West Coast dairy farmers Grant and Shona Hanna are looking forward to showcasing their Holstein Friesian cattle once again as the show season comes to rights after a few years of disruption.
And it’s not only the couple that has missed the show circuit – but show patrons, too.
“The locals have commented that the shows aren’t the same without stock,” Grant says. “The visitors to the Hokitika A&P Show love seeing the animals – it is a great place to educate townspeople, kids and tourists about dairy farming and our practices in a relaxed environment.”
Grant grew up in Korere, St Arnaud on a lifestyle property where he “spent most of his time on his neighbour’s sheep and beef farm, avoiding school.”
Shona grew up in the Rai Valley on her parents’ dairy farm, Harvest Holstein Friesians (John and Pam Harvey) and is a proud fifth-generation dairy farmer.
Today, Shona and Grant milk 380 cows on 167ha effective at Mawheraiti on the West Coast. They lease the property from Will and Christina Sturkenboom. The farm, which is 185ha total, includes 45ha of freshwater K-Line irrigation and 25ha of effluent K-Line irrigation.
They have just finished their first season at this farm, having 50/50 sharemilked 10km down the road at Totara Flat for the previous 10-11 years.
All stock is wintered on the Mawheraiti farm, fed on 16ha of crop and baleage, with PKE fed to the heifers as well. Calves go off-farm for grazing, returning as R2s on May 1.
Approximately 200 of the 380 cows are purebred Holstein Friesian, with 50 pedigree Ayrshires and crossbred cows making up the balance. The couple increased their herd size by 100 cows last season, when they shifted farm and upsized.
The herd averages 165,000kgMS, but with a dry period that ran three-four weeks longer than usual (72ml from January to the end of February) they are hoping for 150,000kgMS this season.
“Being the first season, we are finding our feet a bit as the ground is quite heavy compared to Totara Flat’s river silt loam,” Grant says.
With in-shed feeding on the new farm, they feed 1kg/cow/day of Milkmaker pellets; when they get really dry, they feed 2kg of PKE as well.
Calving starts August 1, with the couple keeping all AI heifers.
“Our heifer grazer loves our cows, so we have been rearing 10 beef-cross calves annually to help him grow his beef herd,” Shona says.
Mating starts October 28, which comprises five weeks of AI and five weeks of Hereford bulls to follow up; bulls are out by January 10.
When choosing semen, Shona says they select for good components, fertility, stature, strength and longevity. A medium-sized Holstein Friesian that lives to a reasonable age is the central goal.
“You’ve got to make it worthwhile,” Shona says. “If they last to 10-12 years old – although we do have a few 14-year-olds – we’re happy with that.”
Bulls that have performed well on farm in the past include Coldspring Kenyon, Coastal-View Mookie-ET, sons of Mountfield SSI DCY Mogul-ET and sons of O-Bee Manfred Justice-ET (Oman).
“With sons of Oman you can guarantee you’re going to get a good, all-round cow,” Shona says. “You do have to outcross after a couple of years though, due to his prolific nature in New Zealand. Most of our top-performing cows in the herd are from sons of Oman; Milkmore Overd Dina S3F VG88 did 520kgMS at 10-years-old, and Milkmore Kenyon Linda S0F VG85 (sired by Coldspring Kenyon) did 546kgMS at six-years-old.”
Ruti Appleboy-Red has also created some lovely cows in the herd.
“We can put him over a crossbred cow, and then put them back to Holstein Friesian,” Shona says. “He’s also an easy calving bull, which is great for heifers, and has good udder traits.”
New bulls coming through the herd this season include Hul-Stein Cowboy, and Westcoast Perseus.
“We thought we’d try Perseus as he’s got a good backing behind him now,” Shona says.
Shona says when they first started sharemilking they got some good lines from her parents’ herd.
The Harvest Holstein Friesian stud was first registered in 1984 and was formed through the purchase of a few heifers from the Glenlea, Pinevale and Wairori studs at the Canterbury sales.
Shona’s late father John even managed to buy the last straws of Pukeroro Norbert Lock available in New Zealand in 1980, with the bull having a big influence over the Harvest herd.
“We just had to breed the Harvest lines into the cows that weren’t quite as big,” Shona says.
The Hannas are keen cattle showers, starting back when they worked for Evan White, who was sharemilking for his father Adrian White (Pukematai Stud) at the time.
“We used to help Adrian out when he was showing and also before we went 50/50 on the West Coast,” Shona says. “We also spent three seasons contract milking on Cresslands No. 2 town supply farm for Graham and Nicky Stewart at Waikuku.
“When we got our own herd, we broke in a couple of animals because we thought it would be good to show in order to compare ourselves to others.”
Despite the disruptions of M.bovis and Covid-19 over the last few years, the Hannas enjoy showing at local events.
“Before the M.bovis scare we would take the young stock and two in-milk cows down to the Westland A&P Show at Hokitika and the South Westland Show at Whataroa,” Shona says.
“Two floats-full was enough work for us to handle!
“We had a few on-farm shows locally in the last couple of years which was great, but when you’re on farm you can’t compare your animals with those of other breeders. Shows are a great way to showcase our stock.”
One stand-out show animal was Milkmore Shamrock Gissy VG89, who was out of a cow the Hannas got from Cresslands, Cresslands Lucas Gissy VG88.
“At the last show Shamrock went to as a calf she cleaned up all classes, including All Breeds Champion,” Shona says.
Shona says now things are back to normal, it would be awesome to see more families in the region start to head back to local shows.
She says the Hokitika A&P Show is very “grassroots” compared to some others.
“We don’t spend days fitting the cattle,” she says. “It is a very old-school way of showing; a basic and a true representation of our breeding of the animals.”
Shona says in the future, the couple intend to pay down the debt from increasing the herd numbers by 100 last season. Then come the property decisions: they are currently three-year leaseholders on the Mawheraiti farm, with the option of renewing for another three years. They have one permanent milker who helps out in the 40-a-side shed.
“We may end up downsizing in order to purchase our own farm,” Shona says.
Shona says having grown up with Holstein Friesians, she has always had a natural affinity to the breed.
“Holstein Friesians are pretty bulletproof – they can handle the rough weather well, and they are generally placid cows,” she says.
|Will & Christina Sturkenboom
|Grant & Shona Hanna
|Mawheraiti, West Coast
|380 (140 registered Holstein Friesians)