Today, I feature the Lynbrook Farm in New Zealand. The farm is situated close to the coast near Canterbury on the Southern Island and like most New Zealand dairy farms the focus is on producing the maximum of milk solids from grass, using very low and/or few inputs.
Steve, Nina, and family Emily and Kate Ireland farm in the Coastal Temuka, South Canterbury, and have the Lynbrook Registered Jerseys and Lynbrook Farm. The farm is an Irrigated farm with pivot irrigation. Dairy Farming in Canterbury is a little unique in New Zealand. Being such a dry climate the plains were once not fit for dairy farming. Fortunately, west of the Canterbury plains the Southern Alps stand proud, collecting large amounts of westerly rainfall and this flows into Canterbury’s braided rivers along with the snowmelt built up during the winter months into large underground aquifers. Making maximum use of this great natural resource Steve & Nina are able to draw from the aquifers and use that water for growing pasture. Having a dry climate with low humidity the cows perform really well, “we enjoy it here and the cows do too” says Steve.
Two or three years ago they reduced their cow numbers from around 570 to 500 with the aim of reducing inputs and increasing per cow production. Steve and Nina have seen great success in this move and are reducing nutrient losses creating a more sustainable model for the Lynbrook Farm.
“we enjoy it here and the cows do too” – Steve Ireland
The cows currently produce around 460 Kgs milk solids per year, per cow at the factory, feeding on average, 1 KG per day of grain feed per cow during the milking season. This is fed in the farm dairy during milking. They rear around 230 calves per year selling the remaining calves to rearers and currently bobby a very small amount. Having worked their way through a traditional NZ farming career path, first as employees on wages, working through to management, then 50/50 share milking on a few farms. Steve and Nina then moved into farm ownership and set about converting a sheep farm to a dairy farm in 2003. Over the previous few years Steve had begun to introduce Viking Jerseys into his breeding program.
The Scandinavian countries, Denmark included, has been very focused on their health traits for almost 30 – 40 years. Having systems in place for collecting data on the health and management traits of their animals, they have been able to get accurate data on somatic cell counts, mastitis resistance and fertility. Building on this data set and their genomics, they have used this data to breed superior bulls for those traits. It is a real focus for us to have healthy cows that live for a long time needing fewer antibiotics for treatments and interventions on health issues.
The Farming year
Steve and Nina farm around 250 hectares on two units. and describe their farming year as follows:- The cows are grazed out doors all year. We start calving at the end of July, and the whole herd is dried off at the end of May for the winter. (southern hemisphere) We winter graze the herd on the other farm just a short 5 KM away . On the other farm we graze kale and feed silage and straw for two months whilst the cows are dry. Our milking year follows grass growth.
Steve & Nina have achieved a great deal with the Lynbrook herd having bred several bulls for use in AI with considerable success, including Lynbrook Terrific that has been used for more than 20,000 inseminations. This success comes from hard work, commitment and attention to details. they are NOT using sexed semen at the moment. This is due to Steve not being prepared to reduce fertility index, even by a few percentage points, In NZ often the difference between success and failure is the ability to get cows in calf for the correct season. They will keep this under review as technology and research progresses. They flush around 12 of their best cows each year, this is done just prior to their AI season and embryos are implanted fresh. This year they implanted 84 embryos, using beef cross females, maiden heifers or cows from the bottom 20% of the herd.
Of the top 80% of the herd that are bred pure, 60% to Proven, 40% to Genomic, 20% of the herd is mated to overseas outcross bulls, mainly Viking Genetics. The lowest 20% of the herd are bred to beef breeds. Lynbrook has a number of cows contract mated, about 20% of the herd, are Genomically tested.
Steve says “for mating options, selection is based on test information and genetic rankings, combined with a herd inbreeding programme. We try to keep inbreeding levels to below 6.5% for every mating outcome. This is where Viking Jersey bulls are so valuable to our mating programme.”
