Wednesday, 01 March 2023 08:25

Strong women step into the light

Written by  Dianna Malcolm
The line-up for the 7 years and over Ayrshire class. Photo Credit Laurens Rutten. The line-up for the 7 years and over Ayrshire class. Photo Credit Laurens Rutten.

A dream came true for 25-year-old Joanna Fowlie when she won Supreme Champion of All Breeds at the New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE) in Feilding month.

It’s always hard for Intermediate Champions to first beat the Senior Champions of their breed to earn the chance for a crack at the All Breeds title, especially when the Senior Breed Champion – a former Supreme Champion of the show – is considered a breed legend herself.

However, Fowlie’s second- calved three-year-old Raetea Rubicom Debbie took that first step when she beat the 2021 NZDE Supreme Champion, Pukekaraka Elle Delila (exhibited by the Gilbert family, from Ashburton) in the Ayrshire ring.

Delila, aged eight, was in great form and she had had the longest trip from Canterbury. However, South African judge (and World Ayrshire Federation president) Edmund Els created Debbie’s chance when he chose her.

By capturing the Grand Champion Ayrshire title, Debbie moved forward to the All Breeds competition – another significant hurdle – given that she was up against the Holstein, Jersey and Combined Breeds Champions – who were all senior cows.

History now shows that the All Breeds judges, which included Els, Daniel Bacon (Jersey judge, Australia) Ben Govett (Combined judge, Australia), Mark Nutsford (Holstein Friesian judge, UK) and Gordon Fullerton (Youth Show judge, Waikato) would crown Debbie the Queen of the show.

It is the first time an Intermediate Ayrshire Champion has won Supreme Champion at the NZDE and only the second time an Intermediate of any breed has won Supreme – and it happened just one week after a similar feat was tabled in Australia at International Dairy Week.

Fowlie joined two other women who enjoyed a great show.

Letitia Horn was at the helm of Horn Genetics’ campaign, that included broad ribbons in three breeds. While it’s undoubtedly a team effort, the 24-year-old manager of her family’s 200-cow operation in Feilding, put in a lot of the grunt work in the lead-up to the show. Letitia and her father, Peter, made the decision to break in eight-year-old Kuku Tbone Leila after she calved in with her seventh calf last spring

Sired by Richies Jace Tbone, Letitia said Leila had been close to getting a NZDE start for a number of years, but she had always been trumped by her herdmates. This year, there was no denying her form and in her first show she gave her owners their first NZDE Grand Champion Jersey title.

Nicknamed “Nana” by Letitia’s brother, Letham, because she is so quiet and likes to follow everyone around licking them, Leila’s previous lactation was 6,870 litres and 628kg of milk solids.

“She’s an eight-yearold TBone cow that is bloody friendly and stubborn, so she was not the easiest to participate with,” Letitia said. “It was her way or the highway, so we had to use lots of meal to train her.

“Out in the ring she just looked like the proudest old cow, and I was so proud of how well she did, given she’d just been broken in a few months before. It was a very emotional moment to watch her win, because we saw something special in her.”

Letitia said it was also an important win at a personal level because her father has been classified as living with heart failure. As the fifth generation of her family to farm, bringing home the results is a responsibility she takes seriously.

Letitia said Leila took to the show programme like a duck to water.

“She’s one of those cows we didn’t even worry about when we bagged them. Going into the show there was never a time she didn’t eat, never a time she didn’t drink, and she was just so content. That’s what she’s like at home. She’s always eating, always going out there and doing what she needs to do to keep that milk on her.”

The family also ticked a box in the Holstein ring, winning Reserve Senior Holstein Champion with Okawa Mogul Lexa.

Brown Swiss Comes A Long Way

For Canterbury exhibitor, Rachel Stewart, the NZDE was the culmination of her determined campaign to bring her Brown Swiss, Rokella Dynamite Bella-ET, to the national playing field at Feilding.

Rachel Stewart 3 FBTW

Senior champion and best udder of the show - Rokella Dynamite Bella-ET and owner Rachel Stewart, Christchurch. Photo Credit: Laurens Rutten

It involved 14 hours of trucking one way – which included crossing the Cook Strait. The four-year-old impressed the Combined Breeds judge Ben Govett (Australia), validating Rachel’s faith in the young cow when she was sashed Senior Champion, Best Senior Udder and Grand Champion of the Combined Breeds. Rachel said when she competed at Christchurch Show enough people were impressed with Bella to give her the momentum to push on and expose her to more competition.

“She did what I hoped she was capable of,” Rachel said. “I wasn’t expecting to win, but I really wanted to see where she fitted nationally. It was definitely worth the trip, the expense, and the stress of it all.

“Without the help and support of family and close friends I couldn’t have done this.”

Rachel said she and her brother, Bernard, used to show Brown Swiss together and she loved their temperament.

She and the rest of the Canterbury cattle were just ahead of ferocious weather following the show, which included one of the Interislander ferries breaking down in three-metre swells with 40-knot winds.

There wasn’t an exhibitor who had landed their cows safely at Picton ahead of the storm who wouldn’t have breathed a deep sigh of relief.

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