DAVID SPOKES has been showing cattle since he was 14, but competing at International Dairy Week is always the pinnacle.
“I’ll be going to dairy week’ til the day I drop dead,” the 57-year-old farmer from Cobden says.
And he doesn’t do it alone.
This year David and his extended group of family and friends plan to take 20 cows and heifers to IDW.
It’s the same every year; they make the big trip from south-west Victoria, share a shed and work together to show their cows.
If they win a ribbon it’s a bonus on top of the fun and networking.
David formerly had his own farm in Lavers Hill but moved to Cobden in 2013. His interest in cows and farming never ended.
He now works on a nearby dairy farm but has his own little herd of 14 Holsteins purchased over recent years, going under the name Whataview Holsteins.
He runs the cows at a mate’s place 45 minutes away at Chapple Vale. Those friends, Jeff and Noreen Jennings and their sons Jono and Juddy, join in the annual pilgrimage north to Tatura, along with David’s children and other families including the Broads and Fishers, and more recently additions from Gippsland.
“It keeps me going,” David said.
“It gets in your blood and it’s like a big reunion every year.
“The kids are getting older but everyone goes back to dairy week. You’ve got to take one animal up just to get there.
“It takes a full day to set up. We have one shed and take up both sides, with heifers on one side, milkers down the other.”
They usually spend about 10 days away from their homes and farms, decking themselves out in home-made T-shirts bearing the names of their studs.
There were seven studs in the group at last year’s IDW.
While they’re serious about presenting the best cows, winning isn’t everything.
“If you finish in the top 10 in the milkers you’re doing well; if you get a ribbon with the young cattle it’s a bonus,” David said.
David’s son Jeremy has won junior, intermediate and senior leader and Whataview Holsteins had a Junior Champion Heifer back in 2009.
The wider group has had similar success, including two years ago when Linton and Lisa Broad’s Broadlin Stud won Champion Jersey Cow.
At the 2018 IDW, Whataview Byway Dorinda was fourth out of 32 in her division. She won’t be there in 2019 but David plans to exhibit Avalon Maple Mandy ET, and there will be three or four more from the Chapple Vale farm.
“We took Avalon Maple Mandy to Bendigo this year where she won the best six-year-old milker. At the moment she’s still looking good,” he said.
“It’s a big competition but she was at IDW two years ago and came eighth so we’re hopeful.”
David said Juddy and Jono had a very good red-and-white cow that should do well.
While the team isn’t confirmed for the next adventure, David is sure it will live up to past experiences — and he’s been to 19 of the 21 dairy weeks.
“It’s the highlight of the year,” he said.