Print this page
Friday, 03 September 2021 06:55

Jerseys pull their weight

Written by  Staff Reporters
Paul & Christine Frecklington with farm manager, Hayden Bishop. Paul & Christine Frecklington with farm manager, Hayden Bishop.

Jersey cows are not normally synonymous with high input systems, but one farming couple are proving that Jerseys can hold their own under any system.

Paul and Christine Frecklington milk just over 1,000 cows across two farms at Tangimoana in the Manawatu. The herds average around 617 kgMS/cow, but the smaller herd has produced up to 670kgMS in good seasons.

While the production figures are impressive in their own right, the numbers are even more remarkable when you take into account that the herd liveweight is around 500 kg/cow. At that weight, the cows are producing more than 1.2 times their liveweight, with the top cows producing in excess of 900kgMS - more than 1.8 times their liveweight.

The couple says it has been a journey to achieve these results. Early on in their farming career they found it frustrating being at the mercy of the weather and other variables beyond their control.

"We had good quality genetics that were capable of high production but they milked off their backs and it was a struggle to keep them in condition through wet winters or summer droughts."

The lightbulb moment for the couple was at a conference in Bali back in 1993 when they heard Te Awamutu-based consultant Sue Macky present. She talked about how better cow nutrition would improve production and cow health and allow farmers to maximise the potential of good genetics.

"Sue told us that how you feed your cows two weeks before and two weeks after calving was critical to set the cow up for the season," says Paul.

Since then, feeding their herd well, lifting weaning weights for calves, and growing young stock to target liveweights has become a focus of the Frecklington's business.

"When we go on tours with Jersey groups, everyone looks at the cows. I look at the management systems and the way they are fed. I have learned a lot from Australian and American systems and taken the best of that and applied to our own business," says Paul.

The farm is run as a system 5 with around 70 hectares of maize grown on a support lock, and a small amount of soya-PKE blend purchased in as well as some barley straw.

Paul says that having the farm virtually self-contained in terms of feed insulates them from price fluctuations.

One farm has a herd home and the other a feed pad to maximise utilisation of feed, while also protecting pastures in wetter weather.

Despite using high levels of supplementary feeds, Paul says good pasture management is critical to their success.

"From September to December we mow paddocks pre-grazing to make it easier for the cows to consume more and maintain pasture quality. We also re-grass 10-15% of the farm annually.

"We are fortunate to have a farm manager who is highly knowledgeable in this area and he is involved in trialling different pasture species on farm," says Paul.

Also vital to the herd's success is the quality of their young stock. Calves are weaned at around 100kg and fed meal to support their continued growth.

"We manae all of our young stock ourselves and are very proud of how our heifers are grown out."

Paul has farmed both Jerseys and crossbreds in his career and considers himself a commercial farmer.

"I don't have any breed preference just whatever is profitable, but Christine loves Jerseys.

"Christine grew up with parents who were Jersey breeders, and when we married she bought a purebred Jersey with her. That animal formed the foundation of our Cartref Jersey stud."

The herd is mostly overseas genetics but Paul believes that the production is also possible from quality New Zealand genetics.

The couple's surplus calves are in high demand with most being sold as natural mating sires or as heifer replacements in other herds.

More like this

Myth-busting with Jersey herd

Ross and Kristy Conder are not milking your typical Southland herd. The successful farming couple 50:50 sharemilk 840 predominantly Jersey cows at Otapiri, near Winton.

Nothing beats milking elite Jersey cows

Sophia Clark didn’t think she would end up a dairy farmer but a season milking Jersey cows showed her that a career in farming could deliver both a business and a lifestyle.


Why should we do more?

OPINION: Managing our dairy sector's impacts inevitably attracts a range of views. Should we do more, less or stay the…

Cattle sale with a difference

Innovation, loss and resilience have brought the Singh family to the point where it is poised to honour its patriarch,…

O'Connor's overseas odyssey

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor continued his overseas odyssey in the past week with multiple meetings in the US, Europe and…

Machinery & Products

Protective tint

Now available in New Zealand, Wildcat Static Cling Tint adds a protective layer to the windows of your tractor, harvester…

New owner for stoll

German company Stoll, the well-known manufacturer of tractor front loaders and attachments that claims to be the second largest producer…

Fert spreaders get a revamp

Kuhn has updated its MDS range of fertiliser spreaders, giving farmers more options to upgrade machines as situations change, rather…

Mowers spring into action

With spring upon us, thoughts turn towards shutting up paddocks for conservation and maybe the purchase of new machinery to…