Although Stewart and Marice Riley have tried various breeds of cows over the years Ayrshires are the clear winners in their eyes.
“They are quiet, have good conformation and udders, are easy care and can look after themselves. We’ve bought Jerseys and Friesians at various times and we could never see what all the fuss was about,” he says.
The couple originally purchased the herd off Stewart’s parents.
It was in the late 1800’s that his great-great grandfather purchased the family dairy farm Riverlea at Collingwood, 150 kilometres northwest of Nelson.
The 200ha total/150ha effective farm is five kilometres from the Golden Bay town of Collingwood and bounded at one end by the Aorere River. It is split into three terraces with 110ha of river silt and the other two terraces of Pakahi soil.
To help combat the high rainfall fertilizer is applied up to seven times a year. Lime is applied to areas of the farm at various rates depending on soil test results.
Two years ago every paddock was sampled at intervals and showed a huge variation in ph from paddock to paddock even though they had regularly been applying lime.
This has now been corrected. The farm milks a herd of 435 Ayrshires through a 40-aside herringbone shed.
Most of the herd is pedigree under Riverlea Ayrshires. Stewart is on the board of Ayrshire New Zealand and on the Semayr and finance committees. He says his ultimate aim with his stud is to produce bull calves accepted for the AB sire schemes.
He’s had a number accepted already into the sire proving schemes but none have made it to the proven bull teams.
“I aim for a functional cow that is easy care, easy maintenance and can handle the extreme weather conditions while producing 380-400 kilograms of milk solids without an excessive amount of supplement,” he says.
The Ayrshires on their farm are mated to the best genetics they can get their hands on. The AB sires that they use are mainly sired by imported Finnish AB sire over New Zealand breed cows.
He says the BW figures of the breed are disappointing, as Ayrshires do not tend to score well in the animal evaluation system despite often producing higher than some other breeds. He says this makes it challenging for the breed to progress in New Zealand.
“Ayrshire AB sires have got BVs as high as or higher than other breeds yet the Ayrshires are 150 BW points behind. Despite that we are firm believers of the BW system.”
The Rileys son Ashley, 28, and his wife Kayla are entering their second season as contract milkers on the farm after their previous three seasons as managers.
Stewart says it has been gratifying to see the next generation taking over and gives Ashley an opportunity as well.
The farm is recovering from the herd being hit with theileria last season and also a very wet spring with over 500mm of rain each month in August, September and October.
As a result production dipped to 139,000 kilograms of milk solids compared with the usual 158,000 kilograms.
The farm is self contained and is supported by 440-hectare (180ha effective) dry stock farm located thirty kilometres away at Rakopi used for winter cropping and raising stock replacements.
Stewart runs 80 dairy beef cross calves that are taken through to two and a half year olds and sold to the works as prime cattle averaging 280 kilograms. Calves are taken to the dry stock farm straight after weaning from November and December.
In calf heifers return just prior to calving from late July Around 300 cows are wintered on this farm as well as the yearling heifers, 80 beef calves, 80 R2s, 15 bulls and 20-25 empty dairy cows.
Hay and baleage is made from this farm and they buy in 360 kilograms of palm kernel per cow each season.
Ashley and Kayla employ one staff member and a part timer and are aiming to increase produ ction. They are focusing on getting cows in-calf early with a condition score of five. Says Stewart: “We’re certainly hoping that is doesn’t rain all spring like it did last year.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Motueka Farm Machinery
- Semayr Breeding Services
- Dairy Essentials Ltd