Dickie 2

Making a mark

According to the New Zealand Holstein Friesian Association Centenary book, the name Dickie “seemed fated to make some mark in the Holstein Friesian world of the day”.

Make its mark, it did – and one arm of the Dickie family, who established the Glenstuart stud, is continuing to do so today.

Glenstuart was founded in 1919 by WY Dickie near Mataura, Southland. His grandson, current owner Ray Dickie, says his grandfather’s main stipulation was that his herd must be easy on the eye.

“He said, if you have to look at cows twice a day, every day of your life they’d better be good looking,” Ray laughs. “That’s been the philosophy of the farm ever since, and the Holstein Friesian breed is a good fit.”

Today, Ray and wife Margaret, who was brought up on a sheep farm in eastern Southland, have settled on the farm’s support block while their eldest son Rob and his fiancée Brianne have taken over management of the farm.

Although Rob is the “driving force” behind the farm, the business is still a family affair.

“We all pitch in,” Ray says. “We have always had good family involvement throughout the years: from grandad to aunties and uncles, they all pitched in.”

In 1929, the business’ name was changed to WY Dickie and Sons. The most involved sons were MV (Vic) Dickie and later L A (Alton) and Colin, who farmed in partnership at Glenstuart from 1954 until 1979 when Alton and his five sons (including Ray) took over under the name L A Dickie and Sons. During this period, the farm was milking 80 cows.

Ray went straight into farming when he left school.

“That was my leaving school present 50 years ago – a full time farm job,” Ray says. “We had the town milk supply, which was seven days a week.”

Glenstuart has long had a reputation as an excellent show stud, exhibiting at many Southland shows; Ray remembers they used to travel as far as the Otago Show at Dunedin.

“We could never understand why Dad would go so far, but as we got older we realised the show was a ‘shop window’ for the stud,” Ray says. “He would head back in spring with bulls that had been sold during those trips.”

Among the many royal Champion and Reserve titles Glenstuart won were those by Glenstuart KO Queen at Christchurch in 1955 and Glenstuart CP Count in 1969; more recently, the stud won several championships with Excellent cows Glenstuart CP Glitter, Glenstuart Linmack Heidi and Glenstuart OR Judy.

Today, the property is 290ha, with a 120ha milking platform.

Ray took a hiatus from milking cows between 2007-2019 and worked at Semex during this time. When Rob showed an interest in farming in 2016, Ray and Margaret bought the dairy unit off Ray’s brothers, taking over in August 2016.

Rays says when it came time to build a herd, they bought 250 Holstein Friesian cows from a variety of studs, half of which were in-calf heifers: from Cresslands, Royal Oak, B & D Haylock of Oihitu, and D & S Petheram of Sudarra.

“In 2016 they were genuine surplus cows,” Ray says. “We paid less than $1,300/cow to put the herd together, and there have been some real gems that have come through. Unfortunately, there were not many of the original Glenstuart cows left.”

They also bought a line of 50 crossbred cows.

They are now in their 6th season, milking 340 cows producing 150,000kgMS annually. In 2016 they were milking 250 cows and managed to achieve 80,000kgMS annually.

“We’ve almost doubled our production without doubling cow numbers,” Ray says.

The farm is rolling country with ridges; the Dickies stopped growing crops as there wasn’t enough flat country to do so successfully.

“We winter the herd on feed pads which are sheltered by trees,” Ray says. “Best practice would be for us to build a wintering barn which we may do eventually, but the feed pads are working for us at the moment.”

To supplement the pasture-based system, they buy in 3kg/day of dairy pellets and use a little baleage and PK.

Calving starts on farm on August 1, and mating on October 23 with 10 weeks of AI. Under Rob’s management they are in their second season using Afimilk collars on the cows, monitoring heat detection and rumination.

“The collars make management so much easier at mating time,” Ray says. “It works well with our drafting system.”

Over the last 50 years, the genetics they have used have been of North American and Canadian descent, including Croteau Lesperron Unix, winner of the Holstein Premier Sire title at the 2021 World Dairy Expo 2021.

“We’re always happy with Unix daughters,” Ray says.

He says they are also looking forward to seeing daughters of Walnutlawn Sidekick, Val-Bisson Dorman and Westcoast Perseus coming through.

“Overseas genetics works for us; they are slower-maturing animals but last better on our country,” he says.

“We breed a balanced animal: we have 10,000L cows but we are more than happy for the herd to be averaging 440-450kgMS.”

One outstanding production cow is Glenstuart Unix Dolly, who saw success in the 2020 Southland Oaks Competition 3-year-old class, and also as a 3-year-old in the 2021 Otago/Southland HFNZ Semex On Farm Competition.

Classifying for the first time in 2021, Glenstuart had six cows classify Excellent including Royal Oak Laurento Remi S3F; Remi was exhibited at the 2021 Gore Show, the only show the Dickies still attend today.

When selecting bulls Ray says good conformation is their number one criteria, due to the rolling farm terrain.

“The cows do have to be sound, functional cows to last on the hills, with good feet and legs,” he says. “Good udders are important to us as well.”

Ray says he is “quite chuffed” that Rob, despite not having attended any judging schools, has a natural talent for picking a good cow.

“He seems to have the family eye for conformation,” he says.

The Dickies use Semex Immunity + bulls wherever possible, which support robust immune systems capable of dealing with a large variety of potential immune challenges, both viral and bacterial in nature.

“If we can breed cows with greater immunity to mastitis and other major diseases and they last longer, then why wouldn’t we?” Ray says. “We also use some bulls of good genomic value.”

Ray says family is still a dominant feature of the farm business: he and Margaret have five children and two grandchildren.

“They have all helped in the last few years,” Ray says. “We have a midwife and an accountant among them, but they all link back to the farm in some way.”

Ray says their hope is that Rob and Bri – who hails from Newcastle, NSW – will take over the farm one day.

“Rob is now the driving force behind the farm,” Ray says. “If it wasn’t for his enthusiasm and everyone’s willingness to pitch in and help, I doubt we would have carried on.

“Rob is working to build a sustainable business going forward, for his family and for generations to come.”

Dickie 3
Brianne, Rob, Augie (1), Ray, Margaret and Cassie (3)


OwnersRay & Margaret Dickie trading as LR & MT Dickie Family Trust
ManagersRob & Brianne Dickie
LocationMataura, Southland
Farm size120ha milking platform
Cows340 Holstein Friesians cows
Stud nameGlenstuart

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