Diversification used to gain milkers equity

Esmerelda Duffin, and husband Michael, are contract milkers on two farms near Otautau. PHOTO:...
Esmerelda Duffin, and husband Michael, are contract milkers on two farms near Otautau. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Dairy farmers Esmerelda and Michael Duffin looked at diversification to gain equity, rather than than taking the usual career route within the industry.

Mrs Duffin, who is the Dairy Women’s Network regional team leader for Western Southland, said they chose to buy a house in Te Anau as an investment and a place to go away from working on two dairy farms, rather than buying cows.

They, along with sons Dylan (19) and Tyrone (18), and six staff, milk about 600 cows on each of the two farms near Otautau and have a combined milk solid target of 530,000kgMS.

The properties faced each other across the road so it was a practical arrangement to share staff and other resources. They had been contract milking on the two farms for nine years; each property was about 200ha, each with a rotary shed.

The couple bought the house in Te Anau as a hedge against the dairy downturn in 2016.

"We looked at diversification so we don’t put all our money in one basket."

Their six staff were all under 24 and the Duffins encouraged them to progress through the industry by studying through Primary ITO, and entering dairy awards.

"Three have been with us for two years and the rest are new. They are a young vibrant team and dairying is a great industry to be in as there is so much opportunity."

Their sons helped out on the farm and, while Dylan intended to become a farm manager and then farm owner by working through the ranks, Tyrone was more interested in sheep and beef and becoming a shepherd.

The family left South Africa in 2006, and were in Christchurch where Mr Duffin worked as a telecommunications engineer and Mrs Duffin studied early childhood education through Canterbury University.

"He installed broadband on dairy farms. He came home one day and said he would quite like to go dairying so we started to find out how to get into the industry."

Their first job was on a Landcorp farm in 2008.

They worked for various other farms in Canterbury before moving to their present job in 2012.

"We have great farm owners who are really supportive and we also have a good network around us."

She joined Dairy Women’s Network in 2017 as a support person for Western Southland team leader Chantel Hindrup.

Ms Hindrup left the role and Mrs Duffin took over in May last year.

A regional community social night was being held at the Hideaway, Winton, on July 24 for anybody involved in farming, both dairy and sheep and beef.

"Everyone is welcome and it is just a social occasion, with no speakers, just a get-together before calving starts.

"It is a chance to let their hair down and get to know everybody as we have not had a proper catch-up since before lockdown."

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