A man regarded as ‘the Godfather of the Jersey breed’ recently visited New Zealand to extol the virtues of a breed he has “loved” since he was a child.
Herby Lutz grew up in Chester, South Carolina and recalls wanting to be a dairy farmer when he was nine years old.
“My parents had other businesses and I started milking for my neighbours, in 1984, when I was nine years old. Those early efforts led, many years later, to the purchase of the farm I still own with my wife. in Chester and the development of a line of Jerseys that set national records. The Lutz Jersey herd was one of the first in the United States to produce 20,000 pounds (around 9,000 kg) of milk per cow per year.”
“I eventually worked for the US Jersey Association and then took an opportunity to join Select Sires (one of the world’s largest farmer owned genetics companies) to run their Jersey breeding programme.”
Looking back over the years, Herby Lutz says the modern Jersey is larger and more capacious, able to convert feed faster than her predecessors.
“They’ve got a bigger frame, are more robust and have well-supported udders capable of producing large volumes year after year.”
In his role with Select Sires, Lutz “travels the world talking with farmers and breeding representatives for the co-operative’s marketing arm, World Wide Sires.
“Talking with farmers and understanding the challenges they’re facing is essential in my role managing Select Sires’ bull buying and Jersey programme. ‘One size doesn’t fit all’ and – as one of the largest genetics companies in the world – we have to produce a line of sires which have the goods farmers need in every country of the world.
“Having one of the biggest genomic programmes in the world doesn’t mean we ‘ignore’ type; we still go out and find cows which farmers love owning and milking. It’s essential to see the dams and grand dams so you can make corrective mating and produce a sound, highly profitable cow which will last in a commercial environment. Milking dollars have to validate the predictions.”
Lutz says there has been a resurgence in the Jersey breed, world-wide, with sales “more than” doubling in the time he has been with Select Sires.
“As a breed they are efficient producers of components. They don’t produce as many pounds of milk as Holsteins, but it takes less feed and water to produce what they do generate and that makes them a value added product.
“They’re also very efficient reproductively; their smaller bodyweight enabling them put more energy into getting back in calf v maintaining their bodyweight. In the United States, the Jersey breed tends to last one lactation longer than Holsteins.”
Herby Lutz’s love for the Jersey breed is evident in the passion he exudes as he talks with farmers. “They are very personable; when people give them a chance they figure it out and Jerseys take over.”