Top traits deliver for Victorian Red breeders
AUSTRALIA’S top Red dairy bull is making a mark on one south west Victorian herd, with his daughters delivering in the vat and helping to cut costs. Red sire ONSTAD P is ranked number one in the recent Australian Breeding Values release at 388 BPI$ thanks to his strong production, outstanding management traits and elite score of 108 for daughter fertility.
ONSTAD P’s rise doesn’t come as a surprise for Nullawarre dairy farmer Owen Simpson. He, partner Kate McCosh and son Ethan, four months, have several heifers and young cows sired by the long-time farmer favourite, polled bull in their 640-strong herd and they are making a statement. “They are fantastic cows, they are real working cattle,” Owen said. “ONSTAD P has fertility, strength, capacity and his production is very good. There are not many bulls that are positive for litres and components and have a combination of all those traits. His daughters have a lot of strength and capacity for their size, and they are obviously very good fertility-wise and that was something we wanted to improve on.”
ABS Red sires, including many sexed genetic REDX™ bulls, have featured heavily in Owen and Kate’s breeding program as the sharefarmers turn their Holstein herd into Reds. “We switched to Reds chasing fertility and a more moderate sized animal and ONSTAD P gives us that,” Owen said.
Moving away from Holsteins has delivered herd health and production advantages, with the bonus of lifestyle benefits for their young family, according to Owen. A reduction in mastitis cases has reduced antibiotic use within the herd, trimming on-farm costs, while improved fertility has helped condense the heavy workload during autumn and spring calving.
Red cows also better suit the wet conditions of their flat southwest Victorian farm, according to Owen. “The Reds carry a little more condition and that actually works in their favour when we join in July and August,” he said. “Really, you can’t get any harsher conditions than during those months and they are getting in calf brilliantly.”
Sharefarming for Owen’s parents, David and Nareda, Owen and Kate wanted a lower maintenance and economical herd. Their breeding goals included an animal with longevity that also produced well from a pasture diet, supplemented with silage and brassica crops during dry months and 1.5 tonnes/cow/lactation bail feed. Averaging about 540kg of milk solids per cow per lactation, the Reds have delivered in the vat. But this isn’t Owen’s primary focus. “We never chase litres, we chase a cow that will look after herself and last for years – 10 years – ideally,” he said. “We don’t spoil cattle; the idea is you are not working for them.”