With seasonal calvings, good reproduction is extremely important. "Cows need to calve easily and in sync with nature to take advantage of the growth curve of the pastures. This results in many calvings in a relatively short period of time - so a live and vigorous calf that gets off the ground is a must. We breed cows 80 days after calving using prostaglandin injection after a week of natural heats for eight weeks then we turn bulls out for two or four weeks. Heifers are bred according to size and usually we start at the age of 14 months with a pregnacol program, heifers get three injections in total. Bulls are put out for eight weeks," Brendan says.
In the recent years Brendan has been using sires from the Scandinavian based cooperative Viking Genetics. "In Scandinavia they have a unique indexing system and collect extensive data on very important traits like health, fertility, calving ease, hooves etc. The amazing thing is, that in Scandinavia they have collected this type of data for more than 30 years and included all economically important traits into a Total Merit index called NTM. This makes it easy to select the most profitable genetics for our dairy," Brendan highlights.
All replacement heifers are retained to maintain the herd. The main culling reasons are fertility, mastitis and hooves, but the daughters of the Viking Holstein sires are already showing improvement for these important traits. Brendan hopes to have the added benefit of selling heifers in the future and prices are currently very lucrative for the live export market into China, South Korea and Japan due to recently established Free Trade Agreements. Sires used on the farm from Viking Genetics with cows in milk are Rakuuna, D Sol, D Odder and Onside and heifers are from D Sol, Bento and Miracle and this year we used Obama in the heifers.
Grasses are selected according to soil fertility and length of growing season. Early maturing ryegrasses are used for the hills, Italian ryegrasses on lower areas and perennial ryegrasses on river flats. Companion species are sown in an effort to improve growth rates and build a wedge of feed leading into winter. Forage brassica, oats and ryecorn are used to do this primarily. A pure stand of oats is often sown in autumn in one or two paddocks after being cultivated and fallowed through summer.