Weighing up Jersey success

06 Jun, 2018 04:00 AM
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Shawn Hollingworth says Jerseys outproduce Holsteins on a milk solids per kilogram of liveweight basis.
I spend a lot of time on balancing the diet and getting nutrition right ...
Shawn Hollingworth says Jerseys outproduce Holsteins on a milk solids per kilogram of liveweight basis.

When it comes to weighing up the success of his Jersey herd, Shawn Hollingworth has all the figures he needs.

From the outset of his farming career, Mr Hollingworth has been keen to make sure that everything adds up. His analytical business background from working in supply chain management has led to statistics proving his Jerseys are 18 per cent more efficient than the average Friesian cow.

This figure - based on liveweight and feed conversion to milk solids - puts Mr Hollingworth and his Summit Jerseys stud in a good position.

"In milk solids per liveweight, I believe my Jerseys will outproduce the standard Holstein by 18 per cent," he said.

He's now a committed Jersey farmer, but it hasn't always been that way as Mr Hollingworth started with a predominantly Friesian herd.

A fourth-generation dairyfarmer now based in Victoria's Gippsland, Mr Hollingworth did his apprenticeship on grandfather's farm at Koondrook, Vic, near Kerang. He later went woodcutting for three years and married Tracey, who grew up in Melbourne, far removed from a dairy farm.

The young couple was travelling to Brisbane to see his uncle when fate intervened. "We called to visit some friends in Sydney and had our car stolen," Mr Hollingworth said.

Not deterred by the theft, they stayed in Sydney for the next 13 years. "I went from a town of 300 people to a city of three million," he said.

The Hollingworths both gained Associate Diplomas of Business Management and had started finance degrees, while Mr Hollingworth worked in supply chain management for a US-owned company and Mrs Hollingworth worked for American Express.

His work involved extensive travel but the appeal of that lifestyle came crashing down with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "It stopped when they started flying planes into buildings in the US," he said.

"I used to do two weeks of the month overseas. I was meant to be in the US when the planes were flown into the World Trade Centre, but I was delayed in Bangkok. I jumped on the plane and flew back to Sydney and said 'that's it, no more travel for me'."

That was September 2001, He resigned on January 3, 2002, and they moved back to buy a 730-hectare farm and 600 cows in northern Victoria.

Mrs Hollingworth had spent school holidays in the country but had no dairy background. Still, she was happy to roll the sleeves up and take on the challenge for 10 years.

"When we went back to Kerang in 2002 she said she'd give it 10 years and that's it," Mr Hollingworth said. "I ran over by nine months but we negotiated that and she returned to the workforce."

Sadly their move into farming coincided with the millennium drought. "We had no water and no feed and we'd pushed the herd up to 700 after starting with about 480 milkers," he said.

It was a mixed herd of predominantly Friesians they couldn't get in calf so they ran Jersey bulls over them. "We went into three-way crosses with the red breeds," Mr Hollingworth said. "Some of the brown cows we took back to pure Jerseys."

Luckily the herd they bought had started in 1980 and they had access to full herd-testing results. The Hollingworths have maintained that tradition, using the Easy Dairy program and converting data to Excel files to work out cow efficiency.

In 2009 when the first step down came in milk price, the farm was losing about $1500 a day. They decided to lease their Kerang farm and lease 325ha in Gippsland at Kongwak, taking 500 cows with them.

They liked the new area so sold their water allocation and land in northern Victoria and at the end of the lease on June 1, 2012, bought their existing farm at Koonwarra near Leongatha.

It was a relatively small property - 75ha with a leased 32ha lot - so they reduced to 150 milking cows, at the same time eliminating debt.

When the herd was sold, the buyer wanted big cows. They sold the Friesians first and then the pick of pure Reds and Red crosses.

"That left us with the pure Jerseys and the crossbreds, but predominantly Jersey, which was good because we're on a small farm and I wanted a small impact animal," Mr Hollingworth said.

