By Julie Hazelton
The McLean family’s noted Priestland prefix has been crowned ‘cream of the crop’ in Holstein NI’s annual Herds Inspection Competition.
The results of the hotly contested competition, sponsored by Ulster Bank, Cookstown Dairy Services, and Trioliet, were announced in Dungannon.
Owned by Iain, Joyce, John, Matthew and Ellie McLean, the Bushmills-based Priestland Herd is home to 100 pedigree Holstein cows, which are managed alongside 30 coloured breeds. The herd is currently averaging 11,000 litres at 4.23% butterfat and 3.36% protein, and more than 75 per cent is classified VG or EX.
“The Priestland Herd definitely has the wow factor,” stressed premiership judge Edward Griffiths from the 200-cow Coachgate Herd in Sheffield. “The herd was well presented, and the uniformity and depth of quality right through from its milking heifers to mature cows is exceptional. Strong cow families are also a key feature.
“The herd was in terrific form when I visited a few weeks ago. Bang on twelve o’clock and very deserving winners of this year’s competition.”
Priestland featured strongly in the premier herd prize list, also taking the awards for the best heifer with Priestland 6146 Atwood J Rose; first and second places in the senior cow category with Priestland 5446 Shot J Rose and Priestland 5235 PS James Rose; and best cow family group with the Rose family.
Priestland Farm has been in the McLean family since 1911 when Iain’s grandfather operated a mixed holding. “I began upgrading and using Holstein genetics in the 1990s. Prior to that the herd was mainly British Friesian,” explained Iain.
“Ullswater Roybrook was the first Holstein bull we used, and he produced very impressive daughters with great yields. My passion for pedigree Holstein breeding grew from there.”
Most of the breeding decisions are made by Iain, and eldest son John. Both are focused on type, rather than figures. “We like to select powerful bulls with good overall balance. We look at individual cows and select a sire that will compliment her strengths, and hopefully improve her weaknesses.
“We like to milk tall, strong cows. Sound feet and legs, and a good udder, are important too,” added Iain. The McLean’s usually opt for US and Canadian sires, and have been using ET to further develop prolific cow families within the herd.
Cow families at Priestland include Bedazzle/Barbie, Ambrosia, James Rose, Debutante Rae, Dellia, Frosty, Lila Z, Spendor Dream, Paradise and Faith.
The Priestland Herd made its showring debut in 2009. “Showing is time consuming, but it very rewarding,” added Iain, who has enjoyed numerous successes with home-bred cows over the years.
The McLean’s are one of six families featured in the current BBC TV series ‘This Farming Life’. Several episodes have already been aired, with the remainder of the series due to hit TV screens later this year.
Edward Griffiths thanked Holstein NI for inviting him to judge the premier section of the competition. “I spent four action-packed days in Northern Ireland, and had the pleasure of visiting superb family farms with fantastic cows.
“I was delighted to see so many young people with a passion for breeding pedigree Holsteins, and an impressive knowledge of their cows.”
Edward Griffiths added: “I had some difficult decisions to make. The standard was very high throughout the competition, and in some cases the placings were so tight it was hard splitting out the winners.”
The junior section of the competition was judged by Ben Mallon from Toomebridge. “It was an honour to visit so many quality herds. The breeders have a real energy for Holstein cattle, and the top placed herds and individual cows in each category were unbelievable. Congratulations to everyone who took part.”
Sam and John McCormick’s Hilltara Herd, based at Bangor, claimed the award for the best herd in the junior section.
Dean McAllister from Armoy received the award for the best new entrant in the junior section.
The senior section of the competition was judged by Ian Watson from Macosquin. “It was a pleasure to judge, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to see so many excellent herds. The standard was high and the placings were very close.
“I was looking for trouble-free cows, medium sized with good locomotion and sound feet and legs. These were in abundance, and I’d like to congratulate everyone who entered the competition.”
Holstein NI secretary John Martin confirmed that over 70 herds participated in this year’s competition. “We are greatly indebted to our sponsors Ulster Bank, Cookstown Dairy Services and Trioliet.”