As teams start to settle in for the All-European Championship at Libramont, most of the UK breeders have been left with the shattering reality that their cows will not be involved.
This is a contest like no other. It has loomed as an unparalleled marketing platform for Europe’s finest in-form cows. It rolls around every three years and on April 12 and 13, close to 200 cows form 19 countries will be appreciated by 30,000 spectators in Libramont – the small municipality of Belgium. The cows are going head-to-head for individual and national team titles in the Holstein and Red & White Holstein shows under UK judge Mark Nutsford (Holsteins) and Swiss judge Markus Gerber (Red & White Holsteins).
Teams have been selected by committees within nations. And it is these committee members only who perhaps truly knew the work, money and risk involved in putting together teams to travel. All the cows had to be from herds free of Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR). All were tested – several times – for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (EBL), Brucellosis and Tuberculosis (TB).
When the news broke on March 27 – just days from the UK cows loading up – that its team of 16 animals was being pulled, the world’s registered industry held its collective breath in universal sympathy.
However, the UK was left with no choice because there was a recent outbreak of Blue Tongue in Belgium, and the UK’s cows were not vaccinated for it.
It is a decision which now haunts the UK team. They made the call after they were unable to get the vaccine in January because of high demand in the back end of 2018. They decided to push on without it because there were no Blue Tongue problems near Libramont at that time.
Private offer from Belgium breeder
Since then four animals have been cleared to continue on to Libramont (with added quarantine conditions and additional risk for their owners). It was made possible by a Belgium breeder who generously offered to house up to six UK animals at their farm for the extended 60-day quarantine period after the show.
Those cows are Knowlesmere Atwood Chic VG88-2YRS, Knowlesmere Solomon Diamond VG89-3yr Max, Feizor Elude A Rapture VG89-3YRS Max, and Riverdane Ashlyns Gold EX93 Max. If any are in-calf they will have to remain in Belgium until they calve.
While there is no doubt that it has been a herculean 11th hour effort for the UK team to have any representation at all, it is been reduced to a quarter of the original power-packed contingent.
Welsh breeder out
David and Claire Jones, of Wiltor Holsteins at Monmouthshire in Wales, had three cows chosen for the initial team. It was the biggest representation from one farm and it was to be the perfect swansong for the couple who will host their Virtual Dispersal sale on April 23. That dream is now over because two of their three cows were in-calf and the timelines were impossible for their sale. They have had to withdraw.
David, who is a board member of Holstein UK, said the expense and the work involved in the preparation was not the hardest part of the deal.
“It’s three years of planning gone,” he said. “There has been a lot of expense and a lot of hassle. It’s cost everyone a lot of money, including Holstein UK.
“But that is nothing compared to the disappointment of not being able to take our cows to the show. That far outweighs everything else. It just feels like we’ve all had the rug pulled out from under our feet at the very last minute.
“I don’t want to blame anyone, but I – like other farmers – am busy in our own business and I didn’t realise the enormity of the Blue Tongue problem in Western Europe. If I had of, I would have been far more vociferous back in January time to the vet when he said he couldn’t get hold of the Blue Tongue vaccine.
“We were taking the vet’s advice who was employed to help us through the quarantine processes, and we all accepted it. None of the exhibitors at that time said, ‘Whoa, hang on’.”
David said his cows had been in quarantine since February. The next board meeting of Holstein UK will be in May, when the matter would be fully discussed.
Until then, he congratulated the resilient UK breeders that had been able to continue on to represent the UK, and he was re-focussing on their family’s Virtual Dispersal. It included a Monument Impression daughter from the second-calved three-year-old he has been unable to show at Libramont , Wyndford Doorman Atlee 2nd VG89-2YRS
Holstein UK’s position
Holstein UK first posted on Facebook on April 1 that it had made the “disappointing decision” to withdraw its team. On April 5, it amended it to announce that four animals would attend.
Sue Cope Holstein UK’s CEO kept it upbeat, saying: “I am delighted that we have managed to achieve our goal of getting a team of cows to Libramont. I want to personally thank the exhibitors for the absolute commitment and determination they have shown throughout and also to everyone else involved who have worked tirelessly over the past few months.”
That said, there are also now more than 100 UK visitors headed to Libramont. So, rest assured, if a UK entry does well the Union Jack will be flying high.
JUNIOR – Calved once, in-milk, and aged up to 32 months
INTERMEDIATE – Two calves, in-milk, and aged up to a maximum of 60 months
SENIOR – Cows, in-milk with at least three calves
RED & WHITE HOLSTEIN
JUNIOR – One or two calves, in-milk, and aged up to maximum 60 months
SENIOR – Cows, in-milk with at least three calves
Each participating country chooses their best four cows after the completion of the individual show results. The inter-nation competition is adjudicated by judges from all countries involved, although they do not place their own country’s entry.
Be sure to watch www.thebullvine.com for full coverage of the show starting on Friday