A Holstein Friesian cow that made news last year after classifying ‘Excellent’ for the fifth time has now achieved the plaudit of a lifetime.
Belbrook Dynamic Vanessa EX6 (BWPF-02-38), owned by John and Robbie Wakelin of Belbrook Holsteins in Rangiora, has classified EX6 at the grand age of 19 – believed to be the first EX6 classification in New Zealand history.
She was also the only Holstein Friesian cow to classify EX5 in 2019.
Robbie Wakelin says Vanessa has been “pretty good for a long time” and her longevity and consistent calving has contributed to the classification more than anything else.
“She doesn’t look 19,” Robbie laughs. “She’s only started to look older recently. She’s a good old cow; she runs through the herd, she’s carefree, and at 19 she’s still going strong.”
Each year, Holstein Friesian NZ members have the opportunity to submit their registered in-milk heifers and cows for classification.
The classification system aims to improve the overall standard of type and conformation of the New Zealand Holstein Friesian cow by recognising each individual cow’s functional strengths and/or weaknesses and grading her accordingly with a Classification Award.
All cows classified are also scored on a linear system for Traits Other than Production (TOP).
A Holstein Friesian cow is not eligible to receive her first Excellent classification until she has calved at least three times.
Vanessa, who is from a long line of “very Canterbury-centred genetics”, was born in 2002.
“Her sire, Bellview WM Dynamic, was bred by John and I,” Robbie says. “He was an outstanding bull, producing 17 daughters who classified excellent.”
Her dam was Belbrook L P Valda.
Vanessa, who was classified this season by Tony O’Connor, classified Excellent for the first time in 2009 and her production peaked at 513kgMS in 2013.
She has produced 13 calves, and two of her daughters – Belbrook TKO Veronica EX2 and Belbrook Talent Victoria EX2 – have both classified Excellent twice.
Currently the oldest cow in the herd, Vanessa has had 15 lactations in her lifetime.
“We’ve always had cows that last a long time, as longevity was a trait my father bred for specifically,” Robbie says.
“We have never shied away from breeding from older cows. Theoretically you should focus on breeding from younger cows to maximise genetic gains, but we just mate the best cows regardless of age.
“Vanessa has been mated again and is good to go for another season.
“She is just doing what she does well; (this classification) has been a long time coming.”
Holstein Friesian NZ President Doug Courtman says Vanessa classifying EX6 is a “terrific achievement”.
“It is an achievement that we, as a breed society, are very proud of,” Doug says.
“It is a testament to the longevity of the Holstein Friesian breed, and the way we’re breeding.
“Congratulations must go to the Wakelin family for the achievement of getting a cow to that age who is still demonstrating excellent health and fertility.”