NZ Dairy Autumn 2022

| 33 nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Merv Livingstone Well known within Ayrshire circles Richard Loader Southland farmer Merv Livingstone is well known within Ayrshire circles for his passion for the breed, as well as being quite the character with pearls of farming wisdom gained over seven decades. Merv says that a great many years ago he was at a meeting and an old bloke who hailed from Scotland gave him some sound advice that he has kept close to heart. “He told me to do one breed and do it properly, and it’s probably a good bloody thing I have remembered. I love breeding Ayrshire cows and that’s how it started really. I love taking semen off my own bulls and breeding my own cattle. I enjoy using my own bloodlines and I sell some semen to dairy farmers — not just Ayrshire farmers. That gives them an out-cross. We sell about six bulls privately throughout the year, or lease them out. I get them all DNA tested and work out which ones I want to keep first.” Merv’s farm is 28 kilometres west of Invercargill in a region called Otaitai Bush. His dad bought 121 acres in 1940, of which one and a half acres was clear, with the rest developed over time by family through sheer hard work and determination. Mostly peat soils, there have been a lot of field tiles put into the ground over the years to keep the land drained. With a lot of effluent applied the soil has responded very well and grows good grass. Over the years the farm has grown to 460 acres with a 95-acre run off down the road that is used for young stock. About 10 years ago Merv and his wife Hannah moved off the home farm and onto the run-off with the mission of looking after the young stock, leaving Merv’s son Daniel to manage the home farm, milking 400 predominantly Ayrshire cows through a 42-year-old 32-bale rotary. “Daniel has been a big part of the farm over the years, that’s for real. For example, we have about 45 acres of bottomless peat down the back, which we winter on. Daniel initiated draining that back section properly. That was a project he has enjoyed. He has shares in the farm too and that’s all part of the general succession plan.” Merv says while he initially missed being on the farm, it is something you get over and he makes a point of being on hand during mating and calving time. “I’m not going to live forever. I’m coming up to 74 in the spring. But what’s the sense of retiring – you might as well dig a hole.” Another one of Merv’s passions is the Western Southland Dairy Heifer Competition, which he has been part of since it started about 25 years ago in response to concern that heifers weren’t being sufficiently grown out to join the milking herd. The competition is judged on-farm and based on size of heifer relevant to breed, condition and dairy conformation. There are three categories — Yearling, In calf Heifers and Best Grazier. “It was a way of getting herd owners to visit their heifers at the graziers and take an interest. In all the time on the committee I have seen a lot of heifers that aren’t getting fed properly and the owners don’t go and see them.” Merv says the heifers don’t have to be pedigrees to enter the completion. “Every bugger thinks it’s the pedigree farmers dream to win it. There are a lot of crossbred herds and a lot of cross-bred herds have won it. The successful heifers then go into the Southland/Otago competition.” Southland farmer Merv Livingstone is well known within Ayrshire circles. Milking at the Waiau show (below). 299 North Road, Invercargill Phone - 03 215 9237 Waikiwi Vet Services Ltd 03 214 4467 Suzuki DR200SE Trojan Price $5749 + GST • Log Cartage • Stock / Bulk • PROUDLY SUPPORTING MERV LIVINGSTONE Fertiliser • Gravel • Contracting • ransporting T 0800 22 5899 03 225 8356 Otautau 03 225 5899 Pukemaori 03 234 8120 Riverton Robert: 027 439 5096 Email: