Thursday, 07 September 2023 07:55

Returning to the ring

Written by  Anne Boswell
West Coast farmers Grant and Shona Hanna are looking forward to showcasing their Holstein Friesian cattle once again. West Coast farmers Grant and Shona Hanna are looking forward to showcasing their Holstein Friesian cattle once again.

West Coast dairy farmers Grant and Shona Hanna are looking forward to showcasing their Holstein Friesian cattle once again as the show season returns after a few years of disruption.

And it's not only the couple htat has missed the show circuit but show patrons too.

"The locals have commented that the shows aren't the same without stock," says Grant.

"The visitors to the Hokitika A&P Show love seeing the animals. It is a great place to educate townspeople, kids and tourists about dairy farming and our practices in a relaxed environment."

Grant grew up in Korere, St Arnaud on a lifestyle property where he "spent most of his time on his neighbour's sheep and beef farm, avoiding school."

Shona grew up in the Rai Valley on her parents' dairy farm, Harvest Holstein Friesians (John and Pam Harvey), and is a proud fifth-generation dairy farmer.

Today, Shona and Grant milk 380 cows on 167ha effective at Mawheraiti on the West Coast. They lease the property from Will and Christina Sturkenboom. The farm, which is 185ha total, includes 45ha of freshwater K-Line irrigation and 25ha of effluent K-Line irrigation.

They finished their first season at this farm, having 50/50 sharemilked 10km down the road at Totara Flat for the previous 10-11 years.

All stock is wintered on the Mawheraiti farm, fed on 16ha of crop and baleage, with PKE fed to the heifers as well. Calves go off-farm for grazing, returning as R2s on May 1.

Approximately 200 of the 380 cows are pure-bred Holstein Friesian, with 50 pedigree Ayrshires and crossbred cows making up the balance.

The couple increased their herd size by 100 cows last season, when they shifted farm and upsized.

The herd averages 165,000 kgMS, but with a dry period that ran three-four weeks longer than usual, they are hoping for 150,000 kgMS this season.

"Being the first season, we are finding our feet a bit as the ground is quite heavy compared to Totara Flat's river silt loam," Grant says.

With in-shed feeding on the new far, they feed 1kg/cow/day of Milkmaker pellets; when they get really dry, they feed 2kg of PKE as well.

Calving started on August 1, with the couple keeping all AI heifers.

"Our heifer grazer loves our cows, so we have been rearing 10 beef-cross calves annually to help him grow his beef herd," says Shona.

Mating starts October 28, which comprises five weeks of AI and five weeks of Hereford bulls to follow up; bulls are out by January 10.

When choosing semen, Shona says they select for good components, fertility, stature, strength and longevity. A medium-sized Holstein Friesian that lives to a reasonable age is the central goal.

"You've got to make it worthwhile. If they last to 10-12 years old - although we do have a few 14-year-olds - we're happy with that."

Bulls that have performed well on farm in the past include Coldspring Kenyon, Coastal-View Mookie-ET, sons of Mountfield SSI DCY Mogul-ET and sons of O-Bee Manfred Justice-ET (Oman).

"With sons of Oman you can guarantee you're going to get a good, all-round cow," Shona says.

"You do have to outcross after a couple of years though, due to his prolific nature in New Zealand.

"Most of our top-performing cows in the herd are from sons of Oman; Milkmore Overd Dina S3F VG88 did 520kgMS at 10-years-old, and Milkmore Kenyon Linda SoF VG85 (sired by Coldspring Kenyon) did 546kgS at six-years-old."

Ruti Appleboy-Red has also created some lovely cows in the herd.

"We can put him over a crossbred cow, and then put them back to Holstein Friesian. He's also an easy calving bull, which is great for heifers, and has good udder traits."

New bulls coming through the herd this seaon include Hul-Stein Cowboy, and Westcoast Perseus.

"We thought we'd try Perseus as he's got a good backing behind him now," says Shona.

Shona says when they first started sharemilking they got some good lines from her parents' herd.

Showcasing Stock

Despite the disruptions of M. bovis and Covid-19 over the last few years, the Hannas enjoy showing at local events.

"Before the M. bovis scare we would take the young stock and two in-milk cows down to the Westland A&P Show at Hokitika and the South Westland Show at Whataroa," says Shona.

“Two floats-full was enough work for us to handle! We had a few on-farm shows locally in the last couple of years which was great, but when you’re on farm you can’t compare your animals with those of other breeders. Shows are great ways to showcase our stock.”

One stand-out show animal was Milkmore Shamrock Gissy VG89, who was out of a cow the Hannas got from Cresslands, Cresslands Lucas Gissy VG88.

“At the last show Shamrock went to as a calf she cleaned up all classes, including All Breeds Champion.” Shona says now things are back to normal, it would be awesome to see more families in the region start to head back to local shows.

She says the Hokitika A&P Show is very “grassroots” compared to some others.

“We don’t spend days fitting the cattle,” she says.

“It is a very old-school way of showing; a basic and a true representation of our breeding of the animals.”

Farm Facts

  • Owners: Will and Christina Sturkenboom
  • Leaseholders: Grant and Shona Hanna
  • Location: Mawheraiti, West Coast
  • Farm Size: 167ha effective
  • Cows: 380 cows (140 registered Holstein Friesians)
  • Production: 434kgMS/cow
  • Stud name: Milkmore

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