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TSR Jarno Sammet is so invested in delivering the best results on the Deuschle's Waikato farm, he's earned himself a place at their kitchen table.
Miriam and Friedmann Deuschle meet when Miriam, an 18-year-old at the time, was on an overseas trip to Germany. Friedmann followed her back to New Zealand and they have now been married for 15 years and have four kids.
Both familiar with working on the land - with Miriam experiencing farming before going to university and Friedmann working in landscaping in Germany - the pair decided farming was their next adventure.
It also made Friedmann's language barrier easier as his English was, in his words, "so horrifically bad that I only could communicate with the cows".
Starting as a farmhand, Friedmann worked his way up into management and eventually, he and Miriam had their own herd in Tokoroa. After eight years, they moved to Mount Pirongia and for the last 6 years have been sharemilking - calving 440 cows on an exposed 165-hectare (ha) farm.
That exposure, combined with the high rainfall in this particular part of the Waikato which of most is during Winter, gives them between 2500 and 3000 mm of rain per year.
There's also wind to deal with, which Friedmann says they have 95 percent of the time and can be tough on the animals.
"They can handle a little bit, but it's just constant. The farm owners have helped us put infrastructures in place - wintering barns and covered feedpads and these have made a massive difference."
Creating warm and dry conditions for the cows in Winter and Spring has reduced metabolic issues and makes calving easier to manage.
Prior to the Deuschle family arriving, the farm was used for sheep and beef, and with that, a lot of the old pasture was still in place. The family had issues with open paddocks, a lot of native grass species and Nui.
To resolve this, they turned to their Farm Source Technical Sales Representative, Jarno.
Miriam and Friedmann say Jarno's opinion is highly valued in their household thanks to his extensive knowledge of the region.
"A farm consultant could work here, there and everywhere, but the TSR who works here, from this region, knows it best," Friedmann says.
"I put a lot of value into Jarno's opinion because the regional knowledge is a big factor in making decisions."
With Jarno's help, they put together a solid long-term plan to renew pasture with some annuals and Italian ryegrasses to boost short term and perennial grasses for long term growth, the results of which they are now seeing.
Friedmann says a major contributor has been a good fertiliser programme and doing a minimum of 10 percent pasture renewal every year.
"It's a massive programme and it's hard work, but it pays off in a big way," he says.
Throughout the journey, Friedmann has been working closely with Jarno and taking his recommendations on summer cropping, grasses and the different species that will work for the farm's soil type and climate conditions.
Together they do trials to figure out what works best with Jarno monitoring results and checking the crops and grass.
"When Jarno gives his recommendations, they are always bang on," Friedmann says.
Miriam sees the partnership between Friedmann and Jarno as highly valuable as Friedmann is receptive to his new ideas.
"Friedmann is not a traditional farmer - he hasn't been taught farming from previous generations. As a result, when Jarno sees value in a new species of summer crop, Friedmann is all for giving it a go."
In the first summer season, the Deuschle family planted six ha of turnips but despite it returning good yield, it wasn't enough. Working with Jarno, they realised they needed more protein and metabolisable energy (ME).
With Jarno's input, they trialed Raphno a hybrid between kale and radish. It is a multi-grazing crop which achieved 26 percent protein and 13 MJME last season.
But they aren't resting on their laurels yet. Friedmann and Jarno are continually sampling to see where there are gaps, because what works one year might not work the next. By fine-tuning the cropping system, they are expanding their knowledge together.
That attention to detail on the ground matches the attention the Deuschle's give to the feeding plan, with everything detailed to the gram so they know what they are feeding to their cows. Friedmann describes the plan as pasture-based, saying they fill any gaps of cow's need with supplements.
The detail also includes weighing the cows, measuring the grass and Jarno visiting to do pasture samples. Whatever is missing in the grass or the crops is supplemented through the feedpad or the in-shed feed system.
Feed has been a big consideration of the Deuschle's since they arrived on the farm. Starting with 500 cows, they decided to go down the feed less cows but feed them better path, firmly believing if you look after your animals, you will reap the rewards.
They dropped the number of cows to 440 because with fewer animals, they can afford to feed and condition them well.
They have already seen an improvement in condition, and when combined with all the work done to improve the quality of pasture, the Deuschles have seen a big jump in milk solids. "When we started the first season, we got 320 kgMS/cow. Next season was 330 kgMS/cow, which is average for up here. In the 18/19 season we did 380kgMS/cow, and this year we've done 480kgMS/cow," Friedmann says. "We are tracking up."
Also tracking up is their calving.
"Our empty rate when we started was shocking - it was 24 percent. We brought that down to nine percent last year. Everything is heading in the right direction."
And that momentum hasn't seen the Deuschles and Jarno lose motivation to keep improving, as Friedmann says they are continuing to get better and are now fine-tuning the system.
"For me, it's about looking after the individual animal. Feed them well and you will reap the rewards. We've done 50,000kgMS more than last year so that speaks for itself."
Reflecting on the farm's progress to date, Friedmann is grateful for Jarno's advice, saying the farm wouldn't have achieved what it has as quickly if it wasn't for his input.
"You can always do your own research online or go to other farm advisors, but why would you when you have a Farm Source TSR here that does it all for you?"
"I see the TSRs as insurance brokers of sorts. You get the best information about all brands and products so you can spread the risk by not focusing on one. Then, you can pick the best for the job."
Because of this, it's no surprise Friedmann is an advocate of dairy farmers working closely with their local TSRs.
"I know a lot of other TSRs besides Jarno and they are all great. It is a good thing to have them out there."