Establishing an elite herd with French genetics in Australia

To refresh your memory: It was during the largest dairy show in the southern hemisphere, the International Dairy Week 2008. With around 30 animals in the sale, a daughter from ROUMARE attracted the top price of 26,900 Euro (443,000 A$) . This superb heifer, Anastasia, was acquired by Jet Star Holsteins, a farm in the northern part of the state of Victoria. Today, Anastasia is in her first lactation. We have visited the farm in order to find out why Roumare is the favorite in the land of the kangaroos.

A better quality of life with milk

Jackie and Steve MILLSBuildings of the MILLS family’s farm« I don’t know if it was a wise thing to take Steve with me to the farm of my dad », says Jackie, jokingly. « Right then and there he got the idea in his head that he wanted to have cows! ». Steve, a city-man from Melbourne with 10 years of experience as an accountant, and Jackie, a farmer’s daughter with a hairdresser’s diploma, have worked as agricultural employees for seven years before investing in an operation of their own. As of 2001, they have been managing together a Holstein herd at Lockington, in the production area of Rochester, 200 km north of Melbourne. « I do love the quality of life at the farm » Steve explains. « And I really love it to raise our children at the farm » adds Jackie.

50% of the pumping rights

It’s milking time for the Jet Star Holsteins cowsThe operation comprises 55 ha and 150 dairy cows. When we visit Jet Star Holsteins, it is dry, very dry. In the paddock not one blade of green grass has survived. In this region the rain gauge on average is at 350 mm per year. The 150 cows receive a ration of ensilage bought at a neighbor’s. Depending on the fodder that is available, grain haylage (grains baled before harvest) Martine and Jackie MILLS close to the pasturesor alfalfa is distributed, or haylage from bales wrapped in plastic. At present the cows receive 22 kg MS of grain haylage complemented with 7 kg of crushed grain. In the springtime, the cows are grazing the 42 ha of cereals and the 12 ha of ray grass. « The cereals are better resistant to dry conditions » explains Jackie. As a consequence of the draught, the farmers could only benefit from 50% of their irrigation rights.

Diversification into genetics

Calves drinking at the milking barIn order to deal with the decreasing milk price, and the cost of forage going up due to the persisting draught, the family has opted for diversifying in genetics. This choice has come naturally. For, without a doubt, the Mills have always been very passionate about genetics. Jackie, Steve and their children Alex (17 years old) and Ryley (14) can all tell us about the origins of all the heifers in their herd. To speed up the selection process, the Mills have used all the means at their disposal: Superb heifers have been bought and embryos have been taken from ten of their best cows. The other 140 cows serve as recipients. On average the cows produce 8,500 kg/year at 4.2% fat and 3.2% protein (the Australian average is at 5,200 kg/year).

An elite herd to produce functional dairy cows

Other calves which got benefit of genomic testsThe objective of the Mills family is to quickly build a foundation herd of around 100 top cows in order to commercialize genetics. « In Asia and Australia there is demand for functional cows, the kind of cows that do not pose any problems », explains Steve. Good feet and legs, good udder, good milk production and especially good longevity, that is how the required qualities can be summarized. To introduce these qualities into their herd, Jackie and Steve have not hesitated to source among the best bulls in the world. « We have been reading lots of catalogues and closely followed the international shows », said Jackie.

ROUMARE is favorite

One of Anastasia’s daughter with UHLAND« ROUMARE has stolen our hearts », Steve and Jackie confess. « The conformation and the production of ROUMARE are well suited for the Australian circumstances where the cows go out to graze ». At present they experience the fruit of their work. Anastasia has calved at 26 months from a fantastic little heifer calf by another Genes Diffusion bull : UHLAND (Jesther x EX-91 Rudolph x EX-92 Luke x EX-93 Blackstar). It is one of the Other ROUMARE’s daughters in the Jet Star Holsteins herdvery first Uhland daughters in Australia. Large, long and with a solid top-line and an exemplary rump, Anastasia, the daughter of ROUMAREAnastasia already gives more than 38 kg per day and she has not reached the peak of her lactation yet! Before her own pregnancy, Anastasia has produced 3 embryos from the Australian bull Informer. From that combination were born a female and a male, and the first results are very promising. Finn, the bull calf, will be in the top-10 of genomically tested Australian bulls this year.

Further ROUMARE daughters can be found in the heifer pens, bought at the IDW 2009 and 2010 at top prices, and looking at their pedigrees, they should be able to make the headlines in the future.



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