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Gavin likes his cows in the slow lane

Gavin likes his cows in the slow lane

While most farmers prefer cows that go the shed quickly Gavin Travers prefers slow cows. “I like them to dawdle so I can give them a scratch as they go past,” he says.

Needless to say every cow has a name and Gavin admits parting with them is difficult. It’s seen him build up Pa Hill Ayrshires as well as small friesian and jersey studs.

The friesian stud was because when he bought one of his farms he bought the ayrshire herd that went with it. It included a few pedigree friesians so he couldn’t say no to buying those as well.

The jersey stud started as a friend asked him to milk a few of his jerseys for him and later, when he wanted to sell them, Gavin of course agreed as he’d got quite attached to them by then. He says there is also another reason for starting the two small studs.

“I got sick of people telling me how marvellous all the other breeds were and how terrible ayrshires were. So now I can compare them,” he says.

And despite his jerseys and friesians indexing highly it is consistently the ayrshires that outperform them, he says. They also suit the farms he has which require a hardy breed.

Pa Hill is located near Kaitaia and covers a total of 604 hectares over seven properties, of which 420ha is leased, including the Travers family’s 134ha effective home farm.

The dairy operation comprises three farms and three milking sheds effectively run as one unit, split calving and peak-spring-milking 430 cows on 270ha and winter-milking 220 cows.

Beef cattle, calves and dry cows are grazed on 333ha over five properties. Splitting the operation between dairy and beef has proved a winning formula by spreading risk and also ensuring cashflow throughout the season.

He sells around 250-300 cattle each year, the majority through an on farm sale each April, to sell surplus heifers and cows, and he also has a stock agent ring him through the year with client requests.

Gavin tries to match the animals to the client and sells the animals he doesn’t need to keep.

It also allows him to keep buying more cows. While most people want to kill young empty cows he tries to buy in as many as he can, get them back in-calf then resell some and keep the ones he likes.

“Sometimes people ring me wanting to sell cows and I usually end up buying them so I buy as many as I sell,” he says with a laugh.

He even sold three live ayrshire bulls to a breeding operation in Tanzania recently which was a real feather in his cap. “They came over and intially wanted two but when they saw them they bought three,” he says proudly.

Pa Hill Ayrshires rears all its bull calves to 100kg and firm beef prices in recent years have provided good returns. Half of the farms’ income is from selling stock.

The main challenge to his farming operation this year has been an extremely wet summer. For example while they were making hay and it got wet three times before they could bail it. By the last seven paddocks they gave up and just put the cows into them.

It meant that they had to buy in silage and palm kernel. From a kid Gavin says he was “mad keen” on cows and it’s stayed that way ever since.

He is disappointed the mycoplasma bovis scare has seen the shows shut down this year. He loves showing off his cows and it’s a good day out for the whole family, which includes wife Bronwyn and daughters Micaela, 14 and Odyssey, 12. Odyssey has already started her own stud and like her old man is “mad keen” on cows.

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