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Array’s cows upstage Black Caps

Array’s cows upstage Black Caps
Raymac Flamb Estelle

You can’t keep a good keen man from his sport – particularly when the Black Caps are playing Australia – even when three prized cows have been entered in the Otago/Southland Regional Semex Holstein Friesian competition.

Otago dairy farmer and holstein friesian breeder Richard Ray entered two-year-old Array Esmarada, three-year-old Array G chip Ester, and four-year-old Array Manifold Misty into the competition.

Judged on the 21st of February, the date clashed with the Black Caps T20 International played in Eden Park.

“I didn’t expect the cows to do so well, so I thought it wouldn’t matter if I missed it – and I didn’t want to miss the cricket,” says Richard. “As it turned out, Esmarada and Ester both won their classes, while Misty got 3rd place.”

The Black Caps lost. Richard farms alongside parents Stephen and Judith on their 200ha Clydevale farm, 20 minutes from Balclutha. A total of 460 holstein friesian cows are milked, of which 90 belong to Richard who aims to increase that to half the total herd through natural calving and some Embryonic Transfer work.

Richard’s parents herd is registered under the stud name of ‘Raymac’, while Richard’s stud name is Array. Richard says he breeds for capacity, “I want a cow that’s really big up front, big wide muzzle, good functional udders, a sloping wide rump – big and strong but not too tall.”

A member of the New Zealand Holstein Friesian Association, he values benchmarking against other breeders to breed better cows, improve milk production and his farming system.

With both parents active on the farm, Richard takes responsibility for the farm’s pasture management. He says on average grass growth is about 11 tonnes per season.

“I make sure the cows are getting as much as they can eat but no more – that’s the key to it – be careful that you are leaving behind the right length otherwise you end up with poor quality the next time they go into the paddock. I leave 1600kg/ha cover.” Richard says he does use a pasture metre, though just lately he has been doing it by eye.

That comes with experience. Gentle rolling country, the farm has heavy clay soils that are prone to pugging in the winter and get very dry over summer.

A 150ha run off 10 minutes down the road is Richad Loader used for young stock, along with cropping and silage. In the past, half the dairy herd have also been wintered there.

“We have an 800sqm herd home and currently building a second one the same size. When it’s wet we winter half the herd in the home and off the paddocks. With the second herd home we’ll be able to winter all the cows in.” Spring calvers; the cows are milked twice a day through a 38-aside herringbone shed, fed 4kgs of barley on average each day in-shed.

Richard says last season the cows delivered 550kgMS/cow but this season’s early hot summer had halted grass growth requiring a lot of silage, turnips and grain to be fed.

Production is now more likely to sit at 525kgMS. About 100 heifers are brought into the herd each year.

“All the friesian bulls get sold to regular local buyers at a week old. The heifers that are not retained are usually sold in-calf, but we’ve been selling a few as yearling calves as well.”

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