State champions named in Holstein on-farm competition

MidfieldThe Semex and Holstein Australia On-Farm Competition has drawn close to 2500 Holsteins, and 357 farms across the country.

The break-down of the states were led by Victoria & South-Eastern South Australia (1248 entries from 153 breeders), followed by NSW (582 and 115), then Queensland (284 and 37), South Australia (144 and 21) Tasmania (93 and 11) and Western Australia (83 and 10).

Semex’s Vaughn Johnston, speaking at the nation’s biggest state final held in Melton recently, said the On-Farm had never been more relevant.

“Shows globally are getting harder and harder to get the numbers, and it’s a high-cost operation,” Vaughn said. “So, for many, this competition is the country’s No. 1 contest for the year. It’s very important we continue it, and make the effort.”

The cows are judged for their conformation at home on the farm. The first and second placegetters in each class within the country’s former 29 HFAA sub-branches moved forward to the state finals, where they were re-assessed by a fresh over-judge to find the state champions.

Numbers were slightly down this year, reflecting the number of dairymen who have exited the industry in the last 12 months.

One of those farms exiting, whose impact will be sorely missed when their Tasmanian operation shuts off its dairy for the last time, is the double Master Breeder herd of Fairvale Holsteins, owned by Ross and Leanne Dobson.

The couple held their first stage dispersal on November 17 – but not before Fairvale became the most prolific name in the country for On-Farm glory.

Fairvale won six of the eight (or 78%) Champions and Reserve Champions in Tasmania, and then sold their entire On-Farm team in Fairvale’s Farewell sale.

For the last 15 years [since Fairvale’s final show], the On-Farm competition has been the only showcase Fairvale has had for its cows outside of the exposure its cattle achieve when they are classified, sold, or shown in partnership.

This year, it was interesting to note that two Fairvale-bred animals (aged 12 and 11 years respectively) won a mature championship in two different states – with one of those cows, Fairvale Morty lady 51 EX97-5E, moving into untouchable territory.

Morty Lady 51 was the cow everyone was talking about after the Champions were released. Owned and developed by Will and Lisa McKay (Linsand-V Holsteins, Victoria) and Lindsay and Sandra Thompson (Linsand Holsteins, Tasmania) she became Australia’s highest classified cow at EX97-5E just before the former two-time International Dairy Week Champion [2011 and 2014] was recognised as the Champion mature cow in the biggest state final of the competition – the Victoria & South-Eastern South Australia final.

Morty Lady – now aged 12 – traces right back to the first herd book for Holstein Australia. Tasmania’s Mature Champion was the 11-year-old freshly EX94-4E classified Fairvale Reg. Josie 34 (with a 96 MS, and 96 DS).

Fairvale said they remain grateful to the On-Farm Competition for allowing their cows to be appreciated by a national audience. Because they said those moments had made all the sacrifices and hard work worthwhile.

For others, like South Australia’s Stephen and Helen Treloar and Colin and Glenda Dohnt, winning the three-year-old with the same cow that won Grand Champion Holstein at the Adelaide Royal gave them further validation on a young cow that is rattling cages.

Steven and Colin were not raised on farms, so the achievement puts their passion for the industry into perspective.

“For me, the standard in the On-Farm Competition is higher than at the Adelaide Royal,” Stephen Treloar said. “Because guys like Magpie (Geoff Hutcheson, Windy Vale Holsteins) don’t show at Adelaide, but they have outstanding cows, and they do enter the On-Farm.

“And, the successes like the On-Farm just keep you going. It’s a great way to get positive again, because without those little things, it is very tough in the industry. These competitions are so important for us all, and we are grateful to Semex, Holstein Australia and all the volunteers who make it happen.”

In Western Australia, the Ravenhill family first came back into last year’s competition after an absence of close to seven years and their decision spoke to the heart of the competition.

Moonaralla Holsteins, which is run by Ken and Bonnie Ravenhill (with the support of Ken’s parents, Graham and Jan) won Champion and Reserve Champion in the five-year-old class with two Regancrest Reginald daughters. Of their eight entries, six placed in the top-five in the state. They had two finish 4th and 5th in the two-year-old class, a 4th in the three-year-old, no entries in the four-year-old, they won the five-year-old quinella, and achieved a 3rd in the mature class.

This is a family milking 1200 cows in three herds through a 60-stand rotary dairy near Albany – the port city in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, 418 km south-east of Perth.

Succession planning, a busy farm and four young children had taken all of Ken and Bonnie’s energy until last year. Ken said they had always focused on using functional high-type sires, it wasn’t until they entered the competition that they could get a real feel for where their herd stood against their peers.

New South Wales included 582 cows from 115 breeders that covered 3500km from Wagga Wagga to Tamworth and everywhere in between.

A first-time Champion, and a classic example of the value of the On-Farm Competition was Brett and Anne Jessop, from Cobargo. The couple won the four-year-old class with Smallridge Shadow Rainbow. Sired by B-Crest Shadow, Rainbow is part of a 250-cow herd milked through a 20 a-side swingover herringbone dairy on 800 acres (including 200 acres which are leased).

Rainbow was the result of the couple buying a line of heifers from Craig Whatman, from Robertson. Brett, who spent a year working at the well-known Canadian Holstein herd, Ferme Gillette, in Ontario when he was younger is fully aware of his herd’s potential. But nowadays when showing is lined up against daily chores, daily chores wins. 

Queensland solved the challenge of finding a meeting place for presentations in a big state by livestreaming its judge’s comments through Facebook.

This year’s judge – South Australia’s Rob Walmsley – was pushing it to be away from his Mt Gambier share-farming position milking 330 cows for five days.

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