Northern Ireland Holstein herds secure Master Breeder Awards

MASTER BREEDERS RI Farm
n Holstein UK Board Member Wallace Gregg, left, presents a Master Breeder Award to William Kerr, Fordwich Herd, Cloughmills.

THE 2020 winners of Holstein UK’s prestigious Master Br-

eeder Awards have been presented with their acco-lades.

n George Mitchell, and sons Alexander and Steven, Edenordinary Herd, Banbridge. :

Holstein NI secretary John Martin said: “The highly coveted award recognises Holstein members whose herds have achieved a high standard in both classification and production. The prizes are usually presented at Balmoral Show or the RUAS Winter Fair, but unfortunately this wasn’t possible last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Congratulations to the high-performing herds.”

Recipients of the Master Breeder Awards included:

ABERCORN – David and Alan Wallace, Antrim, County Antrim.

Grading up from Friesian bloodlines began in 1965, with pedigree Holstein genetics gathering pace at Ashdale Farm in the 9,500 litres sold per cow per year at 4.10 per cent butterfat and 3.34 per cent protein.

David and son Alan aim to breed ‘farmer friendly’ cows with good udders, feet and legs. The breeding policy includes AI, sexed semen and NI-bred stock bulls from recognised cow families such as Balise, Roxie, Barbie and Danna.

Prominent cow families at Abercorn include Shirley, Elegance and Blossom, as well as bought-in families Olive (Springbird), Alison (Lukevale), Nora (Alderview), Rosina (Clandeboye), Darkie (Barbican), Trissie, Sheba, and the red and white Sara (Ballycrochan),

Over 70 per cent of the herd is classified EX or VG.

Abercorn won second prize large herd, and third placed bull progeny group in the premier section of Holstein NI’s herd competition in 2019. In 2018 it won third prize in the best heifer category.

Surplus young stock and in-milk heifers are sold annually at local marts and privately off-farm.

DEONA – Dermot Johnston, Mag-herafelt, County Londonderry.

The Deona Herd is a family-run business which first introduced pedigrees in 1969. The 120-cow herd produces over 11,000 litres at 4.23 per cent butterfat and 3.36 per cent protein, and is milked using Lely robots installed four years ago.

There are 26 EX, 40 VG and 30 GP cows in the herd. The majority of the herd is polled, and there are 10 main cow families.

The Roxie family is the most prominent, winning the best cow family award in Holstein NI’s herd competition in 2015 and 2017. The Deona prefix is no stranger to the prize list, also winning best medium herd and best bull progeny group in the competition’s senior section in 2017.

Breeding policy focuses on type and milk quality, and AI sires currently in use include Speedup, Jackpot, Builder and Novac.

The Johnston family regularly sells females and bulls off-farm to repeat customers.

EDENORDINARY – George Mitchell and Sons, Banbridge, County Down.

The Mitchell family farm was purchased by George’s father Hans in 1965. Friesian cattle were introduced in 1983, and the first pedigree Holstein heifer, Quality Grand T Lu, was purchased at the Canadian Invitational sale in 1994. Her descendants, the Lulu family, are one of the most prominent cow families in the herd. Other families include Paradise, Kylie, Boots, Marathon, Shower, Reba, Brenda, Coreena, Marq I, Adelaide and Hanna.

The 220-cow herd is averaging 11,800 litres, and includes 39 EX and 98 VG females – 32 of which are VG two-year-olds.

The Edenordinary Herd hosted Holstein NI’s charity Open Day in 2019, raising £22,500 for three cancer charities.

It has also won numerous awards in the club’s herds inspection com-petition. Its 2017 awards include best medium herd, best junior cow and best cow family in the junior section. In 2018 the Mitchell family won best large herd, best heifer, best junior cow, best senior cow and best bull progeny group in the senior section.

FORDWICH – William Kerr, Clough-mills, County Antrim.

The Kerr family has been milking cows since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1986 that the Fordwich prefix was founded. William had a strong interest in pedigree genetics, and purchased the first pure-bred cows from his late uncle Bertie Kerr (Carnageragh), who was a great mentor and guiding influence.

The 40-cow Fordwich Herd is currently averaging over 10,000 litres at 4.2 per cent butterfat and 3.2 per cent protein per annum on twice daily milking.

The majority of the cow families trace back to the Weeton Herd in Lancashire. One of the first cows bought was Weeton Raider Snowflake EX. Weeton-bred bulls have been bought since 1972. William spent 12 months working for John Loftus in 1990, and also spent a year at Callum McKinven’s Lookout Herd in Canada in 1992.

There are currently 14 EX and 22 VG cows in the herd, many of which hail from the prolific Agnes family. The Agnes family was established follow-ing the purchase of the Canadian-bred 19 star brood cow Langevin Starbuck Agnes EX92 in 1992. She produced over 100 descendants, and there are a number still in the herd.

Other successful cow families include Moonlight from Helenlane Moonlight Lee EX92-3E, and Melissa from Kingsroe Tony Melissa VG87-, both imported from Canada.

William’s breeding policy focuses on type, and AI bulls currently featuring in the herd include Unix, Gillette Windbrook, Stantons High Octane and Doorman.

The Fordwich Herd regularly feat-ures on the prize list at Holstein NI’s annual herds inspection competition. In 2017 Fordwich Lauthority Agnes 2 EX92-2E won best junior cow, and in 2010 and 2019 William won the award for the best small herd in the senior section of the competition.

n Dermot Johnston, Deona Herd, Magherafelt. Pictures: Julie Hazelton

Females are sold privately off-farm, and Fordwich-bred animals are highly sought-after by pedigree herd owners across the country. Fordwich Saratoga Agnes EX93 and Fordwich Seaver Agnes 4 EX92 were very successful, winning numerous accolades for Tommy and Mark Henry’s Mostragee Herd in north Antrim. Second calver Fordwich Atwood Agnes VG88 has also made her mark in George and David Simpson’s Damm Herd, Lisburn.

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