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Upgrading the herd with progressive genetics from VikingJersey

Gippsland farmer Wayne Kuhne thinks his new VikingJersey heifers will revolutionize his herd unlike anything since the 1980s. Wayne and his wife Lisa milk 450 cows at Bushlea Jerseys at Koonwarra in South Gippsland, Australia.

Looking for a point of difference, two years ago they turned to VikingGenetics’ Danish Jersey using VJ Quintana and VJ Hitman, and now they’re seeing the benefits in health, production, and type.

“We’re just milking our first Quintanas and Hitmans and we’re extremely happy with their look and their performance,” Wayne says, and continues: “I think they’re going to have a huge influence on the herd, similar to what the North American genetics did in the early 1980s.”

“The animals are nice and open, they’re strong and clean and they’ve got good udders. From the health perspective, there are 15 VJ Quintana cows in the herd and they haven’t had any antibiotics since calving and they’ve all been joined between 42 and 60 days.”

Profitable Jersey cows

Wayne and Lisa have been on the farm for 25 years, but the family farming history goes back to 1945 when Wayne’s grandfather Norm started Bushlea Jerseys, which was continued by his parents Keith and Pat.

It has been a Jersey herd since the start. “We find them easy to work with and think they’re a really profitable cow,” Wayne said. “We have a fairly high stocking rate with 450 cows milked off a 120-hectare milking platform. That’s quite intense so Jerseys suit our set-up.”

Keith echoes Wayne’s thoughts about the impact of VikingJersey. “These Quintana’s remind me a lot of the bull A9 Top Brass who we used in the ‘80s,” he said. “They have beautiful open muzzles and are taller and powerful but cleaner. They made a change, just as these Quintanas have done here now.”

New bloodlines

Wayne said they wanted “a point of difference” when using VikingJersey. “I felt we needed some different blood in the herd; some outcross genetics,” he said.

“Our fertility was trending upwards so we wanted to address that along with the general health of the herd to curb the use of antibiotics. VikingJersey has an excellent track record in these fields.”

Wayne said he was impressed by the proof system. “Everything is mandatory recorded; hoof health; vet visits…everything goes into proving the bull which I thought was a very reliable and complete system. I’m using it with a lot of confidence.”

Straight to the source

Wayne had noticed VikingGenetics´ genetics starting to filter through the United States and was impressed with what he saw. “I had the choice of using US bulls that were Danish bred or completely Danish bulls and I thought I’d go straight to the source,” he said.

“I like to use country of origin for all bulls. Comparing them to their peers is better than using base proofs or converting them. I’m a strong believer that a good cow should translate to any environment. I pick the bull that I like and if it ticks all the boxes for what I need in the herd and it compares well to their peers in their country of origin, that’s all I need.”

VikingJersey brings a fresh mix to the herd to avoid in-breeding. “I think it’s a step away from the American genetics that we had used so heavily for a decade,” Wayne said.

Avoiding Inbreeding

“For several years, the top of the pyramid has become extremely tight. There are bulls who we can use or can’t use because they’ve got so many daughters or relatives throughout the herd. That definitely played a big part in our decision; we had been using North American genetic for decades but now we can use VikingJersey genetics over the whole herd and there’s no inbreeding.”

The progeny more than meet Wayne’s expectations, defying some perceptions about the look of VikingJersey while fulfilling every health trait. 

“The Quintanas are the top one and two Performance Index animals in the herd at the moment and their production is well above their peers,” Wayne said.

Selecting the best genetics

With his eye on introducing points of difference, Wayne decided to use both Quintana and Hitman.

“We were looking for a bit of a cross-section over two bulls,” Wayne said. “Quintana had the most hype VikingGenetics has had for a long time and Hitman was very high on udder traits. His daughters in the herd now have extremely good udders so he has bred true to what his proof said.”

Wayne likes to blanket mate with the chosen sire and that was easy to do with the Danish Jersey genetics. “We will buy bulls for certain types of cows, but with the VikingJersey genetics, we didn’t want to have any favourites. To get a true picture of the daughters, when we use the Nordic semen, every cow on that morning will get that bull.

“You might selectively breed because you’re nervous about the semen, but I’m confident in the product and that our cows will breed true to that semen.” He certainly had nothing to worry about. The biggest “and best” group of heifers in the herd this year is VikingJersey, with the most elite classifying to 87 points as a two-year-old.

In a show of Wayne’s confidence, about half to two-thirds of the herd will get joined to VikingGenetics bulls next year. “We’ll definitely be using Quintana again next year, along with a couple of other bulls from VikingGenetics,” he said.

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