Tue, May 9, 2023 5:00 AM
"All I know is dairy farming.” Mark Zillwood says. He was raised on Dairy Farms in the Waikato and regularly shifting farm with his family who managed, and share milked throughout his childhood.
As a school leaver he was already accustomed to growing grass for cows and milking them. The dairy life is in his blood, plus he really likes working with cows and knows each one in his herd. He say’s “putting dry cows and under performers on the truck is stressful for him.”
After he and Simone were married the couple spent seven years in southland. Mainly working for one Farmer where he worked his way through the system tractor driving, managing and share milking seven hundred cows. Eventually, they had enough to look for a small property of their own. In 2008 Mark and Simone purchased the Canvastown property and settled there with their five children.
Mark says, “It’s only a small herd but it’s given us the lifestyle we wanted to raise our family. Our children have all gone to a small school in our local community at Canvastown which we’ve enjoyed.” He said they now range between thirteen years and twenty in age. Marks said, financially they would be better off if they’d remained in Southland share milking but he has no regrets with the choice of lifestyle and the freedom they have to milk three times in two days and to go once a day from Christmas.
We’ve been able to do things off farm with our kids. In 2011 Mark and Simone made the decision after three years on the farm experiencing dry summers but very wet springs to invest in a Cow Barn. “It’s given us options,” he says. On this farm we had nowhere to stand cows off for more than two nights in wet weather. They were making a mess and a cow barn has definitely been a cost, but it’s also given us peace of mind knowing they are under-cover in big storm events.
The couple also invested in a modern effluent system. This enables them to capture and store the cow barn effluent and return it to land in drier conditions. They started out wintering off farm and calved in the barn but these days winter in the barn and Mark says, “this works well, I can also put weight on the cows, which is another benefit of the cow barn; we’ve added a whole-body score in June before calving at the end of July.”
The Zillwood’s generally produce 1000ms per Ha from their 130 cows and life is good with the current pay-out, he says, “it will be a struggle if the payout drops for long with costs rising as they are currently.”
These days Simone works off farm three days a week nursing, the kids are becoming more independent, and Mark said, ‘I’m pleased how they’ve all worked and saved to pay for their own interests and toy’s. We love the area and I see no major changes in the future ahead.”