Tataiwhetu Trust chairman Paki Nikora is elated to have won this year’s Ahuwhenua trophy for the top Maori dairy farm.
All the finalists have staged field days at their respective properties - the last of which was held at Tunapahore B2A Incorporation's farm at Torere, about half an hour's drive east of Opotiki.
About 200 people from the Eastern Bay of Plenty came along for the day which began at the Torere Marae where guests were welcomed by local kaumātua and Incorporation chairman, Jack Mihaere. They then listened to presentations by the committee of management, advisors and farm staff before being then taken by bus a few kilometres down the road to see the actual farm.
The farm, the marae and church at Tōrereare all located right on the coast and there are stunning vistas of the seas with Whakaari/White Island in the distance. The hills rise steeply from the narrow coastal strip and are covered in a mix of native trees and commercial forestry; all along the coast there are pockets of kiwifruit which are slowly replacing maize crops. It's a beautiful setting and drew many positive comments from the farmers, rural professionals, agribusiness leaders and government officials who attended the day.
The property consists of 400ha of land but the actual milking platform is 132ha on which are run 385 cows that produce 125,940 kgMS. Other land is leased for maize silage production. In July 2008, a 5.54ha kiwifruit orchard was purchased by the Incorporation and now consists mainly of SunGold G3 and some green Haywards. The orchard consistently produces great fruit and is within the top producers for both EastPack and Zespri. The Incorporation also has shares in Whakatohea Mussels (Opotiki) Limited, Fonterra, Zespri, Ballance, Farmlands and EastPack Limited.
During the 1930s–1950s Tunapahore B2 was a dairy and dry stock unit but when the milker died in a car accident, the management decided to sell the dairy herd, and later the land was leased to surrounding land owners. Later it reverted back to a dairy farm but as Jack Mihaere explains, they struck a crisis in 2018 when their sharemilker left suddenly.
“In the space of six weeks we had to buy a herd, find a manager and a milker and all the equipment to run the farm and somehow we managed to do this. We had to buy cows from all around the region but we did this,” he says.
However it quickly became evident that they needed to buy in extra feed to keep the cows in good condition and later they found that their empty rate for cows was 31%.
“We realised we needed help and we have solved the problem by feeding our cows better. Now we have got the not in-calf rate down to about 12%,” he says.
The current farm manager is Janet Poihipi, who has worked for a number of years on the farm under previous sharemilkers.
“The farm is my pride and joy. I started off as relief milker in 2005 and then worked my way up to be the 2IC. When the previous sharemilker left, they employed a new manager from the Waikato but he got quite sick and I ended up doing his and my job, which was really quite hard. I love the work and the cows – they are my babies and when they hear my voice they just come, so I don’t need to use the backing gate,” she says.
Last Minute Decision
Jack Mihaere says it was a last minute decision to enter the competition. He says he and others from the Incorporation were attending a field day last year at Matapihi for a finalist of the Ahuwhenua Trophy competition for Horticulture.
“We were thinking about entering and when we saw what Ngai Tukairangi had done, we decided we would have a go. We only had four days to put in their entry and are very pleased we did,” he says.
Mihaere says he had a sleepless night preparing for the field day. But says he was delighted with the large turnout and not surprised at how many people came along. He says the day involved a lot of work by a lot of people and says his sister Repeka was a key person in organising the event.