Hangawera is a sheep and beef operation at Tauhei, near Morrinsville, in the Waikato. It is one of a number of properties in the region owned and operated by Tainui Group Holdings.
Luke is the farm manager for this farm, responsible for day-to-day activities from fixing fences to organising crops or selling and purchasing decisions, while Shane Hill is operations manager, overseeing all properties.
Predominantly a bull/beef finishing farm, Hangawera is 800 hectares (about 550ha effective) of rolling to medium hill country, with limited flats.
Luke has been on the property for four years and over the last few years, changes to stock policies have moved the operation in a different direction. Moving away from breeding cows completely, a core component of the operation is now bull/beef finishing, both bulls and steers, and about 400 -500 total are finished annually.
There are now about 1200 ewes and 350 replacements, and the aim is to finish all progeny on farm and potentially buy on the store market to finish more. They are in their second year of a cropping programme, with 20-30ha of brassica crops in for lamb finishing. This is another significant shift.
When Luke arrived the stock policy centred on breeding cows and breeding ewes, with most lambs sold store. “We’ve gone from selling 30 fat lambs at weaning to last year selling 580 off mum. Last year, (20/21 year) we finished 1800 lambs all up. We’ve increased our production a lot by doing this. We looked at our stock policies and fine-tuned things, now the breeding cows are gone, and we have also dropped ewe numbers back, to focus on a quality ewe rather than quantity.
“With Cloud Farmer, it creates some farm history in terms of record keeping. That comes back to being able to tweak your policies and fine tune your business. I think it can help with business development a lot.”
TAINUI GROUP HOLDINGS
Along with Hangawera, Tainui Group Holdings has three other dry stock blocks in the region as well as three dairy farms, with a dairy support block. There are a further two cropping/support blocks.
“We try hard to work closely with the original Maori landowners and local marae who have a close affinity with the whenua. It’s very special to them for its historical significance and is unique in that it helped fund the tribe’s raupatu settlement back in the 80s and 90s.”
Hangawera has recently dropped a labour unit, meaning it’s just Luke on the farm now. He still sees value in using a tool like Cloud Farmer to keep track of what’s happening, and record important information, like animal health, which is handy when it comes to audits.
Along with Cloud Farmer, Luke utilises Farmax for feed budgeting.
Initially, Luke suggested to Shane they investigate using Cloud Farmer for its ability to record staff timesheets, but its value has now grown far beyond that.
“Our timesheets were all paper and we wanted a simple system everyone could access that would help us, and eliminate the paper trail. Cloud Farmer has definitely done that, and more. Now we have a link between Cloud Farmer and the office. We have a huge focus on health and safety too and it’s a monitored system with the timesheets. We definitely wouldn’t look back.”
The other main use is animal health records. Every time a mob of lambs or bulls is drenched it is recorded, which has proved useful for auditing purposes, as well as recording sales and purchases of stock.
“I basically try to do it the night of the activity happening. I take a photo of the batch number and expiry of the drench, it’s on my phone and I can be sitting on the couch watching telly and chuck it in Cloud Farmer. Long term it makes life easier because everything is recorded and it’s there as backup if you lose your notebook.”
When Luke did have a shepherd, Cloud Farmer was valuable. “For staff, when I did have a staff member, it was magic. I sat down on a Sunday and wrote a rough plan for the next week, and that linked straight to the employee. Then they have an idea of what’s happening and it creates some initiative. It helps them think about what they’re doing, or could be doing.
“I think when we are using Cloud Farmer and adding information into it, it creates a road map for both Shane and I to look at and follow together, and guide us from year to year. A part of it is to use a weekly planner, which gives Shane an indication of what I have on, which then correlates with timesheets.
“Also by creating the history it ensures that both Shane and I are aligned with the operations on farm and that we are on the same page. This is done through purchases, sales and paddock information (cropping or spraying) etc.”
As well, they have added rainfall records to their Cloud Farmer.
“Overall, it probably is time saving. It saves a lot of headaches when it comes to recording information. Cloud Farmer just simplifies the diary, and it’s all in one spot. Your phone might die, but you can just re-download the app and it’s all there.”
Luke would recommend Cloud Farmer to other farmers, especially those with staff. “One, it gives them the opportunity to learn how a farm operates and it gives them a bit of ownership too. They get to see what’s happened and the processes. It simplifies the system as it’s a diary you have with you every day, on your phone. It has everything at the push of a button.
“It also helps with organisation, especially these days when we have so many things to think about with compliance.”