David loves life with shorthorns
David Murphy has been on the first farm out of town for the past 50 years. It’s next door to his parents’ home farm, which was previously owned by his grandfather.
David bought the 100-hectare property, two kilometres out of Invercargill, with 100 per cent finance and his dad as guarantor.
“This was the last farm in the area which wasn’t developed,” he says. “I started milking about a dozen cows on 20 to 30 acres on the flat, and I had to break in the high ground.”
Fifty years ago, he was separating the cream from the milk of his 12 cows; two or three years later he won a contract for town supply.
Thirteen years after he started, he had enough cows for factory supply. Today David milks between 180 and 200 cows.
They eat only grass and balage on 200ha of non-irrigated pastures and production is currently averaging 27 litres of milk per cow per day.
He also carries 70 to 80 replacement cows and 10 or 12 yearling bulls And, he says, he and his milking-shorthorn cattle stud and dairy farm have happily enjoyed the best weather in New Zealand this season.
David says the dairy shorthorn is renowned for being a hardy, mild tempered, easy calving animal “And when you’ve finished with them, you’ve got some beef there to sell as well.”
He showed his shorthorns quite prolifically for many years, travelling to 10 shows a year around Southland and Otago, and to Christchurch when the Royal Shows was on.
“I stopped because I had no competition,” he says. “All the shorthorn breeders around here all
packed up and left. A lot of work was going into just beating myself.
A few more are showing now, but I’m too long in the tooth to start again.” His son, Paul, is working at home, but David says he reckons he’s too busy to show cows.
“He doesn’t know what busy is. He should try doing eight to 10 shows a year. We went from Tuatapere to Christchurch to Dunedin, Winton, Otautau, Invercargill, and Wyndham, all in one year. But it was great, and I really enjoyed the competition.”
David spent 33 years on the New Zealand Milking Shorthorn Association board of directors, and three years as president. Paul did a stint as secretary for the local branch.
The Murphy farm hosted two busloads of delegates to the 2013 World Shorthorn Conference.
David is also an all-breeds judge and has judged all over the country. He has built up his herd with Scandinavian genetics, and also sourced some from Canada. Those progeny are now three years old and coping.
“They were behind the first year because they were the last and second-last calving, six weeks behind the rest of them, so I was on the back foot straight away.
“Now we’re away laughing. One has been in season and has been AI-ed, so they are going to be early calving next year.”