SOUTH East South Australian dairyfarmers Don and Jen Stolp have worked to find the balance between their New Zealand knowledge and the Australian environment.
The Stolps spent several years on a family dairy farm at Ashburton on the South Island before moving to Australia.
After spending several years as milkers and other on-farm roles, three years ago the Stolps stepped into the role of farm manager at Kongorong, SA, and this year is their first as part-owners.
They recruited a “motley crew” herd, according to Mr Stolp, sourcing heifers and cows from across Vic, and have been working to improve their genetics.
They are aiming for a Jersey-cross herd and milk about 600 cows on a 60-stall rotary dairy with a spring-calving system.
Ms Stolp said the smaller-sized herd had benefits at calving time while also improving the milk quality.
Mr Stolp said their goal was higher components.
“Everything we do is related to milk solids, so milk solids a hectare and milk solids a cow,” he said.
They have been milk testing regularly to improve their cow quality.
Ms Stolp said they want to develop a young, productive herd.
They source KiwiCross bulls for artificial insemination and this year also decided to use some Angus and Hereford beef bulls, with a Jersey bull on-farm as back up.
Ms Stolp said they only needed so many heifers for replacements so decided to tap into the strong beef prices available.
They sold the beef-cross calves early to fatteners but they have also bought a selection of four-day-old Friesian bull calves to fatten and sell as weaners.
Ms Stolp has the primary role in calf-rearing, a position she considers important to maintain.
“Calves are our replacement herd, so if we don’t get it right from the start, two years down the track, we could be in trouble,” she said.
“It’s nice to go to the milking shed and see some still remember you.”
The primary focus of their feed is pastures, with 140 hectares of irrigated land with perennial ryegrass and 120ha dryland annual ryegrass and clover.
As a nod to local customs, they have also bought in some barley to supplement feeding.
Ms Stolp said it took some getting used to, with grain not typically used in NZ.
“We try to be mainly pasture-based feed with a top up of grain,” she said.
“When we first came here, we adapted what we know to what Australians do.”
Ms Stolp said it made sense to make the most of pastures, particularly since her time working with Viterra demonstrated how much prices could fluctuate.
As part of her adjustment to management, Ms Stolp is putting together her own personal A-team to put her goals in place.
Ms Stolp was sponsored by Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network and DairySA to attend the Thriving Women’s Conference at Hahndorf in February, and has been putting into practice some of the lessons she has learned.
Key to that was the need to surround themselves with positive people who could help them achieve their goals – their A-team.
“We need to surround ourselves with positive people for support and to bounce ideas off each other,” she said.
“We can’t do it on our own, we need to create our own A-team and take as many opportunities as we can and create opportunities for ourselves.
“We’re here with no family so we need to surround ourselves with people who are likeminded.”
Another key message was coping with adversity.
“With this industry, there are a lot of highs and lows, and things can be out of our control,” she said.
“Sometimes you can build something up bigger in your head.”
Ms Stolp said she learned she can be more productive by “putting a pin” in issues and working out what needed to happen today, tomorrow or next year, instead of getting overwhelmed.
She said it was also great to learn about ways to have conversations with a range of people across the industry, including staff.
“Because we’re looking to progress in the industry, I wanted to go to the conference for networking and to understand more about how businesses are run,” she said.