Rising value of milkfat good news for Jersey

Rising value of milkfat good news for Jersey
Tony and Maureen Luckin’s Leithlea Stud bagged the champion reserve ribbon at the North Taranaki Jersey Club show in January and eight of their cows are through to the 2019 finals of the Semex National Jersey On-Farm Challenge.

Taranaki Jersey breeders Tony and Maureen Luckin are predicting a resurgence of interest in Jersey genetics off the back of higher earnings from milkfat.
The surge in milkfat values, outpacing protein in earnings, has been described by DairyNZ as the most significant change to hit the global dairy industry in 20 years. Jerseys are renowned for producing milk with a high-fat content.
“People have got to be looking at the Jersey influence in their cows now,” Tony says. “Given the fat pay-out, this is the time for the Jersey cow in New Zealand. They’re also so easy to farm and are good in terms of their environmental footprint too.”
Tony is a pedigree Jersey breeder who has spent a lifetime in farming, breeding, showing and judging. He owns Leithlea Stud, originally started by his father. He and Maureen have a 100 hectare farm (82ha effective) at Okato, supported by a 40 hectare run-off, with 230 Jersey cows in the herd.
Their focus in recent years has been to breed larger cows producing more milk but the change in payout means they are now seeking to raise fat levels “just a fraction”.
“We’ve reached our target as far as volume goes and had been focussing on protein in milk, so we’ve just got to turn that around now and look for slight increases in fat level. We’re not far off the mark.”
Production for the season is tracking well towards a target of 100,000kgMS. At the time of writing, the farm was getting some welcome rain after an extended dry. “We now need some follow-up to get the grass coming back for autumn.” Getting the right genetics in place has been an ongoing quest for Tony.
Rather than being restricted by New Zealand genetics, he sources bulls from around the world. Last year, he attended the World Jersey Conference in the US and toured some top Jersey herds there.
“I used two or three younger bulls from there last season – not too heavily, but getting a few daughters to see how they go.”
In January he went to Australia’s International Dairy Week and visited herds in South Victoria. Daughters of two bulls, in particular, really stood out for him. He’s used these same bulls – Vanahlem and Valentino – in his own breeding operation.
“They are lovely big, open framed cows with that extra special udder. I was happy to see that what is working well for me is working well there too.”
Leithlea Stud has produced many champions and reserve ribbons. In January’s North Taranaki Jersey Club Show, Leithlea bagged the champion reserve ribbon and eight of their cows are through to the 2019 finals of the Semex National Jersey On-Farm Challenge. In their latest TOP (Traits Other than Production) inspection, 99 cows were awarded ‘excellent’.
“It shows that what we’ve been working for here is happening. What we’re trying to do is to breed the complete package.”
Tony and Maureen’s son Jay and his wife Kelly work on-farm too, with a succession plan in place. Jay is currently president of the North Taranaki Jersey Club.
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