Eventful year for shorthorn breeders

Eventful year for shorthorn breeders
PHOTOS: NZ Shorthorn Conference delegates inspect the Tocker family’s Waiwera herd. Some of the delegates at the conference dinner.

It has been a red-letter year for the Tocker family of Tiakitahuna, Manuwatu.
In April, the family hosted the 2019 New Zealand Shorthorn Association 106th annual conference on their farm, while one of the family, Russell, (27) was made a board member of the International Red Dairy Breeds Federation in South Australia in March.
The Tockers – Jerry and wife Ireen along with Russell and brother Zac (30) – are all passionate shorthorn milkers and breeders who see a good future for them despite their rating as a rare breed.
The New Zealand Rare Breeds website says, in 2000, registrations of purebred milking shorthorn cows numbered little more than three hundred.
This reflects the conference turnout of 25 delegats, but Russell Tocker says six months preparation and a busy programme meant there was plenty to do before and during the three day conference held in April.
“It all came together well – it went pretty smoothly.”
The first day consisted of a trip to the Tararua district where delegates were impressed by the Te Apitiwind farm and, in Woodville, visited a private motor vehicle museum which includes a replica of the Massey Ferguson tractor Sir Edmund Hillary took to the South Pole.
A visit to Belleview Stud in Pahiatua was followed by viewing a milking herd and young stock at neighbouring Waiwera Stud.
“Both farms showcased the versatility of the shorthorn breed in different farming systems.
“Belleview milk off steep, free-draining hill country whereas Waiwera run an intensive feeding system on river flats.”
During the next two days activities included visiting a farm in Bunnythorpe where delegates wereshown its robotic milking system and attending the central district in-calf heifer sale at Northbrook Farm, Hiwinui, where the top price fetched was $2850.
Delegates also toured the Tocker farm, Tiakitahuna Milking Shorthorns, which included viewing its milking herd and young stock.
“We run a low input system which includes a dairy beef unit.
“Milking shorthorns are a perfect breed for this type of operation and we have seen great return from the breed.”
The farm milks 700 cows on 400 hectares a few kilometres at Tiakitahuna bordering the banks of the Manuwatu River and is combination of a dairy and dry stock unit in which Russell and Zac are equity partners.
The dairy herd’s beef calves are fattened on the property, along with up to 800 lambs bought as trading stock as each season dictates.  Cattle are all spring calved.
The final conference day started with the association’s annual meeting which included Manawatu district Mayor Helen Worboys speaking about primary industries in the Manawatu district while Russell Tocker spoke about his attendance at the International Red Dairy Breed Federation conference in Mt Gambier, South Australia, where he was elected as a board member.

Eventful year for shorthorn breeders
An in-calf heifer goes under the hammer at the Central Districts milking shorthorn heifer sale hosted by Northbrook Stud.

Key issues discussed at the local meeting were around increasing awareness of shorthorns as an excellent and profitable option in farming systems.
Both locally and internationally there is a push to get more shorthorn farmers around the world connected to each other, Russell says.
Recognition of the quality of shorthorn beef, regarded as second to wagyu, in addition to demand for bulls with the A2 milk gene, means shorthorn bull calves can be a good source of income.
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