Recently it was my privilege to accompany Keith Dorries (Panorama Stud, Oakey) on a trip to the United States. Everything was arranged by Dave Kendall the secretary of the American Milking Shorthorn Society and included a week at the World Dairy Expo at Madison and staying on the farms of the Ruzic family at Hixton, Winconsin and Stuart & Emily Rowe at Orland, California during the second week.
It was the first visit to the United States for the both of us and as such we went with an open mind fully aware that there had been an exchange of semen for many years and more recently Illawarra embryos to the United States. Foremost in our minds was firstly the comparison between the two breeds both in type and production, secondly the contribution the semen exchange had made in the United States and thirdly would further cooperation with the AMSS be beneficial to the Illawarra breed.
The Shorthorn display numbered well over two hundred head and was judged by Mr Ronnie Mosser from Indiana, a jersey breeder and judge. In his comments from time to time he commented on the big improvement in the dairyness of the Shorthorns since he last judged Expo sixteen years ago. He also appeared to tolerate a little depth in udder especially in the young milking heifers that perhaps the two Australians wouldn’t have. It was interesting to see the different emphasis he placed on various points. It would have been good to have some members of the touring party in 1997 to make the comparison between then and now but generally speaking we were both impressed with the showing.
Comparison between shows in Australia let alone between Australia and the United States are very often only for arguments sake. However to make this comparison was one of the reasons we were in the US. The two most recent shows we had attended were the Brisbane and Adelaide Royal shows. Keith has had an outstanding record as an exhibitor at Brisbane and perhaps sometimes it is difficult to be totally objective as an exhibitor when making comparisons. In recent years I have become an independent ringside observer and as a result I have no such problems being objective. Generally speaking the Illawarras would have been competitive class by class with the Shorthorns at Expo and even allowing perhaps for our own natural bias we believe the Illawarra champions and reserves in both cows and heifers at both Australian shows may have had an advantage over those at Expo. Such statements are always subject to some debate but it is an opinion we both share. However I do note it would be good to return in a few years time to see how the young heifers on display turned out. They all displayed outstanding quality.
For someone who grew up on the Imperial standard of weights and measures it was often confusing converting pounds of milk to litres or kilograms of milk further compounded by the difference between an American pound weight and the Imperial pound. None the less it is more than obvious that the Shorthorns produce very well both in volume and composition. This was evident not only at Expo but at the various farms we visited. It was also obvious that similar to other breeds they also have “patchy bulls”. Again the point is we should be able to use the American bulls confident that they can maintain or improve production of Australian Illawarras and as with all well managed programmes the bulls of the future should be better.
We also caught up again with Jessica Achen, the youth exchange ambassador from the US whose family was exhibiting at Expo. Heath Williams who was visiting the US linked up with us at Expo and joined us on some of the farm visits. This trip will prove invaluable to Heath and reinforces the importance of the Youth Exchange programme.
I firmly believe that there should be greater cooperation between the two societies and expanding this to include Canada and the UK. In recent years the US breeders have followed the Australian path of introducing outside bloodlines and similar to us have used the Holstein Red factor and European bloodlines. The contribution of the Red Holstein has been very positive with many very good cows both at Expo and on the various farms. Some concern was expressed about the type variation of the European strains.
We have two populations of cattle with similar type and background. In both countries there are various protocol requirements for the export of semen all of which can be overcome. The export of embryos from Australia has become very frustrating but again with perseverance should be possible. There is strong demand for top type Illawarras in the US and the race should be on for our breeders to provide the embryo that becomes a World Dairy Expo champion.
Once again our thanks to Dave Kendall, the Ruzics and the Rowes, the exhibitors at Expo and the various farm owners we visited for a wonderful time in the United States.