Instead, Fiona Henchman’s Friesian Jersey cross is still delivering quality calves at the age of 19 – that’s the equivalent of 68 in human years.
“She just keeps going and going, and giving me good daughters,” Henchman said.
On a freezing cold morning last week, with a fresh dump of snow on nearby Mt Taranaki, Curly, or Cow Number 191, calved her 17th offspring, “a strapping dark brown bull calf”, on Henchman’s 21ha Upper Puniho Rd runoff.
After giving birth in the open paddock, Curly and her calf were put in a shed to shelter from the wind.
Apart from some milk fever, or low calcium levels, mother and son were in rude health, Henchman reported from the maternity annexe, a warm sheltered stable-sized shed on the runoff.
The calf will join the long line-up of Curly’s previous 16 calves reared by Fiona and her husband, John, on their Okato dairy farm since 2005.
Henchman is as excited by the latest addition to the herd, referred to as J12F4, as she has been for Curly’s previous calves, which have included 11 heifers, as well as 28 descendents.
As well as being a doting mother, Curly has also been a good milk producer, with a total of 83,555 kilograms of milk solids over her lifetime.
On average cows can live to around 20, over 70 in human years, though most are culled at between 5-6 years as reproductive performance declines.
Curly has proved her worth by consistently producing good calves.
“Her heifers in the past have been lovely herd cows and easy to work with.
“I’m a little disappointed she’s had a bull calf, but he will be reared to the good home and become a breeding bull.
“There’s no way he will go to the works.”
Curly is the oldest in the herd and spent most of her life on the Henchmans’ steep Upper Weld Rd farm, on the boundary of Egmont National Park, which is more suited to farming sheep than dairy cows.
Artificially bred, from one of 11 strands of semen by sire Amadeus, Curly was so named for her habit of flicking her long tail around someone’s head during milking.
In the last two years Curly has moved down to the runoff to enjoy a semi-retirement, Henchman said.
The Upper Weld Rd farm must be the steepest dairy farm in Taranaki so you need animals that can cope with the terrain.
The trip to the runoff was an eye-opener for the then 18-year old cow.
It was the first time she had been in a truck, and when she arrived she couldn’t quite understand how she got there.
Some in the local jersey club might think Curly is a mongrel compared to the pure jerseys, but she has survived in the toughest of climates, Henchman said.
“To me she’s a bloody awesome cow.”