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TAS Country : March 3rd 2011
rch 4, 2011 13 indsay and Sandra Thompson with some of their embryo transfer heifers on their 294ha property. Pictures: KAROLIN MacGREGOR he rounds on the farm at Bracknell, near Longford. When you're milking 365 days a year, you want to be standing in the shed every day and looking at good cows. We get a buzz out of breeding cows and breeding good cows that will last a long time.' Mr Thompson said the feeder made the calves much quieter and easier to handle, especially when it came to breaking them in for showing. ''Quality will beat quantity any day,'' Mr Thompson said. ''You get your numbers right and then feed them as much as they need.'' Lisa said ensuring the cows were well fed also helped eliminate fertility problems. Through an extensive embryo transfer program, the Thompsons are beginning to develop some highly successful cow families within their herd which they hope will produce show ring winners and good high-production cows over the long term. Lisa said, while showing had always been a hobby, in the last few years it had become a more serious part of the business. An important addition to the family has been Lisa's partner Matt Templeton who is arguably one of the most experienced cattle fitters in the country. Lisa said with Matt's help they had been able to improve their overall management and preparation of their cattle and particularly their show team and take it to a more professional level. As well as their own cows, the Thompsons often have cows from other people on their property being prepared for the show ring. ''Matt is absolutely pedantic about preparation and feeding them right, not just leading up to a show but the whole time,'' Lisa said. ''Getting everything exactly right and making sure they're not lacking anything and keeping them happy makes such a huge difference, especially when you get to the big shows.'' Mr Thompson said, while they had improved the standard of their herd over time, there was always room for improvement,. ''We're not saying we've got the best cows, we've got some good cows, but there's always things we'd like to improve on,'' he said. An ability to recognise the potential in young heifers has seen the Thompsons buy calves that have gone on to become successful show cows. In their herd the Thompsons run three separate groups to ensure their best two or three show cows get the right diet and treatment to keep them in top condition. A second tier of 8-10 potential show cows and heifers is also run separately and their development is closely analysed. The rest of thee cows are run in the commercial herd. Lisa said being successful in the show ring meant months and sometimes years of hard work and dedication. ''You get out of it what you put into it,'' she said. ''We don't put all the time and work into cows that aren't worth it.'' While the Thompsons still enjoy showing on the local Tasmanian circuit, dwindling numbers at many shows has seen them looking further afield. In 2009 the Thompsons decided it was time to see how their cows would stand up against the country's best and took some over to Australia's biggest dairy event, International Dairy Week. Dairy week is the biggest dairy show in the southern hemisphere and the national championship show which attracts entries from most of the country's top studs. At their first ever dairy week, the Thompsons were thrilled to see their cow Avonlea Robthom Connie 2nd win the champion holstein cow, the champion holstein exhibit and then take home the supreme champion award against five other dairy breeds. ''To win at dairy week the first time we'd shown there was unbelievable,'' Lisa said. ''We were just hoping we'd get placed. Connie was looking pretty good that year, but she was up against some pretty big name cows.'' Lisa said with the huge costs involved with showing cattle at a national level, they would not just take anything along. ''It does cost quite a lot and it is becoming an important part of the business so we won't take anything that we don't think has a good chance of being in the top two or three. It's just not worth it,'' she said. The Thompsons' ability to select and prepare dairy cattle was again proven this year when they took home a second International Dairy Week Australian grand champion title with their five- year-old cow Fairvale Morty Lady 51. ''Lady looked really good in the ring, but you just never know, so we were thrilled to win it again,'' Lisa said. To top off the show, the Thompson's then sold a six-month-old heifer calf whose dam is Avonlea Robthom Connie, for $21,000. ''We thought she would make $15,000, so we couldn't believe it when the price just kept going up,'' Mr Thompson's said. Lisa said the heifer was one of their best and the decision to sell her could be considered unusual. ''A lot of people don't like to sell their best ones, but for us it was a business decision,'' she said. ''Hopefully people will see that we are willing to offer really good quality cows for sale and they'll keep coming back.'' Lisa said they had hoped the heifer would go to a good home where she would reach her full potential and that is exactly what had happened. ''You do get pretty attached to them especially the ones we've bred because we see them everyday from when they're born just about,'' she said. Spending so much time with their cows, Lisa said they got to know their individual personalities and how to handle them when it was time to show them off in the ring. With a growing market for good quality cow embryos, especially in New Zealand, the Thompsons are currently constructing a purpose- built shed in which they hope will become an AQIS approved embryo collection facility.
February 24th 2011
March 10th 2011