Otago Holstein Friesian breeder Tony Brock is somewhat of a rarity in dairy farming these days.
He and wife Sarah have been 50:50 sharemilking on the same Kaitangata property for quarter of a century.
“There’s probably not many around that have been on the same farm for as long as we have, or been sharemilking for as long as we have, but it’s worked for us here,” says Tony.
He is preparing to hand the reins of the operation and his Holstein Friesian herd to his son Cameron (22), and although Tony and Sarah consciously decided to remain sharemilking, he believes it is becoming harder for young people to enter the industry or become dairy farm owners.
When the couple started sharemilking on the farm 25 years ago, Tony says it cost them about $200,000 to get the herd of 360 cows they needed.
“Now it would cost over $1 million. The figures have stretched a bit and it just makes it harder. More young people are choosing to become farm managers or contract milkers or choose not to enter the industry at all,” says Tony.
The couple dabbled in an equity partnership in Riverton for about eight years, as silent partners, but Tony says they eventually sold out of it when the pay-out dropped, and they decided to remain sharemilking on the 164-hectare farm.
They milk 450 cows on the property in a 44-bale rotary shed, about 80 percent of them Holstein Friesian. They have had up to 12 cows contracted mated some seasons with both CRV and LIC.
They have also had three bulls marketed by the companies in recent years.
Estee HDF Fritz-ET S2F was part of the Holstein Friesian Genetic Leaders joint venture between HFNZ and CRV. They also had two other bulls from the same family Estee Blitz Fever-ET and Estee MGH Fanatic-ET S2F, that have been part of LIC’s sire proving scheme.
He says his best cow family links back to Estee Edition Flute S2F GP84.
“We did some embryo work with her in 2012 and flushed her to Ros Mhor TEF Shadow S1F. We got seven female embryos and we on bred Fritz, Fever and Fanatic are from that process.”
Tony says he puts forward animals for Holstein Friesian’s Genetic Leaders Superior Female programme, run in partnership with CRV, most years. He also does the same with the Discovery Project which is Holstein Friesian NZ’s partnership with LIC.
They have had one heifer picked up for Discovery Project and four heifers, for the Holstein Friesian Genetic Leaders Superior Female programme this year, that are currently awaiting genomic test results to see if they progress further.
Both programmes are designed to help breeders bred excellent cow families and produce bulls for the AI industry.
“I suppose it’s that idea of if you think you have a few good animals you want to put them out there to see if anyone else thinks they are a good animal as well,” says Tony.
Tony says his herd produced 420 kgMS per cow last season and they are aiming to do 480 kgMS per cow this season, feeding about 2kg of crush barley per cow, per day during milking.
They have about 30 cows in the herd doing over 600 kgMS per cow and seven cows that have classified as excellent.
“We haven’t really bred for type as such. When we first started out, we did a couple of seasons using bull of the day, but we found the cows didn’t last as well, their udders were on the ground within a couple of seasons.”
He says they have focused on udders and protein production in their breeding and like to use young sires coming through like Meander Shot Alibi-ET S2F, currently being marketed by CRV.
Alibi is a graduate of the Holstein Friesian Genetic Leaders programme and Tony used straws of him as a young bull, yet to be proven.
“I have five daughters from him in the herd and all have very good type and good BW and PW indexes, and they are producing well. Three of them have been contract mated by CRV.”
Fairmont Mint-Edition, Telesis Euon Frienze and Bomaz Marion Emerald were all used in the past, and feature strongly in the spring calving herd. They will use some Speckled Park this season as they are sought after by calf rearers. Any calves not sent off for grazing are sold on to calf rears in Central Otago.
Tony says Cameron is also slowly starting to take over the breeding decisions on the farm too as they transition.
“Cameron is pretty much running the farm now. He is very keen to take over, and he does also have some big ideas.”
Tony says he is very agreeable, and the relationship is good. Tony says he lets Cameron decide most things on the farm, including allowing a few mistakes, as long as he knows they aren’t going to have any serious consequences.
Cameron has completed his Level Four ITO and is planning to take additional management courses in the next few years. His ultimate goal is farm ownership with a herd of around 600 cows.
“The idea is to let Cameron do what he wants to do, and I can look over his shoulder from time to. The farm owners are quite happy for Cameron to take over from us over a period of time.”
Cameron’s mid-term goal is to raise the capital required to purchase the herd from his parents and take over the sharemilking contract.
“It’s definitely providing a pathway for Cameron and it is a pathway that is becoming much harder for young people wanting to enter dairy farming, but I have no doubt he would have done it on his own anyway,” says Tony.
|Owners||Tony & Sarah Brock trading as Estee Holdings Limited|
|Farm size||164 hectares|
|Cows||450 cows 80 percent Holstein Friesian|
|Production||480 kgMS per cow|