Monday 8th February,
We left Te Kauwhata beside Lake Waikare and continued our journey South from Auckland, down State Highway 1, through Huntly and Hamilton to Cambridge. Not far from Cambridge we passed a Fonterra Milk processing plant. We knew we were approaching a milk depot of some sort when the number of tankers on the road increased as they converged on their destination.
Fonterra milk factory, Cambridge, North Island.
Whilst taking pictures, I managed to have a word with two men leaving the plant. They were not part of the staff there but they told me this is one of the smaller Fonterra processing plants and that it produces cheese. There are about 30 of these factories throughout New Zealand and Fonterra own nearly all of them. Fonterra is a Co-operative Group owned by its shareholding producers, - the farmers. The Group produce; whole milk, skim milk powders, butter, cheese and casein. Along with other milk products, these are sold to more than 100 countries world wide.
Although Central North Island is one of the warmest areas in New Zealand, this area has an annual rainfall of about 40 inches and so the dairy industry was able to establish here long before the arrival of the big centre pivot irrigators. In this climate however, water is at a premium and many tanks are filled from rivers or bore-holes. Most houses have a catchment tank fed from the gutters of their roofs.
Typical water storage Northland, North Island.
Although most of New Zealand's 5 million dairy cows are of the Holstein Friesian type, a fair number of cross types mingle in with them. This is partly because of the importance of milk solids in the liquid sales. Jersey cattle are also very popular. This field of about 15 to 20 acres had about 400 Jerseys in it.
Jersey cattle graze in Northland, North Island.
We saw many "smaller" dairy farms whilst driving through the countryside. They consisted of a herringbone type parlour with it's associated collecting pens and a cooler bulk tank. This area was "fed" from the paddocks by roadways, or fenced off runs, to the grazing paddocks. The obvious difference from our dairy farms here was the lack of fixed cost. The main enterprise investment seemed to be the parlour, a tractor with a loader and fencing. In most cases only the milking parlour was roofed.
A typical smaller dairy in Northland, North Island.
Cambridge is an attractive town with tree lined streets, colourful flower beds and very nice shops. Cambridge lies in the midst of some excellent Central North Island agricultural land which is renowned for the breeding of Thoroughbred horses. The town has a Farmers Market and it is here that David's cousin Mike sells his free range eggs and lemons from his garden.
Cambridge; the colourful centre of the town.