Jersey farm to show breed’s value

Waikato dairy farmer Julie Pirie is excited about a new farming joint venture in Southland. Photo: Supplied

A 215HA dairy farm has been bought at Makarewa in Southland in a joint venture to “help show the value of the Jersey breed”.

Farmer advocacy group Jersey Advantage and breed society Jersey NZ have entered into the joint venture, Jerseyland Farms, each holding a 25% share, along with five commercial investors who each hold a 10% share.

Describing the initiative as a “game-changer”, joint venture chairwoman Julie Pirie said the farm would run as a commercial operation, providing funding for both organisations.

Revenue would be used to enable increased breed promotion and industry representation across key farmer issues.

The 600-cow farm would be run by a contract milker, targeting about 250,000kg of milksolids this season from a grass-based system.

The intention was to transition the existing Friesian-cross herd to Jersey over the next two to three seasons.

A board comprising representatives from both organisations and the group of commercial investors would provide governance, with the assistance of an external contractor to support day-to-day operations.

The organisations first announced their intention to enter into a partnership in April at the Jersey NZ conference.

Jerseys make up about 8.4% of the national herd but Jersey genetics also contribute to an additional 49.1% of the national herd that is a Jersey-Holstein Friesian crossbreed.

Despite their smaller share of the national herd, Jerseys hold 26 out of the top 30 spots on the All Breeds Ranking of Active Sires list which ranks bulls on their Breeding Worth (BW).

BW is the index used to rank cows and bulls according to their ability to meet the national breeding objective which was to breed dairy cows able to efficiently convert feed into profit.

Mrs Pirie, a Waikato dairy farmer, director of Jersey NZ and member of Jersey Advantage, was excited about the initiative.

She said the idea of the farm was not to set up a research station, but to mostly help the organisations financially.

It would be interesting to see how they went on the Makarewa soils; she believed they would go very well there and she hoped it meant a few people would take notice and consider getting a few more Jersey cows in their herd.

For her personally, she also found rearing calves easier because they were smaller and easier to handle.

Jersey Advantage chairman Mark Townshend said extensive due diligence involving both parties and an external consultant had been done and they believed the venture had the potential to be highly profitable and generate a strong return on equity.

“The intention is that this investment is part of a 10-15 year plan to build a farm portfolio delivering 500,000kg/ms plus,” Mr Townshend said.

Jersey Advantage and Jersey NZ would seek farmer support to further fund the initiative.