Armagh breeder elected chairman at Holstein AGM

Scottish breeder Coin Laird from the noted Blythbridge Herd was guest speaker at Holstein NI’s 17th annual general meeting, held at Moira.

Mr Laird farms in partnership with his parents Alister and Kathleen, and sister Ann. He gave a very interesting and informative presentation on the day-to-day management of the 550-cow Blythbridge Herd which is based at the 900 acre Blyth Farm near West Linton in Peebleshire. The youngstock is reared at Ardgariney Farm in Fife.

A former Holstein Young Breeder, Colin Laird left school to join the family business when he was sixteen-years-old.

He said: “The HYB was a huge part of my life, and some of the highlights include winning Holstein UK’s presidents medal in 2009; and the champion showmanship and champion calf awards at the All Britain Calf Show in 2010.”

Colin is very enthusiastic about the Holstein breed and showing cows. After leaving school he worked for four months in North America.

He said: “It was a great experience, and gave me an opportunity to work with the great show cows Lavender Ruby Red Ros EX96 and Budjon JK Linjet Eileen EX96, as well as get an insight into working in a 1,500 cow herd.”

Guest speaker Colin Laird, right, was welcomed to Holstein NI's 17th AGM by newly elected chairman John Berry; and Gary Watson, Dairy Herd Management, sponsor.

Guest speaker Colin Laird, right, was welcomed to Holstein NI's 17th AGM by newly elected chairman John Berry; and Gary Watson, Dairy Herd Management, sponsor.

The Laird family won the Holstein and grand champion awards at the recent UK Dairy Expo show in Carlisle with the Swiss-bred Illens Atwood Australia EX93. She was imported from Switzerland in May 2015, and is destined to compete at the European Holstein Championships in France in June.

Blyth Bridge farm has been developed and expanded over the years, with a 36-point rotary parlour installed in 2002. The herd averages 35 litres per cow per day, and is housed all year round in cubicles with sawdust bedded foam mattresses. Slurry storage is all sited underground.

Recent investments include a cluster flush system added five years ago, the installation of automatic curtains on the sides of the cattle sheds, and an automatic calf feeder.

The farm is self-sufficient, growing 350 acres of wheat and 150 acres of spring barley, which is utilised as cattle feed.

Colin’s presentation included photographs of bull dams and prize winning females, as well as a picture of former stock bull Pittendreich Baron EX91, who boasted more than 13,600 registered progeny and semen sales in excess of £1m.

Home-bred stock bulls are used at Blythbridge, and AI sires currently featured in the breeding programme include Seaver, Lauthority, Dude, Doorman, Cinderdoor, Albania, Solomon, Direct, Atwood and Beamer.

“We breed for type in the belief that everything else will fall into place,” explained Colin. “Sires must have conformation scores over and above 15.”

The key to profitability at Blyth Farm depends on the weather, coupled with happy and contented cows, simplicity, self sufficiency and attention to detail. In the past the Blythbridge Herd boosted its annual income with the sale of stock bulls and 150 heifers. The heifer market has slowed in the current economic climate with a big variation in Scottish milk prices from 10p to 30p per litre.

The election of office bearers was conducted by Gary Watson from Dairy Herd Management, long-term sponsor of the AGM.

Outgoing chairman Stuart Smith gave a resume of Holstein NI’s activities throughout 2015. He thanked the committee for its support over the past twelve months, and concluded by saying he enjoyed the role and was privileged to have been chairman of Holstein NI.

Semex UK area manager John Berry from the Skybrook Herd in Armagh was elected as chairman, while Tommy Henry from the Mostragee Herd in Stranocum was elected as the club’s new vice chairman. John Martin was unanimously returned as the club’s secretary/treasurer for another term.

Andrew Kennedy retains the position as Holstein Young Breeders’ Club co-ordinator, and has been joined by assistant HYB co-ordinator Leiza Montgomery.

Newly elected committee members include: Ivor Broomfield, Moneyquin Herd, Armagh; Iain McLean, Priestland Herd, Bushmills; Martin Millar, Millars Herd, Coleraine, Simon Haffey, Glasson Herd, Portadown; and Richard Shanks, Bloomhill Herd, Tandragee.

Breed champion exhibitors at provincial shows in 2015 included: Balmoral, Conor McAufield, Lissue Herd, Lisburn; Ballymena, Ballymoney, Omagh, Clogher, Enniskillen, Londonderry/Limavady, Iain and Joyce McLean and Family, Priestland Herd, Bushmills; Lurgan, Armagh and Antrim, Philip and Simon Haffey, Glasson Herd, Portadown; Saintfield, Steven Robinson, Cluntagh Herd, Crossgar; Newry, Inch Genetics, Downpatrick; Castlewellan, David Simpson, Damm Herd, Lisburn.

Ian Watson from Coleraine, who has served an eight year term as Holstein UK board member for Northern Ireland, was the recipient of the Club Award which recognises outstanding contribution and commitment.