Converting a sheep and beef farm to dairy and going once-a-day milking has proven good decision-making by Jersey breeders Matthew and Emma Darke of Aria, Waikato.
Gray Beagley, from DairyNZ, says 140 people attended this first national event in three years, coming from Northland and Southland, Nelson, Taranaki, South Waikato and elsewhere.
The previous conference was run by the late Professor Colin Holmes, a keen advocate and supporter of OAD.
The conference theme was ‘happiness comes before success’, with most keynote speakers telling farmers to enjoy their work and not be driven to exhaustion by the quest for profit.
“So often farmers are driven to gain the extra kilogram of milk solids that they often lose sight of things that create a happy team. The buzz and vibe in the room tells you these are guys are happy and valuing their happiness and not just the bottom line,” said Beagley.
In Manawatu, Beagley’s home region, every year he sees more farmers turning to OAD, some for part of the season to cope with weather, others taking it up full time.
They are less stressed, so are their cows, he says, so they get in calf more easily.
Otaki farmer Kerry Walker says his change to OAD two years ago has reduced his stress levels. When he was milking TAD it was uneconomic to employ an extra worker; the switch to OAD has improved the financial viability of his farm.
“Production is vanity, profit is sanity,” Walker says. “There are two sides to this -- revenue and costs; so maybe we lose a little bit of revenue but we can balance this up with less cost.
“With lower stress levels I will be able to work in my twilight years. I love farming and I don’t want to give it away. This way I can continue farming without having to do all those hours.”
The two-day conference had a day of speakers and the second day in the field, including a visit to Massey University’s No 1 dairy farm and to well-known OAD farmer Christine Finnigan’s property in Manawatu.