Taranaki’s Mangaotea Farm has undergone a great deal of diversification in the past 20 years, providing the dairy industry with superior genetics from not one, but three cattle breeds.
Working under two entities, Mangaotea and Blackwell Holdings, the Blackwell family – Robin and Jacqueline Blackwell, and daughter Zarrah Blackwell and husband Richard Giddy – farm 622ha effective consisting of sheep, dairy grazing, bulls and breeding cows.
The farm was established when Robin’s parents purchased a block on Croydon Road at the end of Mangaotea Farm in 1963.
Around 20 years ago Robin was running all bulls, dairy grazing and sheep on the farm, buying and trading from saleyards, when Jacqueline made the decision to purchase seven in-calf Hereford cows to begin her farming dream.
Two years later, in 2006, the couple bought six in-calf Angus heifers from a King Country stud and their Angus stud was established.
In 2010, they purchased Murray Grey cattle as well.
“As the third breed, it wasn’t as prioritised as much as the other two, so I really took the Murray Grey stud under my wing,” Zarrah says.
Zarrah bought all the Murray Grey stock off Robin and Jacqueline in 2017.
Today, Zarrah and Richard lease the home farm, which runs 90 Angus and 30 Murray Grey cows, and Jacqueline and Robin run neighbouring properties of 285ha, on which 90 Hereford cows are run.
They keep all replacement heifers, selling the surplus as weaners and keeping the bulls to farm through.
The Blackwells run 300 bulls annually, with 190 sold at their annual bull sale in September and the rest carried over to sell as two-year-olds the following year.
Zarrah says they generally have the same customers that return year after year to purchase their bulls, indicative of the high standard of the cattle.
Superior genetics across all the breeds is something the Blackwells concentrate on, with moderate birthweight and calving ease prioritised across all three breeds.
“Dairy farmers don’t want to be pulling calves out,” Zarrah says. “We are also trying to breed short-gestation bulls, which is important to dairy farmers.”
Jacqueline bought a line of good sire bulls from Grassmere, Westholm and Tawanui Hereford studs.
“The calves on the ground are looking even better than those that were born last year, which were already consistently good calves,” Zarrah says.
Mangaotea Angus has also recently purchased some genetics from Shian Angus in Taumarunui.
“We are really excited about that. He has all the figures we were after, and we will use him over the younger cows. We are also AI-ing to Taimate Roy (Taimate Angus, Marlborough). There is some cool stuff happening. We are always looking ahead to the next year.”
Zarrah is quick to point out that they can’t breed great bulls without excellent dams.
“The cows have to perform each year, or they don’t stick around,” she says. “We are extremely proud of the maternal side of the studs, and the bulls just add to that.”
This article first appeared in the September edition of our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.