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Amy Pyne: Consistency Is Key

Rakaia Island

It was a few years ago when we first visited Rakaia Island, a large family-owned farming operation based in Canterbury. Recently we caught up with Calf Rearing Manager, Amy Pyne, as she shared with us her experiences of dairy farming, along with the environmental and animal welfare practices that are carried out at Rakaia Island.

Rakaia Island is one of two locations that make up the Turner family business. The property at Rakaia Island equates to 1,982 hectares, including run-offs, where they house four dairy sheds. Woodstock is their second location where they house two other dairy sheds, and the property equates to 2,300 hectares, including dry stock blocks. Altogether they farm 8,750 milking cows – 2,163 are soon to be in-calf heifers – and 2,300 calves.

With 55 members of staff working across Rakaia Island, family values are at the heart of their business. “We have regular get-togethers and functions, and Rakaia Island put on an annual awards night where successes and achievements are recognised and celebrated,” Amy said.

Amy has been working at Rakaia Island since arriving in New Zealand in 2016. Hailing from the United Kingdom, she first started working at Woodstock where she reared 550 replacement heifers across two dairy farms. She became assistant manager in 2017 and a couple of years later she became manager of Rakaia Island. Her second year as manager was her biggest year to date, rearing over 5,000 calves. Next year she will be managing both Rakaia Island and Woodstock where she will be overseeing 7,000 calves across the two locations.

With five years of farming under her belt, Amy has come a long way over a short period. Before getting into farming, Amy managed a health and wellness retreat but has always had a love for animals. She really valued Rakaia Island and their outlook on environmental and animal welfare practices.

“We work with specialists to ensure we are environmentally compliant and have up-to-date farm environment plans. Following our latest audit, Environment Canterbury awarded Rakaia Island an A grade for the steps we have in place and continue to take,” Amy said.

“The Turners are passionate about replacement indigenous trees and plants and team up with the local community to plant hundreds of new trees at Rakaia Island each year. By 2022, our planting programme will create a 1.2 kilometre walking track loop with native flora along the full length. We are passionate about our animals and go above and beyond the requirements of current regulations and industry guidelines.”

Amy continued, “Rakaia Island understands the importance of calf rearing, growing great heifers and having healthy and happy cows. We work with vets to create a personalised health plan for our animals and their environment. We also use cow collars which help us to manage individual cows’ health and monitor their rumination.”

Calving is a very busy time of year for cattle farmers but Amy acknowledges the importance of finding some time in her day to decompress, even if it’s just an hour to unwind in the evening with a glass of wine and a call to a friend. Amy is not only a farmer but she’s also a qualified yoga teacher. Even though farming takes up most of her time, she still enjoys her time on the mat. Amy also enjoys getting out paddle boarding on the many beautiful lakes in New Zealand.

Watching young stock thrive is one of the main things Amy loves about dairy farming. “I get quite attached to my ‘pets’ and then remind myself I have thousands more coming I can get attached to,” Amy said.

"For calving this year, my big focus has been minimising stress where possible and improving the wellbeing of the calves, giving them the absolute best start in life. This is also a focus across the business; we want to increase cow comfort and to keep refining our welfare policies to improve the wellbeing of our animals, as well as our staff.”

Farming is continuously evolving, and Amy is always open to new ideas. She believes that consistency is key and that every calf should be treated as an individual to set them up for success.