Classification of pedigree cows in the herd

Well at least it is a lovely summer morning this time.  The last time we chose some cows for classification it was pouring with rain and not looking like stopping.

This morning Chris and I, together with our breeding advisor, Stuart, are walking amongst the milking herd to decide which cows we put in front of the classifier in a couple of weeks time.  

So what is this classification business?

Our cows are all home-bred pedigree Holstein Friesians and in order to keep improving the quality of the herd we try ensure we use a good bull, with good traits, with a good cow, to produce a good calf which will eventually join the milking herd here at Forestside.

The classifier when he comes is looking for a cow with a well-supported udder with strong central ligament, correctly set legs with good foot angle, good confirmation and locomotion ( can walk with a nice stride).

We don’t do all the cows every time, we choose a selection.  Some have never been classified before, as they are young and some are being relooked at to see if they can go up a grade. The cows have to be at the right point in their lactation cycle.  The cows are given scores:

90+ Excellent (EX)

85-89 Very Good (VG)

80-84 Good Plus (GP)

75-79 Good (G)

65-74 Fair (F)

50-64 Poor (P)

We are only looking for ones Good and above to put before the Classifier.

As we walk round Chris checks his list and suggests the ones to Stuart that he thinks should be considered for a grade, or in some cases to go up a grade, or maybe even two!

Stuart and Chris discuss the merits of the cows as they wander past us – of course I like to add my thoughts to the discussion too!   There are some we decide that are not quite right this time, but maybe next time, as they will have grown a little and will meet the standard we are looking for.

But we do end up with quite a good list of ones we think should fit the bill and score well.  Even a couple that may hit that top score of Excellent.  We are getting quite a few VG and EX cows, which is always very pleasing.

Stuart picks out a cow that he thinks will, “without doubt score highly” and says “that if it doesn’t the Classifiers should get his glasses checked at that well known opticians!”

Whilst looking round we also see one of our cows that has produced 100,000kg of milk in her lifetime, but more about her another time.

So yes, you’re right it’s a bit like a cow beauty contest, and as we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  Let’s see who is right in a couple of weeks time.