South Canterbury ‘robo-farm’ for sale

6:34 PM Tuesday December 5, 2017 Colin Taylor

At Riverholme Pastures, Pleasant Point, cows walk themselves to the milking shed. Photo / Supplied

At Pleasant Point, South Canterbury, a state-of-the-art dairy farm comprising three adjoining landholdings is for sale.

“This is a technology-led operation,” says George Morris of Bayleys Canterbury who, with colleague Nick Young, is marketing Riverholme Pastures for sale by offers closing at 4pm on Thursday December 14.

“Riverholme Pastures was the first location in the South Island to introduce a DeLaval voluntary milking system (VMS) where cows walk themselves to the milking shed to be processed in fully-automated milking units,” says Morris

Stock are rotated among the various grazing paddocks by computerised selection gates. The whole farm system can be monitored from a number of strategically-placed cameras. The process means Riverholme’s stock can be managed from the other side of the world by a farmer sitting in front of a computer screen.

The first of Riverholme’s three properties is at 233 Te Ngawai Rd and encompasses 155ha. Around 480 cows are milked off a milking platform of 135ha which produces in the region of 200,000 kilogrammes of milk solids through the automated DeLaval system.

Two nearby support blocks are at Totara Valley Rd. One is a 57ha unit used for rearing young stock and grazing cows in winter; and the other a 78ha unit used for growing winter feed crops and cereal, as well as also rearing young stock and grazing cows in winter.

Morris says Riverholme Pastures can be sold as the whole property; sold separately in three blocks; or interested parties could take an equity stake in the business.

True Commercial - Riverholme Pasture robo-farm Pleasant Pt - cows in milking shed.jpg

The DeLaval voluntary milking system employs fully-automated milking units. Photo / Supplied

He says the Riverholme Pastures farm voluntary milking system cost in the region of $400,000 more than a conventional 50-bale rotary shed to install, but enables the property to be run with 2.5 ‘labour units’ rather than a rotary shed farm’s three-plus personnel.

“The voluntary milking system delivers long-term labour-savings, in conjunction with increased productivity, and better animal welfare. Those farmers using the DeLaval system credit the increased output on running a calmer herd milking at optimum periods in the day, and an extension to a cow’s milking life,” Morris says.

“The farming methods employed at Riverholme Pastures really are cutting-edge in New Zealand, given that the largely grass-based feed system uses very little in the way of supplementary feeds which are usually associated with robotic farming operations.

“The operation has been closely watched by the dairy industry at large – more so with looming tighter immigration regulations aimed at restricting the number of foreign workers coming into New Zealand to work on our dairy farms.”

Morris says building infrastructure on the Riverholme Pastures properties includes:

  • a dairy containing six DeLaval robotic milking units;
  • a nine-bay automated calf-rearing shed with automatic calf feeding equipment delivering the capacity to rear up to 400 calves;
  • a large two bay concrete-floored implement shed plus older woolshed;
  • three grain silos; and
  • a renovated three-bedroom owner/manager’s home.

Morris says Riverholme Pastures farms are planted in a mix of ryegrass, clover, chicory and plantain.

“Riverholme’s feeding statistics show the farm is feeding about 1.2kgs of meal per cow daily – with feed consumed during the automated milking process to keep the animal calm and relaxed.”