Vala Holsteins benefiting farmers from all over the globe

By Rodney Woods

The downfall of Coomboona Dairies was the birth of the breeding program at Toolamba stud Vala Holsteins, which will return to International Dairy Week for just the second time.

Angela and Steve Varcoe manage the farm owned by Alex Arena, who is based out of Hong Kong and makes his breeding decisions off data alone.

“Alex does all the breeding — that’s his passion,” Mrs Varcoe said.

“The calves he bought to start this venture were left over from Coomboona's breeding program.

“When that went into administration all the embryos were up in limbo at Holbrook so Alex purchased them.

“We genomically test everything and the top 10 per cent we are breeding from.

“The highest bulls go into AI and the heifers that test really well on the Australian, US and Canadian index systems, then we use them as our breeding nucleus.

“They want to have good health traits, they want to have longevity, we want animals that will go on to produce.

“So he (Alex) looks firstly at the genomic numbers,” Mrs Varcoe said.

“He is based in Hong Kong so he can't physically see the animals so his whole thing is off data.

“I provide him the data and I say to him sometimes ‘this heifer is a really nice looking heifer’ because sometimes the phenotype outweighs the other things and he makes his breeding decisions purely off the data.

“We are purely a breeding enterprise so whatever we do here is ultimately going to benefit other farmers.”

The Toolamba stud has entered seven cattle in the youth show and six in the main show of International Dairy Week, which runs from January 19 to 23 at Tatura.

The stud will also sell three animals in the event's auction.

The focus is on the youth show because Vala wants to encourage the next generation, and Mrs Varcoe said it was the best way to promote the stud.

“Last year we focused on the youth show and we only had one heifer in the main show,” she said.

“That’s purely because we want to encourage young people into our business to get a leg up.

“If we can sell them an animal that’s going to be a good start to their breeding program then that's a good thing as well, but if not we just provide heifers to them if they want to have a bit of fun and don’t have access to those heifers.

“Dairy week is probably our biggest opportunity to promote our business to as many people from all across the dairy industry, both internationally and domestically.

“It's an opportunity we can’t miss.

“It gives us exposure to AI companies and we will normally hold tours and they come out and see the livestock we have available, the heifers we are breeding from and the enterprise we run and build partnerships.

“It's (also) an opportunity to catch up with other people in the industry that we haven’t seen and enjoy a little bit of time off the farm.”

Mrs Varcoe is hoping for top 10 finishes in the classes they have entered this year, after getting a first and second in the class for cattle born between April 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018 at last year's event.