenty country.
“It works because Chris is into trees and I’m into cows,” says Steve.
“So as the horticulture business develops we are left dairy farming on a reducing area of land with an increasing proportion of steep to rolling country.
“We have intensified our operation and with access to waste fruit and other feed from our cut n’ carry runoffs along with PKE; we now run a system five farm.”
He says the dual dairy and horticulture operations also provide a strong level of protection with the diversity.
“I’m very much into measuring feeds and understanding what the cows are doing, and as a details person I like to look at what we are doing and measure it, because to my mind, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
The advantage of Farmax
And so FARMAX Dairy Pro was introduced two seasons ago.
“I enjoy the modelling and different scenarios I can create with FARMAX because it gives me a chance to broaden my lateral thinking and look at what the most profitable way to run the farm is.
So whether bringing in kiwifruit or maize or palm kernel or a combination, I can see what happens to production.
“I can see whether putting half a kilo of dry matter palm kernel into my feed compared to half a kilo of maize gains or loses profitability.”
The energy business
To put it simply, Steve sees himself as being in the business of importing energy – in the form of sugar, starch and protein – and bringing in that energy as cost efficiently as he can, and then selling it for the highest price.
“That energy comes in the form of pasture, kiwifruit, silage, palm kernel and maize. If the payout’s right, the feed price is right and I’m buying the right amounts of it, then we’re making a profit – and FARMAX is an important part of that equation.
“FARMAX helps us see what the right mix of grass with palm kernel, or a higher concentrated feed, or kiwifruit might look like – and then tells us how much money is going to fall out the bottom.”
Success no accident
Steve says he gets a lot of satisfaction out of the system’s performance screen and combines this with the drop-down profit and loss screen so he can see how his actions have affected his budget.
“It’s hard to quantify the variables because unless you’re going out there and taking samples, there will be variables in your feed, but it does a pretty good job; I’m largely impressed with it.
“It’s not an absolute tool, but it gives you a good idea and I like that. We don’t farm by accident around here.”
Importantly, working with FARMAX has given Steve the confidence to make some of those big on-farm decisions.
“The more you work with the system, the more you learn your buffer zones and the more you put your confidence in it and yourself in using it,” he says.
“You certainly can’t farm from the office, you have to be a hands-on farmer and get out in the paddock and talk to the cows.”
He also said he likes that he can create reports from the FARMAX system and feed it back to his family of business partners.
Looking to the future is where the modelling functionality of the FARMAX system comes in use for the Bailey farm.
“The modelling has become critical in setting targets and seeing where we are going and considering our options,” says Steve.
“Keeping your eye on the ball is vital at the moment as we work though this current payout year.
“They say farming is both an art and a science, and FARMAX definitely helps work out the science.”