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Looks are key guide for dairy farmer.

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

When it comes to buying a dairy cow, looks are everything as far as Andrew Hodge is concerned.

The Duns dairy farmer, who took top honours in both the production and inspection classes of the 2005 Northumbria Holstein Breeders Club herd competition, has always enjoyed considerable success in the show ring with both his Holstein and Ayrshire Holstein cattle.

But his most recent successes are made even more remarkable by the fact that the present Cheviotview Holstein herd was established from scratch after he lost his previous prize-winning herd during the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

When it came to restocking, Mr Hodge, who farms at Rulesmains, Duns, with his wife Gill and his daughters Emma and Jayne, said he always went for type rather than production.

He said: "It was impossible to replace the bloodlines but the cows that I brought in were all good, deep-bodied cows with good udder attachment. I'm a firm believer that if you go for type then the milk will come on its own."

And his philosophy is certainly working, as his prize-winning Rulesmains Ayrshire herd was named the highest yielding Ayrshire herd in Scotland last year, with the cows averaging 9,460 litres at 4.5 fat and 3.3 protein.

The Holsteins are also producing healthy figures, averaging 10,780 litres at 3.9 fat and 3.3 protein. Before FMD hit, Andrew used to keep Ayrshire Holsteins and pure Holsteins, and cows from this herd had taken the top spots at the Great Yorkshire Show, the Northumberland County Show and Ayr Show.

But after he lost his herd during the epidemic he found it difficult to replace the Ayrshire Holsteins. So he decided to buy in mainly pure-bred Holsteins and a few Ayrshires, with the core breeding stock consisting of 95 pedigree Holsteins bought from his brother James Hodge, who runs the Lemington herd, and other cows bought from disposal and production sales held across the country.

Now the 170-strong herd is about 70% pure black and white Holstein, 15% red and white Holstein and 15% Ayrshire Holstein, with cows bought from such notable breeders as the Fintdove herd in Hertfordshire, and the Cleevale, Primo and Upsall herds. Red and white cattle were bought from Ian Milne's Carcary herd at Brechin and Willie and John Whiteford's Middle Herd at Brampton.

Since it was established on February 6 2002, the new herd has done as well in the show ring as it has in the parlour, with Andrew winning championships at the National Holstein Show, with Kepculloch Rubens August, and the Royal Highland Show with Horizon Ranger Lorna.

And another of his cows ( Middle Jessie 125 ( became the first cow to take both a Holstein championship and an Ayrshire championship when the three quarters Holstein, quarter Ayrshire cow took the two titles at the Ayr Show and the Royal Highland Show respectively.The herd is managed by Andrew and his cowman Gordon Fettes, who started working at Rulesmains after the epidemic and played a key role in helping to restock the farm.

Rulesmains stretches to 1,150 acres, with crops grown on 700 acres and a further 30 acres set aside for potatoes. The cows are all fed home-grown rations, with only soya and rapemeal bought in, and the main forage crops are silage and whole-crop wheat. All of the milk is sold to Wisemans.

Come show day, Andrew says he is also grateful for the help he receives from Cameron Baty, from North Acomb, Stocksfield, who helps to prepare the cattle for the ring. This was the first time that Andrew had won the Northumbria Holstein Breeder Club herd competition but he hopes that his Cheviotview herd, which is now 40% home-bred, will repeat the success in the future.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2006
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