There are many reasons to love working in the dairy industry but Bullvine readers are beginning to realize that one of the best ones is that dairying leads to romance, love and marriage. Whether it’s a matter of miles in the same province or state (Read more: Hometown Jerseys: Against All Odds, Hometown Jerseys: Beating the Odds and Alice In Dairyland: This Wonderful Dairy Tale Begins with Alice!) or when the distance is between two different countries (Read more: Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Forward in Five Gears! That’s Aussie D.I.Y., Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Gobsmacked in Australia, and Isaac Lancaster: The British Are Coming. The British Are Coming), shared passion for cattle can bring couples together.
Such was the case for Karin Chittenden from the US and Corey Couch from Australia who both have three generations of dairy pedigrees behind them. They first met while travelling in each other’s countries and like dairy travellers everywhere found that it was an amazing experience (Read more: DAIRY YOUTH WILL GO FAR: Exchange Is Good!). For these two, it ignited the spark that inspired marriage in June 1999 and in the happy intervening years they have built Riverside Jerseys and a family of seven in Victoria, Australia.
1993 Turning Point for Two
Like her three brothers, Karin caught the dairy bug early at Dutch Hollow farm in Schodack Landing New York. On Corey’s side, he pinpoints a tour of “Sunset Canyon Farm” in Oregon, USA in 1993. “I was blown away be seeing (Jersey) cows milking 50 litres per day.” That trip was extended and Corey describes its importance. “This was to be the turning point in my whole life.” Of course, he’s referring to a little help from cupid, also known as Eric Silva who began by mentoring Corey. “We devised a plan for me to import as many embryos as possible from the great cow families in his herd.” And then, while travelling together to the All American Jersey Show in 1996, Eric introduced Corey to Karin Chittenden … his future wife. A turning point indeed!
With Embryos and More Embryos Riverside Pushes Boundaries
Inspired by what he’d seen in the USA, Corey was now firmly on board with developing a purebred Jersey herd. He commenced herd testing, AI and eventually with the help of John Rundle, Boggabilla Jerseys, registered all the milking true to type Jerseys through the Genetic Recovery scheme. Corey imported 300 embryos and Karin later added 20 embryos she imported from her own cows. Looking back Corey recalls how it started. “The first ET’s were born in May 1997 with subsequent years of ET’s to be born as we slowly implanted embryos till the tank was empty.”
From the perspective of sixteen years, which included such management changes as feeding the cows to maximize their genetic potential, Karin points out their successes. “Our herd averaged over 8000 litres of milk/cow in 2004, while milking 3x per day. thus becoming the first Jersey herd to crack over 8000 and milk 3x. The record still stands with Jersey Australia .” The current herd system at Riverside Jersey Farm is a 30 unit fully automated rotary of about 230 cows with 170 milking most of the year as they have a split calving rather than seasonal. Corey jokes, “If you asked Karin she would say we simply calve all the time! We are only milking twice a day as family commitments take up a lot of time and we feel the stars haven’t aligned to truly capitalize on the return of milking 3x a day, when you consider grain price, milk price, season and labor. The herd averages around the 7500 liter mark each year!”
CHANGES FOR THE BETTER – ALWAYS PUSHING the POTENTIAL
This team at Riverside professes that they have no set breeding philosophy. “We like to breed cows that last long and produce at the same time.” says Karin. Corey expands a little. “We began to classify our cows for the first time and it was with Karin’s steady push that she introduced showing cows at our local show and then Dairy Week. It was noticing the various type traits in the cows we liked worldwide that prompted a shift in our bull selections again. I don’t think you can ever lose sight of milk production but it isn’t the be all and end all for us. Our cows had frame, rear udders, milk and out here that is about all you need to get classification points. We started using more bulls with better fore udder ratings and shallower udders. That move has changed our herd for the better. We also realized we could afford to use straight type bulls on our “milky” cows and although as a 2 yr old the resultant cow might lag behind, they soon catch up and are more often than not the cows everyone loves in the herd today. We like to use bulls from deep cow families with generations of great type and production.”
MAKING HISTORY. Ready for the Future.
