Sunday, July 3, 2022

Doing it his own way

When it comes to breeding top cows, Otorohanga farmer Tim Barclay doesn’t follow the conventional wisdom. As he told Steve Searle, he breeds for very particular characteristics, and judging by the ribbons his stock have won recently, it’s a strategy that’s working.  Tim Barclay’s herd is producing some of the best Holstein-Friesian cows in the country and it’s partly because he’s setting his own breed objectives. “I like to use my mind and make my own decisions rather than have the artificial breeding (AB) companies decide what bulls to use,” he said. The 47-year-old has been farming for more than 30 years, his first job being to assist his mother, Barbara Weld, to run a 200-cow sharemilking contract. With wife Jo he bought their 72ha farm near Otorohanga nine years ago after several years in equity partnership with his parents.

An early mentor was his maternal grandfather, Merton Leslie, a Friesian breeder and keen dog triallist who lived until he was 94 and would patiently describe the qualities to look for in a good dairy cow.

“A lot of my ideas I have learned from people who have done well,” Tim said. “Grandad Merton and my mum and uncles … they weren’t afraid to do something different and weren’t just going to follow what everyone else was doing.”

“The main thing we have applied here is not to follow the breeding worth (BW) index.”

His herd’s BW and production worth (PW) values are well below the median values for the national herd.

Tim Barclay’s Okawa Farm north of Otorohanga.

Tim and Harvey platemeter the farm in spring and vary rotation lengths according to grass growth. They ration palm kernel and meal pellets in the 18-aside dairy’s feeder troughs each morning, at the rate of 2kg/cow, and feed them 60 tonnes drymatter (DM) of brought-in maize silage. About 40 cows are winter grazed off and on on neighbouring maize stubble pasture for two months and most of the calves are grazed off.

In-vitro fertilisation of embryos transplanted into about 20 cows has been tried for two seasons and this season pre-sexed embryos were trialled “as a means of getting heifer calves out of those very good cows”.

The embryo work resulted in a longer calving spread and higher empty rate but Tim is confident they will return to a normal calving pattern.

The farm has felt the impact of the drought this summer but more water is able to be pumped from an existing bore to irrigate 20ha of pasture that’s stayed green. Last season’s production of 85,000kg milksolids (MS) was a record for the farm but will likely be less this season, although only 10 cows had been dried off by March 20.

“Building up our herd quality and showing cows is something like a family hobby; a long-time hobby that our children, the fifth generation, are taking over,” Tim said.

Their sons continue to show cows but each of the children are developing their own career paths. Eldest daughter Teri, 21, is training to be a nurse, twin son Rob, 19, is installing milking machines, his brother Brett is an apprentice builder while youngest daughter Kelsi, 16, is busy training and competing in national rowing championships for her college.

Farm profile

Location: Otorohanga

Owners: Tim and Jo Barclay

Milking area: 72ha

Herd: 180 Holstein-Friesians

Production: 185,000kg milksolids (MS) 2011/12 season, 472kg MS/cow, 1800kg MS/ha.

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