NZ Dairy Spring 2021

| 67 nz dairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Scott Carnochan & Steve Ireland Scott Carnochan and Katy Stokes with their canine boss, Willow. A breed most attractive to finishers Richard Loader F ocused on making a significant reduction to the their bobby calves, five years ago South Canter- bury farmers Steve and Nina Ireland embarked on a journey to discover the beef breed most attrac- tive to beef rearers and finishers. Located just inland from the coast at Rangitata Steve and Nina milk 490 cows, predominantly fully registered Jerseys, along with some cross-bred kiwi cross Friesians. “We only AI jersey semen into the top half of 50% of the Jersey herd — the best performers and those that are genetically superior to the others,” says Steve. “That allows us to put beef semen into the lower producing part of the herd. Originally we started with Angus, then tried some Wagyu and finally Belgium Blue.” Steve says the Angus were very good to rear, very easy calving and had very good meat quality. “When our first Angus/Jersey cross were ready to be sent to the works, at 22-23 months we sent them to Silver Fern Farms. We got all the meat quality tests done and they tested 65% of their top eating quality. All other prime meat from all other breeds was testing 33%. “The Wagyu were slower growing but the meat quality was superb. Belgium Blue is a very fast growing, double muscle breed. They’re very attrac- tive and well-coloured calf and the meat yield is extremely high.” While the Wagyu presented superior meat quality, the Irelands felt they were too slow growing to be marketable to beef rearers. Ellesmere, it’s at sea level and it’s very wet with three road crossings. “But we could see a lot of potential in both. The year we took over Neuways the previous contract milkers produced 209,000kgMilk Solids (MS). Three years on we’ve moved it up by 58,000kgMS to a total of 267,000kgMS (410kg MS per cow) on a low input grass-based diet. Changing our grazing management and pasture quality has been the biggest thing that has contributed to that improvement, in addition to the farm owners supporting our decisions by spending money on capital such as races, and the recent completion of an underpass.” North Branch’s production last season was 465,000kgMS (465kgMS per cow/1660kg MS per hectare]. The couple had been contract milking at North Branch for four years before buying it in April 2020. Since then the changes have been sweeping and significant. In 14 months they have taken out 100ha of borderdykes and put in two new centre pivots. They have 24ha of borderdyke irrigation left to remove. “We’d been working under borderdyke irriga- tion for the last four seasons, and I’d had a gutsful of that, constantly relying on river conditions as well as the inefficient watering,” Scott said. “We were lucky coming into the changes, because it was a good year in terms of payout. Under the borderdyke irrigation we were only growing 11-13 tonnes of grass and the supple- ment we were feeding out was ridiculous. Now we are achieving 18-19 tonnes of grass off the same land under spray irrigation.” “We put a drone up at the start of the changes, in the middle and at the end, and you almost can’t recognise the property now with the borders and the head races gone. “We want to be a grass-based system, and we’re trying to make it as simple as possible. We may get less production, but more profit. Because (for me) ‘P’ has always been for ‘profit’, and not for ‘production’.” North Branch was originally broken from riv- erbed into dairy by Geoff Searle, who farmed the property for almost half a century. The 73-year- old remains involved in an equity role. “Geoff lives in Charteris Bay, in Banks Penin- sula and he’s given us a tremendous amount of support,” Scott said. “He visits every second week and he’s put a lot of trust in us, so the biggest thing for us was to actually deliver on that. He and I think very alike, and we are loving watching how the farm is changing and performing for the better.” He says the move to New Zealand – while he misses family – was the right one.Right down to the reality of living with Covid. “We’re so lucky where we live. You don’t really realise it until I hear from my family and friends in Scotland. No towns are open over there and all the shops are shut. I love Scotland to bits, but New Zealand is home now.” He says while he barracks for the All Blacks without reservation, he shifts allegiance when they play Scotland. He smiles, “When that happens, I’ll always sup- port Scotland … but I know New Zealand will win. So, it’s kind of a win/win.” Steve felt the Angus were a better option from a dairy farmers perspective because they are easier calving with a shorter gestation, but from a beef rearers perspective Belgium Blue are highly attrac- tive and fit for purpose. “The thing that we’ve struggled with, particularly with beef, is value-add. Every thing is designed for the commodity pricing and so it becomes about volume and it’s hard to get a really valuable price for whatever you do. That’s why we’ve gone down the path of Belgium Blue. We think they will be an attractive proposition for rearers and finishers.” At this stage Steve and Nina are taking the calves through to finish because it is still largely in the trial stage. Steve thinks the Belgium Blue will be ready at 18 – 19 months. “The key to the Belgium Blue is the meat yield, which is 55% – 66% on the hook. If we’re successful, our aim is to increase the number of Belgium Blue and sell them at a week old and I’m certain we will have a market for those calves. We could have 80 – 90 Belgium Blue/Jersey beef cows and that reduces our bobby calves by the same number, halving our normal bobby calf count.” In the Kiwi cross part of the herd Steve uses Fleckvieh semen for a three way cross to introduce a bit more hybrid vigor. A German Simmental base, Fleckvieh is a dual- purpose breed and Steve hopes the bull calves can also be sold for meat rearing, further reducing the bobby calf count. Ph: 03 684 8410 24/7 service in South Canterbury & North Otago EcoSmart Plunket Electrical for all domestic, farm, dairy shed & irrigation work Member Electrical Contractors Association of NZ MASTER ELECTRICIANS Steve Ireland’s Angus steers.