What is the Semex-Holstein Australia Virtual Holstein Spectacular, how did it come about and how do you get involved. Holstein Australia CEO Rohan Butler explains.
What can you tell us about the Virtual Holstein Spectacular?
It’s a new competition, born in many ways out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late August Semex and Holstein Australia took the difficult decision to cancel the 20th anniversary Semex-Holstein Australia On-Farm Competition. I say difficult, because we know that this longstanding competition, often attracting well over 2,000 entries, is such an important event for our Sub-Branches, their members and local communities.
On the other hand it was perhaps an easy decision. With judges, Sub-Branch members and Semex Australia staff travelling the country, visiting multiple farms and regions to make the southern hemisphere’s largest dairy livestock competition happen, it was clear that this couldn’t be done in a COVID safe way.
In the weeks following that announcement, I and some of the HA team held a series of virtual catch ups with all our Sub-Branches, with the idea for this new competition coming out of those meetings. We put the ideas forward to the Breed Development and Conformation Committee, and over a couple of online meetings they came up with the final format.
How will it work?
I should start off by saying it’s not the on-farm competition, but it’s as near as we can get it by blending real people and Holstein cows with the virtual world while keeping everybody safe, hence the name.
I guess the big one is that for breeders who want to take part, no one outside their family or work colleagues needs to come on farm. All we need is a brief video of each cow entered which can be uploaded to a new website we’re putting together.
There’ll be five classes, from 2-year-old animals through to 6-year-old and over, with a limit of one entry per class per entrant. Members can select the classes they are entering, animals they want to enter and their Sub-Branch from a drop down menu, attach their video, hit send on the entry page, and that’s it.
Each Sub-Branch has the opportunity to have its own competition, with HA looking after the tech side of things. The top two animals per class from each Sub-Branch go through to a regional competition, and the top two per class from the regional comp go through to a national comp, with significant cash prizes and trophies for the winners.
So no one goes on-farm, how is it judged?
Each Sub-Branch is selecting a judge from our National Judges Panel. Judges will then access Sub-Branch entries and videos from home. We’re talking to a number of well-known national and international judges for the later stages of the competition and will be able to announce regional and national judges soon.
When is it happening and how do people enter?
The competition rules have been finalised and have been sent to all our Sub-Branches. Entries open with the launch of the Semex-Holstein Australia Virtual Holstein Spectacular website on 30th October and close on Monday 23rd November.
Sub-Branch winners will be announced on the Holstein Australia Facebook page mid-December, with regional winners announced late December and National winners in January in a tv style format online broadcast.
Entry is open to registered animals and is free. Animals registered during the competition period can also be entered.
What do people do if they want to enter?
Look out for an email from their Sub-Branch and keep an eye on their Sub-Branch and HA Facebook pages.
Don’t start filming your cows yet though! We’re putting together a really simple information sheet for what we need. We want all the videos to be as similar as possible to help with the judging. For this reason professional photographers or videographers can’t be used – we want member filmed videos taken with a mobile phone. The online entry form will be up at the end of the month.
I’m really excited by the Virtual Holstein Spectacular. With almost no shows taking place since early March and IDW cancelled, the feedback we’ve had so far is that getting this national comp off the ground has given our Sub-Branches a boost and there’s a lot of interest from members.