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Stackyard News Aug 09

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Prize Winning Island Holstein Herd Up For Sale

One of the many attractions, and there are indeed many, of the inner Hebridean island of Gigha (pronounced “gee-uh”, from the Old Norse meaning God’s island, or the good island) is Kenny and Betty Robison’s “Hebrides” herd of pedigree Holstein dairy cattle.


Exposed to the full force of the south westerly gales yet enjoying more sunshine than much of Britain, and comprising a mixture of rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, Gigha, with its population of 110, is just six miles long and a mile wide. But nestling in the supreme beauty of Ardlamy Farm can be found this simply wonderful small herd of black & white dairy cattle, which will come under the auctioneers’ hammer on WEDNESDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER at Borderway Mart, Carlisle.

Although born and raised near New Abbey, Dumfriesshire, and after a few years in sole charge of a dairy herd near Newton Stewart, Kenny and Betty Robison fulfilled their dream of farming on their own account by moving to Gigha nearly thirty years ago.

By steadily grading up the original mixture of commercial cows by using carefully chosen top AI sires they established their “Hebrides” pedigree prefix. Recently bulls such as Roylane Jordan, Comestar Leader, Shoremar James, Duncan Progress, Summershade Igniter, Silky Gibson, Tcet Lyster and Wa-Del Convincer have been used with great success to produce what is now a stock of cows that are noted for their udder quality, legs and feet and wearability, without sacrificing the importance of productivity on a low input system. “We are very commercially orientated” says Kenny.

It takes courage to embark on your first ever type classification just before dispersing, especially when all the heifers are very fresh. Kenny’s quiet confidence was well rewarded. 54 cows and heifers were put forward resulting in 13 Excellents, including the EX94 (EX96 mammary) Hebrides Raven Bella and the oldest cow in the herd, a 9 lactation Comestar Leader daughter that was one of two EX93 cows. Of the 26 VG’s there were 4 VG 89’s including an awesome 2nd calver H.Gibson Corolla 2nd that if the opportunity arises in time, should go Excellent, the maximum score. The 26 VG’s also include 7 heifers. Not bad for your first effort!

This in part explains why the “Hebrides” herd has won the Kintyre Holstein Breeders herds competition so many times; 1st small herds for the past three years and 1st overall three times including 2009. Hugh Neilson of the noted “Overside” herd who judged this year’s competition was full of praise; “I was very impressed indeed with the overall balance of the animals, their great wearability and productivity – after all they’re just getting big bale silage and cake in the parlour”, said Mr Neilson.

It would also explain why commercial and pedigree buyers of “Hebrides” heifers at the Borderway monthly pedigree sales, where the Robisons have been regular vendors for ten years(including having won the championship), have been so pleased.

An undoubted feature of the sale is the batch of some 25 fresh heifers which harbour enormous potential for type and production.

The herd has been “closed” for at least 17 years, and is entirely homebred. TB testing is four yearly, all the animals are twice Blue Tongue vaccinated and there have been no known health problems at all.

The cows are cubicle housed, and heifers cubicle trained. “All the heifers spend winter outside, it toughens them up nicely” says Kenny Robison.

The herd average of 8116kg, 3.85%bf, 3.27%p cc193 (x2) (with a current daily yield average of 32.5kgs) is achieved on big bale silage and cake in the parlour.

This sale deserves serious consideration by commercial and pedigree buyers alike, says Edward Brown of auctioneers, Harrison & Hetherington Ltd of Carlisle “You very rarely get a chance to buy from a herd of this calibre”. Like the herd judge and the HUK classifier I, with my colleagues am enormously impressed. This is a real gem of herd, little known maybe outside Kintyre, but of immense quality displaying fantastic balance, udder quality, wearability and production, added Mr Brown

Explaining the reason for dispersing the herd Kenny says “ Betty has been pivotal to everything here but has had cancer twice now and although she’s fine again, this recent scare prompted us to sell now. I shall be sad to see the cows go, but it has been a privilege to have owned them. Now its time for a change.

That change, along with more time to visit their son Fraser and daughter Kirsty and her two grandchildren in Dumfries, involves a new and exciting B & B venture, in a sublime location near the farm on Gigha. If the B & B is anywhere approaching the success of the dairy herd, as it promises to be, it would be wise to book your holiday well in advance.

Edward Brown

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