A SCOTTISH born girl and her Kiwi husband have just won a big award for their share-milking business in New Zealand.

Born and bred on a beef and sheep farm at Fauldhouse, West Lothian, Ann Henderson and her husband, Scott, from South Otago have just won the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year for 2021.

Ann and Scott Henderson with their sharemilker award.

Ann and Scott Henderson with their sharemilker award.

It was a similar path taken by young Scottish couple, Lynne and Gregor Ramsay, originally from near Biggar, who were featured in The SF back in November.

But for Ann, the story began back in 2012 when, at the age of 21 and after spending a few years milking cows in South Lanarkshire, she was lured to New Zealand to gain more experience in dairying.

There she met carpenter and husband to be, Scott Henderson, and eventually started working on various Kiwi farms before the couple joined forces in 2017 entering into a share-milking agreement on the same farm they work today.

Owned by the Whitestone Trust, the farm Ann and Scott work on is based in South Otago and extends to 560 ha, of which 340 ha are used for dairying.

Ann told The SF: “It has been a dairy farm for the past 23 years and we are currently on a three year 25% share-milking contract. We already own some cows in the herd but it is our ambition to own the full herd by June 1, 2022, and enter into a 50:50 share-milking contract.

Scott and Ann Henderson are sharemilkers on a South Otago dairy farm.

Scott and Ann Henderson are sharemilkers on a South Otago dairy farm.

“Scott and I have our own company, Way2Milk Dairies. On this farm we are semi self-contained, so we have 850 milking cows, 210 calves and 210 yearlings, 60 empty carry-over cows and aim to run 2.5 cows per ha.

“The farm is rolling to steep contour with main soil types Waitahuna, Warepa and Tauratu, which are all clay based. Our annual rainfall is about 820mm per year.

“Our milk goes to Danone to produce baby formula. Danone fixes half its payout for two years and the other half floats on Fonterra. We milk cows from July 20 to May 31, after that they are dried off. Half the cows, with the yearlings and calves, winter on the farm and the other half go to grazing.

AI is used with tail painting across the herd.

AI is used with tail painting across the herd.

“Our yearly production target is 320,000kg, but this year we are on track to do a record production of 345,000kg,” she said. “Cows feed on grass during the milking period, along with 235kg of barley each per year to help with total energy intake.

Silage is made throughout the year for winter use.

Silage is made throughout the year for winter use.

“We make as much silage as the weather allows us to each year, which can be very variable depending on the climate. This year we made 250 tonnes of dry matter, but last year was 80 tonnes so we do have to buy some in.

“Cows are fed 19kg DM during the milking season. Today, we feed 1kg barley, 6kg silage and 12kg grass. We measure grass weekly with a plate metre to record growth rate, pasture cover, which allows us to make decisions early,” she said.

The couple plant 30ha of fodder beet to winter the cattle on and need 1000 bales of silage in bales, either made on farm or bought in. A further 20ha of summer turnips are fed at 4kg/cow from early January to March.

Ann added: “The milking parlour is a 60-unit rotary with ACRs, auto drafting and teat spraying. We milk twice a day from August until Christmas, then we go to 10:7 milking which means milking at 4.30am and 3pm on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then milk 8am on a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and 6am on a Sunday.

“We own 365 cows now and will buy 370 in May, 2021, and 370 in May, 2022, aiming to be in a 50:50 partnership by June, 2022.”

The cows are kept outdoors all year round and there is a calving pad that holds 250 cows. AI is used across the herd first and then Hereford bulls sweep up. The Hendersons rear 23% replacements each year and a Jersey bull is used on the yearling heifers.

Ann said: “We employ three full time staff – a Chilean, a Kiwi and a Filipino – who all have their own house on the farm and are treated as our family. We have weekly meetings to cover everything that is happening on farm and what is coming up.”

Diseases and lameness are the biggest problem on the farm for Ann and Scott with mycobacterium bovis, a devastating disease, probably posing the biggest threat.

“Our farm got taken out in 2019 because of it, which was devastating but it opened up the opportunity for us to share milk,” said Ann. “Farming is hard and when huge events like that happens, it's soul destroying but keeping talking together is key to problem solving.

"For us, mental health and wellbeing is key and we do everything we can to look after ourselves our team and community around us.

“In our 25% contract, we pay for the labour, electricity, shed chemicals and rubber-wear, gear and maintenance, as well as 25% of the in-shed feeding. The farm owner pays the rest. In return, we receive 25% of the milk cheque. In a 50:50 arrangement all costs and income will be split equally.

“So, the next goal for us is to go to 50:50 share milking and then buy a farm with 600 cows within 10 years,” she added.

“Winning the competition has been invaluable to us as the contacts we have made and the publicity we have had from it has been huge. Now we go on to the nationals on May 15 to compete against all regional winners,” Ann said.