Ron & Jackie Monk
Kokatahi dairy farm produces New Zealand’s elite Jersey cows
When Ron Monk talks about his herd of Jersey cows, you can hear his passion for farming. Ron has been dairy farming on the same land at Kokatahi for 40 years, waking up at 7am each day to milk his herd of 180.
The herd is what he lives for, not only to produce milk; he has a keen interest in genetics which has led Ron to produce some of the best Jersey cows in the industry.
“The herd is in the top five percent measured as breeding worth,” says Ron.
"I have more of a focus on ensuring our cows have the top genetics than solely looking at their production rates. Genetics are important to ensure we're breeding elite cows, and I can trace back their heritage back for generations.”
Breeding the best pedigree of Jersey cows led Ron to successfully establish a once-a-day milking system around 14 years ago – one of the first farms in the region to do so.
"I knew our cows would be the right fit for the once-a-day system, and I believed the challenge to achieve this was ensuring our cows had the right genetics," says Ron.
Ron's passion for dairy farming comes back to the animals. A self-confessed ‘cow man’, his first memories as a child include running around his grandparents’ homestead with animals. The family farm – Hawthorn Grove – dates back to 1906 when his grandfather bought the property after finishing work as a manager at the local dairy company's butter factory.
Ron's family has always been heavily involved in the dairy industry, his father was Chairman of Westland Dairy Company in the late 1980s.
"I've had the opportunity to watch the dairy company grow in the region, it's been a big part of our lives and the cooperative structure has always been very important to us," says Ron.
Farming has always been in Ron's blood, even as he jetted off in his mid-20s to travel the world. There was something special about the West Coast that always saw him come back home.
"I tossed around the idea of moving to Britain for a while, but realised that I wasn't too bad at working on the farm and that this is where I wanted to be. There was a hope that I’d go into farming, but there was never any pressure," says Ron.
Ron's wife of 26 years, Jackie, took to the farm life after a career as a banker, helping to run the farm and raise their two sons who are now in their 20s.
"Jackie loves the farm, and it was great that she took to it so quickly all those years ago. There wasn't a chance I'd become a banker, but I was hoping she'd like to be a farmer's wife," says Ron.
The Monks’ farm has been operating for 112 years, and Ron and Jackie take pride in continuing that tradition. Ron says it's his love of the animals that's kept him around all these years.
So much so, that when his elite cows have finished their milking life, he's got a special spot on the farm for them to enjoy retirement.
"They are much more than a number, these cows have always looked after us, so we look after them," says Ron.