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Local Holstein breeders witness 90,000gns record at Willsbro sale

NI group visits herds in Cornwall, Somerset and south east Wales

More than 40 members of Holstein NI enjoyed the club’s spring tour which included visits to herds in Cornwall, Somerset and south east Wales.

One of the highlights of the three-day trip was a visit to the noted 1,000-cow Willsbro Holstein herd, property of the Wills Family. Based at Pawton Dairy in Cornwall, the Willsbro herd was established five years ago, and after huge investment and rapid growth it is now one of the most respected Holstein herds in Europe.

The state-of-the-art dairy unit was built on a green-field site and was much admired by the hundreds of visitors who attended the ‘open house’ on the day prior to the herd’s first-ever home sale. The herd is milked three times daily through a 60-point rotary parlour and is currently averaging 11,551 kilos at 3.82% butterfat and 3.17% protein. The cows are housed in sheds with sand-bedded cubicles and a tidal wash down system. The large scale operation also boasts the highest levels of cow welfare and management. The family’s goal is to breed for production, type and longevity.

 The herd’s rise to the top of the Holstein breed has been achieved from massive investment in some of the world’s most renowned and sought after cow families. In recent years the Willsbro herd has won the National Holstein Show, the Dairy Event, and a sack full of red rosettes.

Visitors had a unique opportunity to view a selection of the herd’s best brood and show cows, many of which had progeny catalogued for the sale.

The Wills family have been among the first breeders in the UK to take a keen interest in the revolutionary new science of Genomics which is set to change cattle breeding. Genomics uses DNA and has been proven to be highly reliable in predicting the performance of both males and females.  The Willsbro Holstein herd claimed 11 of the top 25 places in the GPTAT heifer list which was released earlier this month.

The number one GTPI female in Europe, Willsbro Emilyann  ET (GTPI +2316), topped the Willsbro offering at a recording breaking 90,000gns – the highest price ever recorded for a dairy animal sold at auction in Europe.

The sale leader was bred from 11 successive generations of EX and VG cows, with her dam being the Picston Shottle daughter, Wabash-Way Emilyann ET VG88 (2yr) – sold for $630,000 at the Global Galmour Sale in 2008.

Wabash-Way Emilyann is one of the hottest properties in world cattle breeding, and this six-month-old calf by Ensenada Taboo Planet is her first daughter to be sold in Europe.  Backed up by impressive Genomics figures this heifer attracted terrific interest with five different parties bidding in excess of 50,000gns to try and secure her. The successful bidder was Jose Agustin Celis Romero from Granja La Ponderosa in Cantabria, Spain.

A November born full sister to the record breaker came under the hammer at 30,000gns, selling to Maurice Jones of the Calcourt herd near Welshpool.

Another high genomic tester was the three-month-old Willsbro Sara Million T, whose dam is an EX 16,000 kilos daughter of the noted prize winning Copywood Integrity Sara Red. She attracted a top bid of 45,000gns from a syndicate headed by David Adam, Piltdown, Sussex, with the Wills Family retaining an interest.

The Willsbro sale attracted huge interest from Holstein enthusiasts who had travelled from throughout the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland, Spain and Canada. Other lots attracted 20,000gns, 12,000gns on four occasions; 11,000gns and 10,000gns. The 167 lots sold to average 4,790 with 45 embryos levelling at 513.80 each.

Holstein NI chairman, John Patterson from Crumlin said:”Our visit to Willsbro was phenomenal.  The ‘open house’ event and the sale attracted hundreds of people, and it was a fantastic to opportunity view progeny from some of the best Holstein genetics in the world. We were warmly welcomed and received terrific Cornish hospitality provided by the Wills Family.

“The Willsbro sale was a real experience for all of us, and we are privileged to have witnessed the sale of the 90,000gns European record breaker – which is a significant moment in history for the Holstein breed.”

The Northern Ireland group also attended a pre-sale dinner in Newquay which was addressed by internationally renowned judge, Brian Carscadden from Canada.

On the final day of the trip the group visited the prize winning Moorshard herd, owned by Randolf Miller, and son, Brian, from Brigwater in Somerset. The Moorshard herd comprises of 190 cows producing an average of 11,400 kilos on a twice daily milking routine. All milk is marketed on a liquid contract to supermarket chain Waitrose, with the Miller’s commanding a premium price of 28.5p per litre. The group viewed a selection of the herd’s top cows and progeny of bulls such as Shottle, Roylane Jordan, Durham Ross and Sanchez.