They bought the farm 12 months before moving in, allowing time for upgrades. "It had 1970s technology, two little 1600-litre vats, a 10-swingover and the yard could only hold 60 cows," Mr Hollingworth said.

"We did a full revamp and upgraded the shed to a 10 double-up with cup removers, auto ID and auto draft. Because we still had our mixer wagon we put in a 50-metre feedpad. We run a partial mixed ration system for five months of the cow's lactation and then five months of grass."

"I spend a lot of time on balancing the diet and getting nutrition right so we can punch out good milk solids. My logic in going to Jerseys is that they have far better feed conversion efficiency and I can prove that through my herd test results and weighing the cows."

He started weighing cows five times a year, along with weighing all calves when they're born. The weight this year is 472 kilograms average for the 150 milkers and they'll do 593kg milk solids.

"If we do a liveweight conversion 593 milk solids divided by 472 liveweight it comes out as a 1.25 conversion," he said.

"Typically Friesians will do 0.9 to 1 conversion. I'm nearly getting 600 milk solids out of my Jerseys that weigh 130 kilos less."

They consume 4.2 tonnes of home-grown feed and 2.3 tonnes of grain.

Mr Hollingwrth doesn't think he can get much more production. "The only way to get more would be to breed a bigger Jersey and that's my breed strategy," he said.

"When I select a sire the first thing I select is A2-A2 milk because I think there will be a market going forward; the second thing I pick is stature to get more height and capacity into the cow."

The farm has traditionally had a low empty rate and finds the calving process easy with Jerseys.

When they started the empty rate was about 6 per cent. Last year it grew to 20 per cent but Mr Hollingworth identified this was due to a high-acidic protein syrup product added to the mixer wagon. After removing the syrup this year, the rate is back to 6 per cent.

"Typically the herd has had a lower than industry empty rate," Mr Hollingworth said. "We spend a lot of time on heat detection and making sure the feed wagon gives them positive energy so the cows are set up to receive that first straw of semen."

On advice from Dasco Daviesway consultants, Mr Hollingworth limits milk to no more than 10 per cent per day of their born liveweight.

"I weigh all the calves at birth so if a calf weights 28 kilos she gets no more than three litres a day," he said. "I push hard with oaten chaff, lucerne chaff, calf meal and fresh water from day one. I encourage them to get onto higher energy and higher protein food."

The other benefit from not over-feeding milk is the elimination of scours. "This will be my third year with this system and I haven't had any scours in that time," he said.

They start calving on Australia Day and the herd will be dried by December 19.

"It's partly for lifestyle reasons," Mr Hollingworth said. "We're on a dryland system and come Boxing Day we have to hand feed. Hand-feeding stale cows in 30-degree heat didn't make sense."

"They're dry, laying in shade and don't have to walk up to the dairy to get milked on hot concrete."

The herd still has some left over crossbreds. "They were selected over 15-16 years of herd test data so I don't want to lose them, but I don't take replacements from them," Mr Hollingworth said. "In the next three or four years those cows will drop out of the system and it will be a pure Jersey herd."

The total herd at the moment is 252, and about 170 of those are registered Jerseys. Out of that 170, 60 per cent are genetic recovery one, two or three.

"We started the stud in 2012 and I'm happy with the progress we've made with registration," Mr Hollingworth said. "Shortly we'll end up with a purely registered herd without any recovery in there and that's a good story for us."

His stud is named Summit Jerseys after their top of the mountain location.

Mr Hollingworth's passion for the industry extends to involvement in the local Regional Extension Committee, as junior vice-president of the South Gippsland Jersey Club and his own farm consulting business, Focused Farm Consulting, and discussion group concentrating on the benefits of biological farming. He's also undertaking a Bachelor of Agribusiness Management.D

Article supplied by Jersey Australia, phone (03) 9370 9105, website http://jersey.com.au/.

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