Improvement in genetics at NZ Young Farmers-owned dairy farm in Auckland

Posted by on 13 August 2019 | Comments

Calving is in full swing at the Auckland dairy farm owned by NZ Young Farmers (NZYF).

About 135 cows have been wintered on the 74-hectare property, up from 115 cows last season.

“We are well over halfway through calving,” said the chair of the Donald Pearson Farm Board Julie Pirie in early August.

Forty-three in-calf Jersey heifers arrived on the farm in late May. They were bought from the estate of the late Bobbie Backhouse.

The heifers are in the top five per cent for breeding worth (BW) and are some of the country’s best Jersey genetics.

“The majority of the heifers were in calf to an AB (artificial breeding) mating. Many have had heifers, which is excellent,” said Julie.

“We already have more than 30 replacement heifer calves.”

The calves are being reared in an old wintering barn on the property which was converted into calf pens in June.

“Donald used to calve a couple of times a year, so his pens were perfectly adequate for his needs,” said Julie.

“But we calve the entire herd in the spring, which means we needed more space to cope with the larger volume of calves.”

Students from nearby Manurewa High School helped construct the new rearing pens.

The herd produced 26,370 kilograms of milksolids in the 2018-19 season. Production was hampered by a wet winter and a dry summer.

This season is off to a promising start.

“Milk production is up 50 per cent on the same time last season,” said Julie in early August.

“The new heifers are settling in well. The herd is being fed a blend of pellets with added minerals through the in-shed feed system.”

The farm’s manager Tom Ruki is using the covered stand-off pad to feed grass silage to the cows and protect pastures from damage.

“Tom’s using that facility really well. The cows are in good condition and things are looking a lot better than they were at this time last year,” said Julie.

“Our focus now is on getting as much milk in the vat as possible before the farm dries out in the summer.”

A major upgrade to the farm’s effluent system is complete.

A new, fully-lined pond has been built to handle effluent from the 11-aside herringbone milking shed.

It’s connected to pods and a travelling irrigator which utilise the valuable effluent to fertilise the soil and grow more grass.

“We now have a big amount of storage. The cost of the upgrade is not finalised yet, but it looks to be around $150,000,” said Julie.

Graduates working at Fonterra have been assisting the Donald Pearson Farm Board with long-term planning for the farm.

They’ve looked at how the farm can be used as an education tool and to improve the connection between rural and urban people.

"They've taken ideas from an open day earlier this year and the board’s thoughts. We hope to see some exciting proposals put forward,” said Julie.

The graduates’ report will be presented to the next meeting of the Donald Pearson Farm Board on August 29th.