5/25/2013 7:00 AM
By Marjorie Struckle New York Correspondent
Greg Evans of Sunny Acres Farm in Georgetown, N.Y., recently experienced the Ayrshire Young Breeder Summit held early April in the United Kingdom.
This gathering of youths is held every year in the U.K. with representatives of the breed from 8 to 25 years old.
This year, in addition to their own 40 delegates, the summit also included seven international Ayrshire breeders from 18 to 25 years old.
“It was amazing week of fun incorporated with Ayrshire activities,” Evans said.
He was chosen by the board of the Ayrshire Association after being awarded the Young Ayrshire Leader Award last year. Joining Evans on the all-expense-paid trip were Ben Hentschke of Australia; Evelii Kumpula of Finland; Marie Gustafsson of Sweden; Hayden Donald of New Zealand; Terru-Lynn Waterston of Canada and JD Marais of South Africa.
Arriving at London Heathrow Airport, Evans and the group of international participants traveled with their tour host, the general manager and breed secretary for the U.K. Ayrshires, Duncan Hunter. They started the tour at Hunter’s farm, viewing the remaining young stock and a 95-point cow of Hunter’s herd, which has earned the claim for receiving the highest sale average of any Ayrshire herd in the world.
“The next stop was to Blaise and family farm called Sandyford Ayrshires,” Evans said. The international visitors judged six 2-year-olds, with Evans winning the competition.
“All herds there are free stalls due to animal welfare issues. Here they had two packs, one for milkers and one for dry cows,” he said.
The visitors were amazed that the herd contained four cows that scored 94 points and a 97-point cow. They were treated to a traditional English dinner and continued to discuss the breeding, showing and sales in the various counties.
Evans was impressed with Durbyshire, a true country town with a town phone booth and small, winding cobblestone roads. There at Briggin Vale, owners Robert and Jennifer Adams demonstrated their sheep herding with dogs and viewed their young stock. “They have an organic farm with a very old and good Ayrshire herd. The house is attached to the barn with two calving pens positioned so they could open a window and look into the pens without leaving the house,” he said.
Visiting Heydale, a freak snowstorm left the farms unprepared, resulting in roads plowed one lane wide and farmers dumping their milk for days.
“The Canadian and I were not impressed with all the snow. We have seen that before, but the Australian had never seen snow and the amount was more than most had seen,” Evans said.
This grazing herd had utilized a lot of American genetics due to the embryos brought in and the emphasis on cow families.
They continued their tour to the border of Scotland where two host families, the Mattinson and Armstrong families, included all the international and U.K. delegates in a social evening.
“It was a very impressive layout of barns. It was the most modern of all the farms we visited. They had interbred Red and White Holsteins with the Ayrshires,” Evans said of the Troutbeck Farm, the Mattinson family’s 200-cow herd,
The Plaskett Farm, belonging to Rodney and Annabelle Armstrong and their son, was one mile from the ocean in between tall mountain ranges. In addition to the gorgeous views, Evans was impressed with the barnyard bull, which had sired 12 Excellent daughters and two 95-point and two 94-point cows.
“Surprising to me is that 44 percent of all animals are bred with barnyard bulls. They are proud of their bulls and first to show off. In America it’s not the same, we say how much artificial insemination we use,” he said.
Following a long drive to the east coast, they met Richard Bsynes of Marley Cote Farm, who bought them dinner and entertained them with stories of farming.
“At 2 a.m. we inquired about him milking in the morning with the late evening and he smiled and said you will see. That was the first time I saw robotic milkers used,” Evans said. “It had slotted floors with gravity flow. The animals were the calmest I had seen. You could walk up to any animal, they had no fear. They went into the robotic parlor 6 to 8 times a day.”
The pack barn had slotted open curtains that housed Bsynes’ show animals, including a 94-point cow. At a grazeway, a device was located that reads the collar of the animal. If they don’t return to the barn within eight hours for milking, they are encouraged to return. There is a big push to buy local U.K. products and Bsynes has expanded upon this to bottling his own milk. He’s also built a viewing area above the cows at the robotics for the public to observe while being served food and drink.
“It’s a great promotion for the Ayrshire breed and farming in general,” Evans said.
Arriving at Kinross, Scotland, they met up again with the 40 U.K. delegates for more interactions and farm visits.
At the Sweaites Farm they had international competitions. The farm uses a breeding bull from a 97-point cow. They judged two groups of cows, 2-year and 5-year-olds.
“It was interesting to hear the reasons for the placings. In the states, reasons are practiced to be giving with more structures but other countries were more like show reasons. It was interesting to listen to,” Evans said.
The next competition was a bull mating contest at the Caldervale Herd owned by the Millar family. They had utilized American bulls.
Evans explained the contest as, “Information was given on two cows, including their records, dams, daughters, pedigrees. Then we were given a list of five bulls. We then said which bulls we would use and why. There were no rights or wrong answers.”
At Cuthill Towers, owned by the Lawrie family, they had the final competition. During four hours they were given a heifer to wash, chip, set a topline and participate in showmanship.
“I placed third in showmanship. All the clipping was similar but showing techniques were different. The South African had never shown other than leading the animal in a circle. We had to bring what we wear in showing. The South African had white lab coats like years ago,” he said.
The awards ceremony completed the organized activities.
“The remaining international guests spent the time discussing the week and how to use this to jump-start and keep it going. We suggested that other countries could host it to keep it going,” he said.
With more open discussion about genetics within the group, Evans said, “They had never heard of any of the popular bulls with many daughters used heavily in the U.S. I saw 30 daughters of two bulls I would recommend to use in the U.S.”
“I went with expectations about the animals, but they are big and tall with tremendous udders,” he said. “I saw flush barns, robotic milkers, saw different setups and systems. I see the American Ayrshire breeders having an opportunity since there was a period which the U.K. Ayrshires where open to Red and Whites for a few years, so they are begging for 100 percent Ayrshire and I see that as a niche market for the Americans to export embryos.”
Hospitality was part of the reason the youth enjoyed their experience.
“The people of U.K. are hospitable and generous. I went with the thought I would try all new things. I was given Bach Haggis to eat and it was very good. It is chicken with diced sheep stomach. I even liked the blood pudding made from sheep blood like a sausage,” he said. “We were treated to Scottish dancing, Ceilidh dancing. It’s the origin of line and square dancing at a much faster pace. It was fun watching us trying to keep up.”
Evans is using Facebook and the Internet to remain in contact with the international visitors. He intends to send emails to the U.K. hosts.
“I plan on going back to see Ireland, Wales, the herds and lot of new friends,” he said.