It is remarkable to consider the significant success Karin and Corey have had in such a relatively short period of time. From the beginning, they never settled for the status quo and have great results to show for it. Their first success came when a daughter they bred from an initial import became the number ONE index Jersey in Australia! Then Riverside Berretta Sharna EX92 was bred from their Australian base and has 8 EX daughters!! She is the dam of Riverside’s top 10 bull on the current system in Australia. Riverside Renaissance Ivy scored 2EX93! Next you take note of Riverside Country Lollypop EX93. Most people would say that Lollypop is the best cow Riverside ever bred. As Karin tells it. “After creating a stir with Ivy amongst several breeders, Lollypop was one that no one seemed to argue about, well that we know of.” Now that’s an understatement! Lollypop won as a Sr 2 and was Reserve Intermediate champ in 2011. She won as a Sr 3 and was Intermediate Champion in 2012 and then returned this year to claim the 5yr old and Grand Champion at IDW. All of this success and it isn’t only because she has the right look. She was Riverside’s top production 2 yr old, 3 yr old, and will top her age group again this season. Her genomics are also well above her parent average at the same time. Karin is justifiably proud. “She is the first cow we have bred that ticks all the boxes. Her maternal line runs deep….back 100 yrs to Jersey Island…she is 7 generations Excellent. Her Granddam ‘Select Lollypop’ was one of the original ET heifers Corey imported.” And it doesn’t stop there. Karin and Corey still have a foot in the index/genomic camp with a few descendants they have from the MAID family. Riverside Headlining Maid in Sept 2011 stats would have sat at the #7 heifer spot on the Canadian gLPI listing. As they await the genomics for her Visionary bull calf, they look ahead. “She is only just fresh but, with genomics playing their role, we are sure she could be the one for the future.”
GETTING ON OUR MARKETING FEET WITH FACEBOOK
Of course, it is important to get your prefix, your herd and yourself known in the marketplace and they recognize this at Riverside. Corey reports. “Karin is on Facebook daily and although she doesn’t block newsfeed like Russell Gammon (LOL), we do have a following. Our market has never been to the older Australian Jersey breeder. It has always been the youth of all breeds whether that be in age or mindset!” In the past, Riverside has used hard copy magazines, most extensively the Australian Jersey Journal for marketing but rarely now due to constraints and currently limit that area to “Crazy Cow” (Read more: Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Forward in Five Gears! That’s Aussie D.I.Y., Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Gobsmacked in Australia) and or own Facebook page.
Both Karin and Corey have been immensely inspired by the cows and people they have seen on the show circuit. “When you start going to the All American or Expo, I think it is only natural to want to breed a cow that comes close to what you see there.” says Karin. Corey agrees. “We have shown almost every year at International Dairy Week since 1998 thanks to a push by Karin to have a go the first time. Up until 2 years ago we only took at times 1 or 2 animals, growing slightly to 6 in 2011. We began on our own just paying to get someone to clip and blow a top the first year. We then proceeded to have Ross Easterbrook as our fitter for several years following. It was Ross who took our first cow to championship heights in 2001. Riverside Best Ivy EX91 was our first National Champion.”
JUST PICTURE IT
Both Karin and Corey appreciate and applaud Easterbrook’s talent. “Ross was also our Aussie photographer and one of the best things anyone can do is get a good photo of their cow. Again with financial and time constraints, we tended to only photograph cows that went to the show over the years but with the move onto the scene of Brad Cullen as a full time photographer we have taken to getting a lot more pictures taken over the past 18 months. On the fitting side, we moved on through the years with Matt Templeton and Lisa Thompson and had even greater success at IDW with their team effort producing 2 Intermediate Champions, 2 Reserve Intermediate Champs, a Junior Champion and of course back to back Grand Champions with R. Ren. Ivy 2 EX93. In the past 2 years we have invited Mike Berry and Louis Cozzitorto to come help us at IDW resulting in our best years ever. We’re not sure if we could ever really top them. We have had no greater exposure worldwide than with ‘Lollypop’”. How sweet it is!
Been There Loved Doing That
Anyone looking from the outside in would find it hard to imagine getting as much done as Riverside did in the space of 10 years. Expanding the time period out to 15 years adds even more to their show ring success and, at the same time, shows that they maintained milk production. Their achievements make a fabulous “Bucket List” of accomplishments!
