1 Jun 2019

Moo-ving day: the annual dairy cow migration

6:52 am on 1 June 2019

Today is officially 'moving day', the first day of winter and the date dairy farmers around the country move thousands of cows to new pastures for winter grazing or new sharemilking contracts.

Michael and Susie Woodward with their children

Michael and Susie Woodward with their children. Photo: Supplied / Michael Woodward

For dairy farmers Michael and Susie Woodward, this year will be an especially big one; after 16 years of sharemilking in North Canterbury, they have bought a farm in the Waikato and now have the task of moving their entire farming operation 900km north.

The couple plan to supply premium priced A2 milk to Synlait Milk's new plant in Pokeno.

Mr Woodward said their four children, five dogs, six chickens, 350 cows and two truckloads of farm equipment would be making the move with them.

"It's going to be an interesting journey on the way up, but look it's all for the end goal, so we're looking forward to that."

The job hadn't been easy logistically, or cheap, with the cost of shifting the cattle alone adding up to about $60,000.

But it was exciting to move from being a sharemilker, where you own the cows but not the land, into farm ownership, Mr Woodward said.

"I haven't had to do the shifting like some [sharemilking] people have, but now I've got a full appreciation of what that takes and yeah ... very much sets in the reason why we've been pushing to get our own place so we don't have to worry about this sort of stuff anymore."

Cattle disease, M bovis concerns during 'moving day'

Michael and Susie Woodward moving their farm

Photo: Supplied / Michael Woodward

Moving day will be an anxious one for many because Mycoplasma bovis spreads by cattle mixing with an infected animal, making the movement of stock a risk.

Earlier this week the agriculture minister called on dairy farmers to re-register for the national animal tracking system, NAIT, ahead of 1 June, and said it was not good enough that thousands were still yet to do so.

Mr Woodward said they had taken precautions around M bovis - they had decided not to buy any new cattle, and instead were moving cows they already owned.

Michael and Susie Woodward moving their farm

Photo: Supplied / Michael Woodward

He said they had also chosen a reputable trucking company that they trusted to follow biosecurity best practice.

"Other than that, the farm we are going to is going to be empty of cows for the last 10-20 days, so for our shift the risk is relatively low," Mr Woodward said.

"[M bovis] is part of the reason why we made sure we kept our own herd as well, versus buying any in, [so] we just knew what we were getting at the other end," he said.

Mr Woodward said there was a heightened awareness amongst farmers about being careful when it came to M bovis.

"People are still wary, and so you know, [they're] getting consent into council so people know when they're moving [cows] down the road and all that sort of stuff ... people are probably just following the rules a bit better," he said.

Mr Woodward said those farmers who were dragging the chain and not meeting their NAIT obligations should work to remedy that before they faced a fine for non-compliance.

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