Helping Northland dairy farmers grow their most important asset

Bo Russell

Bo Russell knows first hand that cows are one of farmers' most important assets.

Like most CRV sales consultants, Bo Russell had a rural upbringing. His parents were dairy farmers, so he knows first-hand that cows are one of farmers’ most important assets.

“Being raised in dairy, part of my job description as a kid was helping with the herd,” he says. “I learned that much of the farm’s profitability came down to having cows that perform well.

“Performing is more than just the quantity of milk an animal can produce. It’s also the quality of that milk – the fat and protein content. Can she get in calf easily, and what kind of calves is she bringing to the herd? Are they high quality replacements?

“Is she healthy, or has she got a history of sickness, maybe with lameness issues or mastitis? Is she suitable for the farm system? There are key traits a cow must have in order to help achieve a farmer’s goals and add value to the business.”

From cars to cows

After the early years on the farm, Bo’s career took a different turn as he trained as a mechanic. While he found fixing cars less challenging than fixing herds, it was partly Bo’s fascination with genetics that led him back to the rural life.

“I’ve always been interested in the idea of improving a herd using genetics. Every farmer wants better cows, so it’s exciting to have the technology available to breed specific traits into a herd to make that happen.

“What I enjoy about CRV is the depth of research being done by our team. From the methane trials we’re involved with here in New Zealand and investigations into Facial Eczema tolerance, to feed efficiency trials in The Netherlands, there is so much exciting work going on as we look to provide farmers with genetic solutions to all these challenges.

“That’s how CRV can help farmers achieve their breeding goals. If we can understand the kinds of traits a farmer needs in the herd, we can match those qualities with the right bulls to deliver the genetic solutions. The science is very precise.”

Adding value while solving problems

As consumers demand to know more about the provenance of their food and animal welfare remains in the spotlight, dairy farmers are looking for ways to make sure every calf has a purpose.

Bo believes genetics has an important role to play.

“In Europe, dairy and beef go hand in hand. They breed animals that produce offspring that are profitable for either market. New Zealand is beginning to follow that approach.

“Friesians typically produce calves that are good for beef. The key is using genetics across a cow that will enable her to produce valuable offspring. By tailoring your breeding plan to your farm goals, farmers can add real value to their business and reduce their number of bobby calves.

No two farmers are the same

Bo appreciates that farmers require different levels of support. Some rely on his experience, while others have studied CRV’s portfolio of bulls and have a clear idea of the genetics they’re after.

“Some farmers have a real passion for artificial breeding and genetics. They’ve done their research and know exactly which bulls they need from us.

“Other farmers rely on us for more advice. That’s my space, so I make it easier by helping them create a breeding plan to achieve their objectives. Then we go through the CRV catalogue and look at the genetic merits of the bulls that will get them the best results.

“At the end of the day, what matters is breeding the right animals to help a dairy farm business thrive. And I’ve never met a farmer who doesn’t want better cows.”