Thursday, 08 February 2024 08:55

Expat judges blown away

Written by  Dianna Malcolm
This year’s judges brought a gratifying international energy to the show. They included (L-R): Nico Bons (Holland), Kate Cummings (Southland), Jamie Taylor (Taranaki), Brian Behnke (USA), Simon Tognola (Australia). Photo Credit: Evie Tomlinson This year’s judges brought a gratifying international energy to the show. They included (L-R): Nico Bons (Holland), Kate Cummings (Southland), Jamie Taylor (Taranaki), Brian Behnke (USA), Simon Tognola (Australia). Photo Credit: Evie Tomlinson

Two of the international judges candidly admitted they were surprised when they judged in New Zealand for the first time this week.

Brian Behnke from Wisconsin, US has judged at the biggest show in the world – World Dairy Expo – three times, and his expansive judging resume spans many years across multiple countries.

Nico Bons, from the Netherlands, said he had followed Australian cattle for years through International Dairy Week (IDW), so he had a good idea about what to expect when he judged the Red & White Holsteins at IDW two weeks ago.

However, they both said they did not know as much about New Zealand cattle, and they were flying blind when they arrived in Feilding to judge the New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE). Brian judged the Ayrshires and Nico adjudicated over the Holsteins.

“I expected the kind of cows that are generally promoted out of New Zealand – the smaller New Zealand-type cows,” Brian said. “But that’s not what I found.

“I’ll admit I was blown away. New Zealand has awesome cows with quality and strength, a great spring of rib, with great udders and feet and legs.

“It wasn’t a huge show, but the quality was there. You guys should tell more people that these kinds of cows are here, because they can compete on the world stage.”

Brian did have a piece of advice for the exhibitors. “One thing they could do better is to break their animals to lead. There were some nice cows that I struggled to get a good look at,” he said.

Nico was on the same page when it came to his choices.

“I was impressed with the heifer show because there was quality all the way through – it wasn’t only the top two or three,” Nico said. “The first five or six in every class made quite a competition for all of them.

“What I liked was that they were ready. They had the right body condition, and they had the body depth. I’m looking a little bit for heifers who have enough chest width. I think the heifer show is made to find out which one is going to be the best cow in the future to milk.

“My champion was quite special. It was not the toughest decision to make her champion because she had more capacity and more spring of rib. She showed a naturally straight top line. That’s what I like to see on these heifers.”

Both judges were joined by associate judges from New Zealand.

The associate Ayrshire judge, Neko McDonald, from Kaitaia, in Northland said the experience working alongside Brian was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“Brian’s awesome, and the cows were wicked,” Neko said. “I learned a heap from him, and it was just an incredible experience being out here, getting to know him and getting to know the kind of cows he likes.”

Holstein Dominate Awards

This year the Holsteins dominated the Supreme Champions awards.

The Supremes are chosen from the breed Champions in the junior, intermediate, and senior sections. They were pointed by the entire judging panel, which included Brian (Ayrshire judge), Nico (Holstein) Jamie Taylor (Taranaki, Combined Breeds), Simon Tognola (Australia, Jerseys), and Kate Cummings (Southland, Youth Show).

Tahora Mogul Paris FBTW

Supreme Champion of the 2024, show, Tahora Mogul Paris, surrounded by the Fullerton family and team (right) and judges (left). Photo Credit: Evie Tomlinson.

The Supreme Champion and Supreme Intermediate Champion both came out of the Fullerton and Dreadon team.

It was a satisfying finish for the Hamilton family who had a week that initially challenged their decision to show.

Their cattle fitter slept through and missed multiple flights – almost turning Alex Fullerton into a travel agent. Their four-year-old Grand Champion Holstein and Supreme Champion of the show, Tahora Mogul Paris, didn’t handle the 360km journey to the show well, and took some time to settle. Reflecting after judging, Alex said the overriding feeling was relief.

They bought Paris for $28,000 in a solid buy from Tahora Holsteins’ Party at the Pub sale in Canterbury in 2022. In her most recent herd test, Paris produced 2.8kg milksolids (MS) a day. She had finished her first season at her new Ngāhinapōuri home with more than 10,000 litres and 700kg MS.

The Fullerton family also snaffled Intermediate Supreme Champion with their three-year-old, Waipiri CR Freaky Girl-ET, sired by Oh-River-Syc Crushabull-ET. Alex said she was their surprise package in terms of the team’s results, and they were thrilled with her performance.

Alex added that one of the special moments for the family was when the Holstein judge Nico Bons remembered seeing their seven-year-old entry, Waipiri Mogul Kristy in a photo three years earlier.

The 2023 Senior Holstein Champion had an eye removed a month ago because of eye cancer, and she bounced back to win Reserve Champion Holstein this year, in another broad ribbon effort for the cow who has been a constant in the Fullerton show team over several years.

Kristy was Best Udder of the 2021 NZDE, and in 2023 she won Supreme Champion at Stratford and Senior Holstein Champion and Senior All Breeds Champion at the 2023 Waikato Show. She was also the 2021 Semex On-Farm four-year-old Champion.

“Having those top herdsmen see your animals and recognise them is the whole incentive to bring them out,” Alex said. “Not only did Nico judge her this year, but he had also seen her before and remembered her.

“I think it’s important for New Zealand breeders that people around the world do see our animals.”

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