Dairy cow Ivyhurst Mystery OC might not be the prettiest cow on the block but looks don’t really matter when you hold the title for Australia’s most profitable cow.
The unassuming cross-bred bovine is owned by Echuca West dairy farmers Andrew and Christine Sebire who were amazed to find out they owned the nation's highest genomically ranked cow.
The recent release of DataGene’s Australian Breeding Value top Holstein females on Balanced Performance Index saw Mystery score a staggering BPI of $436 — and, as her name might suggest, the cow was also a mystery to her owners.
“We really had no idea who she was initially,” Mrs Sebire said.
“We were driving around the paddock looking for her — Andrew was looking for a great big black and white and I jokingly said `she will be small and brown’ and that’s exactly what she is, she is certainly no champion in the looks department, in fact she is quite nuggety.”
The OC in her name now actually stands for "off colour" meaning she is no black and white beauty, but in the world of commercial dairying it’s all about numbers and Mystery set the bar high in her first lactation, with a fat test of 4.51, protein 3.79 and total production of 591 kg of milk solids.
The three-year-old has produced two calves from two straws and is currently ticking the boxes in the fertility department as well.
“We don’t normally keep cross-bred cows and if we didn't genomic test, we would have never known Mystery's potential because she is small and just blends into the herd.”
Her newfound fame does not qualify Mystery for any additional special treatment but Mrs Sebire said she was the perfect example of why genomic testing had become an important part of their herd management and why joining the Ginfo project four years ago was pivotal.
“We have always been diligent with record keeping and we herd test every six weeks,” she said.
“We were approached by Genetics Australia to join the Ginfo project, which is all about tracking genetic quality in the national herd.”
As part of the initial project Genetics Australia came out and sampled the heifers.
“We found the information helpful when it came to making decisions about the cows’ future and we decided to continue on with the program,” Mrs Sebire said.
“Every time we de-horn we take a hair sample and send it off and now that’s how we make the bulk of our decisions around keeping or selling animals.”
And with surplus heifers sold to the export market, the couple can now make educated decisions about selling and know they are keeping the best genetic cows in their own herd.
“We look at each cow's BPIs whereas before we would have looked at production history and went on looks,” Mrs Sebire said.
She said since commencing the Ginfo program there has been steady gains across the 550-cow split-calving herd.
“We are really happy with the way the herd is heading,” Mrs Sebire said.
“There has been steady improvement in both production and herd health, and fertility will be the next thing we look at.”
On the back of a tough year the couple is looking forward to the 2020 season with a degree of optimism not felt for some time.
“We have had autumn rain at the right time and our crops are in and we are feeling very optimistic about the season ahead — this is the best break we have had in years,” Mrs Sebire said.