New Zealand’s oldest Ayrshire stud, Carmelglen Ayrshires of Waiuku, is now going through a consolidation process with its owner Andrew Thomson looking forward to running one farm and running it better.
Carmelglen Ayrshires registered its first pedigree cow with Ayrshire New Zealand in 1911, and some of Andrew’s genetics today still go back to the original.
Andrew started working with his dad Alastair 20 years ago, when there were 140 cows on the farm. For the past 15 years, the business has undergone significant growth.
About 12 years ago, Alastair and Andrew bought a run off then a second farm at Otaua with 160 friesian cross cows, taking cow numbers up to close to 500. The friesian cross cows were eventually replaced with Ayrshires and gained a notable rise in production.
“Ayrshires can handle our system,” Andrew says. “They’re really good on the hills at home and their production is really good.
They look after themselves, and they’ve always look after us, so we keep milking them.” Alastair passed away last year, so Andrew has started selling pieces of the Otaua farm to appease his estate.
Since losing his dad his workload had increased, managing the everyday running of two farms, managing staff, milking twice a day, as well as many other farming tasks.
Now downsizing, Andrew says he will be able to run one farm better than he could two, and probably intensify a bit.
“It’s a long, slow process so in the meantime, I’m working on maintaining and improving the quality of the herd so I’ll be left with a really high quality herd that I’m proud to show people and will do the business on the production side of things.”
Andrew’s breeding programme includes breeding ayrshire cows with higher T.O.P scores and a special emphasis on udders, capacity, temperament traits, and production.
In recent years he has gone more traditional and started to outcross bloodlines, improving conformation and longevity as well as the enjoyment of milking.
He is now looking into his options around A2 milk, and in doing so will be finishing something Alastair started after he read The Devil in the Milk more than 10 years ago. “Dad read it and he thought there might be something in it,” Andrew says.
“We started trying to use A2 A2 bulls preferentially if we could, but it was such a small gene pool at that time it was difficult. Hopefully there’s a few more available now, but we’re not getting a premium for it at the moment so there’s not too much of a rush. But we can get prepared, so I’m going to get the cows tested for A2 with my next herd test milk samples.”
This year’s World Steak Challenge had an exciting result for the owner of one of the world’s oldest ayrshire stud, with a Finnish grass fed ayrshire steer taking out the title of the World’s Best Steak.
“Ayrshire bull calves as quality beef are very underrated,” Andrew says.
“I don’t bobby very many, but anyone who rings up wanting bobby calves, I tell them you can get 10 ayrshires for the price of one wagyu, and it’s just as good!”
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