Breeding success with a mix of dairy and beef

Kurt and Katie Parry

Taranaki sharemilkers Kurt and Katie-Rose Parry are breeding success. They are combining CRV sexed semen with genetics from their own Charolais stud to fast track their herds’ genetic gain and create high value dairy beef calves.

The couple and their two children Anika (10) and Ayla (7), sharemilk 1,200 Friesian cows across three farms in South Taranaki, each one within five minutes of the other. They moved into breeding Charolais about five years ago when they decided to diversify their business, purchasing a dry stock farm and a Charolais stud.

“We’ve always been interested in the Charolais breed and dabbled in using Charolais genetics across our dairy herd to create a high value dairy beef calf,” says Kurt. “But about five years ago we had the opportunity to buy a Charolais herd and decided to take the leap.”

The couple now uses Friesian sexed semen from CRV for the first three weeks of their dairy herds’ mating to breed replacements. They then collect their own Charolais straws from their preferred stud sires to use on their dairy herd for the final six weeks of mating.

The Parry’s are Fonterra suppliers, so from 01 June 2023 they will be bound by the Cooperative’s policy to ensure every calf enters the value chain. But Kurt says they were already taking steps to create high value beef calves before the new policy was announced.

“We have always been driven to meet and exceed environmental and welfare targets. We understand why it’s important, so we are being proactive about making sure we are best practice farming and ready to tackle the challenges that might come our way in the future. Genetics plays a big part in making that happen.”

Using CRV’s sexed semen for the first three weeks means the Parry’s get a guaranteed rush of quality replacements at the start of calving. Kurt says their in-calf rate is the same as conventional semen. They use CRVs nominated Friesian sires and choose traits for width, capacity, udders and fertility in their dairy herd.

“We’ve found no difference in our in-calf rate using sexed semen and the nominated sires have worked well for us in building a solid uniform herd that will last the distance. Using sexed semen also means we can be 90% sure we will get a replacement heifer calf.”

Across the three separate dairy farms the Parry’s have two System 2 farms with a 300 cow and 400 cow herd, producing about 410kgMS per cow. The third farm is an Autumn calving herd, System 3, producing about 480kgMS per cow.

Rosemount Charolais occupies the dry stock property that covers 184 hectares. This property is made up of about 66 hectares of pine forest, registered for the ETS. About 90 effective hectares is used to run their Charolais bulls and 110 mixed aged cows and heifers.

“We are fully Artificial Insemination (AI) across our dairy herds. With the aid of collars we get a really good conception rate and we had our own product, so we thought why not use it,” says Kurt.

Using the Charolais sires, they found every calf bred from their herd that wasn’t a replacement was a saleable beef calf, whether it was a bull or heifer.

“Stock agents who have been taking our calves at four days old say there are no worries about throwback markings and the beef breeders love them,” says Kurt.

They now breed about 50 to 60 Charolais bulls for use in the dairy industry every year. Farmers buy them to use over their dairy herds to finish their mating season and the Parry’s have repeat customers coming back every year.

Kurt says their Charolais bulls have been specifically bred for temperament, ease of calving, short gestation length, and positive growth rates, making them suitable to use over Friesian dairy herds.

“As with any beef breed you do have to be careful with your selection and you do need to do your due diligence. We have seen the calves we are getting, and we can see the benefits. Our rule of thumb has always been to only sell a bull to a dairy client that we would be happy to use over our own Friesian cows.”

Kurt believes Charolais are becoming more sought after.

“The Charolais are a terminal sire meaning they always throw to the Charolais colouring effectively creating more saleable beef calves. Once they’re on the ground they grow like crazy, which reduces the amount of bobby calves entering the industry,” says Kurt.

He says any historic issues the Charolais breed had with temperament or calving ease have been ironed out and they are now sought after as a sire of choice to produce a high value calf for the dry stock industry.

The couple rears a portion of the Charolais cross heifer calves and grows them through to 100kgs. The dairy farms’ owner rears the bull calves for his own dry stock property, which are steered and finished to 300 plus kg carcass weights. The remainder of all their calves go out the gate at four days old to calf rearers.

“Our operation is not conventional, but it means we have diversified, and we don’t have all our eggs in one basket,” says Kurt.

“You never know what is going to happen down the track and it’s proving successful for us so far.”

Rosemount Charolais sells its bulls in September annually at its on farm sale.