Bull leasing ‘important part of business’

Bull leasing ‘important part of business’
The Smyths have their own hereford cows for producing bull calves for bull leasing work.

Bull leasing is a win-win situation for Dannevirke farmer’s Chris and Nic Smyth and their dairy farmer clients, the couple says.
The Smyth’s run a 640 hectare sheep and beef property which supports 1800 texel breeding ewes, 600 hoggets and 590 cattle.
After a period of lambing hoggets, the Smyth’s have stopped the practice as they still get good lamb numbers without it and with less pressure on the stock, the pasture and themselves.
Their terminal flock is crossed with suffolks which, with their black faces, makes life easier when it comes to drafting.
“We used to use poll dorset but they were a little bit tricky to keep a track of.”
About 60% of the business is cattle-based which means the Smyth’s can run the farm themselves without the need for staff.
“The cattle side’s quite a big component.”
Previously as a pure sheep and beef operation, the farm used to run about 700 to 800 friesian bulls covering the various age groups, however bull leasing is now an important part of the business.
“We lease out jersey bulls and hereford bulls. We have our own hereford cows for producing the bull calves for bull leasing work,” Chris says.
About 250 bulls are leased each year from the end of October to Christmas and are returned from mid-December to late January.
Generally, the jersey’s are put over heifers early in the dairy season which is followed by the hereford’s going out towards the the end of the season to mate with cows that have not become in-calf through artificial insemination.

Bull leasing ‘important part of business’
covering the various age groups, however bull leasPHOTOS: Cattle grazing on pasture and winter feed. Chris and Nic Smyth’s Dannevirke property supports 1800 texel breeding ewes and 590 cattle.

This highlights one of the advantages of natural mating, Chris says.
“Most of the farmers that are using the bulls are getting good strike rates, especially with the heifers for jersey bulls.”
Chris has been told anecdotally that natural mating can reduce empty rates by 9%.
Nowadays, the majority of farmers using the bulls return them in as good condition as they left the Smyth’s farm.
Chris believes this is because individual dairy farmers are leasing more bulls and are working them less, in addition to veterinarians having more influence of animal welfare.
“A lot of herds we supply to will be straight friesian’s and they’ll have their AI programme going and they mate the heifer’s with a jersey bull for jersey’s for ease of calving.”
Another benefit is that a dairy farmer can obtain a bull exactly when they want it, return it when they want and the lease is tax deductible.
It also means bulls do not have to be carried over the winter.
In terms of genetics, farmers are primarily concerned about estimated breeding values of bulls showing good figures for low birth weights and short gestation.
For the Smyth’s, the economics of bull leasing work well in terms of cash flow, while offloading 250 bulls each season between November and January during dry weather reduces feed demand and helps with lamb finishing.
“It means that we’ve got a lot of clean lamb country that’s been run with bulls. Also we feed a lot of the bulls on crops so we then put those pad-docks into rape or other crop so it gives us quite a few options.”
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