Important traits: Rump structure and udders, feet and legs
Craig Bruem of Engsta Holdings in Forbes, NSW is the most recent dairy farmer to be awarded the Master Breeder.
“It’s a huge honour to be recognised for putting so many of our resources towards the cows and we’re all very pleased” says Mr Bruem.
As a third generation farmer, Craig’s parents and grandparents started dairying back in 1955 and like most kids who grew up on a dairy, Craig was keen on anything involving cows.
In 1991, after completing school, he immediately became absorbed in breeding on the farm along with his sister and two brothers.
“I was obsessed with cows from the moment I could talk” he says.
What started off as a deep passion became a thriving business for the Bruem’s and their work became the centre of their livelihoods.
“We always had a breeding goal to keep the cows balanced. We weren’t fixated on production or type but believed they went hand in hand” says Mr Bruem.
He explains they tried to keep breeding as simple as possible and used a small group of bulls each year to concentrate on a few traits that needed fixing within the herd.
Craig says “for a long time we worked on rump structure and spent a lot of time on udders, feet and legs”.
The Bruem farm used a pasture based system; feeding the herd grain, silage and pasture.
In 1996, the business transitioned from Craig’s parents to the Bruem children and they discussed the option of moving towards a partial mixed ration (PMR) system.
Craig reflects “our family decided that if we went down that path, we would end up with cows in sheds and that was something we collectively didn’t want to do at the time”.
He mentions in 1996, although Engsta Holdings was a family-run business, the Bruem children formed and operated the farm as a Board of directors.
He says during their time as dairy farmers, there were many sacrifices that had to be made in order to be successful.
“We were prepared to make sacrifices to reach our goals. There were lots of lean times where we did question ourselves but overall, dairy farming was very good to our family and the Master Breeder award is recognition of that” says Mr Bruem.
Over the course of his time dairying, Craig mentions one of his fondest moments was during his showing days.
“We had a cow called Engsta Future Penelope who was twice Honourable Mention at the Sydney Royal in 2003 and in 2005, and she really put the Engsta herd back on the map by winning overall champion in the On-Farm Challenge” says Craig.
During their thirty-years in the industry, Craig and his family were very keen on showing and mentions it was a struggle to find the time and resources.
Mr Bruem says “that’s why the On-Farm Challenge is so great! It enabled you to put your cows on display and be judged against others, without all the time constraints and money you have to put into showing”.
The Bruem family identifies four elements they attribute to their farming success.
“Follow your passion, work really hard, have clear business goals and surround yourself with people who have skills that you don’t” says Mr Bruem.
In 2017, Craig and his family made the heavy-hearted decision to exit dairying.
He says “we had taken our production system as far as we could and we knew if we were to continue, we would have to change to a more sustainable production system, which meant heavy investment and collectively, the family didn’t want to do that”.
Shortly after, the Bruem family sold their herd in a walk-in-walk-out sale.
Mr Bruem highlights there were many people who helped them along the way and says their time in dairy taught them countless lessons including the value of hard work.
“Master Breeder is great recognition for all the hard work that goes into dairy farming and to have this at the end of our time as dairy farmers, is just a great honour” says Craig.
Please join us in congratulating the Bruem family on their outstanding achievement and contribution to the Holstein breed.