Champions crowned at IDW

International Dairy Week’s Supreme Champion Cow, InStyle Solomon Dahlia, led by Cameron Yarnald with City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Shane Sali. Photo by Rechelle Zammit

International Dairy Week 2024 was nothing but a dream come true for Brenton and Ellie Thomas, along with Brenton’s dad Rodney, after the family’s six-year-old cow, Instyle Solomon Dahlia, was crowned Supreme Champion Cow.

Holstein judge Barclay Phoenix said if you could put Dahilia on a plane and fly her anywhere, she would be very competitive with any cow in the world — a comment Brenton describes as surreal.

“I went to World Dairy Expo last year and I have seen the quality of cows and to have our cow recognised like that is just outstanding,” Brenton said.

Barclay was also impressed by Dahlia’s udder and her overall greatness.

He said the Holstein show at this year’s IDW — held in Tatura from January 13 to 18 — was a tremendous show from end to end, and he was surprised by the quality that stayed right down every line-up, acknowledging it was testament to the breeders.

Bred by the Thomas family from Cooriemungle, near Simpson in south-west Victoria, Dahlia’s lineage can be traced back to cows Brenton’s pop purchased from a dispersal sale in Kempsey about 20 years ago.

Brenton describes Dahlia as a no-fuss, easy-to-work-with cow. She placed in the top five at her first ever show (IDW 2023) and Brenton knew she was looking good this year.

“I have always believed in Dahlia. She was a little bit immature as a young cow but every year she calved she just got better and better.

“I had a few people I really respect in the industry telling me she looked really good and I knew she would be competitive this year, but you never really know until you get out in the ring what will happen.”

Dahlia has been bred back and Brenton said he will just see what happens with her if she gets in calf.

“There has been some overseas interest in her and we are working through that but if she is good to go next year, she will certainly be back.”

Best Udder and Supreme Champion Cow, six-year-old Instyle Solomon Dahlia, with Carlene Downie and judge Barclay Phoenix, and led by Cameron Yarnald.

This is only the third year Brenton has shown at IDW in his own right as Instyle Holsteins, and he couldn’t be more pleased with the way his team performed.

InStyle Doc Auromie placed third in the junior Holstien class, Instyle Doc Amy placed second in the five-year-old class while Lightning ridge CMD DBack Barbara, owned with Judson Jennings, was reserve champion and best udder (red and white Holstein).

“It is always a lot of work to get the cows right, it just doesn’t happen and of course everything has to go right on the day as well,” Brenton said .

He said breeding cows was his passion and he liked a herd of great looking cows.

“A commercial farmer might look at what I do and say I am wasting my money but cows are my hobby and my goals with the herd are endless, because I just want to have the best cows I possibly can.”

Brenton and his wife Ellie — along with kids Evie, Jayme and Lewis — milk 200 split calving cows.

They bought their 129ha farm with the help of Rodney four years ago. They also lease a couple of blocks to run dry cows and young stock.

“Dad dispersed his herd in 2018 and sold all the cows and heifers that were in calf. We kept the unjoined stock and that is how we started,” Brenton said.

Today the herd consists of mostly Holstein, with a few Jersey and Brown Swiss thrown in for good measure.

“I was a carpenter by trade but I have always loved cows — they are my passion,” Brenton said.

“I started back working on a farm, moved into sharefarming and then bought my own farm with the help of my Dad.

“Dairying is a great industry and a great way to bring up a young family.”

Brad Gavenlock leads his Reserve Senior Champion Cow, Jamber Colton Veronica, with IDW Jersey judge Nathan Thomas (right). Photo by Rechelle Zammit

For Brad and Jess Gavenlock, from Cherrylock in Tallygaroopna, this year’s IDW was their best ever, after taking out Reserve Champion Cow with Jersey Jamber Colton Veronica (co-owned with Robbie Wilson from Jamberoo, NSW) and Intermediate Interbreed Champion with Holstein Eclipse Perennial C Princess (co-owned with M. Polson).

“The intermediate Holstein win was probably the most exciting because I have never won champion Holstein before, I am just a Jersey boy mucking around with a few black and whites,” Mr Gavenlock said.

In the five-year-old Jersey class, Cherrylock had four animals stand in the top six, while three Holstein cows place first, second and third (including intermediate champion) and six red and white cows had five class wins and a second.

“We had 41 cows and to win two supreme champions is amazing,” Mrs Gavenlock said.

“We had a crew of over 20 people this year and it is all a bit unbelievable at this point, it has been such a great show.”

Mr Gavenlock said the lead up to IDW was one of the toughest he had ever experienced.

“The last three weeks have been brutal weather wise — 10 days before IDW our whole farm was flooded,” he said.

“It is much easier to work with cows in 35 degrees and dust then humidity, rains and floods.”

Interbreed Junior Champion, Gorbro Hano O Princess, sold at auction the same day she was sashed for $18,000. The Gorbro Holstein cow from Cohuna almost didn’t make it into the arena as her owners, the Gordon family, were considering not bringing a string of cattle to this year’s IDW because of Glen Gordon’s recent accident.

Junior Holstein Champion and Interbreed Junior Champion was Gorbro Hano O Princess, exhibited by Gorbro Holsteins at Cohuna.

Premier Breeder was Avonlea Holsteins and Premier Exhibitor was Gorbro Holsteins.

This year’s Bette Hall Power of Women in Dairy winner was 87-year-old Jersey breeder Winsome Anderson from Nar Nar Goon.

Mrs Anderson is a valued active member of the Central Gippsland Jersey Breeders Club and South Gippsland Club for more than 60 years and a strong supporter of youth programs and events.

Her passion for dairy is so strong she has even established a museum at her home. Her King View Jersey Stud is well known across the country. (A profile story on Mrs Anderson will be published in the March edition of Dairy News Australia.)

The Lex Bunn Memorial Award was given to Lindsay Marshall after his outstanding contribution to the dairy industry over many years.

IDW organiser Stacey Leppart said this year’s event was an outstanding success.

“We are so pleased with the way everything has kicked off this year,” Ms Leppart said.

“We are back to pre-COVID levels and this year was really strong across all classes.”

The Cows Create Careers initiative was well supported, along with all the youth classes.

“We are building a great foundation for the future and IDW is only going to get bigger and better,” Ms Leppart said.

Supreme Champion Cow, InStyle Solomon Dahlia, led by Cameron Yarnald and owned by InStyle Holsteins from Cooriemungle, with Reserve Champion Cow, Jamber Colton Veronica, led by Brad Gavenlock and owned by Cherrylock, Tallygaroopna. Photo by Rechelle Zammit