We have a variety of cow breeds in our herd. The main reason is we are wanting to see what breed best suits our needs - both organic and raw. We love seeing the differences in the breeds and are really looking forward to seeing where we end up.
The Dairy Shorthorn are considered a Heritage Breed. Our favourite fact about them is that they were the first breed of cattle to ever be brought into New Zealand! In 1814 Rev. Samual Marsden imported what were then called Durham cattle because they were a brilliant dual purpose breed. They are great meat producers and also good milk producers. We love that about our Shorthorns. They really know how to keep good weight on themselves! We notice our Shorthorn girls will never sacrifice their own health to keep their milk production going - unlike friesian cattle we have had experience with. Our girls are tough! They aren't the biggest milk makers around, but there is that old saying 'quality, not quantity' right? These girls have such lovely natures and all have very distinctly different personalities. We think Dairy Shorthorn will always stay the base of our breeding in our herd as they are such a solid animal, with good resilience to disease and a hardiness well suited to organic farming.
A little further on in NZ history the first Ayrshires were brought into NZ in 1848. These girls are also known for their tough natures and have a bit of a reputation for being a little feisty! Our girls of course are lovely though and look gorgeous too. Our Ayrshire's usually make more milk than our shorthorns, but are still a good solid and well-rounded cow. They will always look after themselves before their milk, although not quite to the extent the shorthorns will. (Our shorthorns will dry themselves off if they get short on feed where as an Ayrshire will usually be able to keep her milk production going while still keeping nice and healthy).
Although we never want to have a whole herd of one breed, Ayrshire is the breed we will slowly bring more and more of into our herd.
Kiwi Cross (Our Field Mice)
In the dairy industry whatever the minority breed of your herd is, they're usually referred to as the 'Field Mice'. Our kiwi cross girls are massive milk producers, but are also usually the first girls to 'go down'. We only have four of these beauties, and they are all gorgeous. Patches, Daisy, Arizona and Rose. The reason we don't have a whole herd of this breed is like I've said, in our experience they just don't have quite the same hardiness to them. Our other breeds are able to keep nice and healthy with good condition whenever a stressful time occurs - drying off, calving, a long bad weather spell... But our kiwi cross girls are usually the first to show us they are stressed. With our other breeds you wouldn't be able to tell something has upset them, but with these girls you will see it in their coats and their condition. We have two of these girls (Rose and Patches) tested and they jump in and out of our raw milk herd as needed because they do make really yummy milk. All of our kiwi crosses are also A2/A2 so we always hope for a heifer from them during calving season - in their first two calving's they've given us 6 gorgeous girls so they're doing pretty well so far!
This year our main breeding bull we used was a Jersey. We have used jersey over our herd this season to introduce a little higher fat content in our milk. Both our Shorthorns and Ayrshires have fairly equal parts fat/protein. Jersey's almost always have a higher fat content than protein. This is what makes some milk extra creamy. We don't personally like super creamy milk, but having some high fat producers will give us the ability to swap cows around in our raw milk herd in the future and control a higher or lower cream level in our milk as needed.