Manna Farm genetics shine

Manna Farm genetics shine


Dairy
Ian Willcocks, Manna Farm, Yankalilla, with some next – generation Holstein bulls.

Ian Willcocks, Manna Farm, Yankalilla, with some next – generation Holstein bulls.

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ONE year after being awarded cow of the year, Manna Farm has followed up with an award recognising the overall genetics of its herd.

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ONE year after being awarded cow of the year, Manna Farm has followed up with an award recognising the overall genetics of its herd.

Ian Willcocks, who runs the Yankalilla-based herd with partner Nicki, received the SA Genetic Improvement Award, based on the state's highest ranking herd in the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme index for balanced performance in the Holstein breed.

The BPI is an index based on production, type and health traits for maximum profitability.

Mr Willcocks said the award was an acknowledgment of the work he and brother Peter had put into the stud.

"We've worked pretty hard at it for a few years," he said.

The registered herd was initially set up in 1983 and was run in partnership between the two brothers, until Peter's recent retirement.

Mr Willcocks milks 150 Holstein cows in a split autumn-spring calving on 260 hectares, which includes 150ha of leased land.

For Manna Farm the focus is on breeding cows for the commercial sector.

"We've had a heavy focus lately on daughter fertility," Mr Willcocks said.

"Also on maintaining a good balance of production and general herd health.

"Temperament is something we're pretty strong on."

Mr Willcocks said a substantial percentage of their income was derived from livestock and bull sales, supplementing the milk price.

Breeding is also a passion for him.

Manna Farm makes use of genomics data and is using it as a marketing tool.

It takes hair from heifers at about four-weeks-old for testing.

"It's been a gradual process in getting confidence in using it," Mr Willcocks said.

"There is a lot of information to look at and try to take in but I'm now getting confident to do it, confident in the information and being able to trust my own judgment.

"Anything with genetics takes a few years to see the results and a lot of these daughters haven't calved yet but I'm quite happy with how they are testing."

In terms of bull selection Mr Willcocks said he tended to use 50 per cent Australian bulls, with the other half selected from the highest rated bulls available internationally, usually the United States and Europe.

"We focus on the ones that stack up best for Australian conditions," he said.

Mr Willcocks said elite heifers were generally flushed twice a year to make the most of genetics.

One elite cow that had an impact on the herd, and the breed itself, was the 2014 Australian cow of the year, Manna Farm Apollo Dee.

The title recognises all-round excellence in production, classification and breeding as well as an overall contribution to the national Holstein breed.

Judge Johan Fourie, WA, described Apollo Dee as a cow everyone would want and a great model for the Australian breed.

"Apollo Dee is the whole package," he said.

Mr Willcocks said the 16-year-old cow had just been retired, but had made her impact.

"That cow family is probably two-thirds of the herd, at least," he said.

"One of her sons, Manna Farm Dealer, probably sired close to 100,000 doses."

Another prominent sire for the family is Manna Farm Del Santo.

Manna Farm sells bulls through semen companies and private sale.

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