After taking the grand championship at last year’s UK Dairy Day, we take a look behind the scenes to see how Bilsrow Gibson Ada fits in back at home in Lancashire. Jeremy Hunt reports.
The impressive fifth calver Bilsrow Gibson Ada has attracted world-wide admiration since becoming grand champion at last year’s inaugural UK Dairy Day, and James Tomlinson rates her as one of his best ever cows.
But despite its fame it spends it is days alongside the rest of the cows in the 270-strong herd.
“For me, a show cow must have the conformation traits to be able to live and thrive with the rest of the herd,” says Mr Tomlinson, who runs the successful Bilsrow herd with his wife Eleanor and parents David and Sheila at Bilsborrow, Preston, Lancashire.
“Ada is a sociable cow, so right up until she was washed before we left for UK Dairy Day, she was with the other cows which is exactly how it should be.”
“She was washed once a week for a month prior to the event and then clipped off a couple of days before, but that’s all the preparation we gave her."
As a breeder he acknowledges owning a cow as good as Ada means any breeding decisions are a case of ‘damage limitation’.
“You need to use bulls which preserve the best bits of a cow as good as this,” says Mr Tomlinson. “Ada has an outstanding udder which never changes from lactation to lactation. She is the best-uddered cow we have ever had, but even though she is a very big cow she is still extremely well balanced and fits in with the herd easily.
“As soon as she is PD’d in-calf she re-joins the milkers."
Mr Tomlinson says his breeding decisions are not based on trying to produce cows to win in the ring. “Absolutely not. As the herd increases in number, my aim is to breed cows which are balanced and which fit into our cubicle system and will last.
“Anything else, such as the style which makes a good show cow, is a bonus."
Gibson Ada’s great-grand dam was a shrewd buy. The Tomlinsons paid about £900 for it at a Europon sale more than 20 years ago, but the jewel in the pedigree was Aitkenbrae Starbuck Ada – ranked as one of the world greats in Holstein breeding.
Out of a dam by Cogent Design, Ada produced 10,000-12,000kgs in it’s first few lactations and has currently given just shy of 13,500kgs with it’s fifth calf. Lifetime yield so far is 70,200kgs.
Ada has only produced one heifer calf, which is by Iota and is currently in calf to Mincio. All sons have been sold as stock bulls into other herds.
It has not been flushed so far, but a future flushing is not being ruled out, says Mr Tomlinson.
Mr Tomlinson believes the show ring has an important role to play in helping herds promote their cattle and drive future sales of genetics.
“Winning with Ada at the Dairy Day has been very beneficial in terms of sales of stock and raising the profile of the herd – not only in the UK but world-wide.
“It proves how important a good win can be. So for young people with an interest in Holsteins I would say showing can be a really important part of developing their business.”