Breeding hassle-free productive cows reduces stress on Waikato farm

Robbie Sherriff

Waikato farmer Robbie Sherriff is at the forefront of innovative breeding practices in our dairy industry. Together with his wife, Shannan, he represents the second generation of Huirimu Farms, a dairy operation situated in Arohena near Mangakino.

The home farm is spread over 850 hectares, with a milking platform of 300 hectares, alongside a 450-hectare drystock unit and 100 hectares of retired land which is in native bush. They milk 870 cows on the home farm.

An extra 270-hectare block, acquired in 2021, milked a further 350 cows, but has gone out of cows this season. Instead, it’s going to be run as an intensive beef operation with bulls and steers. Using a selective DNA breeding programme for replacements, the Sherriffs have been able to increase their beef progeny.

What truly sets the Sherriffs apart is their forward-thinking breeding philosophy. Their aim is to reduce their environmental footprint and optimise daily farm operations to make life easier for their dedicated farm team.

Farm Manager Grace Van Groenedaal reinforces the critical role that cow temperament and health play in the success of their operation.

"We're on the lookout for animals with good temperaments that are easy to handle in the milking shed," she explains. "We also prioritise healthy cows with sound hooves to minimise the risk of lameness."

Their selective breeding approach revolves around the temperament and characteristics of replacement heifers, significantly easing the integration of new additions into the herd.

"Ultimately, the benefits for the farm and our team are less pressure and reduced stress," says Grace.

Robbie and Grace featured in CRV’s new advertising campaign this year. Robbie agreed to be one of the faces of the campaign because he wanted to play his part in showcasing New Zealand dairy farming.

“As dairy farmers grapple with challenges, from labour shortages to public perception around environmental management, we need to be telling our story and showing people there is a future and a career in dairy farming,” he says.

“We agreed to be part of the campaign because collectively as an industry and individually we need to promote New Zealand dairy farming. I’m happy to play my part.”

While it’s not often dairy farmers have the opportunity to invite a film crew behind their farm gate, Robbie believes it’s something the industry needs to do more of.

“If we want to continue to attract people into careers in dairy farming our industry needs to show people it’s a rewarding and worthwhile career path,” he says.

“A lot more goes into producing milk than farmers get credit for and the work that companies like CRV are doing alongside farmers is so important.”