- No 1 ABV (Australian breeding value) Cow
- First Jersey cow in Australia to produce in excess of 12,000 liters 305 days
- Highest producing herd in Australia for the last 10 years give or take a couple of years where we may have had the liters but not the solids
- Bred and Won the National Senior and Grand Champion Jersey cow 4 times (3 cows)
- Bred and Won the Reserve National Senior Champion cow once
- Bred and Won the National Intermediate Champion Jersey cow 3 times (3 cows)
- Bred and Won the Reserve NICJ cow 3 times (3 cows)
- Bred and Won the National Junior Champion Jersey heifer twice, RESERVE 3 times
- Bred the first dam and daughter pair to be National Grand Champions
- Bred the first cow to win all 3 major National Age level Championships (IDW)
- Over 40 bulls put into AI service in Australia as well as some sampled overseas
- Graduated a top 10 Australian bull “Spiritual”
- Bred the highest genomic fat bull in the breed in the world 12 months ago in Riverside Max Appeal (obviously genomics have already moved him down the line)
- Had the highest producing Jersey Cow for lifetime production in Australia
Absolutely fabulous by any measure but nevertheless not what Karin and Corey consider their single biggest accomplishment. “Personally we believe and hope that is our family.” The Couch Family Five encircles: Brody (13), Jackson (12), Ella (10), Ruby (7) and Ethan (4). And more importantly Karin sums it up by taking it beyond just their immediate family “If there is one thing I hope we can do it is to inspire the generation behind us to go better, harder and lead the way!
Love Grows Inspired by Greats Past and Present
Karin says, “Travelling often with my father to sales, shows and conventions, I learned to always keep my ears and eyes open, absorbing as much as I could and learning from so many of the Breed’s greats past and present. I was brought up in the times of the breeders from High Lawn, Highland, Briarcliff and Ogston.” Corey too pays tribute to his roots. “My parents’ work ethic also had a great influence. Growing up my father would get up early to go outdriving a grader on road construction while mother did milking, raised three kids and worked off the farm as well.” Great training for growing a dairy farm family in Australia.
Jersey Love Affair … Heartaches and Heart Throbs
Like dairymen worldwide, Karin and Corey face particular national challenges “Our dairymen want the same things, profitability, fertility, type … it really is universal.” Having said that, they both long for a more global approach to breeding Jerseys.. “In breeding in Australia there is a 6 to 12 month lag at times getting the latest genomic bulls or hot bulls in Australia which proves to be a major challenge if you want to be a frontrunner in the genomic game. “ Another difference is raised by Corey and Karin. “Australian proofs are less reliable for type data because cows are only classified once as 2 yr olds in nominated herds, unless they are in the registered sector and, even then, the second classification will not go into the proof. This is not to say that Australian cows are lacking. Karin points out. “I think many would be impressed with our class of Jerseys here and I am sure they would compete on a world stage with the best of them. “ Corey adds to this.”Australia has much to offer but unfortunately our export restrictions make it not impossible but over the top pricey to sell embryos to the world. There are only a few places which you can use as export facilities and only one of which can handle milking cows. We are destined to remain a very large importer of North American Genetics unless restrictions can be changed. This is very frustrating, given that we are actually one of the cleanest countries you can export from.
Dairy Life and Family Life. The Jersey Love Continues.
Anyone who has the opportunity to read the colourful writings of Jersey super-enthusiast Russell Gammon will understand what Karin means when she says, “It is through people in the Jersey community like Russell Gammon that I have found the most support in shifting countries. He is a wealth of inspiration and positivity and I don’t think he would have any idea what his cheers, tweets and Facebook statuses do keep me going from time to time.” It’s hard for any of us reading this to imagine what it’s like to be completely separated from the family surroundings that inspired your decisions. Karin remains positive about the ups and downs involved in her decision to shift over 16,000 kilometers away from everything she owned and knew and proclaims, “Home is where you make it.”
Family Love Moves Forward
It is now over 13 years since Karin has been back to the US but she carries her hopes and dreams forward with her family the driving force in Australia. “The kids keep us young and very busy. I hope we can unlock their potential in the years to come and support them in what they decide to follow.” For Karin and Corey the sparks are still flying. Says Karin. “We don’t always agree. In fact we rarely agree. Sometimes we flush cows to 2 bulls – one each to see what matings are better.” Corey adds. “We bounce ideas off of each other all the time. We are primary support for each other as well as the primary criticizer.” At the end of the day, they both agree that they complement each other well. Karin adds glowingly, “When we do agree the result is usually MAGIC.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
And so we learn that there are a million details that have had an impact on young lovers that travelled great physical and emotional distances to be together. For Corey and Karin Couch and their family at Riverside Jerseys, the journey will always take new turns but together these travelling hearts have found a shared home.