British pedigrees make a fight of it

Bilsrow Jock daughters, such as Swiftherd Jock Marsha, are milky and well balanced with good structure and locomotion.

* There are no short-cuts to success when it comes to pedigree livestock, but as David Tomlinson says: “It’s nice when you get a bit of good luck along the way.”

And almost 20 years ago luck certainly did take a hand in more ways than one when Mr Tomlinson received a last-minute phone call offering him a place on a breeders’ trip to France. It was to prove a fortuitous visit and opened up a new pool of genetics for his family’s Bilsrow herd.

If it had not been for that trip to France one of the Holstein breed’s top UK PLI bulls, Bilsrow Jock, would never have existed.

The phone call that took Mr Tomlinson to France led him to a herd of cows in Brittany, and he remembers he was more than impressed with what he saw.

“It was a herd of really tremendous cows and all like peas in a pod. Big, strong, black cows there must have been 40 all from one family, the Rolls family, which originated in the USA,” he recalls.

At that time the Tomlinsons always bought a new stock bull each year, but on this occasion they decided to spend their cash in France instead and buy a member of the Rolls family.

“The cow we wanted wasn’t for sale – it was a young cow called Rolls Darlene – so we chose the second calver Rolls Ocean, who was fourth generation Excellent and traced back to a Triple Threat cow from a good USA family. But she wasn’t cheap.”

She established a good family at Bilsrow and their success led to further trips to France and to more purchases. But it was at a sale in France that Mr Tomlinson spotted a maiden heifer – Rolls Illoa – who was to prove a shrewd investment. And what made her even more attractive was that she was a daughter of Rolls Darlene, the original cow he had been so impressed with on his first visit.

Iloa, by the successful French bull Berlioz, was bought in June 1994 and came home to Bilsrow. “She was a nice looking young heifer, but it was her breeding I really wanted,” says Mr Tomlinson.

Named in the UK as Bilsrow Rolls Illoa, it was one of her high index daughters from a flush to Gibbon – Bilsrow Gib Illoa – who was eventually mated to Jocko Besne, a son of Besne Buck, and produced Bilsrow Jock.

“Besne Buck was popular in France, but not widely used in the UK. His daughters continued to improve as they matured and were big, powerful cows. We couldn’t get Besne Buck semen, so settled for his son Jocko Besne and it paid off.”

Quickly snapped up by Cogent as a calf, six-year-old Bilsrow Jock has not disappointed on his paper potential. “We knew these were good genetics and what really pleases us is the way he has fulfilled all his trait predictions.”

Jock’s dam – also noted for her legs and feet – is still milking in the herd having given more than 80t of milk. Her sisters out of the



Milk(kg) Fat(kg) Protein(kg)
£198 534  35.1
(+0.18%) (+0.09%)
original Rolls Illoa cow include four Excellents and one VG. Gib Illoa has four milking daughters that have gone VG at two years old.

“Any successful breeding programme must be about achieving a balance, but we keep a big emphasis on type, particularly dairystrength and chest width. Legs, feet and udders remain important and cows have to wear well,” adds Mr Tomlinson.

He wants cows to last six and seven lactations as the norm and although Bilsrow Jock has emerged on to the dairy scene at a time when black-and-white genetics are paying more attention to longevity, it is a trait that has always been selected for in the Tomlinson’s herd.

“The Holstein does come in for criticism for not lasting a long time, but any cow of any breed that gives a lot of milk will never last as long as those that don’t.”