Dual breed focus delivers for Gippsland farmers

Anthea Day and Trevor Saunders run Jerseys and Ayrshires at Araluen Park

Herd Management
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Good health traits, sound udders, the ability to get in calf through artificial insemination, and temperament, are key reasons why Anthea Day and Trevor Saunders, of Araluen Park stud, keep Jersey and Ayrshire cows in their milking herd.

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DUAL FOCUS: Trevor Saunders and Anthea Day with Vanahlem Astor and Tarank Mittens. All cows in the milking herd are registered and genomically tested.

DUAL FOCUS: Trevor Saunders and Anthea Day with Vanahlem Astor and Tarank Mittens. All cows in the milking herd are registered and genomically tested.

Good health traits, sound udders, the ability to get in calf through artificial insemination, and temperament, are key reasons why Anthea Day and Trevor Saunders, of Araluen Park stud, keep Jersey and Ayrshire cows in their milking herd.

"We have two breeds in the herd because we like to get up and milk what makes us smile," Ms Day said.

"The breeds get along well together and work well for us.

"Number one, the farm has to be productive and make us money from milk, so the cows have to be able to stay healthy."

Araluen Park is in the rolling Gippsland hills of Shady Creek, Victoria.

The herd of 650 milking cows - 10 per cent Ayrshire and 90pc Jersey - is registered and genomically tested.

The production figures for 2019-20 are commendable.

The 65 Ayrshire cows milked an average of 7718 litres; 249 kilograms protein, 318 kilograms fat.

The 585 Jersey cows milked an average of 6503 litres; 243 kilograms protein, 316 kilograms fat.

Calving is year-round, with the peak between mid-July and late August.

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Breeding registered Jersey cattle and using genomic-tested AI bulls means there's a consistency in type and productive ability in cows - whether the breeder keeps the cow in their herd or sells her, according to Trevor Saunders.

Registered cattle are a great way to value add to the farming operation.

"Jerseys are highly profitable. They're a bit smaller and convert more efficiently in relation to their size," he said.

He believes strongly in genomic testing and classifying the Jersey and Ayrshire breeds.

"It means people should be able to get what they believe they're getting," Mr Saunders said.

They run their own farm business by relying on genomics as well as what they see in the paddock.

"They have to earn their keep here. It's no use being pretty and not producing," Ms Day said.

"The cows have to have huge rib capacity, bone quality, correct conformation, good production figures and fertility.

"Everything here is genome tested and we've had seven number one Jersey heifers over the years. If we have a bull out of one of these heifers, we keep him, genomic test him and either sell him or use him as a mop up bull for the heifers."

Mr Saunders is the AI technician on the farm.

Cows are 100pc bred to AI and the heifers are bred to AI for six weeks and followed up by a mop up bull.

While the genomics of Jersey cow families are quite well known and reputable, the same cannot be said for Ayrshires in Australia; but the couple are attempting to change that.

"There are fewer Ayrshire cows in Australia, compared to some other breeds," Ms Day said, who was recently voted onto Australian Ayrshires board of directors.

"Our Ayrshire cows are genome tested too. We're waiting for stand-alone Ayrshire genomics to be available in Australia, to really add value to our breeding program.

"In the North American system, one of our cows produced a bull with the highest genomic test for a polled bull - Araluen Park Orlando P. The cow is Midway Park Polkie Orange P, a polled cow. We bought her when we saw an opportunity to get a polled Ayrshire."

When choosing Ayrshire semen, their list of requirements includes production, capacity, good maternal type and production, good udders.

Using sexed semen has allowed all the Ayrshire heifers to be joined to Ayrshire instead of Jersey for their first calf.

"They have to have a good ratio between strength and stature. Because we're pasture-based, we have to get capacity in our animals," Ms Day said.

"Because of the grain we put into the herd, we have to be careful to choose bulls with strong udder traits."

They use 100pc North American Ayrshire.

When it comes to their Jersey herd, there's a bit of Danish, some German and they have used a Jersey Island bull, but the genetics they use are mostly North American and Australian.

"We're also using a bull of our own breeding. He's looking like a good producer, but he needs some more herds in his type proof before he can be graduated," Mr Saunders said.

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