Westland Profiles Pioneering Spirit Key in Dairy Conversion
If there was ever a West Coaster with a pioneering spirit Kerry Straight would be that person. Kerry was previously a consultant for Lincoln International, the international development consultancy firm owned by Lincoln University focusing on the management of a wide range of development projects in the Pacific and Asia.
His Fox Glacier farm is the second he and his partners have converted to dairy on the West Coast. His decision to return to his dairy farming in 2002 led him to his first dairy conversion in Whataroa, a project undertaken with his brother Dale and his wife Stacey. Dale and Stacey were previously sharemilking at Fairlie in South Canterbury so the partnership venture was a new start for both of them and meant a return to their West Coast dairy heritage.
After their first successful conversion and a self-proclaimed “rush of blood to the head” they bought into their second dairy farm conversion project at Fox Glacier. Three years after the conversion, the 400 hectare property was milking 950 cows. Throughout the conversion process the entire farm was developed and sown in new pasture, raced and fenced; as well as this they built new houses, sheds and a 60 bale rotary shed.
Kerry says the rough riverflat country meant countless tonnes of stones had to be removed during pasture development. “Most of the farm would never have seen any cultivation prior to us.” Kerry is using some of his consulting background to think outside the square with regards to management. He admits that converting a farm of this type is all pioneering stuff. “I get my kicks out of seeing marginal land becoming productive. That is certainly what I enjoy seeing happen and if we can make a few dollars out of it then that’s great too.”
Being part of Westland Milk Products has its benefits. “There is a huge difference in being part of a smaller co-operative in terms of the scale and availability of directors. Most suppliers would know two or three of the directors personally and feel they can ring them at anytime. This reflects the close knit culture of the industry on the West Coast.”