Great Farming Stories

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Des and Alex Bickers - RUAWAI

15 February 2019

Des and Alex Bickers - RUAWAI

Once-a-day milking has cut milking and walking time and greatly increased motivation for Des and Alex Bickers and their employees Tony and Jenna Fraser in a more sustainable business model.

Milking twice-a-day was taking up to seven-and-a-half hours through a 20-bale reverse position (cows facing outwards) rotary until the switch was made in the 2016-17 season.

Production dipped about 8% that season but has since recovered 5% the following season, with a budget for another 5% this season.

Community involvement is very important to Des and Alex and after 21 years on the farm Tony and his family also share the community values.

School boards, the rugby club, Mainly Music and the Ruawai Community Church have all been led or are still being led by Des and Alex.

They have also fostered two children in addition to their own five and continue to work with disadvantaged youth, where Tony now also helps.

Close to the Tokatoka and Maungaraho landmarks on the eastern shore of the Wairoa river, the home farm has significant natural features including an historical pa site and a native bush reserve under QE11 covenant.

The Bickers are extremely proud of the values these natural and historic sites hold and have excluded stock and adapted pest control procedures to preserve these values.

Waste management follows a careful plan, including burning paper, using Plasback bags for bale wrap silage covers, woven bags and Sustain bags, bin collection for general waste and storing metal rubbish for recycling.

The chemical shed is a roomy, secure purpose-built structure on a concrete bund tank, with everything named and all usage registered.

Hot water in the milking shed is heated through a combination of heat exchange-unit on the cooler and three solar panels on the roof.

Shed water goes through a three-stage filtration and yard washdown is by a double bucket dump with jetters and scraper on backing gate.

Effluent water is sprayed on to paddocks with a travelling irrigator and the feed pad has a weeping wall that feeds into the second pond. An alternative feed pad at the back of the farm also has effluent ponds.

Des said the effluent system must be carefully managed because the discharge point is very close to the farm boundary and they intend to move away from consented discharge.

A remote pond has been dug further up the hill, fed by a pump with effluent water, from which the irrigator can be gravity fed. 

Awards Won 2019

DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award