Mitchell & Kate Johnston

Mitchell & Kate Johnston


Farm 613 hectares

Herd 1000 Holsteins

Production 650kgms per cow.

Farm system 5

The herd Mitchell and Kate Johnston milk on their Hedgehope property originally hailed from Taranaki.

“My parents moved to Southland in 1990,” Mitchell says “and Kate and I bought it in 2012. We are currently in our seventh season on the farm.”

“The original farm was 350ha milking 800 cows but with the addition of two neighbouring properties the farm now totals 613 ha. The additional land has enabled the milking herd to increase to 1000 and a move to a self-contained high input farming system.

“Environmental and animal welfare considerations led to the system change. Rather than milking more cows, we aim to take better care of our stock. As we improved our farming knowledge and developed better systems and understanding of cow nutrition the performance of our stock has improved, resulting in significantly better per cow performance.

“As the per cow performance increased, it soon become apparent that the genetics of our herd was not keeping pace, with a number of animals needing to be culled with structural issues, mainly poor udders.

“We had been considering options of introducing overseas genetics to help fix these issues and were fortunate to come across some surplus stock from a well-established World Wide Sires herd.

“Boy did we notice a difference, they were like chalk and cheese (compared to the cows at home. The World Wide Sires cows had fantastic udders and milked like trains. We didn’t have a second thought and changed the entire breeding programme that spring and haven’t looked back.

“The change has paid off. When we took over the herd, they were averaging 400kgms per cow. Seven years later we are on target for 650kgms. The use of World Wide Sires’ genetics and fully-feeding the cows enables them to express their potential.

“Moving away from BW didn’t worry me. I need cows which will see me into the future. Our top cow is a case in point. She consistently produces in excess of 1000kgms yet her BW is -98. By contrast, most of the cows we used to cull for poor udders had very high BW.

“For the first few years with World Wide Sires, our sire selection was based on udders. But now we are focusing more on production and other traits.

“It’s a tough job now finding a cow to cull – they are so consistently good.”

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