Few farmers would know more about the Ayrshire breed than Albie and Hilary Jane, who started their original herd in Taranaki more than 40 years ago.
The couple has always worked as a team to manage Southwind, their small-scale 59-hectare (55ha effective) Ayrshire stud and dairy farm, milking around 100 Ayrshires.
Starting out as 50/50 sharemilkers in 1975 with a mixed jersey/friesian herd, they had a change of heart after becoming impressed with the look of the Ayrshire herd across the road.
“We soon switched to pedigree Ayrshires and found them to be hardy and intelligent with real character,” Albie says. “They’ve certainly paid their way.”
Their stud has an enviable track record: it has produced around 140 high breeding worth (BW) bulls – sold to LIC, Semayr and Ambreed CRV – and in the 2017/18 season they won the CEC Webb Memorial Trophy for breeder of the highest BW bull (Southwind Inkkari). The quality of their herd today reflects the couple’s focus on building up ‘cow families’.
“We are now milking cows that originated from a cow purchased in 1976, and her bloodlines can be traced back to the early 1900s.”
Southwind stock, bred for type and production, consistently place well at local A&P shows. For Albie and Hilary, selling cows that produce very well in other herds has been the icing on the cake.
“One yearling fetched $16,200 at auction and we also hold the New Zealand record price for an Ayrshire in-calf heifer at $15,100. Both of those animals are daughters of Southwind Jules Qantas, probably the best cow we ever bred.”
At 450m altitude, the farm usually has a good dumping of snow every few years. Albie and Hilary’s approach has been to farm to the conditions, often understocking to avoid having to feed supplements.
“We’re at the mercy of the weather and sometimes have to buy in baleage because the grass doesn’t start growing until October.” Their philosophy has been to combine livelihood with lifestyle, deliberately staying small to leave room for other interests.
“In my case, that’s doing marathons – more than 250 to date!” Albie says.
“Our lifestyle also includes running horses and goats and I’ve recently raised pheasants too, (just to let them go on the farm). Our three grandchildren, who live in New Plymouth, love staying at the farm.”
As well as being a farmer, Hilary is a talented wordsmith whose work includes a history of the Taranaki Ayrshire Club. Albie has served as club president. The couple remain actively involved and continue to promote the breed. While retirement is not yet in their sights, this is their last year of supply.
“We will sell the very best through the club sale and conference sale next year and the rest of the herd as a line – to a good home, of course,” Albie says.
The couple plan to stay on the farm, with plenty to keep them busy.
“We’ll continue to do what we believe in,” Hilary observes.
“That is, do what you love and love what you do.”
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