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Western District farmers tour leading NZ farms and agribusinesses

More than a dozen farmers from Victoria’s Western District jumped at the opportunity to “cross the ditch” earlier this month, to partake in an ag tour to some of New Zealand’s most progressive farms and agribusinesses.

Hosted by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, in conjunction with fertiliser distributor Vickery Bros, the group was given a rare insight into operations in both the North and South Islands. The nine-day tour included visits to large-scale irrigated dairy farms, fertiliser and pasture seed trials, grazing enterprises, a new dairy processing factory and an undercover goat dairy.

The tour also incorporated the National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek, dubbed the “biggest agricultural trade show in the southern hemisphere” with over 1000 exhibitors. 

Leading the tour, together with James Stewart from Vickery Bros, Rabobank Hamilton branch manager Sam Dohle said the group – consisting of cropping, beef and sheep producers – were “taken outside their comfort zone by visiting farming operations vastly different to their own”.

“This challenged all of us to look at what we are doing back home and how we can adapt best practice and innovation into our own operations,” Mr Dohle said. “While none of us will be running out and drastically changing our businesses, we have a greater appreciation for how others do things and we all came home feeling motivated to try new things.”

Balmoral grain and sheep producer, Mark Jarvis from ‘Aramis’, had never had the opportunity to see New Zealand’s farming sector first-hand.

“I had always heard about how they do things over there with highly productive ag systems, but I had never seen their farming operations for myself,” he said.

“Blown away by their productivity”, Mr Jarvis said he was impressed by how much grass farmers grow in New Zealand and how they measure their productivity. 

“They utilise every piece of grass,” he said, “by grazing their livestock in small areas cordoned off with hot wires, which they move by small increments of around 10 metres each day – which demonstrates the level of precision in their business.”

Mr Jarvis said while high rainfall and strong reliance on inputs (namely fertiliser) underpinned Kiwi farmers’ production systems, as well as the need to generate returns on their asset (with New Zealand farming land selling for up to $40,000 per hectare), there was much he could take away and implement into his own farming business.  

“The tour really emphasised the importance of measuring production and knowing your figures. While this is something we do well in the cropping side of our business, we could monitor it more closely in our sheep enterprise in terms of pasture utilisation,” he said.

“Their irrigation schemes were also of interest, with gravity-fed systems to drive irrigation pivots (rather than pumps), and we also saw some highly productive beet and kale crops for winter feeding cows and sheep – which produce around 25 tonnes of dry matter per hectare.”

Mr Jarvis said the opportunity to travel to New Zealand with other farmers from his district was also a key benefit of the tour. 

“Just to sit on the bus and talk shop was invaluable, as it was interesting to hear what others took away from the visits and share insights and knowledge,” he said.

With the group of Western District farmers now returned home, Mr Dohle said the tour participants were keen to visit each other’s farming operations as part of a reunion tour.

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 115 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is one of Australasia’s leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 

Skye Ward
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103