Opening the gates

Mayfield dairy farmers James and Jacqui Murdoch are encouraging anyone interested in finding out more about how a dairy farm operates to come along to their property this Sunday.

The Murdochs are taking part in Fonterra’s nationwide Open Gates initiative, which invites people to visit farms in their area, talk to farmers, look around their properties and find out more about what those people are doing to protect waterways in their area.

James said it’s a great opportunity for members of the public to talk to farmers, so they can better understand how farms operate on a day-to-day level.

Fonterra ran two pilot open days in the North Island and those events were successful enough that 40 farms around the country will open their gates to the public on Sunday.

Many people today do not have the same ability to get on to a farm as they once might have done, James said.

“Things have changed a bit in that way compared to the old days.

“This is an opportunity to bridge that gap.”

Having experienced the ups and downs of dry stock farming, in 2010 the Murdochs decided to convert to dairy for the spring of 2011.

When they were doing the conversion they were aware of the need to adopt modern technology to future-proof the environmental path of dairying in Canterbury.

They built an irrigation pond to enhance irrigation reliability, which has proved to also be a haven for ducks and black swans.

“All our waterways are fenced off and we lined the effluent pond and put in a pump so the filtered effluent water can be applied along with the irrigation water.

“The irrigation company we get our water from requires us to do environmental plans and these are done to a high standard to meet the requirements of the local regional council (ECan).

“We also have moisture sensors, which allow us to monitor water requirements.

“We continue to enhance the property with tree planting and plan to do more.”

James said it is preferable for people who are interested in coming along to their State Highway 72 property to register on the Fonterra website first, but people who don’t won’t be turned away.

It’s also preferable for those who do visit to bring gumboots, he said, as they will need to go through a sterile footbath.

Fonterra will be there on the day with ice creams and other products to give away.

The event, which will run from 1pm to 4pm, will be very suitable for families.

– By Colin Williscroft