‘We walk, talk and breathe bloodlines’
A combination of climate, cow type and feeding system contribute to high individual cow performance in Vince and Sheri Steiner’s predominantly ayrshire herd.
The Steiners, who “walk, talk and breathe bloodlines”, run Brookview Ayrshires and Holsteins in the Tokoroa area as well as sharemilking on Glenbrook couple Colin and Elaine Walker’s 145-hectare (effective) Kinleith farm.
Vince says annual rainfall of 1400 millilitres and altitude up to 460 metres above sea level makes the farm summer safe.
However, its topography includes a high percentage of steep pasture, described by some as goat country; only about 20ha is flat land.
“Our cows have to be durable and be able to forage on steep sidlings and gullies, and walk long distances to and from the cowshed twice a day.”
A feature of the property is its ability to grow maize at 400 metres, “which you are not supposed to be able to do”.
Annual supplements include 200 tonnes of maize silage, about 600 tonnes of palm kernel extract and 140 tonnes of tapioca.
The herd is wintered on farm; this winter half the herd were on kale for six weeks, which hey found extremely beneficial to pasture management.
A feedpad is vital to their farming system as a management tool for pasture quality, with cows using it every day to top up feed at varying levels during the season.
It is also used during winter because it is too dangerous to feed out by tractor and wagon on steep, wet paddocks.
The Steiners have 290 ayrshires, 70 holsteinfriesians and the balance jersey or crossbred. Vince rates the ayrshire cow “the most intelligent we work with”.
Consistent year-round cow condition is their aim, with the results showing in annual production of 450 kilograms of milksolids per cow and peak milking of about 32 litres a day, which means feed cannot be skimped.
“Anyone can come and look at these cows at almost any time of the year and they look fit and healthy. That’s been one of our driving forces,” says Vince.
Another has been breeding according to cow families in preference to breeding worth, although this is not ignored.
“I’ve always chased cow families, done my own thing and gone our own way about it. Twentythree years ago I bought a heifer, Craigmyle Grand Secret.
That cow has developed a tremendous family within our herd. We’ve sold animals out of her or out of her family for record prices.
“I don’t think there’d be any ayrshire breeders in New Zealand who didn’t know who that cow family was now.”
Despite Vince’s love of ayrshires, it was a holstein-friesian,that captivated him as a youngster.
Stookey Elm Park Black Rose was a multipleaward-winner in the United States including all-time all-American junior two and three-year-old cow and reserve All-American five-year-old cow in 1995.
Fifteen years ago Vince had the opportunity at a sale in Hamilton to buy calves from pregnant cows, great-granddaughters of Black Rose.
“I bought the pick of the pregnancies. That cow is still here as a 14-year-old.
We’ve got a lot of daughters, grand-daughters and greatgranddaughters from her in the herd now.”