First EX cow: Kayton Blackstar Felicity and Clydevale Shotime Imogen (on the same day).
North West Victorian dairy farmers Rus and Ruth Robins of Kayton Holsteins have achieved the Master Breeder, even though they sold and rebuilt their herd twice.
“It’s something everyone who loves breeding cows would want to aspire to and it means a great deal to me” says Mr Robins.
He says the Master Breeder was always something he strived to achieve from the day it was introduced.
“The fact that we’ve completely sold and rebuilt the herd twice, made me wonder if we would ever get there” says Rus.
Kayton Holsteins was established in 1976 by Rus’ parents Tony and Kay Robins. In 1994 they sold their cows and Rus kept 10 heifers from the herd and continued dairying on other farms.
After a few years of working for other people, Rus went back to milking cows at home and later in 1999, he and Ruth married and moved the cows to Ruth’s family farm.
In 2000, the millennium drought struck hard and six years later, Rus and Ruth were forced to sell their milking herd.
They managed to keep their young stock of approximately 40 heifers and in 2009, they bought their Cohuna property off friends, which came with a 50 unit rotary dairy.
“We were very lucky to have had the chance to buy this farm. Had that opportunity not come along, we may not be milking cows today” says Mr Robins.
Immediately after acquiring the property, the Robin’s family set out to expand their herd.
“We ramped up to about 300 cows straight away and we’ve been up and down due to seasonal conditions ever since” says Rus.
He states the core principal of Kayton Holsteins’ breeding program is to use as many good cow families as they can.
He explains “we’ve always had the belief that good cows come from good cow families and if you pair them with good bulls, then you should continue to breed the ideal cow”.
Mr Robins emphasises they take a balanced approach to breeding and aspire to breed for type and production.
“Some of the bulls we use are high type bulls that ideally we hope will produce excellent cows that perform well in the show ring, but we also use high index bulls that provide our cows with other traits that have a considerable impact on the index” says Rus.
He states ‘classifying our cows always takes priority’ and highlights ‘you need to give your cows every opportunity in life to get that score they can keep forever’.
“Once a cow goes excellent, you can’t ever take that away from her” says Rus.
Since 2009, Kayton Farms has used 100% of A2 sires as a result of Rus’ research findings which prompted the change in his breeding plan.
“When I learned every mammal on earth produces exclusive A2 milk and that cows are the only ones that produce A1 protein, it was an easy decision for me. I can see a day in the future when people move away from A1 altogether” says Rus.
Mr Robins says time spent with his father along with his Uncle Adrian and Cousins Adam and Mark Dee, taught him a great deal which accelerated his enthusiasm for dairying.
“My passion grew from the people that shared their time and knowledge with me and the journey of learning is the biggest aspect that played a role in achieving our Master Breeder status” says Mr Robins.
Rus explains that although there have been many tough times in their dairy career, he and Ruth have always remained hopeful and persistent under all circumstances.
“Master Breeder confirms there is a small prize out there for those who keep fronting up to the coal face and this award is recognition of our determination to not give up” says Rus.
Kayton farms has many plans for the future. The Robins family hope to increase the milking herd to 500 and work towards fully housing the cows, as well as moving towards polled animals and undertaking genomic testing.
Mr Robins says “our girls share our same passion for cows and hopefully Kayton will live on for another generation yet!”
Please join us in congratulating the Robins family on their outstanding achievement and contribution to the Holstein breed.