Northern Victorian dairy farmers own some of the best herds in the nation

By Daneka Hill

Northern Victorian dairy herds continue to dominate the Australian Breeding Values in the Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Jersey breeds

The ABVs are calculated every four months by Dairy Australia’s herd development initiative DataGene, which judges herds on their productivity and health.

The Jersey herd of Bamawm farmer Bernie McManus retained second place in the nation.

Mr McManus’s cows have an average Balanced Performance Index of 100.

Col and Narelle Bacon in Lockington were close behind on the Jersey list, in fourth place with a 94 BPI.

A few kilometres west in Dingee, Ben Govett received a 26 BPI for his Brown Swiss herd, making him owner of the second-best performing Brown Swiss in Australia.

Mr Govett said it was nice to make the ABVs but wasn’t too shocked by the result.

“I think we were around there (second place) last time as well,” Mr Govett said.

Half of the 300 cows Mr Govett milks on his farm are Brown Swiss, descendants from his parents’ herd.

He said the longevity, good type and good production of Brown Swiss were the main reasons he kept the breed.

“On average they last two lactations longer than a Holstein,” he said.

“We have a few cows here who are 14 and 15 years old.”

The title of best Brown Swiss herd overall went to Strathallan’s Andrew Burgoine.

Mr Burgoine, like his friend Mr Govett, was not surprised by the ABV results; his 400-head herd has been best in breed several times before.

“We’ve started genomically testing our cows just this year and seeing what their BPI is,” Mr Burgoine said.

“If a cow is low in the index and we don’t think the best of her than we won’t use her.”

Mr Burgoine said the easy nature and heat tolerance of Brown Swiss were big benefits on his farm.

“I’ve been involved with the breed for about 30 years.

“My father used the Brown Swiss over the poor performing Jerseys and the result was really nice.”

Australia’s best performing Guernsey herd can be found in Strathmerton, owned by Ian Gallus.

Mr Gallus’ herd achieved an average BPI of 37.

In the highly competitive Holstein ABVs, northern Victoria still made a strong showing.

The Hogg family's Adlejama Holsteins in Biggara, west of Albury-Wodonga, was the fourth best herd by average BPI.

Lockington’s Redmaw Holsteins, owned by Jared and Courtney Ireland, was another high scoring herd, coming in eighth.

Farmers involved with the rarer dairy breeds rely less on the herd data collected by DataGene because of the disparity in cow quality across the breed and their reliance on international semen.