Friday, April 19, 2024

Challenging tradition: a legacy of balance and innovation

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The Korteweg family are challenging tradition by the way they dairy farm.
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After buying his herd, the first thing Mathew Korteweg did was trim it by 100. Fewer, better cows was the strategy. 

The Korteweg family are challenging tradition and changing the way they dairy farm. 

Anchored in a third-generation dairy farm at Kaitangata in South Otago, Mathew Korteweg, accompanied by his wife Catherine and their sons Beau and Leo, has been steering the ship for a decade, embracing the challenges and joys that come with 500 cows under their care.

For the Kortewegs, the farm’s beating heart lies in two vital components – its people and its cows.

After purchasing the herd from Mathew’s parents, the Kortewegs made a strategic move to trim the herd by 100, steering the farm towards a future focused on per-cow performance and animal health. 

In the ever-changing South Otago climate, the cows must be robust and versatile to thrive both out on the grass and indoors. Winter resilience, postpartum recovery and overall fitness become crucial, all achieved through a combination of excellent genetics and nutrition.

Reflecting on the farm’s journey, Mathew recalls a time in West Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, about 14 years ago. 

It was there that he first encountered the three-way cross concept, an idea that sparked curiosity. Eventually, once Mathew became a herd owner in New Zealand, it found its way into their breeding strategy.

The Kortewegs, always keen on staying ahead of the curve, introduced VikingRed genetics into their herd. 

Seeking a more robust crossbreeding system, they are currently milking their first VikingRed x Holstein cows. According to Mathew, these newcomers are ticking all the boxes, from robust growth and successful calving to seamlessly blending with the existing herd.

Managing a traditional New Zealand KiwiCross herd had its challenges, as the cows would swing either too much towards the Holstein or to the Jersey breeds. 

The VikingRed, a strategic addition to the mix, filled the gap perfectly in the herd’s breeding program. 

Prioritising medium stature, strength and components, the Kortewegs have found a balance that aligns with their goals, presenting the opportunity to breed a superior balanced crossbred cow.

As the Kortewegs continue to fine-tune their herd, Mathew envisions his dream cow – a medium-statured 550kg animal who produces more than her bodyweight in milksolids – a cow with a snug udder, great fertility, and the ability to self-sustain and look after herself, reflecting the perfect balance of form and function.

In their pursuit of their genetic goals, the Kortewegs use VikingGenetics distributor Samen NZ. With a focus on picking genetics aligned with their goals, Mathew appreciates the collaborative approach, knowing he can lean on his local Samen NZ reps to deliver the sires he needs and to go the extra mile.

As the sun sets over Kaitangata, the Kortewegs’ dairy farm stands as a testament to innovation, resilience, and a passion as strong as their love for this land. 

By balancing tradition and innovation, they are not just shaping their own family legacy but contributing to the evolving narrative of dairy farming in NZ.

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

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