Couple work towards ownership
“Everyone bags ayrshires and it annoys me. I like to prove them wrong,” says Hayden Slack. Hayden and wife Ellisa are equity partners with Hayden’s parents, Robert and Christine, in the family farm at AkaAka, south-west of Auckland.
They have a 108-hectare dairy platform and 116ha total. The herd of 330-340 ayrshires is milked through a 44-bail rotary shed. Robert and Christine also have a 70ha farm nearby, run by lower-order sharemilkers.
Both farms share a 60ha run-off block. The family’s Waiaka Stud has been breeding ayrshires for four generations, so is somewhat expert in the breed.
And Hayden says ayrshires stack up well when compared with more popular dairy breeds. The family breeds for capacity, milking speed, adaptability to milking, and temperament.
They favour using the highest breeding-worth bulls available for the breed, plus some young, unproven sires to bring more variation to the small pool of proven bulls. The farm has been part of Ayrshire New Zealand’s sire-proving scheme.
The family moved to ayrshires from friesians as the medium-sized and lighter ayrshires suited their paddocks better. Now they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hayden says the benefits of ayrshires include their placid nature and their ability to forage well and keep condition well, which is important as Hayden winter-milks.
He says they are low maintenance and quick learners as well as being good producers. The farm produced just over 400 kilograms of milksolids per cow last season.
Best per-cow production was 470kg and Hayden expects an average of 420-450kg.
Having two Herd Homes®, built in 2012, has helped the farm weather the more inclement months.
Hayden says the advantages have been huge – cows use less energy when they are warm and dry, they can be brought in if it is raining, and there is less damage to pastures. This year is one of the wettest he remembers, with paddocks having been drenched since March.
“We can’t even drive a motorbike into the paddocks. It has affected grass growth, but we have been supplementing with maize and grass silage we already had as well as palm kernel and maize in the shed.”
Cows are fed one kilogram of meal mixed with nutrients, magnesium and rumensin through the in-shed system.
Around 160-240 tonnes of palm kernel and 90-120 tonnes of meal are bought in and 10ha of maize is grown on the farm. The Slacks make as much grass silage as possible. Hayden was born and raised at Aka Aka, and says he always wanted to go farming.
His parents told him to learn a trade first, so he qualified as a builder and worked in the industry for 12 years.
He also had a year in Canada on an agricultural exchange working on an 810ha grain farm.
He and Ellisa married in 2008 and have three children: Riley, 11, Kayla, 10 and Danika, eight.
The couple sharemilked for Hayden’s parents before going into the equity partnership two years ago.They own two-thirds of the farm.
and their aim is to eventually take over full ownership. Ellisa handles the administration, feeds the bobby calves, and does relief milking.