Breeding pedigree Jerseys a passion at Kihikihi

Waikato’s rolling hill country, north of Te Awamutu, is home to the Karaka Jersey stud. Developed by Kihikihi farmers Ross and Carol Turner, the pedigree herd is today owned by the couple’s son Chris and daughter-in-law Jennifer who are managing the family trust farm. Ross’ parents David and Lois Turner first started dairy farming at Kihikihi in 1955, having previously farmed at Karaka, Papakura. The family’s jersey stud is named after the original Karaka farm. “My father was milking 40 cows there but it was mainly a free-range poultry farm,” says Ross. “He sold that farm in the end because, at that stage, he and my mother had four children and he could see it was too small for a family of that size. That’s why they moved to Kihikihi where we are now and switched focus to dairy cows. By the time they moved, they’d had another addition to the family and were a household of  ve children.” Today, the 69.5ha farm is run as two separate units, with the cows run on 50ha and young stock on 17ha and the remaining land taken up with a tanker trap, races, house, shed and farm buildings. In past years, the farm has had up to 205 cows on the milking area but expects to run at 185 cows this season (or a stocking rate of 3.7 cows/hectare).

Karaka is a high achieving stud. One of their top heifers – Karaka Cons Lily – made the cut for the 2021 JerseyGenome team, which identifies potential bull mothers for Jersey NZ and CRV AmBreed. JerseyGenome is all about generating sires to enhance the future of the Jersey breed. CRV Ambreed ranked Karaka Cons Lily’s sire, Puketawa King Connacht JG, as number one across all breeds in their 2020 line up of bull graduates. “We recently had another one named for the 2022 team – Karaka Super Julie, sired by Puketawa Ad Superstition. I’ve tried to make sure we’ve always bred from bulls that have got a family behind them with generations of good breeding. “The Puketawa herd [Jim and Carolyn McBride, Taranaki] is one that has that. We use both LIC and CRV genetics and other AB companies as well.

We’re looking for good udders and good dairy capacity – we prefer big Jersey cows with high milk literage.” A proud achievement for the family last season was having one of their herd’s top producers – Karaka Aussie Maid Marie – named as the 2021 Jersey Classic Champion Cow by the Te Awamutu Jersey Club. “It was a real highlight to have one of our cows picked as the overall champion out of 157 cows by our local club in its centenary year.” Both BW and PW data is driving ongoing improvement in the herd. Last season, the herd returned 452kgMS per cow on average for the Jersey content. The present herd includes 40 pedigree Ayrshire that average 439kgMS. Feed is managed to ensure cows hold their condition well and achieve more days in milk. “We start the season feeding 2-3kg of PK and soy with molasses, and then we graduate to grass silage in mid-October, and then progress to maize silage that we buy from my brother next door. We carry on with that right through to the end of the season – if there’s a drought, they have PK with the maize silage for protein.” Grass silage is fed out in the paddock, while maize silage and PK is fed in bins on the feed pad and all cows are drenched in autumn to control facial eczema. Calving starts each season in early July. Ross says around half of the bull calves are sold at a week old mainly as future service bulls for Friesian yearlings. Karaka is achieving good profitability out of selling surplus stock. Even in today’s inflationary environment, the family trust farm is holding its own and continuing to excel as a pedigree performer.

Article sourced from NZDairy – Written by Kim Newth