- Steve & Nina are milking daughters of these Danish sires :-
- DJ Zaga, a Q Zik x Fyn Lemvig x JAS Hot
- VJ Hilario, a Q Hirse x Q Impuls x Fyn Lemvig
- They also have in-calf daughters of:-
- VJ Hitman, a VJ Hian x DJ Jason x VJ Idorn
- VJ Quintana, a VJ Rodme x DJ Zuma x DJ Prima
- VJ Hihl, a VJ Husky x DJ Zuma x DJ Jason
- They also have Young heifers by;-
- VJ Hihl, a VJ Husky x DJ Zuma x DJ Jason
- VJ Huzar, a VJ Hilde X DJ Zuma x Q Impuls
- and pregnancies to :-
- VJ Hihl, a VJ Husky x DJ Zuma x DJ Jason
- VJ Garant, a VJ Gislev x VJ Janko x VJ Hilde
- Next season they plan to inseminate with :-
- VJ Hiwe, a VJ Hihl x DJ Hulk x Q Hirse
- VJ Gislev, a VJ Hihl x VJ Lure x Q Zik
- VJ Hilton, a VJ Hickey x Legacy x DJ May
- as well as other non Danish bulls
“We think the Viking Jersey for us is a very superior strain of Jersey” – Steve Ireland
“We think the Viking Jersey for us is a very superior strain of Jersey” because of those reasons. Being focused on milk components the Vikings have animals with very high fat and protein percentages which coupled with an outcross, to NZ genetics, Steve thinks they are going to suit him very well in the future. Genetic diversity is incredibly important for both our Lynbrook herd as well as the national herd as we struggle to ensure that each of our cows gets a top bull. This is because the highest-ranking bulls in New Zealand have been used so widely and they are quite closely related, in some cases very close to inbreeding. Inbreeding brings reduced performance around production and reproduction, with the future in our mind we are very mindful that “we need to utilise some of the international genetics in our breeding program” and for us, Viking Jerseys are it
“we need to utilise some of the international genetics in our breeding program” and for us, Viking Jerseys are it” – Steve Ireland
Lynbrook Hihl Norsemen is sired by a VikingJersey bull called VJ Hihl and his dam is an animal Steve and Nina purchased as an in-calf heifer from the North Island a few years ago. Ola is a very good Lynbrook Terrific daughter. Her female family has about 4 or 5 generations of outstanding cows before her, a very strong family in the Taranaki. Ola herself is a very high performing excellent conformation cow. On top of Lynbrook Hihl Norsemen, Samen NZ has purchased an incredibly exciting half-brother of Norsemen sired by Global Future Direction and is named Lynbrook FD Ovation. Behind Global Future Direction is some Australian polled breeding. We are currently milking about three half-sisters of Global Future Direction and they are outstanding cows.
Beef and bobby calves at Lynbrook
Steve and Nina have been trialling Dairy Beef in their herd and have found multiple ways to get the most out of these animals with the overall goal of reducing/removing bobby calves. At 12 months old Steve and Nina bring a series of dairy beef animals back to the dairy farm and mix these with a few carry overs. This small herd of mixed sorts then serves several roles on the farm. Not only do they enable us to reduce/remove bobby calves, but they also act as Steve and Nina’s lawn mowers. The small mixed herd follows behind the Lynbrook herd eliminating the need to pre mow or top the pastures. Some of the female beef crosses are used as embryo recipients.. Steve feels they make great recipients.
“maintaining the pasture quality and allowing the dairy herd to get the best feed which has helped lift our per cow production” -Steve IrelandSteve Ireland
This process is “maintaining the pasture quality and allowing the dairy herd to get the best feed which has helped lift our per cow production”. The Dairy Beef is an incredible bonus and currently Steve has Red Wagyu and Angus animals in the mixed herd with Short Gestation Belgian Blue on the way. The beef heifers are also great recipients for our embryo program. Steve says that the major constraint of the Jersey breed is the beef industry and what we do with Jersey calves. This comes down to carcass size and reaching the premium weights. Steve is trying to replace bobby calves with beef animals and in turn show the Jersey cross beef is premium quality. Being competitive with other breeds Steve recently killed the first lot of his Jersey Angus Cross animals at 26 months and averaged just over NZ$1700.
Steve was impressed, but not surprised to see that in the kill data they killed out at 65% top quality prime beef.( Silver fern farms( EQ)) In comparison the average is around 31% which puts twice as many of Steve and Nina’s Jersey Angus Cross animals in that category. Four of the Jersey Angus Cross animals didn’t pass the prime because of the yellow fat colour says Steve which comes through the Jersey. The yellow fat colour comes from the carotene in the grass that they are eating. The yellow colour is also an indicator of Vitamin D which is commonly deficient in most people’s diet. There are markets where top restaurants pay a premium for the yellow fat as it is heavily associated with pasture feed beef. Overall, the dairy beef has proven to be very efficient for us and we are looking forward to seeing the kill data for the Red Wagyu and in the near future Short Gestation Belgian Blue as well. We have sourced all of our beef genetics from Samen NZ
It is always difficult to try to compare milk prices. Steve is paid around 7.5 NZ$ per Kg of Milk solids. This equates to 31.6 Danish kroner, 4.6 US$ , £3.71 GBP and 4.2 Euros.
Outlook for the future
At Lynbrook Our aim is to produce pasture fed milk with low environmental impact. We have been reducing herd numbers, reducing costs whilst increasing herd production
The Jersey Breed Our NZ Jersey breed outranks all other dairy breeds for efficiency. We have an all breeds evaluation system, 27 of the top 30 all breed bulls are Jersey. Jersey semen sales have increased, reflecting the increase in fat values. However, significant pressure is increasing to reduce bobby calf numbers. This will be a big challenge for Jerseys in NZ. Work will be done to develop Jersey beef options.
I have enjoyed my virtual trip to New Zealand, it is trip I should have actually made many years ago. I must thank Steve and Nina Ireland for their help and co-operation in putting this piece together, I hope I have done them the credit they deserve. If ever they realise their dream and get to Denmark, I will do my best to ensure they have a great time.
This article is an adaption of an articles first published by Samen NZ, et al, in an an in-house publications. We are grateful to Samen NZ for allowing us to use this article in this way