Also on the itinerary was a visit to the noted 30-cow Sahara herd, owned by Sheikha Noora Al Khalifa, who is a member of the Bahrain Royal Family. Based at Magor in Monmouthshire, the herd was established in 2006 and is managed by former auctioneer and respected judge, David Jones.

Everyone was very impressed with the new purpose-built dairy unit which is home to an elite nucleus herd of high genetic and prize winning Holstein cows. The Jones family entertained the Holstein NI party to refreshments in the well appointed farm office situated in the dairy complex with view of the immaculate sand bedded cubicles and spacious loose boxes.

The final visit was to the BB Holstein herd, property of Bev Baker from the Usk Valley in south east Wales.  The Baker family paraded a selection of the herd’s top cows in front of the Northern Ireland group. They also had an opportunity to view some of the young stock. Bev Baker uses embryo transfer to enhance his herd and boost genetic progress, implanting between 250-300 embryos annually.

Mr Baker was the judge for Holstein NI’s 2009 herds’ inspection competition. He runs two farms, one which is the base for the milking herd, and the other which is home to the youngstock. Mr Baker’s milking herd shares the farmyard with a quaint 13th Century Church and graveyard.

The Usk Valley boasts some of the best maize growing land in the UK, capable of producing high yields of quality maize silage, a crop which forms the main part of the diet for the BB Holstein herd. All of the herds visited had maize silage as the main forage, with wholecrop wheat and grass silage adding variety to the diet. The exception being Sahara Holsteins who make and feed significant amounts of round bale silage to the cows and young stock.

Holstein NI secretary, John Martin, said: ”We thoroughly enjoyed our three-day trip. The Willsbro sale was a great experience, and the herds visited went to great efforts to welcome us and the hospitality was first class.”

Andrew Kennedy, Ballymena, who was one of the fitters for the Willsbro sale in Cornwall, looks through the catalogue with Alan Wallace, Antrim.

Looking through the catalogued entry for the Willsbro Holstein sale, are Cyril Millar, Coleraine, and Willie Wilson, R A Noble and Co., Clogher.

Holstein breeders David and Hilary Wilson, Newtownabbey, and Noel Willis, Portadown, pictured at the Wills family's Pawton Dairy in Cornwall.

Young Holstein enthusiasts James Anthony and Desmond McCorry, Aghalee, enjoyed their visit to the Willsbro sale, held at the Royal Cornwall Showgrounds.

David Harkness and Graham Kernohan, Broughshane, during their visit to the Moorshard Holstein herd.

Clandeboye Estates farm manager, Mark Logan, Bangor, pictured during the Holstein NI trip to the Moorshard Herd in Brigwater, Somerset.

John Patterson, left, chairman, Holstein NI, pictured with the Miller famliy of Moorshard Holsteins based at Brigwater, Somerset.

Holstein enthusiasts Sean Dooley, Armagh, Alfie Hartley, Moneymore, and Billy Rodgers, Cookstown, during their visit to the Sahara Herd based at Magor, Monmouthshire.

David Jones, manager of the 30-cow Sahara Holstein herd based at Monmouthshire in Wales.

Members of Holstein NI during their visit to the noted Sahara Holstein Herd in Monmouthshire.

Pictured enjoying the 3-day Holstein NI trip to England and Wales are Robert Wallace, Templepatrick; Wilbert Rankin, Antrim; and Cyril Millar, Coleraine.

Members of Holstein NI pictured with the Jones Family during a visit to the noted Sahara Holstein herd.

Bev Baker of BB Holsteins based at Usk in Wales with breeders from Northern Ireland.

Breeders from Northern Ireland view some of the outstanding cows during a visit to the BB Holstein herd.

Members of Holstein NI during the three-day trip to herds in England and Wales.

Holstein NI secretary, John Martin, Kesh, makes a presentation to host farmer, Bev Baker of BB Holsteins.

The Willsbro Holstein sale attracted visitors from throughout the UK and Europe.

Brian Miller of Moorshard Holsteins, Somerset, with some of the NI visitors.

Holstein NI chairman, John Patterson, and son, James, Crumlin, during the visit to the Wills Family's Pawton Dairy in Cornwall.

Hugh Maguire and Cyril Gibson pictured during Holstein NI's three-day spring tour.

Aaron Haffey, Portradown, Charlie Weir, Waringstown, and Philip Haffey, Portadown, study some of the pedigrees in the Sahara Herd.

David and Aaron Haffey, Portadown, during Holstein NI's three-day spring tour to herds in England and Wales.


Pictures: Julie Hazelton

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