Bob Lawson just loves Ayrshires. He’s been around the breed since 1964, long enough to understand just what makes them so special. “They have real presence about them. They are great to handle and on the farm they are very calm. Their milk production is second-to-none. We’ve had all sorts of breeds in our herd but the Ayrshires just shine,” Bob says.
Bob and wife Nikki have been on their Woodville farm they lease six seasons now. The farm has very good quality soil underfoot and at 132ha is a good size for the herd. At the back of the farm is a run-off.
Before Woodville the couple farmed for four years at Bulls, leaving that farm with 130 of their own cows and leasing the balance for a couple of years.
Milk production has increased dramatically since stepping on to the farm, with top performer, Sunshine Burdette Dale producing in 272 days last season 8217 litres of milk, 298kg of fat, 270kg of protein from 568 total milk solids.
And for much of Bob’s journey with the breed, he’s taken them to shows so that other breeders and the general public can see their stature, conformation and quality.
“We participated in the North Island show at Levin and came away with Champion and Reserve Champion cows. Actually we did two shows in just 10 days, also entering the Dairy Event shows and it was really hard work,” Bob explains.
Having the animals ‘on the road’ so to speak for 10 days, took some planning. When they show cows arrived in Levin, they went on straight dry food, so having all the necessary supplies to feed, care for, and prepare them for showing takes some organisation.
“We over-extended her in terms of holding on to her milk up to 30 hours and she handled it beautifully. She looked wonderful. Good cows, with good centre ligaments can do the distance.”
Come January, Bob and Nikki will be on the road again, going to Levin on 21st and 22nd followed straight away by a trip to Feilding for further judging.
Asked how this past season has been on the farm Bob says its been the toughest one yet. “It’s been so wet and cold. It was just 2°C this morning with snow on the hills. They don’t perform so well when its miserable which you can understand, however our grass situation is reasonable.” The in-shed meal system has only been in since the beginning of September 2022.
Proof of the value of the in shed feed was seen when it ran out of meal and the cows dropped 500 litres in one day. When the feed was filled up again the cows lifted to 450 litres by the second milking of when the feed was refilled and the cows kept on lifting to about 1500 litres from when it was first installed. Bob’s proud of the fact that some of his genetics actually goes back to the original 1964 herd. “We’ve milked Jersey, Kiwi-cross, Black & Whites and my cows now are the easiest you could want to milk. We very seldom get kicked!”
And Bob’s still a senior judge, an achievement he’s earned from long years learning the skills and subtleties that go into being a great judge of form. “When you’re a registered judge you have to renew your ticket, so I have to go and do a day’s assessment. You’re given six cows to judge and you have to provide the reasons why you selected each one.”
Bob has a lot of time for overseas genetics, in fact he rates it well above what is offered locally. He’s used semen from the top bulls in the world and doesn’t intend to change his breeding philosophy any time soon. “I’ve been using overseas genetics since 1993 from Canada.”
Semen was taken off Dales Gentleman’s brother with friend Merv Livingstone taking 300 of the 400 straws, leaving Bob with the balance for private use. The full brother to Dale Mr Burdette has to be genome tested to see just how good he will produce offspring. “If he’s good enough he’ll be submitted to a breeding company for possible marketing.” Bob says he has some breeders chasing him for bull semen from Sunshine Mr Burdette. He’s also looking forward to the next Dairy Event show as the judge will be the World President of the Ayrshire Breeders Association, from South Africa.
“I’m looking forward very much to seeing how our girls do. Sunshine Burdette Dale is in great condition.”
Top producer Sunshine Burdette Dale is one of the stars in Bob Lawson’s Ayrshire herd.
Credit: NZ Dairy Summer 2022 edition