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Recipe for success in Kitchen’s herd

Ray Kitchen’s Carenda Holstein herd has a record seven bulls in Genetics Australia’s 2021 team, and he’s not done yet.

“This is the highest number we’ve had and we want to keep contributing,” Ray said. “Only the top male genetics get into the breeding centres. They’re selecting the best from around the world so it’s pleasing to be in there.”

The latest ABV’s shows Ray’s herd at Boyanup in Western Australia ranks #3 for BPI and #3 for Health Weighted index [HWI].

Carenda’s seven bulls in the 2021 team are led by the highest BPIg ranked Holstein in SONDALO (Jeronimo x Main Event), who descends from a long line of highly classified cows with three of the last four generations scoring excellent.

At 531 BPIg, SONDALO ranks as the highest Australian-breed bull, and sixth overall. His 567 HWI, 106 Mammary, 109 Mastitis Resistance, 114 Daughter Fertility, - 5 Gestation Length and 103 Calving Ease ABVs makes him the all-round package.

“To be highly ranked on the BPI, they’ve got to be good in all areas; whether it be production, confirmation or health traits,” Ray said.

Carenda is no stranger to the upper echelons of the rankings. “I’ve been in and around the top half dozen for a while,” Ray said. “We have more than 400 milking cows on the farm so it’s pleasing for a relatively large herd to be so high in the rankings.

“We’re gradually making improvements to a whole range of traits, by using better bulls all the time and quality genetics are being introduced.”

SONDALO’s full brother TIRANO-P was the 6th ranked Australian bull in the April ABVs, making him one of the highest-ranking polled bulls in the breed. He also has pleasing conformation indexes with 106 overall and 110 mammary, the high numbers reflecting the cow family both bulls are from.

Although COVID lockdowns have stopped on-farm competitions over the past year, SONDALO and TIRANO’s mother CARENDA MAIN EVENT VANDA recently won her breed age group in an Australia- wide video-based competition.

AMALFI is a bull breed from a different MAIN EVENT cow at Carenda; he remains popular for adding dairy strength to his daughters.

Another interesting bull is PEMBERTON (BPI457). “He was quite popular the last few years,” Ray said. “We used him ourselves and had a bull calf, VARLEY, with BPI 482, that’s about to go to Genetics Australia. We have high hopes for him.”

“It’s quite pleasing to get a bull into the breeding centre that has been sired by one of our own bulls,” Ray said.

At 472BPI, FRANKLAND is the stud’s other high ranked team member. He’s from a different cow family; the FAITH family were introduced from the USA about 30 years ago through embryos.

That family is second only to the ’V’ cows that have been breeding on the farm since the early 1960s.

While the stud’s other bulls in the GA team are genomic testing proven, SOUTHPOLE is a daughter-proven bull.

“SOUTHPOLE goes back to CONANT-ACRES SWEET family we’ve had here for more than 25 years after we bought embryos out of the US in the early 1990s out of an 88-point BLACKSTAR and her Excellent dam was the full sister to the popular bull BROKER,” Ray said.

He’s the first proven polled sire based in Australia. “There hasn’t been a lot of polled genetics in the breeding system but we’re getting more all the time. He’s the first Australian bull to return to service as a proven bull that is polled.”

“We are breeding for good confirmation cattle but they’re also productive and making improvements to health traits. They’re doing really well in that department,” Ray said.

The Kitchen family has been dairy farming in the area since the 1950s, although family connections to the region go back another century.