For Arjun Singh, family is everything.
From a rich history that began in 1912 when his Indian ancestors arrived in New Zealand, to the event that will be held in memory of his father Aman, the role family has played – and will continue to play – is at the heart of everything he does.
The dairy farming operation at Whitikahu that Arjun and his family have created, Lawwal Holsteins, is an extraordinary convergence of tradition and innovation.
“We wanted to create a name that would remind future generations about their origin from the state of Punjab in India, and of course their place in New Zealand,” Arjun says.
“Law Road in the heart of the Waikato has been our home for over 30 years, and our village in the Punjab is ‘Bahrowal’ – and so, Lawwal was born.”
Although the name is traditional, the farm is anything but. The property is 250ha but the 1,000 Holstein Friesian cows never touch the grass – instead spending their days (and nights) in a state-of-the-art freestall cow barn. They also rear 200 replacements annually that are raised on farm and enter the barn eight weeks prior to calving.
Aman’s dream was to create a system that reflected what he believed to be the future of farming: a system that saw cows fed to their potential, looked after the environment, and utilised the land in a better way.
Although Lawwal was only established in 2018, the family business was founded back in 1972.
Karamjit Singh and Mindho (Mindy) Kaur Singh bought their first herd of 65 Jersey cows under the banner of K & MK Singh Partnership. The unit proved to be uneconomical as a stand-alone so Karamjit worked fulltime in a local dairy factory while Mindy managed the farm.
In 1978 they bought a larger dairy unit (125 acres) at Whitikahu, and they doubled the size of their herd.
They purchased the 116ha Law Road property in 1989 and cow numbers doubled yet again. In 1996, the K & MK Singh Partnership was dissolved and K & MK Singh Farms Ltd was established. There was a full dispersal of the Jersey herd and from then on, they only farmed Holstein Friesians.
As Aman took over, herd size increased again and a 50-bail rotary cowshed with feed pad was constructed in 2003.
In 2013 the property running along side the farm was purchased, re-drained and re-fenced to fit with the home farm, increasing the property to 250ha total.
In 2014 discussions started around what the future of the business would look like.
Aman and Arjun diligently did their research, travelling to America, Europe and the South Island to view systems and gather all the best ideas to use in their own barn.
In April 2018, the 1,000-cow freestall barn was opened. Designed with cow comfort and climate goals in mind it is currently the longest cow barn in the Waikato at 250m x 40m. In 2019, the barn received the Silver Calder Stewart Commercial Project Award.
The barn is split into four quarters, with 250 cows in each quarter. The four herds are separated depending on lactation and age, and every feed mix is different according to their needs.
With production an impressive 700kgMS/cow, cows are fed to their potential on a TMR (Total Mixed Ration) method that mainly incorporates maize silage, grass silage, hay, soyabean meal and corn gluten.
With approximately 75% of the cows’ diet grown on farm, Arjun says the property is more of a cropping farm than a traditional dairy farm.
170ha of maize is grown on farm, which is alternated with annual pasture.
The only fertiliser used on farm is effluent, with the 20 million litre effluent pond emptied twice a year – before the maize goes in, and then again before the pasture seed goes in.
Arjun says they will undertake more of the cropping work themselves going forward, having just bought an effluent injector.
To accomplish this productive system, there are six staff on farm – two fulltime tractor drivers, three milkers/barn operators, and a manager.
In addition to external staff, Arjun’s mother Daljit rears the calves, and grandfather Karamjit, grandmother Mindy and sisters Anjena and Amreeta are all very much part of the farm.
Arjun himself returned to the farm after completing a Degree in Agricommerce at Massey University, majoring in International Economics. He played rugby for Manawatu Juniors and Manawatu Sevens before several major knee operations took him out of the game.
With the Lawwal stud being so recently established, the family looked to achieve genetic gain quickly; this was made possible by purchasing cows from Pelorus Holsteins in Nelson.
The Spencer cow family is at the centre of the stud’s breeding programme – originating with Lawwal Paragn Spencer S0F, born in 2003.
Spencer is a daughter of Sudesse Paragon, a bull born in Canada in 1993.
Spencer, who exceeded in type, has around 20 descendants in the herd including a daughter, Lawwal Dundee Spencer S1F, and three granddaughters: Lawwal Lavanguard Spencer S2F VG88, whose best production was as a seven-year-old: 11,653 litres, fat 410kg, protein 368kg; Lawwal Supersire Spencer S2F GP83, whose best production was as a five-year-old: 11,914 litres, fat 552kg, protein 399kg; and Lawwal Planet Spencer S2F EX, who best production was as a three-year-old: 8,575 litres, fat 333kg, protein 278kg.
“Spencer has done really well for us,” Arjun says.
Lawwal also has one heifer in the 2021 Discovery Project team, Lawwal SweetAs Northy S1F. Northy’s dam is Lawwal Blitz Northy S0F and her sire is Westedge VHR Sweet As S2F.
Today, the stud’s current breeding programme uses around 90% North American genetics, with the balance to LIC’s New Zealand-bred sires.
“We are trying to breed a functional type cow, with high components,” Arjun says. “Udders are important as we try to push a lot of milk through them, and genomics is an important part of our selection process.”
With split calving in September and February, mating is done in six-week blocks at the end of November and April.
All replacements stay on farm and with two thirds of the farm in maize, the young stock come up to the feed pad year-round.
In April 2022, Lawwal Holsteins will hold an important event in honour of Aman. ‘The Legacy’ is a sale, open day and fundraiser, at the heart of which is an auction that will see 50 of Lawwal’s best animals up for grabs including in-milk cows, in-calf heifers, yearling and calves. The winner of a feature lot will get their pick of the entire barn.
Quinedale stud, owned by Arjun’s uncle and aunt Balraj and Hardeep Singh, will also contribute some of their best animals to the event, and 10% of all proceeds will go to the Rural Support Trust and the Heart Foundation.
Arjun says the construction of the barn has benefitted many aspects of the business from cow comfort and milk production to the environment and the business’ bottom line.
“In the future, we hope to increase production, and increase the amount of feed grown on farm,” Arjun says.
“Since having the barn we have learnt so much, and we have fine-tuned the system to work for us. Seeing the cows so content and staff enjoying working in the barn is fulfilling.”
|Owners||Singh family trading as K & MK Singh Farms Ltd|
|Farm size||250 hectares|
|Cows||1,000 Holstein Friesians|