NZ Dairy Winter 2022

| 69 nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Elmslake Jersey: Alannah Skedgwell Perseverance valuable trait for stud owner Sue Russell With a family deeply immersed in growing pedigree cattle, it’s little wonder that Alannah Skedgwell, at the tender age of 20, is the proud owner of her own Jersey Stud – Elmslake. The family farm is at Tuatapere, 90km southwest of Invercargill. Alannah’s sister Julie also has her own stud called Mount Brook, and works on a farm in Otautau milking 650 cows, then leaving to help rear 2500 Wagyu calves in Riverton. Returning to work on the farm three years ago Alannah says the experience has taught her a number of valuable life-skills. “I’ve had to learn a lot about perseverance given we had some metabolic and calving spread issues and there’s de nitely been a big improvement in herd performance but it’s a long-term thing that isn’t solved overnight.” Concentrating on nutrition has been forefront for Alannah, and the addition of a mineral dispenser attached to the in-shed feeding system has seen massive gains in production as well as mating results with that extra supplementation. “If you are dusting your paddocks it is very timeconsuming and often a hit and miss in Southland with the weather never playing ball. By adding the minerals we buy from Ruminate, directly into the feed in the milking shed, it takes all the guesswork out of what the cows are actually getting down their throats and you know the cows are getting all the other minerals that they need.” Her Elmslake stud is in its infancy with about 30 animals, ranging from calves to mature cows. Some of that number are Alannah’s own-bred progeny but she is continuing to buy in cows to give a wider genetic pool from which to breed from. “You don’t want your herd to be stuck in a rut. If you haven’t been able to make an improvement on the dam, then you’re not breeding better cows. I’ve been involved now long enough to know what I am looking for to achieve this.” Getting new genetics isn’t always the easiest thing Alannah says. For a purebred Jersey to be registered to our society, the genetic history must not have any in uence from any other breeds nor have any missing information in their historic pedigrees. Which in theory, should be able to originate back to those cattle rst exported from Jersey Island. “You nd most mainstream bulls sometimes have records missing or a cross way back with another breed, so I have to be very fussy about what I buy in.” Alannah is using American, Australian and English genetics to increase cow capacity, however she appreciates that going too far into American genetics sometimes reduces the vigour required for cows in Kiwi pastoral systems. “I try to do one-cross of American with this in mind, before coming back to NZ genetics.” And with the disruption of COVID on showing cows Alannah says she is really looking forward to pit her cows against other Jersey breeders. “Unfortunately though it is getting harder to nd people to compete against. Apart from on-farm competitions, where there is healthy competition, we are one of the few people who still compete in Southland with in-milk jersey cows at the shows.” Alannah knows this situation isn’t common only to Jersey breeders, with most breeds experiencing lower numbers of young people attracted to pedigree breeding and exhibiting. As a judge Alannah tries to use those occasions as an opportunity to promote the breed and the great satisfaction she gets from seeing genetic gain with good results in and outside of the show ring. “The All-breeds youth camp is one good way of keeping and upskilling young people interested in preparing and showing cows. Learning days for future judges and classi ers are also good ways for young ones to pick up some new skills when they are held by each individual breed societies/clubs.” A very challenging climate this past season, with the wettest spring on record since 2004 and with a declared drought only a few short months later where the sky seemingly forgot to rain, pointed to the fact that the farm needed more land to buffer the impact on stunted pasture quality and growth. “We’re considering our options to increase fodder grown on farm and looking at trying to buy some more land in the future. Around here there is a little bit of dairying but mainly sheep and beef and land conversions are not easy to do nowadays.” Some decent rain-fall mid April has helped spur pasture on however a signi cant amount of supplementary balege has had to be purchased. “One of our contractors was really proactive in nding balege that could be brought into Southland.” Alannah’s parents Linsey and Murray take care of the calf rearing, while on a day to day basis she looks after the cows’ side of things. The family don’t have an on-farm sale, keeping the bulk of the heifer calves for selective breeding, while the bulk of the bull calves are sold to farmers who want easy calving for their in-calf heifers. All in all Alannah is happy with how the farm is performing and is satis ed with the improving quality of the herd and reduction in animal health challenges. Alannah Skedgwell with some of her purebred Jerseys. 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