Couple busy as NZ final looms

After winning the Southland-Otago Sharemiker and Equity Farmer of the Year competition, Steve and Tracy Henderson, of Winton, are preparing for the national final  in Auckland in May. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara.
After winning the Southland-Otago Sharemiker and Equity Farmer of the Year competition, Steve and Tracy Henderson, of Winton, are preparing for the national final in Auckland in May. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara.

Steve and Tracy Henderson, of Winton, barely had time to take a breather after winning the region's top dairy award before they were in the middle of their wedding arrangements.

A week after winning the Southland-Otago New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Sharemilker and Equity Farmer of the Year title in Gore on March 1, they got married on the farm, and the following Thursday they hosted a field day on their property.

They also intend to talk to past winners and the regional judges, and tweak their two-hour presentation for the national judging in Auckland in May.

''We want to keep it honest and real - it's our story,'' Mr Henderson said.

In their second season as 50-50 sharemilkers on a 110ha property owned by Adrian and Bev Simmonds, they wintered 325 cows and peak milked 310. There is also a 65ha run-off block.

Their target was 125,000kg of milk solids but they expected to do 128,000kg.

They have their goals - farm ownership or equity partnership - outlined and have identified just how they want to get there.

Mr Henderson, originally from Edendale, was the Southland Farm Manager of the Year in 2009.

''From there my goal was to get into sharemilking,'' he said.

Mrs Henderson is from a sheep, beef and deer farm in the North Island. They met while at Lincoln University.

The Simmonds allow the Hendersons to rear extra calves, so they can develop their herd. They also keep farm costs low, down to $2.13/kg of milk solids, compared with the Dairy Base average of $2.42.

''Keeping it low is one way for us to get ahead and the bank can see we have got some common sense,'' Mrs Henderson said.

Their average production was 393kg of milk solids/cow/season, although this year it was looking like about 410kg or 1140kg/ha, comparedwith 1080kg/ha for last season, Mr Henderson said.

Their animal health costs are about $60 per animal compared with the Dairy Base average of $82.

''Both of us are very much hands-on,'' he said.

They do their own milking and stock shifting and the cows are wintered just down the road so they can keep an eye on their weight and health. However, they do have a relief milker and employed a Lincoln University student to help while they prepared for the finals and their wedding.

The Hendersons make their own silage using borrowed equipment and make about 100 tonnes of dry matter and 800 bales of baleage, and winter their stock on kale. Their cows are recorded and they are increasing breed worth and production worth.

''We want to keep a saleable, high-yielding herd that the market wants,'' Mrs Henderson said. ''That is our asset.''

They also won the Westpac Business Performance and the LIC Recording and Productivity merit award.

The couple also take advantage of the advice and experience of business representatives.

''They are the knowledgeable ones and we make the most of people like the vets, LIC, fertiliser [companies] as it is no point in reinventing the wheel,'' she said. ''We get them out, question them and take advantage of them.''

The Hendersons said entering the competition was a good move as they had to explain what they were doing, why they were doing it and what they were going to do.

They hope to progress to a bigger sharemilking job and eventually be in a position to take advantage of any opportunties that arise, including farm ownership or equity partnership.