2024-02-02 17.18.09

Budding breeders

The McCall family have found a passion for breeding pedigree Holstein Friesians.

Jason and Ayesha McCall (Nee Morrow) of MooCall Farming are Sharemilking Ayesha’s family farm in Pongakawa.

The 383 hectare property comprises; 180 hectares of dairy platform, 90 hectares of forestry and 20 hectares of avocados, with the balance being made up of dry stock land.

On this split calving farm, they peak at 560 cows. They calve down 140 cows in Autumn kicking off in early March, and they calve around 360 cows in Spring.

“So, we only calve down about 500, but by the time you include your carryovers from milking all year round, that puts us up around that 560 cows at peak” says Jason.

Average yearly production for the predominantly Holstein Friesian herd sits around 275,000kgMS. “We have got a handful of crossbreds which were used across our heifers, but the last two seasons we’ve been full Friesians” says Jason.

The farm was bought by Ayesha’s parents 34 years ago and originally was only 240 hectares, until they purchased an additional 143 hectares in 2007.

“Originally it was a sheep and beef property; the farm was divided into only 10 paddocks with one track that went halfway through the farm.

“I think there’s only one original fence on the entire property now” says Ayesha.

When Ayesha’s family bought the farm, they had a lot of work to get done, in order to make it functional for a dairy operation.

“They were milking the following season after purchasing the farm, it was brought December 1989 and seven months later they started supply” says Jason.

Ayesha and Jason met at Lincoln University, where Ayesha studied Agricultural Science and Jason studied  Property Management and Valuation.

Outside of University Ayesha worked on a dairy farm in Rakaia, while Jason worked for the Ashburton District Council’s Property Department.

“So, we were doing that for a few years, then Dad asked if we wanted to Contract Milk here, so 10 years ago we moved back up and started managing the farm” says Ayesha.

The couple started off Contract Milking, then moved to lower order Sharemilking, before buying the herd in 2021. This was  when they went 50/50 Sharemilking, and it was also around then that Jason found his passion for breeding.

“Dad used to winter milk, because we can feed Kiwifruit being based so close to Te Puke, and it’s an awesome feed to feed the cows through the wintertime. But when PSA hit the Kiwifruit industry, they weren’t allowed to feed that to the cows anymore, so he stopped winter milking. When we initially moved back here the farm was just Spring calving, but after a few years on the farm we went back to split calving, and this was also when we went lower order” says Ayesha.

The main supplement on farm is maize, they grow 22 hectares worth of maize on farm.

“We feed palm kernel year-round, and we try to balance the diet with energy in form of molasses and tapioca or a protein such as Canola meal or DDGs” (Dried Distillers Grain) says Jason.

Jason loves the temperament and the frame of Holstein Friesians “I like a big strong animal, with good capacity.”

Ayesha says, “I guess being a feed pad system and using a lot of supplement feed, it’s a benefit having cows that can eat a lot but also turn that into a lot of milk production, and Holstein Friesian’s can do just that.”

Jason and Ayesha’s mating process is still being fine-tuned, especially as Jason gets more passionate about breeding.

“We have a seven-week mating during spring, with the top 210 cows being drafted into a mob to AI, while the remaining 150 will merge with the winter milkers and be run with Hereford Bulls. The heifers are synchronized at the runoff and given two chances at AI then run with Jersey bulls. We use up to 100 straws of sexed semen across the cows and heifers, but only during the first three weeks” says Jason.

They keep replacements out of their heifers, initially when they started doing this, they used smaller crossbreeds over the heifers, for calving ease.

“We have now been trialing easy calving Friesian bulls for our heifers, and we’ve had really good results with them, especially when its sexed semen and they are more likely to have a smaller heifer calf instead of a big bull calf” says Ayesha.

“With the autumn calvers and the approximate 60 carryovers the winter milking mob ends up reaching about 200 cows, we synchronize and AI the top quarter of those, say about 50 or 60 odd cows. Then we stick the Hereford bulls back in there” says Jason.

When asked which AB company they use for mating, Ayesha can’t help but laugh while she says, “Jason buys semen from everywhere!”

“What company we aren’t using is a far shorter list than the companies we are using” says Jason.

“I think we’ve got enough semen in storage to not have to buy any for an entire year” says Ayesha.

They use the main players such as LIC, CRV, Samen, Semex and World Wide Sires, “I was actually pretty keen to use STgenetics too last year” says Jason.

Jasons spark of passion for breeding has  lead the couple to experimenting with both New Zealand and overseas genetics.

 “I like the idea of crossing our New Zealand girls with overseas bulls, and our overseas girls with New Zealand bulls. But we are experimenting with wide range at the moment and hope to narrow it down once we know what we like the look of” says Jason.

“As we start to classify and look at our cows more and the structure of them, we consider these things when selecting our breeding options.

“The more we learn about conformation the more we are breeding for a well-balanced cow. At the end of the day I think we are all looking to breed the most perfectly, well-balanced cow. I am learning what that looks like on paper or in a picture, now the challenge is to make it a reality” says Jason.

Jason is trying to achieve an improvement in the herds udders, and he says this has led him to experimenting with the international bulls.

“We want longevity. So, at the moment we are really targeting the udder, somatic cell count and conformation” says Jason.

Jason hasn’t got any top pick sires for the  upcoming season, but he isn’t far from starting to research his options.

“Last season we used sexed straws of Almamater from Semex in our highest producing cows, I also liked Hazyale from CRV, and Milkman from World Wide Sires”.

Westcost Almamater has an udder BV 1.86 and he is an Alcove son, Westcoast Alcove is currently number eight on the Holstein Friesian RAS list with a BW 500.

Lightburn SE Hazyale S3F has a fat BV 46, and his somatic cell is -0.37.

S-S-I Monteverdi Milkman-ET has an udder BV 1.38 and a fat BV 47.

“Last year I really wanted to use a bull named Maroon from Semex, he was homozygous polled, but unfortunately they weren’t able to get him in, I will be watching the catalogues to see if he is in there this year” says Jason.

As many farmers and breeders will understand there will always be a top (maybe a few) stand out cows in their herd, for Jason and Ayesha that’s widely known as cow number 470, Moocall Hhouse Ghost S0F VG89.

“As a young cow the first thing that stood out to me about her was her udder, and I thought wow she’s a nice-looking cow, so I looked her up following a herd test and it was like… Oh wow she’s one of the best in our herd! She now has our highest gPW 986.”

Ghost’s sire is Mourne Grove Hothouse S2F, and although her dam is unregistered the dam is by Fairmont Mint-Edition.

Jason and Ayesha are at the beginning of their breeding journey, and they want to develop families within their herd.

“I’d like to end up with a family with a 3GP, where it’s looks pretty impressive, with PWs and classification to match” says Jason.

Ayesha and Jason don’t have any outrageous goals, they are happy and content on their family farm, raising their young family.

Breeding pedigree Holstein Friesians has become a new passion of theirs, and right now they just look forward to enjoying the journey of building the ‘perfect’ cow.

2024-02-02 17.18.09
Ayesha and Jason McCall with their children, Thea (7), Marlo (3), Hugo (5) and Finn (2)

FARM FACTS

OwnersJason & Ayesha McCall trading as Moocall Farming Ltd
LocationPongakawa, Bay of Plenty
Farm size383 hectares
Cows560 (70% registered Holstein Friesians)
Production275,000kgMS
Stud nameMooCall

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