Location: Yankalilla, South Australia (Fleurieu & Central SA)
How long have you been in the industry: 37 years
Farming generation: 3rd generation
Land size: 1500 acres home farm and 750 acres leased
Cows milked: 450 on home farm and a further 300 on second leased property.
Important cow families: Ding’s, Jewel’s, The A family, Molly’s and Belle
Current Bull Team: Dropbox, Polaris, Tirano, Varley, Emmett, Domination, Rocknroll, Reverso, Decipher, Wifi and Cartell
First EX cow: Rockwella Farm Stardom Molly EX-90-1E
Rockwella Farm Holsteins has been in the Hurrell family since 1979 when Wes’s parents Doug and Helene purchased the farm at Yankalilla on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.
Since taking over the farm in 2011, Wes, wife Rita and son James have made major changes to convert what started as a small family farm, into a thriving dairy powerhouse.
Wes’s passion for registered Holsteins runs deep. From when he bought his first Holsteins 37 years ago, he has been studying cow families and pedigrees, striving toward developing a better cow with type and production at front of mind.
“Achieving the Master Breeder Award isn’t something we have given much thought to as our focus has always been on building the strongest cow families we can,” says Wes.
“But it is a great acknowledgement of the hard work we have put into our breeding over many years.
“It hasn’t just been about the farming either – it is the social aspect too. We have met so many wonderful people over the years and that has been very special to us.”
Rockwella Farm Holsteins is looking to consolidate its position in dairying, currently running 450 milking cows on their home farm, with a further 300 milkers on a local leased property, all while preparing to build an extensive barn and year-round total mixed ration set-up.
The construction of an 800-cow compost barn, featuring 12 Lely Astronaut A5 automatic milking systems, will allow for increased cow comfort, better udder health, more milk per cow and less reliance on labour. Construction is due to begin this year.
“Whatever we do has to make money and enhance the business that we have got. We want to create a showpiece that sets us apart in the industry moving forward,” says Wes.
“Attracting good people to work on farm can be hard, so we feel we need to provide facilities that match how the industry is evolving”.
The use of modern technology isn’t a new phase for Rockwella Farm Holsteins, who have been utilising milk metering, cow identification and Heat Time collars with the milking herd for some time. The installation of a 90-kilowatt solar system on the roof of the feed pad has been a smart business move, allowing for investment into other areas.
Genomic testing has played a key part in their breeding plans for over 7 years since learning about the value they could unlock in their herd, when using genomic results to get a picture of the value of the whole cow, including health traits and workabilities.
“We’d always concentrated on BPI to a certain extent. But not fully – it was about 50% and then using other bulls that might have a good type trait or show trait.
“But we’ve gone away from that to 100% genomics and working on BPI,” says Wes.
Rockwella’s breeding program focuses on joining with bulls that are highly ranked in BPI, with a specific focus on type, udder conformation, sound feet and legs and capacity.
“Breeding big cows is not what we are looking for in this climate – we are focusing on soundly built cows with longevity and the ability to produce.”
By utilising genomic testing, Wes and Rita have found the ability to generate better results with export and bull sales, particularly in a local market where they regularly supply bulls from their top cow families to local breeders.
“Using genomics means we are essentially providing a ‘proof’ for the young bulls we sell, which means better value and return on investment,” says Wes.
“We think a high BPI herd will have more value when it comes to the point of selling, whether it is bulls or heifers. Everyone is chasing that top BPI heifer, or bull.”
Rockwella Farm can be seen regularly at the top of BPI listings, with notable rankings including Rockwella Farm Tirano Mandy (502 BPI) in March 2022 and Rockwella Farm Tirano Judith (463 BPI) and Rockwella Farm Redcarpet Delight (439 BPI) in May 2022 and Rockwella Farm Jeronimo Belle (549 BPI) and Rockwella Farm Jeronimo Judith at (524 BPI) in August 2022.
“We used some great bulls in the early years such as Artist, Astre, GGI Belt, Goldbullion, Informer and Shottle.”
Now by focusing on BPI, Wes and Rita are aiming have their herd sitting in the top 10 (currently 21st)) in the Australian Breeding Value release in the coming five years. They also aim to have more bulls coming through progeny testing, such as Domination & Jovial who is currently with Genetics Australia.
Moving forward, this focus on breeding is what they believe will pay off in the long term.
“Genetics is the one thing we have control of. Breeding with a focus on the BPI will produce a more efficient and cost-effective animal. The benefits are not just related to income,” says Wes
Join us in congratulating the Hurrell family on their outstanding achievement and contribution to the Holstein breed.