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Hyundai Country Calendar


Episode 25: Moving To Milk

Moving To Milk

A huge change is sweeping through New Zealand agriculture as more and more struggling sheep farmers make the switch to the far more lucrative option of dairy farming.

One such farmer is Country Calendar reporter Tony Benny's brother David, who, after 34 years running sheep, has converted his South Otago farm to dairying and is now in his first season milking cows.

Camp Hill has been in the Benny family for nearly 100 years and Tony knows it well, having worked there in his university holidays - that's where he learnt about farming.

In this week's programme, Tony follows his brother's last months as a sheep farmer, through the enormous job of creating a dairy farm and up to calving and the start of milking.

At the same time as Camp Hill was being transformed, David's wife Chris's family farm, about ten minutes down the road, was also converted to dairying.

David and Chris say they were typical of New Zealand sheep farmers - doing their job well but barely making an income.  They were working ever-harder for ever-smaller returns.

Like hundreds of other sheep farmers over the past few years, they've borrowed heavily to completely redevelop their farms, ready for dairy cows which promise to deliver a much higher income.  That's meant more drainage, new pastures, re-fencing, upgraded power and water supplies, new tracks and two new milking sheds.

Both farms are now operated by sharemilkers and Chris and David have moved to a third farm they've bought as part of the project.  Here they'll grow feed and winter the cows.

Once the conversions are completed, David's hoping to have more time for his other occupation - he's one of New Zealand's leading rose breeders. Last year his 'Gold Dust' was named New Zealand Rose of the Year, beating roses from breeders around the world.

While the farm conversion's been going on, he's also had to squeeze in time for his rose hybridising programme -- pollination in the glasshouse and twice-daily walks around his trial beds.

Sheep farming is enormously labour-intensive, but now the sheep have all gone and cows have taken their place - so David should soon have more time for roses.

Other sites to view:

For more information about David's roses,