Stepping up on to the world stage of dairy cow genetics might seem like chasing dreams for many producers, but whether it’s selling cattle or embryos to overseas or even to other breeders in the UK, the key is an effective approach to marketing.
Holstein UK believes there’s still a “large and untapped market” for genetics from British herds and is keen to encourage pedigree breeders to explore new selling opportunities.
There’s a lot of potential for herd owners to make more of their genetics, and while everyone is pressed for time these days, making a commitment to promotion and investigating new markets can generate worthwhile business, says Simon Gee of Holstein UK.
While more herds are setting-up websites, Holstein UK believes there are still many who aren’t using the internet to showcase their cattle.
“It’s a very effective way of promotion and doesn’t have to be expensive. But it’s important to keep websites up-to-date to ensure they maintain interest for regular visitors,” says Mr Gee.
Website production costs vary, but can cost about £500 to design a three to four-page site, including maintenance costs for a year, after which there is an annual charge of £100.
Sarah Liddle of The Farm Organisation based at Bedale, North Yorkshire, designs websites for many leading herds. “Websites can generate a lot of traffic, but it’s important to keep them current. Herd owners send us information to upload, but as well as providing details of stock and embryos for sale, the “news” section on a website must be kept up to date as it’s the first part of the site that’s read,” says Mr Liddle.
Using a website combined with conventional advertising in relevant magazines to maintain a herd’s profile are the two fundamental steps to promotion, but using an agent to help market genetics is the preferred choice of some breeders.
“Some herd owners wait to be approached by an agent or genetics company who may see something on a website or hear something on the grapevine, but my advice to anyone wanting to achieve a higher profile for their cattle – and who thinks they have something worthwhile to offer – should not be shy about making the first move.
We’re in a world of rapid communication so be proactive, don’t wait for the email or the phone to ring, says Mr Gee.
Advertising and social media
David Wright, 26, farms with his parents Francis and Anne at Berryholme Farm, Helsington, Kendal, Cumbria, and runs the Berryholm herd of 120 pedigree Holstein cows. He has enjoyed phenomenal success in recent years following the purchase of 3,200gns calf, Holmland Storm Flo at Tony Bell’s Holmland herd dispersal.
She has bred a remarkably consistent cow family for the Wrights – the latest big winner being Berryholm Golden Flo who won the champion heifer in-milk title at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show this year.
But David Wright has bucked the trend in the way he markets his genetics. A steady demand – including a young bull exported recently to Spain – has been achieved without a website, although the herd does have a Facebook page.
“We do some advertising and we’ve had some good articles in various magazines, but there’s nothing to beat the showring as a way of promotion. We’ve been very fortunate to buy into such a good family and in our experience the buyers seek you out.”
Case Study: Will and Jo Templeton from Mauchline, Ayrshire
Will and Jo Templeton from Mauchline, Ayrshire, have developed a world-wide market for Holstein, Ayrshire and Jersey genetics in the last three years.
However, having dispersed about 140 pedigree milkers they took a gamble and established a business based on a nucleus herd of just 10 top-pedigree dairy cattle – and then set about marketing their genetics.
With genetics from their Syke herd now in demand across the world, the couple continue to develop their approaches to marketing.
“We don’t have our own website, but we have a presence on the Eurogenes site,” said Jo Templeton. “We do a certain amount of advertising, but not a lot, and we’ve had some good articles in magazines such as Holstein International and Cowsmopolitan which has given us good profile in Europe and the USA and Canada.”
Managed on a Canadian barn system, the nucleus brood cows are also regularly visited by tours of farmers from the UK and Europe. “We aimed to create a system that was visitor friendly. Tour organisers know they can visit us and we’re always pleased to see people and discuss the cows,” she says.
But showing is a major part of promoting the business and the couple continue to notch up some impressive wins including the supreme dairy title at last year’s Agri-Scot.