For Te Puke farmer Dion Steiner and his farm manager Danny Ngawhika, raising cows that are happy and healthy is at the forefront of their operation.
“I measure success by the health and happiness of my animals and the happiness of my employees because if they’re happy they’ll treat the animals well. Money in the bank is a nice thing too, but at the end of the day I like to see happy cows,” says Dion.
Preparation and forward planning is the key to their success.
“Animal welfare is so important, if we know rain is coming we don’t put them on a steep hill. If it’s going to be windy we don’t put them in an exposed paddock, we put them somewhere with shelter. You wouldn’t want to stand out there in the rain and wind so why should they?
“Conditions can change in a minute so if you know adverse conditions are coming you’ve got to plan for them and you’ve always got to have a backup option at four o’clock in the morning because things can change that quickly.”
This thought and care is given to the herd from day one.
“If you scrimp on them as a calf, you affect them for the rest of their future, it’s a long-term investment and that’s why we chose Fiber Fresh,” says Dion.
“I brought in heifers from another farm a couple of years ago and the difference between them and my heifers was amazing. The Fiber Fresh cows just blew them away which is proof in the pudding.”
Danny rears between 55-60 calves a season and says that Fiber Fresh ticks all the boxes.
“I look for the calves’ development and growth. Being able to pull the milk back and seeing them hook into the Fiber Fresh is really neat. I love seeing their tummies dropping down rather than going out and when they go out to pasture their heads are down 24/7!”
Having the ability to digest grass at such an early age is setting them up for life.
“We’re a production system one and the way the Fiber Fresh cow’s milk is amazing, averaging 410 milk solids and we put that down to early rumen development,” says Dion.
Last season Steiner’s farm took part in the Fiber Fresh trial for a new FiberGain formulation.
“We were really happy with the results of the new FiberGain. The calves demolished it right from the start. We were able to wean them two weeks earlier than usual because they were hitting the weight targets so much quicker. They cleaned up everything, decimated it.”
These calves are now flourishing on the runoff section of the farm and the dynamic duo couldn’t be happier with the results.
Dion sums up his philosophy to farming well,
“Production in the vat all starts from healthy, happy cows.”