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October

15

COGENT ANNOUNCES 2014 'FUTURES' WINNERS

Matt House, a dairy farmer's son from Somerset, has been announced as the overall winner of this year's Cogent Futures programme, with Tom Jones from Pembrokeshire taking the competition's runner-up spot.

The annual 'Futures' programme is aimed at providing a comprehensive introduction to genetics and sire analysis for devotees of cattle breeding. Four short-listed candidates (Tom Riley from Lancashire, Robert McConaghy from County Antrim, Tom Jones from Pembrokeshire and Matt House from Somerset) were selected and given the opportunity to experience the role of a sire analyst with Cogent. As part of the experience, the Futures candidates visited a range of dairy herds throughout the UK and were assessed on their ability to select potential bull mothers and to match these cows to a suitable sire.

As their prize in the competition, Matt and Tom will be invited to travel to Holland with Owain Harries, Cogent's Genetics Procurement Manager and a Futures winner in 2009, to visit a selection of top herds in the country and to attend the well-known Tulip Holstein Sale in IJsselhallen. Matt will also receive a package of elite quality Holstein embryos for use within his own dairy herd.

"The standard of this year's Futures candidates was once again extremely high," Owain Harries explains. "All four participants showed great depth of knowledge, with their passion for pedigree cattle breeding and their excellent understanding of the dairy industry obvious from the outset. Selecting an overall winner and runner-up was immensely challenging, with very little to choose between the four.

"However, Matt and Tom proved themselves to be worthy winners of this year's top prizes by exhibiting a real understanding of dairy cattle genetics. They obviously learnt a lot during their time on the Futures programme and I'm sure all four candidates have a very bright future ahead of them in dairy cattle breeding."

Matt says: "I have gained a huge amount of knowledge during my time as a Futures finalist and am absolutely thrilled and very surprised to have been chosen as the winner.

"It was a privilege to go to some of the UK's top herds and look at great bull mothers and working with Cogent sire analysts has taught me so much. I used to just look at a my service sires' pedigrees for overall type, mammary traits and to make sure the mating would not be inbred, but now I look for so much more," he says.

Matt milks 190 cows plus 150 followers on 450 acres of rented land at Fowlers Plot Farm in Somerset. With his father, John, focusing on the farm's arable crops, Matt has a free rein to focus on the dairy herd's breeding strategy, using genomic sires and sexed semen on the herd's 80 best cows and an Aberdeen Angus stock bull on heifers. In recent years he has concentrated on cow nutrition to radically improve the herd's health status, and in doing so has cut veterinary bills by more than £500 per month. His ongoing focus is to produce a uniform herd with cows that are long-lasting and with enough dairy elegance to deliver high milk yields.

Runner-up, Tom Jones returned to his family's Pembrokeshire farm following his degree, and has since worked hard to ensure every cow within the herd has full pedigree status. Over the next five years he plans to expand the dairy herd, which consists of Holstein and British Friesian animals, from 160 to 300 cows.

Other young cattle breeding enthusiasts wishing to follow in the footsteps of Matt, Tom and Owain Harries should look out for the start of the 2015 Cogent 'Futures' cycle which will be inviting applicants this coming autumn.

Pictured L-R: Owain Harries Genetics Procurement Manager and Futures winner Matt House