Duntroon sharemilkers better placed this season

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Kirsty and Nathan McLachlan will calve 1500 cows this spring on the Duntroon property they 50:50 sharemilk for Derek and Verna Chalmers.

The McLachlans run a large dairy business on Hedley Rd, employing about nine staff plus themselves. Five Filipino employees, some who have previously worked in Saudi Arabia, and three New Zealanders will all have their turn at bringing in herds and putting on cups at 4am.

New farm manager Shane Wainwright started in June and has come down from the Waikato where he was a lower order sharemilker on a 240 cow farm. To date, the role has involved getting to know staff, most of whom have been with the McLachlans for three years, as well as wintering cows, carrying out maintenance work and helping with development at the runoff.

The Chalmers purchased the Willowcliff property in 2001 as a dairy support unit and about three years ago they converted it to a milking platform.

A 60 bale rotary shed was built and the McLachlans were employed to run the business. At this time, about 850 cows were being milked and by last season, numbers had increased to 1400 after the neighbouring property was purchased as a runoff.

The runoff was used to provide supplement and wintering to a heavily stocked dairy platform. Mrs McLachlan said this stretched all systems to the limit, particularly feed and milking times.

An Overseer nutrient budget was marginal at 60 when the 1400 cow dairy platform with cut and carry supplement from the runoff was modelled, she said.

Another challenge is that Willowcliff is under Environment Canterbury and the runoff is under Otago Regional Council.

This season, the two properties will be run separately as two self-contained units and a new 54 bale rotary shed is being built, due to be completed in October. This will milk 200 cows from then until Christmas and a further 300-odd will be purchased, bringing numbers up to 550.

“When the two properties are converted and become self-contained, nutrient losses come down to 13,” she said.

Last season, heifers were predominately fed a grass-only diet and grazed the steep country, friesians were closest to the sheds and the crossbred cows walked the furthest, at up to 8km per day.  From autumn onward, the cows were grouped depending on body condition score.

The McLachlans run an intensive, grass-based system, with fodder beet fed to milkers through both autumn and spring. Various other forms of supplements are fed for the majority of the season. Only through the peak growth period is a grass-only diet fed.

Five centre pivots have been installed and 200ha are irrigated with k-line, which takes about four-and-a-half hours to move each day.

The dairy shed has automatic cup removers with cell sense which contributes to a consistent cell count of around 100. Cell sense measures the conductivity between quarters and as a variation from the herd average, and detects mastitis early.  The computerised system alerts employees at the start of three milkings that a cow could be getting mastitis.

Last season, the property achieved a Somatic Cell Count award, was grade-free and achieved 440kg of milk solids per cow.

The McLachlans agree that good people, good systems and making use of technology are key focuses to achieve required results from a large and steep operation.

By LINDA MCCARTHY

PHOTO: LINDA MCCARTHY – Pictured are Parautkia Farms staff members (from left) Romeo Leonida, Tristan Mitchell, Saul Llamera, Kirsty McLachlan, Shane Wainwright, Alie Jun Delos Santos (red shirt), Stephen McLachlan, Manuel Castillo and Kennith Sabarillo.