Two South Taranaki dairy farmers have set a goal to shorten the length of their calving period by almost four weeks.

Owen Clegg and Hollie Wham are in their second season 50:50 sharemilking 185 cows at Manutahi, south of Hawera.

"When we bought the herd last season, it had a calving spread of 12.5 weeks, which is quite long," says Hollie.

"Last spring, we shortened mating to 10.5 weeks, using short gestation semen at the end to condense calving this year."

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This season the couple has cut mating to nine weeks and will do all artificial insemination for the first time.

"We don't see the point of buying four Hereford bulls to run with the herd for a fortnight," says Hollie.

The changes will give cows more time to cycle before mating and get more milk in the vat before the coastal farm dries out in summer.

To help combat the current wet conditions, the couple has introduced palm kernel (PKE) to the herd's diet during mating.

"Ensuring the cows are fully fed when the paddocks are wet and the grass gets trampled has been a challenge," says Owen. "We started feeding 2kgs/cow/day a fortnight before mating started last month."

"Two-thirds of the herd was mated in the first 14 days, which is a lot better than we anticipated," he says.

Owen Clegg and Hollie Wham are constantly looking at ways to improve their business and grow their skills. The couple credits entering the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards in 2015 with fast-tracking their progression.

"When we started lower order sharemilking we had a goal of being herd-owning sharemilkers within five years, but we achieved it in three," says Hollie.

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"Entering helped us build a stronger relationship with our bank and analyse how we operated our business. The process gave us the nudge we needed to take the next step."
Owen and Hollie have decided to enter the awards for a second time this season.

"Our goal is to have a larger 50:50 sharemilking position, be in an equity partnership or leasing a dairy farm within five years," says Hollie. They are both members of South Taranaki Young Farmers.

The region's five NZ Young Farmers clubs are running an interclub challenge to encourage members to enter the awards. Farmers thinking about giving the awards a go are encouraged to get along to Taranaki launch events on Friday, October 20.

They're being held at Farm Source stores in Kaponga, Waverley and Inglewood from 11.30am to 1.30pm.