Building a career in dairy

Tasmanian farmer Cody Korpershoek is building a career in dairy

Dairy
CAREER BUILDER: Cody Korpershoek started his dairying career six years ago when he was hired on a cents per kilogram of milk solids management position for the Unit Trust, Circular Head Farms at Edith Creek, Tas.

CAREER BUILDER: Cody Korpershoek started his dairying career six years ago when he was hired on a cents per kilogram of milk solids management position for the Unit Trust, Circular Head Farms at Edith Creek, Tas.

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Cody Korpershoek was a builder, who did a cash job for his cousin that changed his life's path, steering him back into dairy after years away from the family farm.

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Cody Korpershoek was a builder, who did a cash job for his cousin that changed his life's path, steering him back into dairy after years away from the family farm.

Mr Korpershoek grew up on a farm in the Circular Head district of north-west Tasmania, where he became well aware of the commitment that farming takes.

"Dad was a dairy farmer as part of a family farm that had cropping and beef as well," he said.

"All labour was family and they never hired anyone from outside. This meant they never stopped.

"For 30 years Dad never had Christmas off, milking every morning and night, that's just what you do."

After watching his father wear himself out, Mr Korpershoek pursued a building trade, but after spending some time helping his cousin on the family farm Mr Korpershoek, with his wife Denieka, decided to change careers and give dairy farming a go.

Six years ago, the Korpershoeks started their dairying careers when they were hired on a cents per kilogram of milk solids management position for the Unit Trust, Circular Head Farms, on a property at Edith Creek, Tas.

The newly established company, Circular Head Farms, provided the Korpershoeks with a pathway to eventually purchase their first farm.

Mr Korpershoek was launched headfirst into dairy farming.

"You could say I didn't muck around with getting into the industry," he said.

"We started straight into management on a 500-cow farm with very little idea of exactly what we were doing.

"On the first day I rocked up here and I didn't even know where the cows were.

"It was bucketing down with rain and the bloke who had departed the day before left the cows right over the back of the farm with no instructions on where they were.

"It's 5 o'clock in the morning cold, wet and dark and 40 minutes later, I finally found the cows to take them to the shed. I didn't even know how to start the dairy."

After the first year, Mr Korpershoek became impatient and wanted to progress quickly to 50:50 share farming.

The farm owners, Circular Head Farms, agreed on the condition that the Korpershoeks leased some of their cows and purchased the rest.

The first years were tough, but to get ahead they reared as many young stock as they could.

This allowed them to grow their capital as well as to tap into the lucrative export market that provided much needed cash.

Eventually, they bought a run-off block that helped with the number of young stock they were able to rear.

Selling this run-off block then allowed them to purchase a share in another Circular Head Farms property, on which they 50:50 milk 700 cows.

They also purchased and leased closer run-off blocks.

Six years since that first day, the Korpershoeks now own 1600 cows, milked across two properties, and a run-off block and are 20 per cent owners in one of the Circular Head Farms properties.

Circular Head Farms is a unit trust organisation that allows smaller investors the opportunity to invest in dairy farming, supporting farmers like the Korpershoeks to progress to farm ownership.

As for many 50:50 share farmers, cattle have been key to the couple's success.

The ability to rear stock allowed them to grow their cows from 550 to 900 through natural increase.

Mr Korpershoek's favourite part of the year is calving.

"I love calving! Coming into spring is such a nice time of the year," he said.

"The cows are full of milk and it's so nice to see your calves grow up.

"They are our future and seeing them come full circle from babies to calving heifers is very rewarding.

"Last year we reared 700 calves."

Mr Korpershoek credits a lot of his rapid progress to the mentoring of Circular Head Farms director Stephen Fisher.

Mr Fisher mentored Mr Korpershoek through the journey initially with weekly discussions about on-farm management.

"Stephen's biggest thing was to 'let me learn' my own way," Mr Korpershoek said.

"I had the basic skills. I knew how to drive a tractor and pull a calf but had no idea what a grazing rotation was. However, I knew he was always willing to help.

"I've been here six years now, and Steve has never once told me to do something. He will make suggestions by saying 'I'd normally do it this way', but then he leaves it to me to make the decision. I respect this stance and it's definitely helped me stay.

"I have been extremely lucky, there is no one better in the state to work for. No argument!

"He treats people with respect and has been so willing to invest in us and give us the chance to grow in the industry."

The road to where we are today has zig-zagged numerous times and we have faced plenty of hurdles, which we have worked through. - Cody Korpershoek

After seeing the impact of farming on his father, Mr Korpershoek, with the strong encouragement of his wife, has been mindful to keep a balance in life.

One of his favourite parts of being a dairy farmer is the lifestyle.

"We have been very specific in ensuring that we still have a good lifestyle," Mr Korpershoek said.

"After calving, we make sure that I get my four days off a fortnight.

"Denieka has been really key to making sure this happens."

To help make this lifestyle possible, the Korpershoeks employ nine staff across the two farms.

"We are no different, we all struggle with staff, like everyone else," Mr Korpershoek said.

"We've always been able to find people to milk cows and had some people who have stayed for quite a while, but to find people who would like to take on a management role is more challenging.

"I value my staff as they are a critical part of the overall team."

The next focus for the Korpershoeks is to look at minimising the risk of non-replacement calves within their business.

To do this they will be focusing on utilising sexed semen and Wagyu beef semen.

Working with Tasmanian Agricultural Company, they used Red Wagyu Bulls last year.

As a part of the deal, calves are given back to the company at 100 kilograms.

"Going down the path of no bobby calves really opens yourself up to a fair bit of risk and cost," Mr Korpershoek said.

"But for us, the sexed semen means we can put more into the export market, which, at the moment, is proving quite lucrative."

When thinking about his career path Mr Korpershoek would be first to admit it is not overly conventional and he has been provided with plenty of opportunities that he has not let slip away.

"The road to where we are today has zig-zagged numerous times and we have faced plenty of hurdles, which we have worked through," he said.

"Just when we have a good handle on it all then another opportunity comes up and I keep pushing the limits with new projects.

"So I'm projecting more zig-zagging to come in the future for us."

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