Martin Ryan talks to Philip Jones about the legacy of a cow that helped place the Hallow Holstein herd on the international breeding map
A "one in a million" cow has left a priceless legacy to her breeder after a lifetime of record-breaking achievement in production and in the show ring.
Born in January 2008 into the Hallow Holstein Herd of Philip and Linda Jones at Gorey, Co Wexford, Hallow Attwood Twizzle 3 ET (EX96) achieved national and international success and her progeny are continuing to blaze a trail on the pedigree show scene.
"She won every major show in the south and went on to take the major awards in Northern Ireland," says Philip of the former Emerald Expo champion, Diageo Baileys Irish Cream dairy champion, IHFA champion cow, and Diamond Award winner.
"She is the cow that everybody in Europe knows about because a heifer of hers that sold to an Italian breeder went on to win at the European show and won at Verona a few years ago."
Her Twizzle cow family are a driving force in the 80-strong herd.
Generations of her descendants consistently win top awards, and demand for the progeny from other breeders shows no signs of waning.
At the 2019 IHFA All Ireland Awards last month, the herd swept the board, as six animals were judged champions, reserve champions and honourable mention winners.
And two animals bred in the herd before being sold on also took honours for their owners.
The Hallow Holstein story dates back 30 years to the founding of the herd by Philip's father, Mervyn, who is now retired from active farming.
"It was mostly Friesian when the original herd was started. He started by importing animals from Canada and over the years it was changed and is now all Holstein," says Philip.
The herd is equally divided between autumn and spring calving, which spreads the workload in a one-man operation.
The average per-cow production is over 10,000kg at 4.20pc bf and 3.45pc pr and it is on target to reach an average of 11,000kg this year with the overall performance in the herd improving consistently since Philip took over full-time seven years ago.
"I was always involved on the farm from a young age and always preparing animals for the shows and preparing animals for other breeders," says Philip, whose son, Will, is closely following in his father's footsteps on the farm.
The wonder cow, Hallow Attwood Twizzle 3 ET (EX96), was bred from an imported embryo and produced almost 100,000kg over six lactations at 5.71pc bf and 3.72pc pr, yielding 5,704kg fat and 3,714kg protein.
"The Twizzle family have done great for us in the last five years, but there have been a mixture of cows from different cow families that we bought in that have performed very well too. Breeding on from good cow families has been the focus here," adds Philip.
The award-winning shows no signs of slowing down, with some very promising young animals edging their way towards the show rings over the coming year.
Herd management and preparation of animals in advance of showing are key factors contributing to the continued success of Philip and Linda Jones's Hallow Holstein herd.
"I have had a god run. There is really not a show of the major shows that I have not won in the south or Northern Ireland. I have won all the national shows and won in the North as well," says Philip.
He has noted an overall improvement in the performance of the herd using dietician Brian Reidy to formulate a ration based on straights, barley bought in at autumn, with maize meal and soya, and all of which is treated.
"It is the small details between from the balance of feed that they are on, to getting their feet right, to clipping right and a balance of few things that you need to get right - and it seems to be working for me anyway," Philip says.
"You have to have the right animal to start with but they can change quite a lot, especially if they are on a good, balanced diet and have consistency in their diet - they can improve quite a bit.
"Because we are buying the straights we can change the protein and energies in it pretty easily to get the result we are looking for."
Quality is optimum too. Herd average solids are excellent and there is an excellent cell count of around 80. The herd has won Quality Milk Awards with Glanbia and Liquid Milk Supplier Awards.
"I would like to think that preparation of the cows on the show side has done well for us but definitely the cow families have been the main thing because when you have good cow families back (in the herd) you get more consistency at least in the breed and we look to use more on the type of cow we have," Philip explains.
However, he adds: "You can still have a good animal and if they are not got out right for the show they won't make it. Good preparation can change an animal quite a bit."
It is a special part of the management he has a lot of experience of.
"When I was younger, getting cows ready for shows was something that I did a lot of. I prepared cows for showing for other breeders - it was something that I grew up with."
His own family of Will and Kate are now following the pattern and regularly attend the shows and sales with stock from the herd.
Five daughters of the Twizzle breeding line are milking in the herd now and another three came in within the last fortnight - an indication of the dependency of the herd on the bloodline.
Some daughters surplus to herd replacement requirements are offered for sale each year at a special herd sale at Ballybay and this year will be no exception to the inclusion of Twizzle descendants on the catalogue.
The Twizzle cow family has its roots in a Canadian embryo purchased by the Joneses in 2006.
“We ended up with five heifers from the embryos including Advent Twizzle,” recalls Philip Jones of the decision to import the embryos.
“We have had a good few Attwood daughters off her which have done very well and the one we sold to Italy did very well, which made the herd well known abroad.”
The Wexford herd made a clean sweep of the awards in the Holstein section at the Balmoral Show last year, claiming the supreme, reserve and honourable mention awards.
It also claimed the inter-breed dairy championship, and the prize for the best group of three.
There was more success for the herd at the IHFA All Ireland Awards.
The awards included:
* Reserve Champion for Hallow Sol Twizzle in the All Ireland Heifer born between July 1 & December 31, 2018;
* Champion for Hallow Solomon Twizzle 3 ET in the All Ireland Heifer born between January 1 & June 30, 2018 category;
* Reserve for Hallow Atwood Carmen in All Ireland 3 Year Old Cow In Milk;
* Hon Mention for Hallow Attwood Grace in the All Ireland Junior Cow In Milk;
* Reserve champion for Hallow Attic Christina in the All Ireland Mature Cow In Milk category.
A second cow family, Embrace, are adding to the consistency of the Hallow Holstein herd’s breeding. In 2016, eight-year-old Desmond Dundee Embrace Holstein was judged overall inter-breed champion at the RUAS Winter Fair.
Desmond Dundee Embrace was purchased as a one-month-old calf in 2008 for €10,300.