The 2015 exchangee to the United States, Matt Henry, has made a very interesting report on his visit. Read on to hear all about his experience.
USA Milking Shorthorn Exchange Report
My exchange commenced on the 31st of August, landing in Dallas on a very warm afternoon after a 15.5hr direct flight from Sydney. First stop was Krause’s dairy in Como, Texas. The Krause family had only been dairying at this farm for about 2 years and it was obvious the range of improvements that had been made to the property in this short time. Their herd was approximately 50/50 Shorthorn/Holstein split, with about 180 milking when I was there. In building the herd cows had been purchased from a number of sales and breeders and, as such, a extremely wide range of genetics were represented in the milking herd. The unmated heifers, which had been homebred, were an impressive group with a number of AI sires represented, including Adventure, Academy PJ and Vinny.
While at the Krause’s I also visited a number of other surrounding dairies and milking shorthorn members, including Danny Mac (where I learnt Jack Daniels is purchased by the ½ gallon for cheaper than we can buy 750ml here!!) and Brent Jennings. I was also fortunate enough to go hunting with a neighbor of Krause’s, whom I would consider a ‘true’ Texan. The accent, guns and everything else were exactly as any Aussie would imagine it to be in Texas. There were also visits from the hoof trimmer and nutritionist while I was there, with both being interesting to talk to about the similarities and differences between their professions and the industry in general between Australia and USA. I left Krause’s at just the right time, as they had 120 cows due the following week!
My next stop was the Crawley family in Arkansas. In the milking herd it was good to see progeny of a number of Australian bulls, including a nice line of cows by a home bred Clarefield Mocha son. Again, the unmated heifers were a quality group with progeny of Adventure, Taser and Spurgeon, among others, present. I also enjoyed talking to Tim Crawley and looking through some of his photos, as he had been to Australia and actually stayed at home on his travels some 20 years ago. He had vivid memories of my grandma (Joyce Savage) serving liver or kidney or something similar, to his disgust. I was very grateful that he didn’t return the ‘favor’ during my visit!
The next stop was Arthurs in Oklahoma. Theirs was a smaller herd in comparison, run in conjunction with a large cropping operation. Harvest of the ‘early’ beans was finishing up while I was there, and ‘milo’ was growing well.
There was one cow that was about a month off calving which I quite liked there and since I’ve been home I saw that she did well at Louisville so congratulations to the Arthur family. It was also interesting to talk to Francis Arthur who was part of one of the first groups to come to Australia looking at Illawarra genetics. I did my best to answer all her “where are they now” questions about old Illawarra breeders.Whilst I was at Arthurs, one of the most interesting and eye-‐opening parts of the exchange was a visit to Braums dairy. This was an 12000-‐cow herd, with capacity to milk 14000, where all the milk produced was processed on site to be sold as ice cream or milkshakes through the Braums chain of fast food stores. As well as the dairy and processing plant, the farm also had a bakery to make all the bread rolls for the stores from cereal crops it grew. The dairy facilities were on a never-‐ending upgrade program, with a new idea of Mr. Braums being implemented as soon as (and often before!) the last project had been completed.
From Arthurs I flew out of Oklahoma City on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After arriving in Harrisburg I travelled straight to the showground’s, not really knowing what to expect in regard to the show itself or the shorthorn cattle being exhibited. The following day, before many of the cows had arrived, we travelled around the local area, stopping for a tour at the Yuengling brewery (Americas oldest brewery) and travelling through Lancaster County to see the local Amish.
The size of the show facility and the number of cattle exhibited was remarkable, with judging spread across 6 days. I found the quality of the shorthorn showing to be quite good across the whole show, with the junior and senior champions being especially impressive. One of the highlights of the exchange program, as far as looking at cattle, was the 4yo class at Harrisburg. The winner of that class, Cates Ruben Tulsa Time went on to be grand that day and again at Expo, and again at Louisville since I’ve been home. Congratulations to Peter Cate for that tremendous achievement. Not only was she an outstanding winner of that class, but also the quality of the next 3-‐4 animals behind her, any of which would compete well at any show I’ve seen, was what I found so impressive. I must admit this was pleasantly surprising after some of the mixed reports from previous Australian visitors.
I left Harrisburg, making the trip to Springfield, Massachusetts, where I spent a few days with Mo Phelon and Andy before the Big E started. Whilst with them I learnt a valuable lesson, don’t try to go drink for drink at their local with a bloke named Waldo! The Big E was a smaller showing of shorthorns than Harrisburg, however there were still some quality animals exhibited. Perhaps the most outstanding achievement of the show was Innisfail winning premier breeder while not even being an exhibitor. It was definitely something I’d never seen before, however I later heard they have done it on several occasions; a true testament to the quality of cattle they have bred and sold.
I travelled home from the Big E with the Clark family and after staying one night at their farm in New Hampshire we set off to Expo. A trip that usually takes them 20-‐22 hours took us about 32, with 2 blown tires along the way. World Dairy Expo was all everyone said it would be, from exhibitor’s displays to the trade show, the quality of the cattle and even the ring atmosphere. Again, I found the quality of the milking shorthorn show to be exceptional and I would like to
congratulate all exhibitors on what I overheard some seasoned ringside observers say was the strongest shorthorn showing they had ever seen. The exchange concluded at the end of WDE, as I travelled back to Pennsylvania, before continuing my travels as a tourist.
One thing I noticed across all shows I attended was the disparity between the classification system used for the Milking Shorthorns and the Illawarras. In my opinion the 94,95,96pt cows are once in a lifetime type cows, not 3 in every show team. I remember saying on several occasions that if you had a 95pt Illawarra in Australia she would win grand at royal shows as a dry cow. I raised this with a number of people while on the exchange and almost, if not, all agreed that having both populations on the same classification system would be mutually beneficial. I feel leveling the system would be an easy way of giving breeders more confidence in using genetics from the other country. This is especially the case because in most instances there is not a personal knowledge of the cow family behind a bull in AI in the opposite country, so when a sire is marketed as having a number of generations of high scoring cows behind him, confidence and parity in the classification system used to score these cows is important.
Overall I was impressed with the quality of the milking shorthorns I saw, both on farm and at shows. This is especially the case as I recognize the milking shorthorn showing policy is much more strict than that of the Illawarras. I feel there is tremendous potential for increased exchange of genetics, with both countries not currently getting offered the best of the others sires, in my opinion. In fact, I recall having a conversation with someone about exchange of genetics and saying that after seeing the cattle exhibited at 3 of the national shows, if I could pick 10 straws of any red bull in the world to use it would be Megadeath, followed by Red Ruben, both of which we have never had access to in Australia. Similarly, I believe the Australian bulls that people told me they have used or were using were not the best that we have to offer. For this to improve, as well as the classification issues, I think the shorthorn society must work on getting more of their high-‐use sires into stud as opposed to privately collected and distributed so they can be accessed worldwide, while Australia must attempt to breed bulls of suitable quality that would qualify as a GE sire so they can be used in the US.
Finally, I would like to again thank everyone that hosted me, drove me between places or even just stopped to introduce themself or have a beer together. The exchange was a fantastic experience and I would highly recommend it to any young people from either country thinking of applying.