The potential to increase herd production and farm profitability without an associated increase in costs or the size of the herd has appeal for Taranaki farmers.
This observation comes from two Taranaki based Breeding Consultants who represent World Wide Sires, one of the largest dairy farmer owned genetics companies in the world.
Claire Bourke and Kirby Wilson say there is renewed interest in high production genetics from the largest and most diverse genetics database in the world.
“Taranaki farmers are among some of the best in the country at getting every ounce of production out of the farm and their herds but environmental constraints and rising costs are working against them,” Claire Bourke said.
“They have to look at other ways to increase the production of the herd – and genetics provides a mechanism to do just that.”
Claire Bourke, who has been with World Wide Sires for three years, and Kirby Wilson, who joined the company in March 2017, are both passionate about dairy genetics because it’s the engine room which drives the potential of the farm and the dairy industry.
After leaving school, Kirby Wilson completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from Massey University and admits a fascination with genetics saw her include “a lot of genetics papers”.
“I grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Wanganui but always wanted to work on the genetics side of the dairy industry because of the potential to fine-tune animal health and productivity.
“After graduating I worked as a dairy shed assessor and milk quality consultant gaining a depth of insight to the regulatory environment farmers work in. And then I got the opportunity to join World Wide Sires,” Kirby said.
The new position was in North Taranaki bringing Kirby into contact with South Taranaki Breeding Consultant, Claire Bourke, who Kirby says has a “wealth of knowledge which helped me hit the ground running.”
Claire Bourke was born and grew up on her parents’ dairy farm at Opunake recalling the family’s pedigree Ayrshire herd owes its origins to her great-grandfather who formed Argyll Ayrshire Stud in 1934.
“The Ayrshire breed isn’t well represented in New Zealand but most farmers acknowledge that, when it comes to dairy type, they have it down pat. Over the last decade, we began breeding pedigree Holstein Friesians so now the home herd is a mix of red and white, and black and white,” Claire said.
“I grew up in the shed and the showring and was always fascinated by the correlation between type, production and longevity.
“After leaving school I worked on several dairy farms before returning to the home farm where I met my soon-to-be-husband Kieran. After we got married, we moved to his family’s farm at Pihama where we milk 500 autumn calving cows and two years ago, in partnership with his parents, we bought a farm at Manaia milking 640 cows.”
Claire Bourke said she and Kirby Wilson work closely together, each person’s skills complementing the other.
“Kirby and I share a real passion and belief in the value World Wide Genetics can generate for Taranaki farmers. The company’s genetics database is based on thousands of bulls producing genetics tailored to the more than 90 countries around the world.
“We’re able to go on farm, do a herd audit and give farmers a range of options with the traits they want - high production, fertile, easy calving and longevity.”
Claire and Kirby admit that, with calving coming to an end, farmers are setting their sights on the AB season.
“Taranaki is one of the country’s oldest dairying regions,” Kirby Wilson said “and local farmers are looking at any option which will enable them to increase the profitability of their farm without an associated increase in costs.
“A number of farmers want a bob each way, which is fine, opting to use some of our genetics and some from other companies so they can compare the performance of the resulting offspring, while others make a leap of faith and change the entire herd to World Wide Sires’ genetics. We’re happy either way as our genetics sell themselves – once World Wide Sires’ cows are in the shed most farmers say they’d never milk anything else.
“And that’s the real test. Our job is getting farmers to the point where they can make the comparison for themselves,” Kirby said.