Gordonton dairy farmers Annabelle and Stephen Scherer are enjoying the pursuit of their passion for the Holstein Friesian breed – all the while building a business that carries on a family legacy.
It was only around five years ago that the couple, who sharemilks 190 Holstein Friesian cows on 75ha, resumed their interest in registering, showing and classifying their cattle, despite having been sharemilking for the last 18 years.
Annabelle is also the newest member of the Holstein Friesian NZ Board, elected at the organisation’s AGM earlier this year.
“The Holstein Friesian breed has been a passion of mine since I was young,” she says.
“As a young girl I helped my parents show Charbelle animals, attended many Holstein Friesian youth camps and had the privilege of being awarded the Arapeta Trophy in 1993.
“I studied, had a family, sharemilked, and now that the kids are a little older, I have a little more time to pursue the things I am passionate about.”
The Scherer’s farm is owned by Annabelle’s parents Dyanne and Wayne Osborne, who founded the Charbelle Holsteins stud 35 years ago.
Annabelle and Stephen have been sharemilking on the all-peat farm for six years, and also own a second herd, run by a manager on a nearby lease farm.
The farm system is pasture-based, but the herd also receives silage from the 7.5ha of maize grown on farm annually, as well as an in-shed feed blend. The production target is 450kgMS/cow.
The Scherer’s split-calve their herd: 80 cows in autumn, and 110 in spring. They rear 25-30 replacements and sell the surplus.
Mating is undertaken in a six-seven-week window of AB, with a slightly shorter window in autumn.
“Our breeding policy is to be strict on stature to produce a moderate stature,” Stephen says. “We also play with some high type genetics on a small percentage of animals in order to produce some animals for showing.”
Good udders, feet and legs are also important when it comes to breeding decisions, with improved fertility a key focus.
“We have used the World Wide Sires mating programme for many years now,” Annabelle says.
“It helps with deciding which sires go to which dams, much like TOP cows are assessed for traits and mated to suitable bulls accordingly. We are also moving toward using more sexed semen and beef genetics.”
The Charbelle Holsteins stud is producing some notable cow families, including Charbelle MWB Prancer S2F VG88, who was All Breeds Intermediate Champion at the 2020 Stratford A&P Show; All Breeds Intermediate Champion and Holstein Intermediate Champion at the 2020 Waikato A&P Show, and Overall Best Intermediate Udder at the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Event.
Prancer’s daughter, Charbelle Tatoo Pix S3F, was All Breeds Junior Champion at the 2020 Stratford A&P Show, and All Breeds Junior Champion and Holstein Junior Champion at the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Event.
“Prancer was the cow that got us back into showing,” Annabelle says. “We attended NZDE for the first time with three calves, one of which was Prancer, and it escalated from there.”
Annabelle and Stephen have four children – Charlie (14), Gabrielle (12), Henry (8) and Archer (5) – who are developing a healthy interest in the Holstein Friesian breed.
“Gabrielle in particular has a passion for showing,” Annabelle says. “Charlie does too, but he prefers doing hands-on tasks around the farm. They are both great little helpers on the farm.”
Charlie is already showing interest in the breeding aspect of dairy farming, choosing three straws of semen at mating time to see the results of his breeding decisions firsthand.
Having been elected to the Holstein Friesian NZ Board in 2021, Annabelle says she is relishing “being around all things Holstein Friesian”.
“There are a great bunch of people on the Board and I’ve really enjoyed my time so far,” she says.
“I particularly want to concentrate on the youth aspect of Holstein Friesian NZ and ensure they are well looked after, for the future of the Holstein Friesian breed.
“I also want to give something back to the breed that from a young age I have experienced many benefits and much enjoyment from.”
The family strives to achieve a good work-life balance: the kids play winter sports and Annabelle and Stephen enjoy social volleyball, in addition to the treasured time they spend showing cattle.
“Stephen and I enjoy attending the three major shows each year,” Annabelle says. “It’s like a little holiday for us. The two older kids enjoy coming along with us, and we are hoping the two younger kids will enjoy it in the coming years, too.”
Annabelle and Stephen are working toward buying into Charbelle, with the intention to own it outright one day.
“We want to continue on the legacy,” Annabelle says. “Mum and Dad have worked hard to breed these cow families for us and have provided an excellent platform for us to keep going. Their breeding philosophy has also been passed on to us.
“They have been so supportive of us and our aspirations since we started our sharemilking journey.
“Having a supportive family is paramount to success, and we are fortunate enough to have that from both of our parents’, and siblings.”
|Owners||Dyanne & Wayne Osborne trading as Charbelle Farms Ltd|
|Sharemilkers||Annabelle & Stephen Scherer trading as Sherborne Farms Ltd|
|Farm size||75 hectares|
|Cows||190 Holstein Friesians|
|Stud name||Charbelle & Sherborne|