Chris Vila arrived in New Zealand in 2008 with dreams of starting his working life here.
Discouraged by the complex and expensive process to validate his qualifications to practise in New Zealand, the newly qualified Filipino veterinarian found work on a dairy farm.
Thirteen years later, Chris, his wife and daughter are now in their eighth season on the JA BE Turnwald Family Trust 103.8-hectare farm, milking 343 cows in Ohaupo.
He has a strong relationship with the farm owners and family and is buying shares in the farm. His veterinary background has also proved useful over the years.
In the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) he won the national Dairy Manager of the Year award, along with the DeLaval Livestock Management merit award.
This year he is team leader for the Dairy Manager awards.
The farm sits between a production system 3 and 4 and Chris has demonstrated a very good understanding of feed management requirements of the farm.
“We have an in-shed feeding system where each cow gets 1.5kg of blended meal mixed with four litres of whey at every milking,” Chris says.
Chris grows about five hectares of maize on the 30ha run-off in Kaipaki, and another 1.5ha on the farm. Each season they have 110 tonnes of maize silage for the drier periods such as late autumn.
“We also harvest surplus grass on the run-off and if conditions are right, from the farm, and expect 90 to 100 tonnes of grass silage.”
The “goldfish bowl” farm is flanked by a long, open stretch of state highway 3, about 50 residential and lifestyle blocks, and is close to one of the area’s local peat lakes, Lake Rotomanuka.
It’s important to Chris their farming activity shows respect to the residential properties and environment.
“That lake was a nutrient hotspot and is constantly monitored, but it’s fully fenced off and well planted so none of our stock can get near it.”
Chris is interested in a potential legacy project to resurrect a dried-out lake on the farm, and values protecting four stands of historical kahikatea that still remain on the property.
From 343 cows, last season’s production was 172,000 kg/MS, or 503 kg/MS per cow, which was above the expectation.
The judges noted this extremely high animal performance and the high quality of the herd.
“In the 2022 awards, I’ve been the team leader for the Dairy Manager awards for the NZDIA. Meeting other judges and sponsors and giving advice to the entrants widens networks and to me that is what the awards are all about.”