Extended Lactation Shows Promise

Karen Phelps – NZ Dairy Winter 2018

Extending lactation to two years is a bold move but one that the Shaw family, who run Anchor Jerseys stud at Ohaupo, feel will pay dividends.

The family is reaching the end of its first season since making this change and the second season of split calving and has noticed some good results, says Aleasha Shaw who is the fifth generation to farm the 110ha total/102ha effective unit. So how does it work? They have two herd autumn calving but not in the same year. The autumn 2017 herd will be mated in June 2018 and calve in March 2019. The 2018 autumn herd will be mated in June 2019 by which time the herd will have completed a year’s lactation.

They will then calve in March 2020. Aleasha says the decision was partly made to try the regime to improve animal health and fertility. The vets have been keenly following progress.
“We had 18-20% empty rates and the vet said it was because the cows were trying to peak as we were trying to mate them. By extending the lactation period this has allowed them to put on condition and be ready to mate,” she explains.

This autumn the cows had done 18 months lactation, so less than the family is aiming for, but Aleasha says the benefits were already apparent – cows in good condition and healthier calves. With heifers aged two years when they go to the bull they all go in calf easily at four weeks with just two lates when scanned. This figure used to be 50%.

It’s also been advantageous as it’s saved them time and has thus allowed them to focus more on other aspects such as looking after calves even better and even being able to clean out the calf shed earlier so that it had time to air making for a healthier environment for the calves to thrive. It’s too soon to compare results with what they were doing previously and although production has dropped slightly they are saving in other areas such as vet bills. The family has also reduced cow numbers from 520 to 450 to help grass growth due to unpredictable summers and because they winter all cows on farm.

Aleasha says the family is still working out the best way to manage the new regime but that early results look very promising. It’s a hand’s on family business. Aleasha’s mother
Judy does the finances, rears the calves and does the stock feed orders and Aleasha and her partner Adam Veart take on the day-to-day running of the operation.

Adam has worked on the farm for 14 years and took over his present role in 2011. Aleasha’s roles on the farm include milking and looking after young stock once they are weaned. Adam completes jobs such as tractor work, feeding out, fencing and irrigation.

Judy also assists Aleasha with looking after the heifers on their run off block and with looking after Adam and Aleasha’s blended family of four children: Sam, 12, Elouise, 5, Ashly, 5 and Nate, 3. The farm has a 50-bail rotary shed with automatic drafting with electronic ID. Aleasha says this creates work efficiencies enabling them to run the business with less labour units. Effluent is spread with a travelling irrigator on about one third of the farm. The farm has a 90 day storage pond. The Shaws own an additional 28ha block two kilometres away that is used to support the farm and run young stock. Anchor Jerseys remains a passion for the family. Aleasha’s grandfather Don was instrumental in developing the stud and is still involved.

“He used to work for CRV Ambreed so he has a lot of experience. He looks at sire catalogues and gives us his suggestions,” says Aleasha.
The family have been focusing on USA, Danish and Australian sourced genetics to bring size, capacity and good production traits into the herd. They don’t breed to sell with the resulting animals mainly used on their own farm. They sell any surplus animals privately each year to interested parties.

Last season the herd produced 199,000 kilograms of milk solids and this season the target is 180,000 kilograms.