Dairy farming in New Zealand continues to have family at its heart

category Our People

Over the past 50 years CRV Ambreed staff have had the pleasure of seeing generation after generation take over the family business and continue breeding the best cows for the livelihood of their families.  We interviewed Don Shaw, third generation farm owner and former staff member of CRV Ambreed, who now shares his passion and knowledge of breeding the ‘CRV Ambreed’ way with his granddaughter.

Don Shaw has milked a few Jerseys in his lifetime.  He’s brought a few cows into the world too.

Raised on the Anchor Jerseys stud in Ohaupo, Don (80) is a third generation New Zealand dairy farmer and a passionate Jersey breeder.

His grandparents established the family farm in 1926 when they moved from Putaruru. It was sold to Don’s father in 1951, and Don and Lynne bought the farm in 1975.  They sold the farm to their son Mark who passed away in 2011.

Today, Don’s daughter-in-law Judy owns Anchor Jerseys, and his granddaughter Aleasha manages the herd.

Don first used Ambreed semen on the farm in 1973.  The following year, he took on a regional sales role with the company and started juggling full-time dairy farming with family life.

In his first year selling semen for CRV Ambreed, he remembers selling 275 straws. By 2014, the year he retired, he was ordering 30,000 straws and was one of CRV Ambreed’s top ranking sales consultants.

“When I retired at 74, I was still meeting my straw budget and my market share in my region was bigger than the company’s average national market share,” he says.

“As a farmer myself, I always told my clients I had ethics and I wouldn’t sell them anything that I wouldn’t use myself.”

Don always had a real passion and interest in breeding, and his focus as a consultant wasn’t on ‘just selling semen’ or getting a cow in calf; it was always about helping farmers achieve success through high performing, productive, long-lasting cows.

“Longevity is what makes money because a cow produces most of its milk between four and nine years of age.  By then, you also know what types of daughters she produces,” he explains.

Don trained as an AI technician early in his career and, remarkably, still manages an AB run for CRV Ambreed today.  This year will be his 64th year as a technician.

He also trained as a goat AI technician.

From 1991 to 1997, Don and his wife Lynne ran annual four-day development seminars for younger and newer farmers in conjunction with Jersey NZ. Ambreed was a key sponsor and Don says without their support it wouldn’t have been possible.

Don and Lynne also started the Jersey NZ Scholarship in 1992, which assists young members to acquire technical knowledge, expertise and leadership qualities through formal tertiary training in the agricultural sector.

In 1993 Don and Lynne were awarded the Jersey NZ Singer Scroll for promotion of Jerseys and in 1996 were made Jersey NZ Honorary Life Members, something Don says he is incredibly proud of.

By nature, Don gets on with everyone and the relationships he has built with clients and colleagues over the years as a farmer, consultant and AI technician have made his work incredibly rewarding.

“Clients quickly became friends and I still see some of them for a cup of tea today.”

Along with his AB run, he still does TOP (traits other than production) inspections for Jersey NZ and offers the odd bit of freelance breeding advice to Aleasha and a couple of other local farmers.

“It keeps me out of Lynne’s hair and I’ll keep it up until my health tells me I can’t anymore” he laughs.

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