Producing a top pedigree
herd takes just a few high
quality cows, some good
bulls and many years of
breeding, as Jeremy Hunt
THE success of the Stardale herd is as much about management as genetics. But its the herds success that saw the Burrow family become inaugural winners of Holstein UK and Irelands Premier Pedigree Breeder Award
Herds qualifying for the award must have 90% of cattle home-bred and an average PIN of over £30 (PTA95).
In the 45 years since Jim Burrow registered the prefix this Lancs herd has proved that developing good cow families pays dividends.
Luck also played its part in the establishment of one of Stardales most successful families, the Vaakjes – currently responsible for nearly half the herd at Tunsteads Farm.
There are 68 Vaakjes milking, all descended from a chance purchase by Mr Burrow in 1965 of Robfel Vaakje 4 and her daughter Robfel Legend Vaakje 7 from a Shrops dispersal.
Both went Excellent and founded a family of 370 registered Vaakjes, 54 of which achieved Excellent status.
"The type in the Vaakje family is so reliable, particularly on legs, feet and udders. It is rare that we get a poor one," says Jims son Robert, who runs the herd with his wife Kathleen and their eldest son James.
The top price achieved from this family was 9000gns paid for Vaakje 10 Ex at the herds reduction sale in 1980. The sale marked Jims retirement.
Cattle are run on 87ha (215 acres), plus 20ha (50 acres) of rented grazing, at Barton, near Preston. Milk yield averaged 9625kg at 4.16% and 3.19% last year; cow numbers are being increased to 160 head.
In total, the Stardale herd has achieved 141 Excellents – 123 home-bred – and currently includes 42 Excellent and 66 VG cows.
A turning point for Stardale was buying Calcourt Magnus for 780gns at a Reading bull sale in 1963. "We used him across the entire herd and he gave us the uniformity we needed and plenty of milk," says Robert.
Stardale Black Lad was the most influential sire after Magnus. This son of Wolston Black Lad was out of Stardale Regal Vaakje 4. He produced Stardale Black Vaakje 3, an outstanding cow, sixth generation Excellent, who has achieved Gold Star status and has bred 10 Excellent daughters and has seven daughters currently milking.
Dalesend Cascade was the first Holstein bull used at Stardale, but in recent times the most exciting sire has been Joylan Royal Flush. Bought privately as an eight-month-old calf from Alan Swale, after Robert saw his dam Bond Haven Dixie Rox Ex at the Black-and-White Sale in 1992. The impact of this Ugela Bell son at Stardale and beyond has been outstanding.
Over 100 Royal Flush daughters carry the Stardale prefix including the herds highest PIN cow – Stardale Royal Vaakje 13.
"Royal Flush has been the best bull I have ever used. He was taken up by the Lancashire Holstein Breeders Clubs progeny scheme, giving him the chance to be tested in over 50 herds," he says.
"His daughters were impressive, but they really started to shine as second calvers. Then several semen companies began to take an interest."
A deal struck with Avoncroft saw the bull enter its stud. Unfortunately the bull stopped producing semen after three months and he is now awaiting surgery which will hopefully correct a blocked epididymis.
"Hes still in the top 15 bulls in the UK." Royal Flush is one of the few bulls that is plus on both weight and percentage of protein and his daughters are super parlour cows.
The Burrows have always been very conscious of type – particularly feet and legs and well attached udders with good teat placement.
"Size is a factor but its not a priority. Im a commercial milk producer as well as a pedigree breeder and the trade we have for newly calved heifers demands a functional type."
But management plays a big part in the herds success. "Cow comfort is important. Making sure cows have plenty of space to move about, can feed at the trough easily and dont have to contend with slippery floors; these are simple things that have a direct bearing on performance," says Robert.
Cubicle size had been increased to 2.25m by 1.15m wide (7ft 6in x 3ft 10in), but the latest to be built are 2.4m (8ft) long. Beds are made of box-muck topped daily with chopped straw.
• Half one cow family.
• Many Ex cows bred.
• Averaging 9600kg.
Royal Flush has produced some impressive daughters in the Stardale herd; they really start to shine as second calvers, says Robert Burrow.
Stardale Warden Vaajke 6 (above) is one of 370 Vaajke cows registered since 1965: Half the current milking herd is from this same cow family.