Ashvale Jerseys pursues to sustain title as leading NZ jersey breeder

Ashvale Jersey owners, Rodney and Jocelyn Dobson, heading to retirement

Southland’s Ashvale Jerseys is one of New Zealand’s elite Jersey dairy studs, known for producing consistently high BW bulls from a top Jersey herd. Their commercial dairy herd ranks as one of the best in the country with an average BW of 287 and production in excess of 500kgMS per cow and 1700kg per hectare.

Ashvale Jersey owners Rodney and Jocelyn Dobson, of Gropers Bush, have recently started their transition into retirement, having now sold their herd – though, as Rodney will tell you, farmers never really hang up their gumboots.

“We’re staying on the farm, and our son Mark and wife Ashleigh are now 50/50 sharemilking for us with their own herd called Maple Fern Jerseys – ‘maple’ as Ashleigh’s from Canada and ‘fern’ is for New Zealand. They bought a herd of 320 cows in Taranaki and also bought some Ashvalecows to make up the numbers.”

New records were set for the highest sale bids ever, with the top price bull fetching $4600. The average price – $3136 – was hailed as one of the best of the sale season.

Three hundred Ashvale cows are now also settling into new pastures in Winton, having been sold to Phil and Libby Garaway. Ashvale Jerseys’ annual on-farm bull sales are an industry highlight. Last year, Rodney was proud to present some of his best work as a breeder.

New records were set for the highest sale bids ever, with the top price bull fetching $4600. The average price – $3136 – was hailed as one of the best of the sale season.

“This year’s bull sale will still go ahead as usual on Monday, 2nd October. We are consistently one of the best dairy bull sales in New Zealand and that’s because our BWs are up there with the best. People also come because it’s a closed herd, with all bulls reared on farm and DNA tested.”

Ashvale cows loading out day.
Ashvale cows loading out day.

Rodney’s passion for the Jersey breed goes back to his childhood in Taranaki, where both his father and uncle had Jersey herds. His uncle sold his herd – called Ashvale – before Rodney started out on his own; Rodney subsequently took up the Ashvale name for his herd.

He and Jocelyn bought their first cows in 1971 and farmed on the Hauraki Plains for more than a decade before moving to Southland in 1993 where they have farmed and bred exceptional Jerseys ever since. Particularly good cows to have made their mark in the herd include Pembroke Regs Eva, Oakura Admirals Iris and Merryfields Nevy Tulip.

“I like to milk good cows. I’ve always strived to keep doing better all the time. The way I see it, if you have a target and do selective breeding, then hopefully you are making progress.”

What continues to set the Jersey breed apart for Rodney is their top performance across the board on efficiency, fertility, calving ease and adaptability to different farm systems. They have comparatively low rates of lameness compared to other breeds and a lower environmental footprint.

Rodney was one of the visionary Jersey farmers who set up Jersey Advantage Trust, which advocates for and promotes the economic, environmental and animal well-being benefits of the breed and he remains actively involved on the Jersey Advantage Trust Board.

“With today’s dairy farmers focused on efficiency and sustainability and the jersey cow being the epitome of both, there’s an important role for her to play in the future of our industry.”

A highlight in 2021 was the launch of Jerseyland Farms, a joint venture farm investment involving Jersey Advantage, breed society Jersey NZ and five private investors.

Together, the investor group purchased a 215ha Southland dairy farm. Being run as a commercial operation, the farm has been set up to generate ongoing income for Jersey Advantage and Jersey NZ, in turn fuelling the delivery of commercial advantages for the Jersey breed.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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