The Holstein Friesian breed has proved its worth on a “tough” coastal Taranaki farm, handling long walks, steep hills and summer dry with ease.
Dairy farmers Blair and Kendra Holdt, who are 50/50 sharemilking 330 cows on 135ha at Omata, have found the breed to be the most suitable to the System 5 farm.
“We started with Friesian cross but slowly over the years we have converted to a full Holstein Friesian herd,” Blair says.
“It is a tough farm here. There are long walks and steep hills and we are coastal, so we tend to dry out a bit in the summer. We have found Holstein Friesians are more suitable to the farm system we are trying to achieve here; the way we feed the cows, Holstein Friesians can handle it better and do a lot more production. And, we love the way they look!”
Blair and Kendra are both from Taranaki dairy farming backgrounds: Kendra from South Taranaki, and Blair from North Taranaki.
Blair originally went into a motorcycle apprenticeship, while Kendra became a veterinary nurse before going dairy farming on her parents’ farm.
After the couple met, they ended up lower order sharemilking for Kendra’s parents in 2015. They stayed there for two years before moving to their current farm, 50/50 sharemilking for the Morris family.
Blair and Kendra have three children: Harrison (5), Noah (3) and Tommy (5 months).
As a System 5 farm they feed a little through the cowshed, but the majority of supplementary feed – maize and grass silage – is fed on the feed pad.
The herd split calves, with 30 autumn cows plus late calvers milking throughout winter. They calve down 300 spring cows, averaging 620kgMS/cow.
This season they are doing a strict six weeks of AB; any cows not in-calf after six weeks will get another chance at the next mating and become part of the autumn herd.
“This season we’ve focused almost solely on using overseas genetics to ensure the animals can keep up with the production we are wanting, a target of 195,000kgMS,” Blair says. “We want to get a better Holstein Friesian cow and overseas genetics help us do that; we have found them overall to be better-structured cows with exceptional udders and good feet.”
The stature of the herd is quite large due to the overseas genetics – so much so that the cowshed is struggling.
“We are having to re-engineer the cowshed as some of our bigger girls just don’t fit comfortably in there,” Blair says.
When choosing bulls, they pick sires with good udders, capacity, and fertility traits.
“For the first couple of seasons here we culled the herd heavily, as we had cows blowing out their udders due to the high production,” Blair says. “We tried to fix that by changing the way we breed the cows.”
They aim to keep 70 replacements annually, but this year they have a lease block so will keep and rear whatever they can.
“Being able to rear our young stock right the way through is a major plus, as we feel getting the heifers to their mature liveweight by calving is a must on a high input system,”Blair says.
Over the last couple of years, the couple has sold a lot of crossbred animals, and bought around 40 Holstein Friesian cows at sales around the country.
“Doing this meant we were able to fast track the breeding of the herd,” Kendra says. “We have a great base to work with now and will flush a few of the cows.”
Some of the couple’s favourite cows are Lawwal Sidekick Toni-C, and Makuri Solomon Deanna VG87, a lovely cow who gave them a strong Fustead Goldwyn Guthrie-ET heifer. They also bought a Croteau Lesperron Unix daughter from Gary and Karen Peters at the Manawatu Elite Genetics Sale.
Blair and Kendra are passionate about breeding, a position reinforced when they were able to visit Tahora Farms in Canterbury and “pick Dean Geddes’ brain” over a few beers at the pub.
“To meet Dean and see his cows gave us inspiration to carry on with this breeding stuff,” Blair says.
Blair and Kendra say the ultimate goal is farm ownership, but that’s getting harder and harder to do.
“The next step might be to get a lease farm, or lease the farm we’re on,” Blair says. “But for now, the main focus is to build a good, strong herd, which is the real asset.”
|Blair & Kendra Holdt trading as Kenair Partnership
|330 Holstein Friesian cows