Friday, 19 April 2024 07:55

Two hemispheres tied together through cows

Written by  Dianna Malcolm
Warren and Michelle Ferguson milk 220 cows at Ferdon Genetics on 92ha at Otorohanga. Warren and Michelle Ferguson milk 220 cows at Ferdon Genetics on 92ha at Otorohanga.

One of New Zealand’s deepest breeder Jersey herds – known for its enduring connection through cattle with the UK’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II – will host its 75th anniversary celebration sale on-farm on April 22.

Warren and Michelle Ferguson milk 220 cows at Ferdon Genetics on 92ha at Otorohanga, in the heart of the Waikato. This is the home of the reigning Senior and Grand Champion Jersey – in addition to the Intermediate Champion Jersey (who sells as Lot 5) – from January’s New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE) in January 2024.

Ferdon has focused on deep maternal lines throughout its tenure and has been unafraid to test those genetics in the show ring and in on-farm competitions. It won nine successive Premier Jersey Exhibitor banners at the NZDE and is consistently pushing its peers with cows producing up to 700 kgMS.

Ferdon first drew the eye of Queen Elizabeth II in 1975 when Warren’s father, Don, told the Queen’s herdsman at the (now defunct) English Royal Show at Stoneleigh Park near Kenilworth, that he wasn’t that impressed with Her Majesty's show team. Not long after, Ferdon was selling bulls and heifers to the Queen.

Don first met Her Majesty in 1977 in New Zealand. In 1990 she asked to visit Ferdon Farms while she was in New Zealand for the Commonwealth Games. Don also worked as the Queen’s herdsman briefly for four months.

During his career, he visited the Queen’s herd 11 times, and spoke to her once a month.

Warren and Michelle say they felt it was time to draw together an offering to mark the family’s 75th anniversary on-farm on April 22. It will include 75 elite lots, comprised of 55 Jerseys, 16 Holsteins, and four Ayrshires. The Ferdon herd will also be on display.

“What better way to celebrate in our industry than by bringing together the very things that make it all worthwhile – the cows and the people,” Warren says.

“Cows have been our life; they have taken us around the world, we’ve met so many wonderful people and made lifelong friends through our intense love of registered animals.”

Ferdon may have been among the pioneers to manage animals for a partner who lives in another part of the world. Warren says if international buyers are interested in buying at this sale, they should make contact because they would be open to continuing to manage animals on-farm for a partnership.

Warren acknowledges that herds which include show cows are often misunderstood by their commercial peers. He believes it’s an industry divide which doesn’t need to exist.

“People often think all we’re doing is trying to breed a show cow,” Warren said.

NZ Dairy Event 2024 Ferdon FBTW

Ferdon’s double whammy at the New Zealand Dairy Event in January 2024 included winning the Jersey Senior Champion and Grand Champion Jersey (right) with Ferdon Tbone Veneer.

“That’s not true. As I say to anyone who asks, we’re trying to breed a functional cow the best we can get her, and if we get to show her that’s the icing on the cake. But, to be honest, a show cow and a profitable herd cow should be one and the same.

“It’s four kilometres from our front gate to the river flats at the back of our farm. So, our cows must do a fair bit of walking and they have to be functionally correct to do that. If they have good legs, and if their udders are correct and well-attached, they will last.”

Ferdon’s catalogue will also include some Holstein and Ayrshire offerings from Ferdon, in addition to some offerings from good friends Waipiri Holsteins – who own the reigning Supreme Senior and Intermediate Champion from January’s NZDE – Okawa Holsteins, Jerome and Holly Ferguson, and Andrew Ferguson.

“Even though we’re Jersey people, we have always appreciated a good cow in any breed and we do also milk a few select Holsteins and Ayrshires. For us, when you buy into a good cow family those maternal traits come through generation after generation,” Warren says.

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