Geraldine based Kakahu has expanded into the dairy industry with the purchase of a dairy farm located next door. The 185ha unit milking 400 cows will complement the 1200ha drystock farm, which includes Angus and Charolais studs.

“We wanted to expand to have more calves on the ground but when we looked at drystock farms financially they weren’t stacking up. We plan to embryo the top 30% of our Angus cows then put the embryos into our dairy herd. This will result in top quality Angus calves and we’ll also get a milk cheque,” explains Tom Hargreaves from Kakahu.

They did 120 embryos this year and are aiming to double that figure within the next two to three years depending on market demand. Tom says that the same principle of diversifying and maximising a dairy unit could be applied by any farmer.
“Traditionally the dairy industry has been focused on producing milk but there are other ways to use a herd. For example a lot of bobby calves are being killed so why no sex semen the top cows for replacements and AI the rest with high quality Angus semen to produce high quality calves that could be fattened and finished. Kakahu has a no bobby calves policy and that the cows that don’t get an embryo get AI by Angus semen.”

Tom, who is fourth generation on the farm, says succession was also part of the decision to purchase the dairy farm giving more options further down the track. Tom and wife Anna have two children: Francesca, 4 and Louie, 8 months.

The farm has been in the family for nearly 100 years. The Angus stud was started in 1954 by KH Hargreaves and now runs 600 cows and sells 250 bulls. Emphasis is placed on breeding animals with high production and great constitution suitable for the high end meat market.

The Charolais stud was started in 2006 by Tom and father Gerald and now has 80 cows, selecting especially for good temperament and feet as well as growth and carcass attributes.

The business also includes 3000 composite ewes and they fatten all lambs.

Kakahu has two cattle sales a year, selling 100 Angus bulls and 20 Charolais bulls in June, and 60 Angus yearlings in October. The business also offers approximately 350 Kakahu bred commercial heifers for sale throughout the spring. These heifers are mated to yearling bulls in the top 5% for calving ease. They are also scanned for IMF and EMA and priced according to their scanning results.

Embryo transfer has created the opportunity to put more bulls up for offer, which Tom hopes will help to keep a cap on rising prices.
“We want a sustainable long term business model so both us and our clients have to be happy about the prices.”

He says that Kakahu has focused on using the best genetics available internationally to increase genetic gain for its clients and to meet market demand. 
“This is especially important with the rise of lab based meats. In a lab you can add anything you like to produce a result and we have to compete with that by designing and creating our meat in the paddock. If you just use New Zealand genetics you are restraining your opportunities.”

Kakahu aims for meat that tastes good, looks good and is produced sustainably and ethically. The focus is on breeding a smaller cow that can eat less but still grow and yield well.
“That way you can potentially farm less cows and have less environmental impact. But our cattle still has to farm well in a New Zealand commercial environment. There are lots of challenges as a stud breeder and that’s what we love.”

Written by Karen Phelps
Published Business Rural