Finding clarity in Otorohanga

How information is proving to be the Connolly’s biggest tool for herd improvement.

When Reuben and Deb Connolly started dairy farming 5 years ago in Cambridge and now on their 110ha Otorohanga property, they started with a lot of unknowns. Literally.

The herd they bought was the best they could afford at the time. It had an average genetic background and they aimed to build up the family lines.

But it was the lack of accurate records, including ancestry, herd testing and health that would create the biggest challenge for the Connollys. How can you improve on something you don’t know?

For Reuben and Deb this became their No 1 priority on their herd improvement programme as Deb explains.

Personally I believe that if my individual cow records aren’t accurate then the records themselves are valueless and pointless for making decisions – there is no point in fooling myself. One of the ways I have been trying to improve our herd is by improving our recorded ancestry. In 2013 (I looked up old herd profiles) our Recorded Ancestry was 90%. Now it is 96%. Our goal is 100%.

Deb Connolly

Together with the team at LIC, the Connollys set about looking at ways to improve the value and profitability of their herd. First steps were to start nominating their best cows, and using LIC’s knowledge and expertise to pick the best bulls. It has been a slow process of trying to breed out the half recorded cows and ensuring the replacements are fully recorded with no uncertain sires. 

All in the detail

LIC’s Information Systems, as well as their nominated genetics, have proved to be invaluable tools for getting the detail and accuracy needed for Reuben and Deb to make the right calls.

The technology (the app, MINDA Live, Protrack) we have available now has helped a lot with transparency and clarity of the records and also with being able to trace family histories, production etc. I also love being able to share all this information with our farm worker and because she has the app on her phone and Protrack in the cowshed she can look up any particular cow or calf from anywhere on the farm. This is extremely valuable to us as she does a lot of the calving paddock checks, day-to-day milking etc so can easily and quickly record health events etc and now knows all the cows and heifers in our herd better than we do – after only being here for two years.

Deb Connolly

Right on Protrack

While Protrack Vector was a more recent addition, it has proved to be a life-saver, making drafting simple and easy. Managing small groups at dry off for the vet and combined with MINDA, gives the Connollys clear, accurate records of which cow received what treatment and exactly when they went out to grazing.  Even being able to run “missing cow” reports gives the Connollys extra peace-of-mind.

Of course, all the technology in the world is useless - unless it’s backed up by great customer service. Something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Deb.

I have always been impressed with LIC’s customer service. I have spent hours over the years talking to people from the sire selection team and getting their mating advice and picking their brains on what bulls we can use to improve our herd and achieve the goals we want.

Deb Connolly

Continuous herd improvement

Even after 5 years, the challenge for Reuben, Deb and the team at LIC is to continually find ways to make herd improvements.  Increasing the BW and PW without sacrificing cow type and conformation is a big priority for the Connollys. LIC’s nominated genetics have worked well in this regard, enabling the couple to pick the bull team that suit their systems, using only the bulls they want.  It’s fair to say there’s more than a little excitement near Otorohanga when the LIC bull catalogue arrives.  But that’s the joy of farming, knowing there’s always something new to try, always room for improvement. 

Read more improvement stories.