Tony & Maureen Luckin

Jerseys delivering the goods on Okato dairy farm

Tony and Maureen, and their son Jay and wife Kelly, farm an Okato property which was subdivided into three ‘rehab’ farms back in the 1940s.

“My father was allocated one of those farms in 1945 and I grew up here. In later years we bought two neighbouring farms, as they came on the market, returning the farm to its original size,” Tony said.

“My father started the pedigree herd around 1948/49. He was short of some heifers and the only ones he could find at the time were pedigree Jersey heifers which, at first sight, he thought were ‘miserable’ compared to the heifers he had at home. However, those ‘miserable’ pedigree Jersey heifers quickly out-performed the cows he’d been proud of, causing him to rethink his approach to genetics.

“This was in the pre-AB days, of course, so my father used the best stud bulls he could find, moving over to AB when it became standard in New Zealand, initially using New Zealand genetics.

“That was the basis of the herd I took over – reasonably good cows but I wanted more production and a more robust animal.

“The top AB Jerseys of the day included sires like Judd’s Admiral. He was sired by an overseas bull so you didn’t have to look far to see the source of the genetics we wanted, and that was overseas. I made the move then, opting for North American genetics to get the type of cow I wanted.

“The basis of the herd at the time wasn’t bad. I had used a stud bull which was a grandson of Duncan Lester with overseas genetics on the sire line and some good old Taranaki cow families on the maternal side. His daughters were very uniform and we used him a lot to get a base cow.

“Leaving BW behind never worried me. I was using overseas genetics to breed the complete package – production and type. And that’s what I got.

“My herd is made up of 230 well-framed, strong Jersey cows which get in calf easily and produce, on average, 440kgms per year under System 2.

“I often travel overseas and around New Zealand and like to check-out the cows farmers are milking and there are some fantastic animals. Seeing the production these farmers achieve is always a challenge and I usually come home focused on improving the herd even further.

“We still have a way to go; I want to increase everything. You always have to have a challenge – if you’re complacent you may as well get out of the industry.

“The average age of the herd is 6 years and that’s a result of culling the older cows so new genetics can come into the herd. In the main we’ve used World Wide Sires’ bulls over the time we’ve been farming here but especially since 2017 and we’re impressed with the strength and capacity of the stock they’re leaving.”

Taranaki’s Claire Bourke is the World Wide Sires’ breeding consultant for the Luckin family. A dairy farmer herself, Claire says the Luckin herd is a great example of the strength, versatility, efficiency and production of the Jersey breed.

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