Jersey cows 'a special kind of breed'
Peter Horn loves his jersey cows and he likes to reminisce about his family who started the stud 100 years ago.
He also likes to talk about his award-winning cows, some which are descendants of previous show-winners.
For instance, Kuku Neros Lassie, Ex5, is the reigning Royal Show champion, while KuKu Neros Caprice won the best-udder-of-her-breed category at the 2014 Dairy Event.
"They have a beautiful nature, they're great cows, a herd of true models," he says.
Supermodels are hard to beat, says his wife, Kathy Horn, a town kid who learned about dairying while working part-time off-farm.
"When I came to the farm, I didn't know the difference between breeds, and thought I would never learn it."
But she did, and is now a great farmer and supporter of Peter and the children in their role as dairy stud breeders near Feilding.
Peter Horn is proud of his great grandfather, his grandfather and father's contribution to jersey breeding but, he says, women are often the unsung heroes of the dairy industry.
"In behind all those people were their wives. My mother, for instance, used to milk, then cook a banquet for the shows."
His great grandfather Robert Letham Horn (RL) came to New Zealand from Scotland via Australia, in the 1800s. He was a bridge builder before he took an interest in dairy stock and went to work for the then president of the jersey association W H Booth in the Wairarapa.
He set up his own farm near Wellington, moving to Manakau and then in 1908 to Ohau, where he founded the KuKu Jersey Stud in 1914. A two-storey cow shed - with concrete floors on both levels - still stands as a tribute to his bridge-building prowess.
Robert Horn and sons took their stock by rail to their first show, at Carterton in the Wairarapa, in 1918. They were beaten by a yearling jersey bull and Robert Horn bought that bull, Owler of Puketapu, whose daughters would prove to be great butterfat producers and good-looking cows.
"Nothing beat them in the show ring," says Peter Horn.
In those days, they walked the cows they were showing 4 kilometres to the Ohau loading ramp. And there was none of the electric shaving and primping of the cows that goes on now.
"The cows had covers and were hand-clipped and the old hair hand-plucked."
Peter Horn says his great grandfather and sons took cows to 17 shows, all by rail.
"[The next generation was] my grandfather, Allan Horn Sr. The family had learnt the trade off my great grandfather [RL], and he'd learnt it all from W H Booth."
The jersey blood became closely linked with the family.
Peter's father, Allan Horn Jr, and his brother, Ronald, along with Allan Sr, moved the stud in 1940 to Levin where it remained until 1972. His stud was called Allandale.
The KuKu Stud has remained in the family for 100 years.
Peter Horn began farming with his father.
"I started in 1967 with one calf. Her name was Peverill Mervyn's Bolera. She cost $35. I had to borrow some money from my brother, Craig, to help buy her."
She was a small calf, and his father thought that would mean she would be cheap.
"I loved that calf and I still have her female line today."
Peter worked with his father and grandfather exhibiting cows, mostly in the southern North Island shows.
After Allan Horn Sr and Granny died, the farm was sold and the Allandale Stud was relocated in Te Awamutu by Peter and his parents, Allan Jr and Jean.
Peter got the KuKu Stud back in 1974. His mother Jean, a big character in the jersey world, rang "our second cousin" Roger Horn about obtaining the stud name.
"Jean came from a stud that had jerseys and friesians. She said a good cow, no matter what her breed, is a good cow."
Jean Horn was well known and loved in jersey circles.
Peter Horn says that, while he was brought up with jerseys and loves the breed, he hated milking cows.
"You had to stimulate each cow to let down their milk. And then strip them at the end of milking."
So, although there were milking machines, there was a lot of work for the team milking the cows.
"Dad - Allan Jr - had 20 cows in his show mob and another 40 in his herd. Then later he had 120 cows. That was a big herd."
Allan Sr started the Allandale Stud name in 1924.
Peter and Kathy Horn are now near Feilding.
They milk 230 stud cows - five to a hectare and achieve 2000 kilograms of milksolids per hectare.
"We have been using Canadian genetics for the past 25 years to get larger cows and more milk."
Other stud names used by members of the Horn family were Ypres and Gymdale.
One of Peter and Kathy Horn's daughters, Michele Horn, uses the Ypres Stud for her cows.
Another daughter, Letitia, has an ayrshire and uses the Allandale Stud name. They are the fifth generation of Horns interested in dairy cow studs and breeding.