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LET'S TALK DAIRY
LET'S TALK DAIRY
Hereford bulls improve financial returns
CONTINUED Page 19
The use of registered Hereford
bulls by the Foster family on
their dairy farm at Rerewha-
kaaitu in the Bay of Plenty has led to
an improvement in financial returns.
The use of Hereford bulls over the
heifers and to follow up artificial
breeding (AB) means there are
fewer calves going on the bobby
truck and the calves are more
valuable, Rob Foster says.
Rob, his wife, Christine, and their
son, Willy, are milking 420
cows on 132 hectares (effec-
tive) southeast of Rotorua and
have been using Herefords in
their herd for a number of
Herd production last season
was 1360kg of milksolids per
hectare (MS/ha), slightly down
on normal, but a result of the
drought and poorer-quality
supplements having to be
They generally target pro-
duction of 1430kg MS/ha.
Rob says Herefords are a breed
he's familiar with, his father
having farmed a pure-bred
herd, but he said it was
because of low-birthweight
Hereford bulls that they really
began to take the breed
After they met Reporoa
hereford breeder Kevin
McDonald, Herefords cemen-
ted their place in the Fosters'
They met Kevin off farm and
the latter's daughter-in-law,
Nicola, had done some veter-
inary work for them, Rob says.
It was this that led them to
discussing their bull needs
with Kevin, who helped them
successfully select sires that
are now having a positive
influence on their bottom line.
The Fosters are buying bulls
from the Craigmore stud of
the Henderson family at
Ohaupo, Hamilton, and the
Arundel stud of the Howards
''They've been really good
bulls,'' Rob says.
The Fosters buy about eight
yearling bulls annually and
carry over some of the bulls
from the previous year's
purchase to use as 2-year-olds.
The yearling bulls are run with
100 rising 2-year-old Friesian
heifers and the older bulls and
some of the yearling bulls are
then used to follow up after
''It works really well,'' he says.
''We've had no fertility issues and it's
closed up the tail end of calving.
''They do the job all right,'' he says.
Although Rob has a budget for bull
purchases, he prefers reasonably
sized bulls paired with the relevant
estimated breeding values (EBVs) for
easy calving, low birthweight and
high growth rates. Quiet tempera-
ment is another key trait they look
''We want good-sized calves, so our
buyers and rearers return.''
Kevin helps them interpret the EBVs
and studies the pedigrees on their
behalf and guides them towards the
bulls that are suitable for their
They had previously been experi-
encing some issues, but with Kevin's
help those issues have been solved,
''He sorted them out really quickly
for us. He asked us what we need
and he's very particular about the
bulls we can reach our goals with.''
Temperament is important to them
because it helps with ease of
Although Hereford bulls are nat-
urally quiet, the Fosters spend time
with them before they join the herd,
moving them around the property
so they become familiar with
walking along the races.
This also helps harden up the feet,
which can prevent lameness and
breakdowns. Quiet bulls also mean
they can be cut out of the herd
easily and kept out of the milking
Artificial breeding starts for the
main herd on October 10 and runs
until November 15. The Fosters aim
for 65 to 70 per cent conception
The yearling Hereford bulls join the
heifers at the same time AB starts
and run with them until Christmas, a
period of 11 weeks.
Rob says typically 99 per cent of the
heifers calve within eight weeks, an
indication the Herefords get the job
Calving begins on July 20, with the
first few weeks being very busy.
''Half the herd calves by about
August 10,'' he says.
The calves are removed from the
cow once they have had a feed of
''We are particular about that,
especially with the heifer and
Hereford-cross calves,'' Rob says.
Ensuring this first feed of colostrum
helps reduce ill thrift and they have
identified it as the key to calf
The Hereford cross calves are reared
for four days and then sold as feeder
calves. The AB heifer calves are
reared through to 110kg before
weaning, with the best ones
selected as herd replacements.
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