Holstein breeder and DFMC dairy farmer Ian Willcocks has been recognised by Genetics Australia as part of its 60th anniversary festivities.

Ian, who runs Manna Farm Holsteins at Yankalilla on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula with his wife, Nicki, was inducted onto the organisation’s national roll of honour along with his brother Peter for the pair’s achievements in bull breeding. The announcement was made during Genetics Australia’s celebration at its headquarters at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, in April.

The Willcocks were among 16 inductees from eight families in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

“They’ve made an outstanding contribution through the provision of elite genetics,” Genetics Australia’s breeding, genetics and production manager Peter Thurn said.

Ian and Peter set up Manna Farm’s registered herd in partnership in 1983. With Nicki, Ian later bought out Peter’s share, and the couple now milk 150 cows on 115 hectares.

In their herd they focus on selecting for traits including high fertility and kilograms of milk solids, sound health and good temperament suitable for the commercial sector. They typically submit a hair sample from all heifer calves at about four weeks of age for genomic testing and use the resulting data to make informed breeding decisions for the future of their business.

In 2013–14 Ian and Nicki’s Manna Farm Apollo Dee was Holstein Australia’s cow of the year for all-round excellence in production, classification, breeding and contribution to the Holstein breed. At the time, judge Johan Fourie, Honeymoon Holsteins, Western Australia, described Apollo Dee – then newly retired at 16 years of age – as “the sort of cow everyone would want”, “the whole package” and “a great model for the Australian breed”.

The following year Manna Farm was recognised for being the highest-ranked herd in SA on Balanced Performance Index and in late 2017 Ian was given a Holstein Australia Fleurieu Peninsula Sub-branch Service Award.

So successful was Apollo Dee that among the roughly 320 animals on Manna Farm at present, only half a dozen do not carry her family bloodline, Ian says. One of the best performers among them currently is a red cow, Cardinal Deonna VG 89, which he describes as “the matriarch of the herd”and herd favourite.

More than 70 young Manna Farm bulls have entered the AI industry over time, with Dalek, Wilcoy, DelSanto, Farmdealer, Ditmar and Darnet graduating to the proven lists. Current young genomic bulls are Gamechanger and Rowlane.

The Willcocks are happy to share their experience with the broader industry and have hosted events including an Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme farm walk.

Ian and Nicki say selling young bulls into the AI industry and local dairies, along with elite females, dovetails perfectly with their dairying operation.