This year 2500 dairy cows from 500 Australian farmers were entered in this uniquely Australian event that is a logistical marathon, involving thousands of kilometers and a sea of volunteers. The Semex-Holstein Australia On-Farm Competition brings the judges to the cows instead of the cows travelling to a show, being fitted and paraded in front of the public and a single judge. To cope with the distances involved in a country that spans some 7.6 million kilometres, 34 regional (including state overjudges) are chosen to officiate.
"It is the second-most recognized award dairy cows can win in Australia outside a first place at International Dairy Week (Australia's biggest dairy show)," Semex Australia's general manager, Jim Conroy, confirmed. "But for many, it is the No.1 event."
"It is always a blend of first-time new entrants, the regulars who have occasional winners/high placers and the elite of our breeders. It's a great day, and perhaps there is no other like it where everyone is rubbing shoulders and sharing ideas in such a relaxed way," says Conroy of the awards presentation luncheon held recently on December 4, 2009.
The 90 finalists from nine sub-branches were judged by Daniel Holmes, of Arabella Holsteins at Brookstead, in Queensland.
Holstein Australia's federal president Adrian Dee was sweeping in his praise of the contest which included 1335 animals from the Victorian region alone, representing a lion's share of overall state numbers. Entries peaked at 253 at the sub branch level (with more than 60 entries in some classes) - put forward by 189 breeders.
"We thank Semex for co-sponsoring this event, because everyone really looks forward to it," Adrian said. "To be honest, it's so big now it's almost a logistical nightmare and a big commitment for the judges that give up their time. It has been a huge effort to get to today."
"I've done a few On-Farm Competitions now and the thing I've found works for me is that I keep a clear image of my ideal cow (for age) in my mind's eye as I work through the animals," he said.
"It was an honour to be involved and I was humbled to be asked. I just hoped that I did the job with as much professionalism as Semex display in their business and with as much enthusiasm and dedication as the farmers have for their cows."
His two-year-old champion was a Semex-sired Braedale Goldwyn daughter owned by one of Australia's premier Jersey herds, Bushlea. The Leongatha family of Keith, Patsy, Wayne and Lisa Kuhne has won multiple champion cow titles and premier breeder and exhibitor banners at International Dairy Week (IDW). It has been six years since Wayne decided to also pursue his personal interest in Holsteins.
"The Holsteins were something for me to diversify into," Wayne said. "They have a bigger market and I'm really happy to win this for Bob (Wandilla) too, because he has never entered this competition."
Milking more than 40 kgs/day on her first calf, Wayne said Crinkle had been bred and they will let her continue to quietly develop at home this season.
"She had such power and refinement," Daniel said. "I saw her in the second last herd on the second last day. There was a lot of heifer there - more than you think when you first look at her. As I started to break her down there was not much you'd want to change about her. I especially admired her feet and legs, her angle or rib and her depth of fore-rib. She had been in for 10 weeks when I judged her and she will only get better," says judge Daniel Holmes.
The three-year-old champion also came from a farm new to centre-stage in this competition. Zella-Ville Minda 3735, is owned by Ken and Lilian Allez, who milk 200 cows at Leitchville with their son, John. The Cedarwal Spirte x GP-81 Millyfirst x GP-81 Murribrook Linesman gave her 77-year-old breeder, Ken, his first finalist and his first champion.
"We just thought it was fantastic she made the final," Ken said. "You put up what you think are good cows and then you hope. We're now eagerly waiting for the classifier to see if they think she's as good as the two judges (sub-branch and state) thought she was."
Minda 3735 almost did not get to meet the judge. She was disgruntled being separated from the herd and she cleared the gate looking for company. Daniel said he had seen enough to know he needed to point her.
"I could see how good she was and I wasn't going to let her get away because I don't think we would have got her back," he said. "So I shot around her and turned her back. It was her cleanness of bone, width and height of rear udder that really impressed me. This heifer was so soft."
The five-year-old winner comes from the well-known herd of Bill and Jo Thompson at Mt Gambier. Glenorleigh Outside Marra. The EX-91-1E exhibit was crowned Grand Champion Holstein at the Royal Adelaide Show in September under Daniel.
2009 Semex-Holstein Australia On-Farm Competition Champions:
Hanoverhill Inspiration two years in-milk
- Bushlea Gold Crinkle-ET, Bushlea farms (Koonwarra, South Gippsland region)
- Brindabella Buckeye Fran, S and J Sieben (Torrumbarry, North-West region)
- Edenburg Toystory Lovely-ET, W and J Thompson (Mount Gambier, South East Australia region)
- Gowerville Hope Marlene, N Goodfellow (Kyabram, Northern region)
- Starcrest Ladino Marty, H and D Dodd (Westbury, West Gippsland region).
Glenafton Enhancer three years in-milk
- Zella-Ville Minda 3735, K and L Allez (Leitchville, North-West region)
- Krishlaye Goldwyn Madilyn-ET, A and J Harrison (Leongatha, South Gippsland region)
- Elmar Goldwyn Jessica 7, S and D Hore (Leitchville, North-West region)
- Creswick Kendall Peace, G and M Male (Caldermeade, West Gippsland region)
- Woodlawn Gold J Coconut, L and V Flanagan (Finley, South-West Riverina region)
Hanoverhill Raider four years in-milk
- Orchard Vale Informer Tiffany-ET, R and J Gordon (Cohuna, North-West region)
- Haverdale Jocko Dekol, S and J Mills (Rochester, North-West region)
- Corra Lea Ladino Faith, Bluechip and L Prout (Zeerust, Northern region)
- Southern Star Talent Tonio-IMP-ET, R and S Robertson (South Purrumbete, Western District region)
- Yurunga Lee Jisele, Yurunga Farms (Finley, South-West Riverina region)
Townson Lindy five years in-milk
- Glenorleigh Outside Marra, W and J Thompson (Mt Gambier, South-East Australia region)
- Lightning Ridge Skychief Tabaret-ET, S and V Patten and D Patten (Maffra, East-Gippsland region)
- Calderlea Ladino Faith, L and L and T Calder (Meeniyan, South Gippsland)
- Woodlawn Hunter Myra, L and V Flanagan, (Finley, South-West Riverina region)
- Barostin Roy Joanne 423, R and B Stinchcombe (Simpson, Western District region)
- Sky View Durham Hazel, A and K Hogan (Merrigum, Northern region)
- Minnamurra Marty Sing, R and L White (Finley, South-West Riverina region)
- Gorbro Stormatic Cretonne-ET (Cohuna, North-West region)
- Calderlea Transit Teresa, L, L and T Calder (Meeniyan, South Gippsland region)
- Ryanna Boss Polly, S and V Patten (Maffra, East-Gippsland region)