The hard working cows on Bernard and Robyn Stachurski’s Taranaki hill country farm walk two and a half kilometres from the back pad-dock to the dairy shed and consistently produce an average 350kgs milksolids per cow, all on grass.
“We tried to do high input but all it did was make the contractors and the feed suppliers very rich, and me very tired,” Bernard says. “Production increased, profitability did not.”
Bernard and Robyn took out maize and palm kernel and brought the farm back to system one four years ago, and it cost them some production for the first couple of years but now Bernard says the cows are looking good, they are doing good production, and the stress is gone.
“It all comes down to how much you can get that kg of milk solids into the vat for. If your cost of production is more than the payout, you’re going backwards.
On system one, the milk goes into the vat and it’s cost me a paddock full of grass and maybe a load of silage I’ve made out of the grass I’ve grown.”The Stachurski’s 285-cow herd includes about 150 Ayrshires and the balance Holstein Friesians and the couple are working to increase the Ayrshire component of their herd.
“We’ve got some damn nice Friesians and we’ll keep our damn nice Friesians, but any cross bred will go back to Ayrshire because they’ve got a lot of constitution and we have no problems selling our beef cross calves out to Ayrshire bulls. They go to hill country farms, they love to forage, and they come out of winter way easier than any other breed I know of.”
Any cow bought in is also Ayrshire, mainly because they’re a bit cheaper but also because Bernard and Robyn just want cows that will give them plenty of milk.
And the Ayrishire is so adaptable to a new environment. “Other breeds can take 12 months before they are happy in the herd. Ayrshires are more like ‘give us a round of the farm, see where we are, and we’re away.’ They adapt to your system really quickly and get on with it.”
Although it has been left behind in the BW system, the Ayrshire breed is ideal for a system one farm. When Bernard and Robyn went from high input to system one,they had Friesian cows that stood at the gate for two and a half years waiting for something to happen. The Ayrshires were off finding something to eat.
“The Ayrshire will probably produce 20kgs of milksolids less than a Friesian as a two year old, but on their tenth lactation, they do a lot better than a Friesian that’s been dead for three years.” As a breeder of Ayrshire cows, Bernard says he wishes farmers would just use 10 or 20 straws of Ayrshire and try them out with an open mind. “I believe they will still be there for years later.”
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