Importer of US dairy genetics, Christchurch based World Wide Sires New Zealand (WWSNZ) has seen a 42 per cent increase in straw sales over the last year.
General manager Hank Lina said New Zealand farmers were increasingly interested in different genetic options to produce more profitable dairy cows and heifers.
“Farmers are starting to shop around as they are realising that semen is a huge investment, not a commodity,” he said.
This was strikingly demonstrated in January when a two-month-old holstein heifer, Lightning Ridge-CMD Jedi Gigi-Imp-Et (or Gigi for short) was sold for NZ$263,850 at the WWS evolution sale in Victoria, Australia, smashing the previous Australasian record.
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Gigi ranked fourth in the world genetic total performance index out of more than a million calves. Her sister Yahoo, which ranked second in Australia in the genetic total performance index, sold for A$37,000 to an Australian breeder.
Gigi’s owner, Declan Patten, of Lightning Ridge Holsteins, said the aim was to breed cows that were more efficient by producing more milk while being fed the same amount as ordinary cows.
“We’re trying to make a more profitable cow, ” he said. “It’s also better for the environment.”
Lina said WWS was formed in the US 45 years ago and was now one of the largest distributors of dairy genetics around the world. It was owned by two of the largest farmer-owned AI cooperatives in the world – Select Sires and Accelerated Genetics – with 51,000 farmer members and sales exceeding 19 million straws.
Lina has worked with Maffra Herd Improvement and NZ Genetics in Australia, has been an AI consultant in Ireland and acting general manager of a large dairy operation in Missouri, US, before returning to New Zealand as a CRV Ambreed regional sales and service manager. He was appointed World Wide Sires’ NZ general manager late in 2015.
“WWSNZ has been in New Zealand for at least 30 years so we’re part of the industry. I believe now, with the volatility we’re seeing in the dairy payout, that the company’s genetics have more relevance for Kiwi farmers than ever,” he said
“I believe the big player in the genetics market has hedged itself into a one-size-fits-everything position in breeding worth, limiting the amount of choice for New Zealand farmers.
“We’re saying there is another way which will help you reduce head count and improve production.
“Breeding worth tends to be the currency for dairy breeding in this country but it’s not the only way to judge great genetics.
“Many farmers with moderate-to-high BW herds are saying they’re not seeing this translated into milksolids, fertility, longevity or strong, functional conformation. They quite rightly ask why herds producing well over the national average of 370kgMS have low to very low BW.
“Most of our customers produce well over the national average and they focus on what works best for them which, nine times out of 10, is very good type (capacity, legs, feet, udders and moderate stature) transmittable components and fertility.
“BW is a measure of profitability but it’s not the only measure. The measure that speaks most loudly to farmers is what they see in the paddock, in the vat and in their bank balance,” Lina said.
The company’s WWS mating service is a scientific programme which utilises advanced computer technology to improve each cow and take the guess work out of mating.
“The programme is the world’s largest and most successful mating programme. We minimise inbreeding, boost fertility, have moderate size cows, and keep things simple,” he said.
WWSNZ breeding consultant for North Canterbury Hannah Wentworth said the company imported semen from America to sell to dairy farmers in New Zealand. The majority of the bulls were kept in the US, she said, but the Tahora Holstein Friesian Stud at Tai Tapu, North Canterbury, provided semen to the company.
Wentworth said her job was to help farmers with their genetics.
“I consult with farmers on their breeding programmes and put together breeding guides. I help them to know what bull to use on what particular cow,” she said.
“We are a global company. We market in 90 different countries. Last year WWS sold 19.3 million doses in 93 countries.”