A few of my favourite things – Jon Holland joins GA as Territory Manager

Jan 11, 2024

Genetics Australia’s new Northern Victoria Regional Sales Manager Jon Holland admits he’s a bit of a nerd when it comes to breeding elite cows.

Which makes his new job an ideal fit!

“It combines my favourite things – I’m a history nerd, a data nerd and a cow nerd and now I get to play with everyone else’s cows,” he says.

Jon has the runs on the board when it comes to breeding. He operated his own dairy business for more than a decade, was named a Holstein Australia Master Breeder and has worked as a breeding consultant with two different companies.

His passion for the industry is always on display and when Jon joins the GA team on February 5 it will be a great opportunity to be part of the whole spectrum of breeding.

“Genetics Australia is the industry leader when it comes to supplying genetics for Australian conditions, and I am really excited to get involved in the full chain – working with farmers, retailers and the direct connection with the bulls,” he said.

“I grew up in the era of bulls like Lale and Kane, and witnessed the impact GA legends like Shotime and Medallion had on our dairy population. Now I get to work with the next generation, with bulls like Ventura and Varley hopefully continuing that legacy.”

Jon, who lives at Newbridge on the Loddon River west of Bendigo, grew up on a family dairy farm and completed an agricultural science degree at Glenormiston College in south-west Victoria.

He worked with Consolidated Herd Improvement Services (CHIS) as a breeding consultant from 2002-08 and then ran and expanded the Holland family’s Holloddon Holsteins farming business from 2008-2021. During that time Jon was named a Holstein Australia Master Breeder, one of his career highlights.

“To me, the Master Breeder award is the epitome of breeding, the ultimate recognition,” he said. “It took many years to achieve, and is something that I have a lot of pride in.”

Although dairying wasn’t big in the Newbridge region, Jon found himself right at home in the industry. “Dairying is so inviting to people,” he said. “I wasn’t in a dairy farming area but always felt accepted. I went on a youth exchange to New Zealand and got to travel around Australia competing and judging at shows. There are so many opportunities offered by dairy and not many industries offer that much.”

After finishing his farm lease and dispersing the herd in late 2020, Jon has worked for National Herd Development as a breeding consultant, field officer and herd evaluator based at Cohuna.

“Dairy genetics have always been my thing,” he said. “I get a lot of enjoyment from breeding and developing herds. I loved all aspects of dairy farming but breeding was what I really loved to do.”

Overall, Jon says farming is a very rewarding occupation and career pathway. “There’s a lot of pride and job satisfaction in creating a full vat of milk, a good crop that is being grazed or when that great cow or fancy heifer calves for the first time.”

And Jon says genetics are at the core of the industry’s success. “I love to see how a herd can develop through the generations by building on the quality of genetics,” he said. “There’s great satisfaction and fulfillment when you can achieve that with genetics, combining different bloodlines and helping farmers to build their assets.”

Jon has no doubt about the quality of cows and herds he will be working with. “I like to see a lot of different breeding programs and bloodlines and I think the Australian dairy cow is unique and rightly starting to get more recognition.

“She’s such a versatile cow that can go from pasture-based to TMR systems to barns. It’s a rare creature that can transition from one to the other. We have a unique combination of bloodlines. We haven’t stayed in-house; we picked the best from North America, from Europe, and from our own home-grown bloodlines and blended them together to create something unique and special.”

While most of his farming career has been connected to Holsteins, including writing feature articles for the Holstein Journal on Australian cows and cow families (“I like to take any opportunity to showcase Australian dairy farmer and genetics achievements”), Jon will be working across all breeds with Genetics Australia.

“It doesn’t matter which breed it is,” he said. “I’ve worked mainly with Holsteins in the past but the Australian Jersey is really starting to find its feet and being recognised on the global scene. It’s quite exciting to see what they are achieving and it’s the same with the Australian Red Breeds being recognised globally for what they are achieving.

“Australian Holsteins have been recognised for being a great a pasture-based animal but I think they are more than that – more versatile and that makes them a standout.

“Being able to dabble with all the breeds will be a great opportunity. Australian dairy farmers have some of the best bloodlines in the world, and we should take great pride in that.”

Jon says his love of data will be an integral part of his work. “We can all make anecdotal observations but you need to have data to back up those statements. This is more than just a sales role; it’s a breeding consultant and part of that comes from data. The more information you can build, the better decisions you can make.

“We have access to herd test data, calving records and workability records and then build on that with genomics. You’ve got to have information to support decisions.”

Jon says the future looks good for Australian cows and agriculture.

“There’s always something new and it’s interesting to watch the shifts and trends and fashions in the way we breed cows. There are different challenges but we’re so lucky Australian cows have so much versatility and diversity. By using genomics to identify superior animals we can get the best traits into the broader population.

“This is a great opportunity for me to visit a lot of different farms and see a lot of different farming practices and environments and find what works for them.”

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