Business Rural Summer 2021

| 47 When the going gets tough... Dianna Malcolm DAIRY PEOPLE » Mount Brook Jerseys Ltd M ilking cows 100km south-west of Invercar- gill in the tiny town of Tuatapere is not for the faint-hearted. Alannah and Julie Skedgwell along with their parents, Murray and Linsey, happily tackle South- land’s knarly winters. They milk one of the South Island’s biggest registered Jersey herds on 156 hectares, three kilometres from the southern coast, at Tuatapere, the self-declared “sausage capital of New Zealand”. Alannah returned to the family farm just before she turned 17 and she is heading into her fourth season on-farm. Her plans to study for a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with a special interest in agronomy and ruminant nutrition remains her medium-term plan. But, for now, the family needs her at home to help drive Mount Brook Jerseys. Their herd is registered with Purebred Jerseys New Zealand. It means their genetics all trace back to the motherland of purebred Jerseys – Jersey Island – in the British Isles. Julie, 18, works off-farm rearing 2500 Wagyu calves locally, but she is still heavily involved in the family operation when it comes to showing and breeding. Alannah said that staffing issues combined with some health issues for Murray – the former Presi- dent of Purebred Jerseys New Zealand – changed her priorities for now. “I came home to take some pressure off, and I’ve never really left,” she said. “I’ll get to Uni one day,” she said. Wettest spring on record Spring in Southland this season has been the wettest on record for August since 2004, and they had endured more than 127mm [5 inches] of rain to date in mid-September. The family has a covered wintering barn and an uncovered feed pad. How- ever, both are reserved for their dry cows and once they calve and hit the 30-a-side herringbone in-milk they are exposed to the elements. “It turns into a bog hole pretty quick at both ends of the season, if we’re not careful and we cop a fair bit of the weather because we’re so close to the coast,” Alannah said. “We also have a gravel base, so in the summer we can dry out a bit.” “We started the spring on a really good roll, but then it started raining and we were forced into our second rotation of grazing by the end of August. We shouldn’t have been going into that until well into September. Balance day is usually October 10, but we certainly won’t be growing our demand by then. “I’m trying to do damage control. All you can do is try and manage pasture damage as best as you can and keep the cows fed.” In-shed feeding helping This season they have re-introduced in-shed feeding to try and push production to 125% of their cows’ liveweight. They are feeding 2kg per cow per day of barley, soyabean hulls, Palm Kernel and wheat Dried Distillers Grain. Last season they bought in 164,000kg Dry Matter as standing grass, in addition to what was grown and harvested on-farm to achieve the 333,000kgs of silage needed for winter feed in the barns. Standing grass is also used to make 200 bales of baleage and another 280 bales are cut on-farm for the milking herd (which also supplements young stock on winter brassica crops). They also make 80 bales of hay for a herd that generally has completed a lactation length of 260-270 days. The climate is too cold to grow Maize. “We have a huge demand to get enough silage and hay made for the wintering barn because they are in there for two to three months depending when they calve,” Alannah said. “Until this year, all our young stock were also grazed here on the home farm, and it was too small to support everything. So we have had to buy in standing grass.” This season another change has been that their 100 replacement yearling heifers have been grazed off-farm, after one of their peers Joanne Hamilton dispersed her Willow Down Jersey herd at Waianawa. “Honestly getting those young stock off our home farm has been a massive relief. If they had been at home this season, we would have been really been in trouble,” Alannah said. “We bought a whole heap of cows when Joanne sold out to diversify our bloodlines, and we then asked if we could graze our heifers there. So, it was perfect for us because we trusted her to look after our young stock for the future.” Showing cattle needs more competition Showing cattle is now a lonely exercise in Southland as Mount Brook Jerseys is the sole Jer- sey herd still showing in-milk cattle in the region. Alannah was the associate judge for the Ayrshire breed at the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE) Alannah Skedgwell takes a moment with some of the family’s two-year-old Jersey cows. • Log Cartage • Stock / Bulk • F ertiliser • Gravel • Contracting • ransporting T 0800 22 5899 03 225 8356 Otautau 03 225 5899 Pukemaori 03 234 8120 Riverton Proud to support Mount Brook Jerseys Ltd Barret Ag Ltd Ph: Kahu - 027 5183 448 E: FB: Barrett Ag FULL SILAGE AND BALEAGE SERVICE ALL CULTIVATION Including direct drill and strip tilling - precision planting EXCAVATION 20 tonne digger/grader, D85 bulldozer/roller, tip trucks and trailers at Feilding. She also won the Arron Young Judging competition for the Ayrshire society and she was third overall in the WWS judging competition (all breeds). She said the travel and connections she’s made in the industry have been invaluable. “I enjoy looking at other people’s cattle,” she said. “I don’t so much enjoy the public speaking that comes with the judging, but there is a lack of youth getting involved so I grin and bear it in the hope that someone else may be encouraged to have a go and keep young people coming through the ranks. “It was good to get to the NZDE for the second time because we’re a bit laid back in Southland, so it was great to get up there and see the professionalism.”She said mating decisions and outcomes fascinate her, and without the shows it’s hard to get a solid gauge on how they are ranking. “We’ll be the only ones to take cows to the show down here, so that’s a little bit disappointing be- cause you don’t have anyone to stack your breeding choices up against unless it’s a massive Friesian cow. “It’s just the way that A&P shows are going now because there is not really a care or a need for pedigree breeding in commercial herds.” Jessica Donald Vaughan (left) presents Alannah Skedgwell with the Arron Young Judges Trophy at the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Event in Feilding. Y O U R S E E D & F E E D S P E C I A L I S T S 0800 621 431 PHONE NOW Imported Feed Blends & Contracts Dairy Meal / Pellets • Calf Feeds PKE Blends & Contracts Bulk Molasses Deer Feed Specialists PROUD SUPPLIERS TO MOUNT BROOK JERSEYS LTD