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Wilara Jo - Breeding with passion

A passion for breeding cows and a love for the Australian Holstein has been the driving force behind the success of Gippsland dairy farmers, Trevor and Tracy Henry. Thirty-five years dedicated to their Wilara breeding program has seen them amass an enviable roll of Holstein production and performance awards, earning them the prestigious Master Breeder title in 2018.

Wilara Holsteins currently sits at no. 8 on the Australian Herd BPI rankings, with progeny consistently appearing among the top of the index charts. At the same time, Wilara-bred cows regularly feature among the winners at local shows and on Farm competitions.

Trevor runs the farm, based at Tinamba in the Macalister irrigation district, with his wife Tracy, nephew Damion and son Oakley, who recently returned to the operation to complete his farming traineeship. irrigation water from the Glenmaggie Weir is used on about 120 hectares of rye, clover and Lucerne to feed the split calving herd of between 450- 500 registered Holsteins. the year-round grazing is supplemented by hay and silage, with some concentrates fed in the dairy. An additional 200 hectares are leased for growing fodder crops and raising young stock.

“We used to run quite a high input operation but have reduced our supplements down to 6 kg to run a more economical system,” trevor says. “that’s the strength of the Australian Holstein. she is a unique cow that can produce high volumes of milk and solids off a grazing system, yet also respond to a high input system. she has the strength and capacity to look after herself, while also possessing the ability to efficiently convert feed into milk.” 

Trevor’s ideal cow produces large volumes of solids, is very functional, medium in stature, and displays enough strength to sustain good health and fertility.

“Components are very important – I can’t handle a cow that does not produce a lot of solids.” Trevor’s obsession for breeding sees him eagerly await the latest catalogues and breeder magazines. studying them intensely, trevor selects bulls from the top of the lists, looking at their individual traits and matching them to his herd.

“Oman (o-bee Manfred Justice) was a bull that worked well here. We used him a lot even before he was popular. He was at the top of the rankings and an extreme calving ease sire, so we used him over maiden heifers for 4 years running. We ended up milking over 60 daughters – they were fantastic animals.” trevor said.

For trevor, breeding is about complementing a cow’s strengths and weaknesses with each mating.

“I’m lucky in that I have an inherent dataset of what a cow family has done in the past. A particular combination may seem obvious, but I could choose something different because I know what the grandmother was like.”

Wilara has several maternal lines making their impact on the charts, including their Kalypso, trace and Persia families. However, it’s the Wilara Jo family that continues to stamp itself as one of Australia’s leading cow families. 

Launched into focus

The Jo family traces back to the grade cow ‘Della’, bought in the 1960s. of her six daughters, it was the Engsta royal Beau daughter, Wilara e.B. Majella App4 who formed the foundation. “Majella was a magnificent uddered cow,” trevor remembers.

In 1991, Majella’s daughter Wilara tapa Joella App3 vG85 stP was among Trevor’s first cows to be classified, awarded the maximum score for a dry cow at the time of vG85 and superior total Performance by Holstein classifier Graeme Hopf.

“Joella was only a small-framed cow but she had a great udder. At the time she was rising 15 years old, pregnant and dry, and in the turn-out block, but Graeme was happy to go down the road to see her.” in the early ’90s, among the chart toppers in the first release of Australia’s newest breeding index, the ASI (Australia selection index) was a descendent of Joella, the Pickard-Acres Vic Kai daughter, Wilara Kai Jo vG86 (g) stP 5* life1 BPi+19 Asi +114. 

Descendants of Kai Jo grabbed the spotlight in 2018 when dean Malcolm, Bluechip Genetics, selected Wilara silver Jessica GP81 as his winning 2-year-old for east Gippsland OFC. dean also selected a pair of maternal sisters, Wilara Atley Jo vG85 and Wilara Medal Jo vG87 as his winning 3-year-old and 5-year-old. the daughters of Wilara Palermo Jo GP84 also featured at the 2018 east Gippsland Feature show at sale, placing second in their classes, before winning the breeder’s pen of three with herd mate Wilara Buddha trace vG89.

“The Atley is a great uddered young cow with loads of texture,” trevor said. “Her Medallion sister also has a great udder, with terrific bone and rib – she’s a cow that is ‘dripping wet’ to look at.”

Another descendant of Kai Jo, Wilara Uno Jordette vG86 1xF BPI +378 was second in her 4-year-old class in the OFC in 2017, and is currently the highest BPI cow in the Wilara herd. Kai Jo is also the granddam of the highest classified Jo, Wilara Ho ladino Jemma eX-90-1e 1xM 1xF 1xP life 2 BPi +170. sporting an eX-91 mammary system, this massive production cow exceeded 11,000 litres and 745 kg solids on a first lactation, peaking at 13,274 litres and 930 kg milk solids as 6-year-old, with a lifetime total of 96,000 litres.

Kai Jo herself completed a lifetime record of 75,525 litres, 3.6% 2,716 kg protein, 4.5% 3,402 kg fat. it was her impressive production performance, combined with solid type scores, extreme components, chart topping indexes and somewhat alternative pedigree that caught the attention of Genetics Australia’s Breeding and Production Manager Peter Thurn.

