Ayrshires leave no doubts with couple
Diarmid and Kathy Somerville have been blending ayrshire genetics into their friesian and crossbred herd since the late 1980s. Diarmid says he believes ayrshires have something to offer the New Zealand dairy industry.
“I believe they do well and they are underrated. The dairy industry has jerseys and friesians as purebred animals you need to breed your crossbreds.
“Ayrshires are offering a different line of genetics and are there for the New Zealand dairy industry to fall back on when the other breeds become unstuck because of in-breeding or inherited diseases. We are using ayrshire genetics with a view to the future.”
Diarmid started from scratch with his ayrshire genetics, buying a few heifers from Angus Gow, from the Bay of Plenty.
Through the 1990s he bought more ayrshires at clearing sales, and now has a herd 25-30 per cent ayrshire. He now usually sources his genetics from Semayr Breeding Services, a division of Ayrshire New Zealand, which sells through LIC.
Semayr runs a bull farm in Taranaki where bulls are farmed and selected on their breeding worth and other traits.
Everybody with ayrshires has the opportunity to present bulls to Semayr; if they meet the criteria, they are selected and proven within both ayrshire herds and other herds around New Zealand. The Somervilles are not prolific bull-breeders, but have sold four bulls to Semayr.
“I’m a commercial farmer, not a pedigree breeder, but I do use the ayrshire genetics over my friesians and crossbreds, particularly if I’m helping to prove young bulls,” Diarmid says.
“I’ll use young-bull semen for the first 10 days of mating, then go to a proven bull for the rest of mating time.”
He says proving ayrshire bulls is a community effort amongst mainly but not exclusively Ayrshire New Zealand members, and everybody does their bit.
“Semayr is a community organisation. I’ve been part of that and I believe it should be supported.”
He believes the ayrshire breed isn’t far away from the others from a production point of view:
“Before the crossbreds came in, ayrshires were the third breed. The ayrshire’s protein-to-fat ratio was good, and still is.”
He thinks the index system doesn’t do the ayrshire a lot of favours, and that’s probably down to numbers – less than one per cent of the national New Zealand herd.
“Animal evaluation needs checking to make sure it is still working for ayrshires.
It came about in the mid-1990s and I’m not certain there has been any follow-up as to where ayshires sit now.
A lot of ayrshire breeders feel their cows are producing well and that’s not reflected in the index system.
At the end of the day, getting the milk out of the cows efficiently is the most important thing.”