Thursday, 07 May 2020 11:53

Breeder joins HFNZA board

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Helen Cummings on her farm. Helen Cummings on her farm.

The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively brought forward the appointment of Southland dairy farmer Helen Cummings to the national board of the Holstein Friesian NZ Association.

Nominated unopposed to represent Ward 8 (Otago/Southland) in the recent director elections, Cummings’ appointment would normally have taken effect at the annual general meeting during the annual conference in Whangarei in June, but both the AGM and the conference have been cancelled.

Instead, she and the other board members are already getting into their work over Skype.

It’s an opportunity the passionate Holstein Friesian breeder is relishing.

“I was asked to be nominated as the board member for the Otago/Southland region, so I thought I’d give it a go,” she said.

Helen lives on a 106ha dairy farm at Wyndham, milking a herd of 235 predominately Holstein Friesian cows with a full-time employee, Cherie McMullan, while her husband Jock works in town.

Helen and Jock have been members of Holstein Friesian NZ for almost 20 years.

“I became secretary of the Southland branch two months after we joined. I took over as president about six or seven years ago,” she said.

“Joining the national board will be an opportunity for me to grow my own skills and learn more about key aspects of the association.”

The couple breed pedigree animals under the stud name Mayalan Holsteins - a mash-up of Rowalan, the name of Helen’s parents’ farm, with May, the month Helen and Jock bought their first Holstein.

Helen believes there are significant advantages to the breed.

“There are big production benefits with using Holstein Friesian bulls over your herd,” she said.

“The top-ranking Holstein Friesian sires produce almost 40% more milksolids than their Jersey counterparts from the same feed.”

Helen said there’s also a strong market for Friesian bull calves and surplus heifers.

Meanwhile the cancellation of the Holstein Friesian NZ conference and AGM for this year puts back the association’s annual conference rotation by 12 months, so Northland will now host it in 2021 and Manawatu in 2022. 

Flood recovery

Helen Cummings’ appointment caps off a busy time on the farm, which borders the Mataura River and was badly affected by the big floods of early February.

“We’ve been here 12 years and I’ve never seen a flood that bad. Almost 80% of the farm went under water,” recalls Helen. 

Floodwaters swept away 150 grass silage bales, damaged fences and lanes, wrecked crops and left paddocks strewn with debris.

Helen and McMullan spent five to six hours a day since the flood cleaning up paddocks.

“We have 42 paddocks. We’ve had to pick up sticks, rubbish and clear massive branches and entire trees from 36 of them,” she said.

About 300 new posts, 50 strainer posts and 7.5km of new wire have been needed to repair fences and ensure they are stock-proof again.

Helen called it a hard two-month slog which only finished in mid-April.

But she praised the way neighbours and the Southland community worked together in the days following the disaster.

“We had 23 friends and family turn up on the Saturday following the flood to help with the clean-up and 26 people on the Sunday. It was truly humbling. It’s likely the effects of the flood will be felt into next season,” she said. 

“Plus, there were several members of the Farmy Army – a volunteer group organised by Federated Farmers – and a team from the Gore A&P Society, where Jock is president.”

More like this

Overstayers irk farmers

A new law preventing the eviction of tenants from rental properties is causing a headache for some dairy farmers.

Distributor focussing on farmer support

AGCO Australia and New Zealand has announced plans focused around protecting the welfare and livelihood of its customers, employees and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fonterra’s big break

Former Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden believes the co-operative will come out a stronger global player post-COVID-19.

Featured

ANZCO makes a $30m profit

Meat company ANZCO Foods recorded its best-ever revenue of $1.7b and a net profit before tax of $30.6m for the year ended 31 December 2019.

 

M. bovis – we’re making headway

Ministry for Primary Industries chief science adviser, Dr John Roche on the indications New Zealand is winning the fight against Mycoplasma bovis.

Delays ruled out on water reforms

Delaying the introduction of new water reforms was not an option according to the two cabinet Ministers directly involved – Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

$700m for freshwater clean up

The Government has announced a $700 million fund to support the primary sector and other groups in meeting new clean water standards.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Effluent power

Finnish dairy company Valio is on a mission to reduce milk’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035.

What’s in a name?

The man who coined the term ‘Gypsy Day’ is slightly miffed that a term he introduced to New Zealand’s farming…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter