Ahead of her time

From left Dyanne Osborne and daughter Annabelle Scherer

The road less travelled has always had appeal for Dyanne Osborne.

“I’ve always been a bit of a trailblazer, always looked outside the square and have always questioned the status quo to see if there is a better way,” she says.

In her 30 career as the Waikato/Northland/Thames Valley breeding specialist for World Wide Sires, Dyanne Osborne has faced a few fires.

“The late 1990s was a time of challenge and change. Multi-year research comparing the fertility and production of North American Friesians with New Zealand and Irish cows revealed a concerning level of infertility. This was largely a result of milking year-round without the breeding pressure which comes with seasonal dairying. Coincidentally the research results came out at the time global dairying was changing in favour of seasonal. It was a time of change and opportunity and one Select Sires embraced.”

World Wide Sires is the marketing arm for Select Sires – one of the largest dairy farmer owned cooperatives in the world – and Osborne says “even a cursory look over the stats of the cooperative’s bulls, today, demonstrates some of the best fertility statistics combined with health and production records, available in the world today.”

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenges of the last 30 years, Dyanne Osborne continued to visit farmers and promote the genetics she believes are the genetic solution Kiwi farmers need.

“The tide is turning in so many ways for New Zealand farmers and there’s never been a better time to move from small statured, small producing cows to moderate sized, high producing cows which will last in the herd and give farmers the option of reducing numbers without a negative impact on production or productivity.

“We’re talking a line of genetics, specifically selected for the grazing environment which enable farmers to reduce their environmental footprint with fewer cows AND continue to make money.”

Demand is growing, so much so that Dyanne Osborne is sharing ‘the road’ with daughter Annabelle Scherer who is now World Wide Sires’ breeding consultant for Upper and West Waikato.

“The facts and imperatives farmers are facing in terms of maintaining their businesses is causing them to look more broadly at the genetic options available to them,” Dyanne Osborne says. “We used to be seen as the supplier of genetics for breeders but are now recognised as the largest source of genetics for commercial grazing herds in the world.”

Starting out

Dyanne Osborne grew up on her parent’s dairy farm. “I didn’t start off wanting to be a dairy farmer and was originally a school dental nurse, but when married Wayne and I took over the farm, milking 150 cows.

“The breeding side of things always fascinated me. We took over a predominantly Jersey herd and gradually moved across to high producing, North American, Holstein Friesians.

“Wayne and I discussed each cows’ faults and good qualities and what bulls we could use to improve the herd. We weren’t involved in showing until the children came along and started calf club and then got interested.

“I never went for the standard and always looked outside the square. I have always been an early adopter; I always look at what’s best for my needs, to see if there is a better way.”

That was 30 years ago.

What it takes to produce 700kgms per cow

“Today I have clients with herds which are achieving more than 700kgms per cow – they simply couldn’t achieve those levels with New Zealand genetics without sacrificing fertility and longevity. Producing high volumes, year after year, is hard work and cows need to have strong constitutions.

“Udder conformation is critical. A strong suspensory ligament is inherited from the sires and keeps the udder together. If you ever see an udder dissected, it’s full of ligaments, like a bra, holding it all together. World Wide Sires have been breeding that type of strength in cows for generations. The suspensory ligament holds the udder together so it doesn’t collapse. When you are taking 40 litres out of an udder at each milking you have to have everything in place, teat placement, height and width of udder. And they have to be able to walk with a large udder – that demands strength and conformation.

“The shape from the cow’s hips to pins is important. If an animal has the right angle she naturally cleans and has less calving problems. She’s more structurally sound. When you are looking at a cow from the rear and you see that rump width and know she will calve more easily and will walk squarely on her legs. She’ll be easier to milk and be a functional long-lasting cow.

The new breed

Annabelle Scherer grew up at her mother’s knee with dairy genetics and, along with her husband, sharemilks on the home farm.

Scherer recalls she never saw stress in her mum. “I just saw passion and love for good cows – it’s something I’ve inherited and am enjoying sharing with my clients.”

While they cover different parts of the country, mother and daughter get together regularly to discuss best responses to the needs of individual farmers.

Dyanne Osborne and Annabelle Scherer admit there’s nothing more satisfying than visiting farmers and hearing how their investment in overseas genetics is playing out.

“You realise you’re making a difference and there’s nothing more satisfying.”

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