Monday, August 20, 2018

Dairy breeder aims to stay top of her game

May 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Profiles

When it comes to dairy replacements, Holstein breeder Yasmin Bradbury believes there is still room to improve strength over stature. Simon Wragg reports.

For some onlookers, Holstein breeder Yasmin Bradbury may have reached the pinnacle of her career with the success of the mature cow Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody. But she believes there is still room to improve strength over stature in dairy replacements.

Based at Fernydale Farm in Derbyshire’s Peak District near Buxton, Yasmin’s pedigree Peak herd is run alongside partner Bill Nadin’s Sterndale herd. “I’ve 54 in Peak but we run 110 milkers overall and have 310 head on-farm including young stock,” she explains.

The unit is run along commercial lines with milk sold via Meadow Foods. Cows calve year around, are largely cubicle housed and fed a grass-based TMR diet topped up with concentrate fed to yield in a traditional 10-stall abreast parlour. “We get too few heat units up here to grow maize.”

In 2017, Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody repeated earlier success in 2014 by attaining the title Mature Cow in Milk at Holstein UK’s All Britain Awards. Other titles that year included Champion of Champions at Dairy Expo (a win repeated in 2014 and 2018) as well as Super Cow at AgriScot in 2014. At just over 10.5 years old, she’s had seven calves and put over 115t of milk into the bulk tank to date.

Pedigree

She descends from Almond SM Rhapsody which Yasmin bought at the Ribble Valley Invitation Sale in 2003 for 3000gns and put to the Holstein sire Shottle. A daughter flushed to Goldwyn produced three heifers from which this super cow emerged. “I’ve been asked what she’s worth, but she’s priceless to me.”

Nicknamed ‘The Tank’ – not due to her phenomenal milk production history but an ability to push handlers around a show ring – Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody differs from many Holsteins of her era by standing very square on her legs. “You could drive a wheelbarrow between them,” suggests Yasmin light-heartedly. “And, God, can she eat.”

It’s a move away from Holstein characteristics of formative years. “Even I’ve referred to them as hat racks in the past – too tall, too narrow and too whippy. As a breed there’s a move to reduce stature and push for strength; she’s a good example. But I still believe there’s more work to be done as a breed.”

Show ring successes have come after many years slowly improving genetics. “Not bad for a townie,” she reflects.

Getting into farming

The daughter of a Bakewell-based engineer who died when she was young, her mother (a nurse) was appalled she wanted to enter agriculture having befriended a local farmer’s daughter. Yasmin left Broomfield College after just three months – ‘too much like school’ – to go to a Leicestershire dairy farm before returning home to work in a shop.

Her entry in pedigree breeding came in earnest after her marriage to a local dairy farmer ended. “I had a bungalow which I did up but ended up selling. By that time I’d met Bill and used some of the profit to buy my first cows; one of those was what you’d call a hat rack,” she reflects.

Breeding has been a vocation shared with the Sterndale herd. “But I also love what I call my standards as they’re the ones which bring in the money every day,” she says of the commercially managed pedigree heifers and cows.

Admittedly, Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody and some show animals are kept in a straw yard alongside newly calved heifers waiting to calve before joining the milkers. Red and white Holsteins also feature along with well bred (B&W) bulls to sell on as stock bulls; one or two are used as sweepers.

The combined herds average just over 10,000 litres/head/year in milk production at a typical 4.2% butterfat and 3.25% protein will a low cell count of just 60, she suggests.

The herd is vaccinated against BVD, IBR and leptospirosis while calves are treated with Ring Vac.

Through the generations

Yasmin’s interest in breeding has been passed down the generations. Two heifers descended from Peak Goldwyn Rhapsody were gifted to a grand-daughter and subsequently sold for five-figure sums; the proceeds invested into farm buildings ‘to house a few beefies and some show calves’ for the next generation to enjoy.

“I still want to be involved in showing myself,” she explains. “I still see it as the shop window for what we do. And while we get a lot of enquiries through Facebook I still like people to come to the farm and see the herd for themselves.”

Showing is helped by Steve McLaughlin – a cattle fitter from Ireland – plus a close band of supporters (Yasmin has early stage Parkinsons) helping bring out the best in ‘The Tank’ during many outings. “Even the commercial producers like her; it’s still incredible the roar that goes up when she wins,” she reflects.

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