“Vic Kai was a bull that came into focus after the release of the Asi” Peter said. “He transmitted really good longevity, and farmers milking Vic Kai daughters were really happy with them.”

“Kai Jo was a typical Vic Kai daughter. she was a solid performer in a real no-nonsense herd. she had great components, and a cow that had matured into an honest VG cow. that’s been typical of Jo cow family. rock solid herd cows that are very honest and robust.”

On Peter’s first visit to Wilara, Kai Jo already had a yearling daughter by Shoremar Perfect star (showtime), Wilara Sho JoJo vG87 5*. excited by her striking style and texture, Peter immediately asked trevor two questions… do you flush, and can we flush this heifer?

Sho JoJo was flushed to the top sires of the time, including the French protein specialist Gibbon, resulting in the daughters Wilara Gibbon Jiselle-et vG85 and Wilara Gibbon Janelle-et vG87, and the PT sire Wilara Jumbo (JuMBoJet). Sho JoJo also had sons Wilara Jacques (transfer) and Wilara divine JC (evangelist) sent through progeny testing, however it was her son Wilara donor Jonar (loMu) BPi+20, by elite Mountain donor (donor), who provided the breakthrough, debuting at no.#30 on the August 2005 Australian Profit ranking (APR).

Wilara Carey Jo (g) vG87 2xM 1xF 2xP BPi+62, a Marion dale Carey (Carey) daughter of Sho JoJo, produced four consecutive lactations over 10,000 litres, peaking at 12,302 litres, 3.1% 386 kg protein, 3.0% 373 kg fat, Pi 110 in 305 days.

“Carey Jo was a beautiful cow,” trevor said. “she was silky smooth textured and milked and milked and milked!” 

Carey Jo is the fourth dam behind Wilara Oman Jo (g) vG87 1* 1xeP BPi+302 Asi+302, the matriarch behind the strongest branch of the Jo family today. 

Oman Jo

Despite the fast-paced world of index breeding, Oman Jo, born in 2009, still sits at no. 95 on the BPi charts, and a staggering no. 8 on the Asi chart! “Oman Jo is a really sound, beautiful cow,” trevor says. “she’s a big production cow with huge components, which is a trait she has consistently passed down.”

Oman Jo recently had an eye removed due to cancer, however still completed a top lactation of 12,071litres, 3.6% 438kg protein 4.6% 552 kg fat in 305 days with a PI 131.

A flush to sea-Gull Bay silver provided the high genomic daughters Wilara Argent Jo-et (g) vG85 BPi+292 and Wilara sBs Jo- et (g) GP81 BPi+292. Another flush to the high milk flow USA sire Uecker Supersire Josuper produced the genomic sire Wilara Josuper Jo-et (g) (Giles).

“Giles daughters are a carbon copy of Oman Jo. You can really see her influence in her son’s daughters.”

With a BPi(g)+311 and Asi(g) +238, Giles is predicted to be a big production improver, sitting at no.#5 of the top available sires ranked on Asi. the no.#1 available bull on Asi is a grandson of Oman Jo, Wilara rookie Jo-et (Wookie) BPi(g) +347 Asi(g) +276.

Sired by de-su rookie from a Country road Canbee (Canbee) daughter of Oman Jo, Wookie has been a popular young sire for Genetics Australia, with trevor having enough confidence in his bull to use him as a flush sire. 

“Wookie’s genomics have come out exactly as we’d hoped for,” trevor says. “He displays a perfect combination of both his dam and his sire. We recently flushed a Jedi (s-s-I Montross Jedi) daughter of Uno Jordette to Wookie, which will be a double cross of the Jo family.”

A maternal sister to Wookie currently sits at no. 4 on Australia’s female genomic BPI list. Born in September 2018, Wilara Perseus Jo (g) BPi +376 displays high genomic figures for daughter fertility +112, feed conversion +108 and an Asi +251, with extraordinary figures for fat and protein %.

“The Canbee dam of Wookie and Perseus Jo is a beautifully framed cow,” Trevor says. “she has super high components and has fantastic texture which is a real Jo family trait. Great textured cows that give a lot of milk and are cows that last.”

Canbee Jo is set for a flush in March to the current no.#1 Twi sire le-o-la Mogul Gambler Twi(g) +400. trevor is also planning a flush for Perseus Jo when she’s old enough.

Oman Jo is currently in-calf to Wilara Hero Kade (Kade) BPi(g)+356, an Endco Superhero son from Trevor’s Kalypso family, sitting at no.#16 on the BPi(g) list, and may be flushed again when fresh if the budget allows.

Giving back

Over recent years, trevor has been able to combine his passion for the Australian Holstein, and what he describes as ‘an inherited need to put back in’, by joining the board of Genetics Australia, sitting as Chairman for the last three years. 

It is a role trevor has enjoyed as he hopes to lift the profile of the Australian Holstein both locally and overseas.

“I am incredibly proud of the history of Genetics Australia, and the Australian Holstein. Australian breeders should be really proud of the unique animal they have developed. they have combined the very best genetics from around the world to produce an animal that is both unique and world class.”