Three seasons into a farm equity partnership that runs two dairy farms near Te Awamutu milking nearly 1000 cows, Michael and Lindy Bennett remain focussed on lifting productivity. Their jersey herd is a key part of the equation.
Before entering the partnership, the couple were successful sharemilkers running a Jersey cross herd but working to breed back towards purebred Jersey.
“We’ve still got a bit of crossbreeding in that first herd but the main herd (550 cows) that we bought for the partnership’s second farm, purchased in June 2017, is 95 per cent Jersey and that’s the herd we manage and contract milk now.”
The couple turned down the option of purchasing the farm’s existing Friesian cross herd in favour of Jerseys, sourced through one of the other equity partners, who shares their passion for the breed.
“From a bang for buck perspective, they’re a good cow for production and good choice for our ash country as well. For their body weight, they’re so much more productive. They have great fertility too; we’re doing AB at the moment and we have a 94 per cent submission rate at three weeks.”
An added bonus is that Jerseys are more adapt-able to the shift from twice a day to once a day milking. “The young herd was put on once a day last season.“We had 250 young cows on once a day milking through August and then back on twice a day in September heading into mating and had no problems.”
Over the past few seasons, with the focus on growth, they have not been overly tough on herd performance though are poised to look at that more closely. A farm advisor (Peter Kane, NZ Farm Management) visits four times a year. The main challenge to date has been getting on top of mastitis-causing bacteria, with 16 cows having to be culled last season.
“It’s not what we wanted but it’s what happens when you buy a new herd.” In terms of genetic development, Michael says the goal has been to spread the gene pool by using the LIC Jersey ‘bull of the day’ for two-thirds of each herd and then using nominated Jersey sires from Liberty Genetics.
The approach also has the advantage of being comparatively cost effective.Lindy, who grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Hunterville, is in charge of the farm’s young stock, along with weighing and drenching.
Usually she takes care of a run-off for young stock too but that job is with Michael at the moment, following the birth of the couple’s daughter, Olivia, in January 2019.Lifting pasture quality is a work in progress on the new farm. Spraying was needed over 50ha last year to get on top of yellow bristle grass.
Several varieties of mixed ryegrasses have been planted to determine which ones will grow best in each area and the farm is also hosting National Forage Variety Trials. The couple do observe though that the pasture has ‘diplomatic immunity’.
“And this year we’ll start a major lime programme as well to get things growing better.”Michael and Lindy have also invested in a new effluent system that includes a seven million litre effluent pond and weeping wall.“Over the next few years, our focus will be on production, pasture and debt repayment.”
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