The operation at Urenui near Waitara in Taranaki, also won three category awards as well as being declared the supreme winner at an awards evening held in Palmerston North last night.
Sulzberger Farm won the Business Resilience Award for the farm with the lowest cost of production per kilogram of milksolids, Best Taranaki Farm Performance Award and the award for Low Input Farm With the Best Financial Performance.
The awards used farm data from the 2015-16 dairying season.
Judge Con Williams said the season had been financially one of the toughest in many years. “In fact, the average dairy farmer lost nearly $1 a kgMS and the industry accumulated close to $1.50 a kgMS in additional debt.”
He said the dairy industry had faced many challenges, such as the low milk payout and changing regulations, in recent years that had been beyond the control of any dairy business.
“While it’s never an easy thing to place one’s business under the microscope, doing so in the 2015-16 business environment is even more challenging. Alongside the usual disclosure of sensitive and personal financial information and taking the time to provide appropriate data/information there is the additional scrutiny at a time of general stress.”
Andrew Sulzberger who is the fourth generation to work on the 115ha farm running 320-cows, said the win was unexpected but they were “delighted”.
They have a low-input, forage-based system that is run efficiently; they produced 1161kg MS/ha and have an efficient conversion to milksolids at 11.6kgDM consumed per kgMS produced.
Judge Danny Donaghy, Massey University professor of dairy production systems, said with a score of 82 out of 100, Sulzberger Farms was a “clear winner of the supreme award”.
“This business had the highest return on capital at 3.7 per cent, the highest operating profit at $2166/ha, and the highest operating profit margin at 35.9 per cent.”
“On the cost side, they had the lowest cost of production at $2.50/kgMS, underpinned by the lowest operating expenses per kgMS at $3.34, and both the lowest core per cow costs at $432/cow and the lowest core per ha cost at $577/ha.”
The Sulzbergers ran a highly efficient, highly profitable business with excellent cost control.
For the Business Resilience Award, Donaghy said “running a tight ship with excellent cost control is what assured their win in this category”.
“Whether we looked at cost of production or operating profit margin as an indicator of resilience, the Sulzbergers were the clear winners for this category.
“Their system is strongly based on forage with 85.6 per cent of the diet as pasture and a further 6.7 per cent as home-produced forage. They had a high pasture harvest at 12.6tDM/ha from dryland, a low cost of pasture consumed at $266/tDM and the lowest cost of forage consumed at $173/tDM.”
Northland farmers Joe Foster and Cam Holmes of Okaihau Pastoral Ltd were named runner-up. They also won the regional award for best Northland farm for the second year and the award for High Input Farm with Best Financial Performance.
Williams said, “Winning this category for the second year in a row highlights the business’ consistency and adaptability to a challenging operating environment”.
“But this durability is even greater when you consider Northland’s climatic conditions, topography and soils. This particular farm receives very high rainfall and is at an elevated altitude to boot. Okaihau appears to do all the basics well for its chosen farm system when you consider some of these location specific challenges.”
Okaihau Pastoral Ltd achieve high production per hectare of 1645/ha – high for Northland and were second-highest of all finalists. Williams said a lot of this is due to the use of supplementary feed and concentrates with pasture consumed the second-lowest of all finalists at 61.6 per cent.
“A key competitive advantage versus its peers is a high proportion of home grown forage [94 per cent]. This helps to keep the cost of consumed feed low at $292tDM. This was in line with the average from all other finalists.
“This highlights one of the golden rules of a more intensive system, which is to focus on cost control and maximise the return from investment into supplements. This includes focusing not just on the purchase or growing price of the supplement, but also the costs associated feeding it and the leftover wastage.”
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said one of the positives of the tough times farmers had gone through was that they had had to look more closely at their businesses.
“Farmers have had to refocus on growing grass and harvesting efficiently.”
He said the industry faced two challenges – negativity and water quality. He encouraged the winners to go home and tell their stories to their neighbours and the media.
“We don’t hear enough of the positive stories in the industry.
“The second challenge around water quality is not going to go away. There are have been four or five reports criticising agriculture. But unpicked, it is not just agriculture – industrialism and urbanisation play a part too.”
The nationwide competition provides farmers with an independent comprehensive farm performance assessment and report of their dairy enterprise’s financial, human resources and environmental management performance (triple bottom line).
2017 Dairy Business of the Year
*Sulzberger Farms Ltd – Andrew and Sibylle Sulzberger and Brad and Christine Sulzberger
Best Taranaki Farm Performance
Low Input with Best Financials
*Okaihau Pastoral Ltd – Joe Foster and Cam Holmes
Supreme Award Runner Up
Best Northland Farm Performance
High Input with Best Financials
*PG & KF West Ltd – Peter & Karen West
Best Waikato Farm Performance
*Raroad Farm Ltd -David & Sandy Clark
Best BOP Farm Performance
*Goodlands Partnership – Blair and Deanne Percy
Best Wairarapa Farm Performance
*Garvaghy Gold Ltd – Robert and Colleen Ervine
Best Manawatu Farm Performance
*BJ Caird Ltd/Grassy Banks – Brendan and Katya Caird and Scott and Kayla Searle
Best Canterbury Farm Performance
Best Environmental Performance
*Pan Farm Ltd – Paul and Andrea Stevenson
Best West Coast Farm Performance
Best People Leadership
*R & P McIntosh Ltd – Rob & Trish McIntosh
Medium Input with Best Financials