OH DAIRY ME!
Friday, 15 July 2011
It is well known, at least in the industry, that New Zealand has well in excess of 11,000 dairy herds and some 4.25 million dairy cows and heifers in milk, producing about two per cent of the total world milk production at around 16 billion litres per annum.
While the number of dairy herds has been on the decline herd sizes have been increasing. Holstein-Friesian is still the prevalent dairy cow breed making up about 43 per cent of total dairy cows.
| Jersey cows are small and easy to handle. |
This country, unlike others, also exports around 95 per cent of it’s dairy produce and is the world’s largest butter exporter.
By 2007, the national dairy herd was made up of Holstein-Friesian (47 per cent, although declining), Jersey (15 per cent), Ayrshire (2 per cent) and some minor breeds such as Guernsey, Brown Swiss and Meuse Rhine Issel.
These black-and-white dairy cows have bloodlines from Friesland, in the Netherlands and they are the most common milking cow in the world.
They are large cows and their milk has high concentrations of protein and lactose.
In New Zealand, on a grass-only diet, they produce more than 4,000 litres of milk from when they calve in early spring to when they ‘dry off’ in autumn.
Holstein-Friesians were first imported to the South Island in 1884, and to the North Island four years later. The breed association was formed in 1914.
Jersey dairy cattle were first imported in 1862 and as the dairy industry began expanding in the 1880s, Jerseys were an approved alternative to Holstein-Friesians because they gave more butterfat per litre of milk. They are smaller and easier to handle than Holstein-Friesians and are slightly more efficient and profitable than their black and white ‘cousins’ because more can be stocked per hectare of pasture.
New Zealand has the world’s largest Jersey population numbering about 600,000.
In the late 20th century Holstein-Friesians were bred with Jersey cows to produce the KiwiCross, which has a dark-brown coat with white or black accents.
Farmers often prefer them as they are medium-sized, fertile, easy-calving cattle that don’t easily suffer leg and foot problems when moving around. In 2006 there were 1.2 million KiwiCross cows (about 30 per cent of the national dairy herd), and their numbers were increasing steadily.
The red-and-white Ayrshires originated in Scotland and came to New Zealand in 1848. The breed society was formed in 1909, and Ayrshires or their crosses now number about 100,000.
The breed performs well under all-grass, medium-intensity farming, with reliable calving. They have a strong constitution, good foraging abilities, strong legs and a well-shaped udder.
Holstein-Friesian, Jersey and Ayrshire breeders have their pedigree and production records kept by breed associations.
These promote genetic imports and exports, conferences and training for young cattle handlers. They also provide judges at agricultural and pastoral shows.