Herd testing crucial for protecting a dairy farm’s bottom line.

Shelley Ryburn

CRV’s new National Herd Testing Manager, Shelley Ryburn, says a dairy downturn is the most important time for herd testing so farmers can identify their top performing cows and the ones taking away from their bottom line.

Shelley joined CRV, after 20 years working in the veterinary industry, starting her career at Northern Waikato Veterinary Services then later joining Anexa Vets managing Anexa Huntly and Te Kauwhata branches.

While farmers assess their costs and look to make savings, Shelley says herd testing can really pay dividends when times are tight.

Herd testing can help farmers work out which cows are contributing to their bottom line and the ones that are costing them money, says Shelley.

“Sound information is critical now and investing in that knowledge is vital for making the right financial decisions, especially in these tight times. There could be more than 150kgMS between your best performing cows and your lowest performing ones.

“While it can be tempting to cut back on costs by not herd testing, you are essentially flying blind without it. I would encourage farmers to keep herd testing to make sure they are making informed decisions and investing in cows that will deliver the best returns.”

For individual cows, herd testing can recognise low and high producers, identify mastitis risk as well as confirm pregnancy status, disease status and provide milk urea breeding values, says Shelley.

“Ultimately, it’s the information farmers need to breed from the right cows to maintain a more efficient and profitable herd and get a clear picture of each individual cow’s performance.”

Shelley’s passion for animal health and the New Zealand dairy industry has come full circle in her new role at CRV.

“In my time with Anexa I have come to know the dairy industry inside out and it’s an industry I am passionate about,” says Shelley.

“I’ve always been passionate about improving our national herd, for now and future generations, so the timing was right for me to join CRV in a role that would allow me to make a real difference.”

Shelley lives with her partner Cody and four teenage children, farming on a mixture of peat and clay in the steep to rolling countryside in the Waikato, milking 450 Friesian cows on the family’s 230-hectare family farm.

Shelley says herd testing has been an invaluable tool on their own family farm as they transitioned to Autumn calving. It has provided them the detailed production data on their herd, and they have used it as they have navigated issues with mastitis.

She describes herd testing as a vital tool in farmers’ tool kits and believes that farmers should not use herd testing reactively, but rather use it proactively to identify and address potential issues.

“Herd testing provides our farmers the data to make sound decisions about their cows at critical times throughout a cow’s life,” says Shelley.

“It’s what CRV does best. We’re here to partner with our farmer customers to ensure their businesses are successful year-round.”

Shelley has always been empowered by the passion of New Zealand farmers and their sheer determination to put one foot in front of another as the industry evolves and economy constantly changes.

“I love the constant evolution and adaptation in farming, and it excites me how CRV can help and support farmers with that,” says Shelley.

Shelley’s life outside of work is often taken up by her sons’ motocross, rugby or mountain biking events and supporting her daughter at Canterbury University as she studies Law and Criminal Psychology.

Shelley also finds time to enjoy her love of the outdoors. With a long family history of motorsport in the blood, it’s not surprising to find her crewing again this season for Edwards Engineering's sprint car.