Couple myth-busting with Jerseys
DAIRY: When the Condors say Jerseys are best, they’re not pulling the wool over your eyes
Ross and Kristy Conder are not milking your typical Southland herd. The successful farming couple 50:50 sharemilk an 840 predominantly Jersey herd near Winton.
It’s an unusual sight in the area they live but the couple are on a myth-busting mission: they say the bigger, blacker cow is not necessarily needed to be profitable in the South.
Ross, who hails from Auckland, found himself farming following a chance encounter with an enthusiastic Primary ITO tutor who urged him to consider dairying as a career.
Kristy grew up on a farm and the two did a role reversal for a short period while Kristy studied in Auckland and Ross worked his way up the farming ladder in Ngatea on the Hauraki Plains. In 2016 the couple moved south to begin their sharemilking career for Dairy Farms NZ Ltd.
Five seasons on and they run a relatively low input system on the 274ha (235 effective) mixed contour farm, feeding about 400kg of palm kernel and grain through in-shed feeding. The herd produces around 380kg of milksolids per cow and around 1380MS/kg per hectare.
Around 20-30 per cent of the herd is milked once-a-day (OAD) in spring and summer with the full herd on OAD from April/May onwards.
“We trade off a small amount of production with our milking regime but we make up for that in cow health, condition and fertility,” Ross says.
The herd is significantly above the industry average for its reproductive performance, averaging between 75 - 82 per cent over the past five seasons. The couple also average around a 7 per cent empty rate from 12 weeks of mating but it has been as low as 5 per cent. Even more impressive is that no intervention is used to achieve these results.
“That’s one of the main advantages of Jerseys — they are highly fertile,” Ross Conder says.
“We have found that by focusing on cow condition and using OAD as a tool to manage lighter cows or noncyclers we don’t need any hormonal intervention to achieve strong reproductive performance.”
The couple use 100 per cent Jersey bulls for AB and say that they are selecting their genetics with a bigger framed Jersey in mind, and have over time built up a herd of superior type to the typical Southland cow.
“It’s a combination that gives us the positive traits of a Jersey animal such as higher milksolids percentage, superior fertility, easy calving, good feet, and mobility, with a little bit extra size.”
Equity growth has been a big focus in the operation and stock sales have helped to drive this.
“We have a real niche in Southland when it comes to Jersey bull calves. There is a strong demand and limited supply in our area so we have been able to capitalise on that,” says Kristy.
The couple also has an abundance of surplus mixed-age stock to sell annually. Rearing 25 per cent young stock, they aim to bring through around 21-22 per cent as in-calf heifers. This coupled with their lower empty rate means that there is surplus stock each season.
“Our stock sales have been an important factor in our business growth and it has allowed us to get to our herd goals quicker by selling off the higher Friesian content animals,” Kristy Condor says.
The couple have a strong focus on cost control and say that for them it is about getting the basics right, while keeping things simple so that they can grow. It’s a goal that has seen them purchase a 480-cow farm in equity partnership this year. The couple will contract milk the farm and play a management role across both properties.
The couple’s longer-term vision is to buy more land and eventually own their own farm outright so perhaps we will be seeing more Jersey herds in Southland yet.
It’s a combination that gives us the positive traits of a Jersey animal such as higher milksolids percentage, superior fertility, easy calving, good feet, and mobility, with a little bit extra size. — Ross Conder