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PASSION FOR SHORTHORNS: Ross Soffe, with his wife Joanne, estimates
New Zealand has only about 5000 milking shorthorn cows.
Photo: ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ Couple committed
By SUE O'DOWD
MILKING SHORTHORN breeders Ross and
Joanne Soffe are keen to protect the species for
Shorthorn cattle have been in New Zealand for
almost two centuries, having been shipped here
by missionary Samuel Marsden from New South
Wales in 1814.
By 1840, the breed was well-established, and
predominated in New Zealand's dairy industry
until the 1920s, when the jersey superseded it.
In 1913, breeders formed the New Zealand
Milking Shorthorn Association (NZMSA) in
Palmerston North. One hundred years later, the
ease of calving, hardiness and good production of
milking shorthorns are still acknowledged, even
though their numbers are small.
Ross Soffe, who is NZMSA vice-president and
Taranaki branch chairman, estimates that New
Zealand now has only about 5000 milking
With 100 in their 360-cow herd, he and his wife
have the most milking shorthorns in Taranaki,
after adding them to their herd in the 1994-95
dairy season. While they also milk pedigree
friesians, jerseys and cross-breeds, they describe
their herd as predominantly friesian.
One of the reasons Ross Soffe likes milking
shorthorns is their high protein-to-fat ratio.
I believe this high ratio means the percentage
of fat in the milk tends to be lower. Like lots of
people, I breed for protein.''
He said the milking shorthorn was a robust cow
that fitted well into a friesian herd.
She's about the same size as a friesian and she
does about the same production.
She calves easily and she also has really
Milking shorthorns are high-producing, easy-
care, easy-calving, and they have really good
Breeding milking shorthorns was a challenge
because the genetic pool was so small, but
protecting the breed for the future was important.
There was anecdotal evidence that lactose-
intolerant children could tolerate milk produced
by milking shorthorns.
We need to keep these breeds going because
there could be something in their make-up that
could lead to medical breakthroughs in future.''
The Soffes moved to their 160ha Tariki farm
(130ha effective) only last season, after selling
their Tikorangi farm, which had been in the Soffe
family for six generations.
Their Oliver Woods stud is named after Mr
Soffe's great-great-grandfather, William Oliver,
who settled in Tikorangi after the Taranaki Land
Wars of the 1860s.
In their first season at Tariki, they produced
118,000kg milksolids (MS).
This season, they have a 125,000kg MS target,
with a vision of increasing production to
140,000kg MS over time.
Last season, they imported about 20 per cent of
their feed, buying 180 tonnes of palm kernel and
100 tonnes of maize. They plan to grow some
maize this year.
Although the winters at Tariki are tougher
than what the couple now refer to as the tropics
at Tikorangi, they believe the Croydon Rd farm is
well located on the north side of Stratford and
far enough away from Mt Taranaki for snow to be
Mr Soffe said the organisation worked hard to
actively promote the breed and operated a stand
at the fieldays in Feilding.
In Taranaki, the association has about 20
members, of whom about 10 are active. As well,
there are farmers in the province with milking
shorthorns who do not belong to the association.
At last Sunday's Taranaki branch prize-giving
and dinner, the couple's prize-winning cow,
Oliver Woods Talent Cara, was named Taranaki
Milking Shorthorn Cow of the Year, with a
production of 547kg MS, made up of 304kg fat
and 243kg protein.
She was the supreme champion milking
shorthorn at both the 2011 and 2012 New
Zealand Dairy Events and the North Island
champion milking shorthorn at the 2012
Stratford A and P Show.
Fairfax NZ News
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