This weekend sees Australia’s first European Young Breeders School team take to the ring in Battice, Belgium. On the eve of the team’s departure Holstein Australia caught up with team leader, Justin Johnston of Glomar Holsteins, about his hopes for the event and the wide-ranging dairy industry support for the initiative.
Q: What can you tell me about the European Young Breeders School?
The School is a five-day event which this year brings together twenty-five teams representing fifteen countries. Essentially it is three days of workshops and preparation covering all aspects of preparing cattle, showing and judging leading into the two-day European Young Breeders Challenge.
Q: This is a first for Australia, and for those selected to join the team. How have the preparations gone and how is the team feeling with just a few days to go?
In a word, Excited! While obviously keen to get into the competition element, there’s a real focus on the opportunity to see one of Europe’s prime dairy regions and meet people of a similar age with the same passion for our industry from different parts of the world. The only nerves seemed to be about the flight!
Preparation has gone really well. With the team members coming from four different states, our only opportunity to get together was at July’s Bendigo Winter Fair, though we’ve had regular calls and hook-ups. Everyone has had input into our program, and we had some useful sessions in Bendigo, including a judging workshop with Pat Nicholson (Jersey breeder and Judge) which I reckon will be really important for us this week.
Australia's cows for the week
Pride of place for the Aussie flag!
Ricky Nelson working hard
The team's EYBS home
80 cow rotary at Holland's biggest dairy farm
A long shed!
80 cow rotary from the outside looking in
Q: What are your (and the team’s) expectations?
My general rule in life is you’ve got to be in it to win it! Our ultimate aim is to perform at our best as a team. I’m looking for each team member to stretch themselves, show who they are, or we are as a team, show what we are about in Australia and that we can compete on the world stage. This is our first year, and we are going in with a sense of confidence in our abilities and looking to build some really solid relationships for the future.
Q: The team has attracted a lot of attention and a lot of industry support. Is it what you were expecting?
I’m really pleased. It’s only through the support we’ve attracted that the whole thing has been made possible. The sixteen sponsors who have thrown their support behind us come from across all areas of the agricultural and dairy sector and have shown a real commitment to Australian dairy youth. The most common question has been ‘What can we do to help?’ which was probably the most encouraging thing and next year looks like it will be even better. At the team presentation at the Winter Fair three more businesses came forward with offers of support for next year, so I’m confident this is only going to get bigger and better in years to come.
Q: Is there anything else planned for the team while you are away?
Obviously we’ve been working towards the competition but we’re also keen to increase our team members’ knowledge of the wider dairy industry in Europe and beyond, equipping them with information and providing experiences that will be useful in their career.
First stop after the competition will be to visit K.I. SAMEN, the Netherlands largest private AI station. We’ll also be visiting Holland’s largest dairy farm with 2,500 cows on an 80 stand rotary and Bons Holsteins, Holland’s number one show dairy herd. We’re also looking forward to visiting the new floating dairy farm in Rotterdam, which opened earlier this year to demonstrate how food production can become less vulnerable to climate change.
Sounds like you are all going to have a great experience. Good luck to you and the team Justin and thanks for your time.
The 2019 Australian European Young Breeders School team is being supported by Holstein Australia, the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, Jersey Australia, Genetics Australia, Dairy Australia, GippsDairy, Gippsland Dairy Youth, Gardiner Dairy Foundation, Fonterra, STgenetics Australia, Ridley AgriProducts, Dick Smith, Smyth Seeds, B. Braun Australia and New Zealand and the AFL.