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Oasis Farm


Owaka dairy farmers Michael Magiera and Smita Apte have grown their business exponentially – purchasing their first farm 13 years ago and growing their land holding to 1100 hectares today. The couple, who farm at Owaka in the Catlins, South Otago, never dreamed they would own a business on this scale, and Michael says the support from Rabobank has been a key factor in enabling that growth.

“I would never have dreamt about it, even 15 years ago I was never thinking I would have my own farm".

It’s been a great success, and it’s beautiful here - it’s a really nice place to live.”  Michael and Smita purchased their first farm, 83ha, 13 years ago. “Smita and I did it all ourselves and Smita was still working at Dunedin University too.

Basically every two years we have added land and we have been lucky neighbours have been selling.”  The farm is fully self-contained and this year they will winter 1300 in-calf cows, 60 carry over cows, 350 R1 heifers, 50 R1 bulls (mainly Jersey) and 60 older bulls. 

There are two 26-aside herringbone sheds on the farm, with Protrack in-race teat spray and EZ Heat automation installed, and the cows are milked in two separate herds through the two sheds.

Moving to once a day

They moved to once a day (OAD) milking about nine years ago and Michael says they’ve never looked back.

In 2008 a neighbor was converting a farm elsewhere and needed to fund that conversion, meaning he wanted to sell. “We had 170ha at that time and his farm was the same size, so we wanted to double our land size. The only way to finance it was to not spend any money on the cow shed. We utilised the additional land with the existing infrastructure, so we went to OAD milking,” he explains.

It was hard at first. At the time the recommendation was to increase the stocking rate by 25%. We had to buy in more cows to up the stocking rate and the budget was tight, so we bought poorer cows.  Then we were overstocked. It took two or three years to get good per cow production again.

“We were running a fully self-contained system, which was quite efficient and it was very economic to run it as OAD.

We went away from inducing and interventions straight away. It has been easier to look after the cows and get them pregnant again.”  In fact, Michael is such a fan of OAD milking that he wouldn’t consider anything else now. 

A bank that backs the ag sector

The couple moved to Rabobank when they wanted to purchase their first farm. “We were with another bank when we were 50/50 sharemilking and when we wanted to buy the farm that bank didn’t want to support us.

"We approached Rabobank and they helped us get into farm ownership. They have been really supportive and we have always been able to buy additional land and develop it." 

Michael says the bank has helped finance the additional land purchases and also development, like tracks and water schemes.

Development such as fencing and drainage has been funded out of cashflow. "The bank is crucial to our farming operation. We wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing without the support of the bank.” 

Rabobank has also given sound advice and kept the couple realistic about what is achievable. “When we bought the 170ha we had plans to build a big wintering barn and rotary shed. It was the beginning of the financial crisis…we would have overspent and probably got into trouble.

"We had to drop our expectations, it was a very difficult time and we put a lot of pressure on the bank, but they didn't budge. They made sure we would be safe for the future, which I really appreciate now."