It began with a handshake, a tirade against the media and analysis of the dairy industry.
It ended with a greater understanding, on both sides, of the role of the media and the issues smaller dairy farmers face.
Frustrated at what they saw as a constant bombardment of negative stories about the dairy industry, Ross, Carol and Chris Turner invited Stuff to their farm after reading about the latest statistics around effluent compliance.
For the second year in a row, one third of Waikato dairy farms monitored by the Waikato Regional Council were either partially or significantly non-compliant.
Ross had little sympathy for the nine per cent of significantly non-compliant dairy farmers, but is more forgiving of those who are partially non-compliant.
“I think most of that 36 per cent [non-compliant farmers] must be fairly close to being all right. All farmers are annoyed with that nine per cent.”
But he felt that the dairy industry was being unfairly targeted.
“There’s a general feeling that we’re hated.”
Their 68.5 hectare, 200 cow farm just west of Kihikihi has been in their family for 63 years.
It is in a family trust with Ross and Carol’s son Chris being the majority shareholder.
Below the dairy shed and feedpad lies its clay-lined and sealed effluent pond.
Their infrastructure is old but sound. Effluent from the shed and feedpad travels through sand traps that capture the liquid.
The solid part of the effluent is collected into a muck spreader and spread out as fertiliser on parts of the farm that the effluent irrigator doesn’t travel to.
Liquid effluent is gravity-fed down to the pond, which is emptied five times a year and spread over 20 hectares.
“It works well, but it is expensive,” Chris said.
It costs $15,000 a year for a contractor charging $240 per hour to do the job.
Upgrading or modernising the system is costly because the pond cannot be properly fitted with an artificial liner. Instead, a new pond would have to be built costing $75,000.
A farm of their scale could make a reasonable profit if it carried low debt, but it lacked the scale of larger farms to afford that sort of upgrade.
He said the perception that all Waikato farmers are large corporate entities was wrong. In Waikato, most were smaller, family operated businesses.
“The family farms really are the pioneers of New Zealand.”
By: Gerald Piddock