Milking shorthorn dairy cows might raise a red flag with bank managers but the breed is making great genetic gains and has more to offer than other breeds, a South Otago farmer says.
New Zealand Milking Shorthorn Association vice-president Logan Kelly owns 600 milking shorthorns across five farms in Otago and Southland.
On his 52ha farm in Kaitangata, he milks 165 cows, a near even mix of two breeds -shorthorns and Holstein Friesians - and aimed at producing about 460kg of milk solids annually per cow.
Many farmers selected cattle on its breeding worth (BW) - an index used to rank cows and bulls according to their ability to efficiently convert feed into profit.
Shorthorn cattle had lower BW than most other breeds but farmers should focus on the "whole package" rather than an index skewed by the small population of the niche breed.
Shorthorn's positive traits include sturdy feet and legs, calm temperament, good rates of fertility, longevity and fat and protein percentages in its milk.
The shorthorn's genetics had improved in New Zealand due to the introduction of breeds, such as VikingRed, in the past 20 years.
"A modern milking shorthorn is a commercial cow that can keep up with the Friesians."
Shorthorns' only "downside" was it having a lower placing on the BW index than other breeds, which could make it difficult for sharemilkers to borrow money to buy the breed.
"The BW is something the banks look at."
He hoped more bank managers and farmers would look beyond BW and more shorthorns would be introduced to the national herd.
The three traditional shorthorn colours were red, white and roan - a "speckle" mix of red and white.
By breeding two roans, chances are one in four of a white calf.
Shorthorns were first in and out of the milking shed each day.
"They enjoy getting milked and they're gone. That's a positive. It's not a monetary thing but it makes the day run easier and you've got to do it 280 days a year and those little things might not add up to much money-wise, but it's a good thing to have."
Association Otago-Southland branch president Bronwyn Brown said the association had its annual meeting in Invercargill last month.
The event included an online Bidr auction of shorthorn cattle.
A heifer - Brecon Po Mystique P from Canterbury - fetched the top price of $4550 at the sale, one of the highest prices paid for a shorthorn at an auction in New Zealand, she said.
The auction attracted 36 bidders and the all of the 27 cattle listed sold.
The average price for a heifer-in-calf was $2273, a heifer calf was $1405 and a yearling bull was $1000.
Brown works on a dairy farm in Isla Bank in Western Southland and owns seven shorthorn cows.
The appeal of shorthorns was their look and "structure".
"I got my first couple and I feel in love and I thought 'this is me — this is where I want to go in life'."