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Young Shropshire Cattle Breeder Looks to the Future

The winner of this year's Cogent Dairy Futures award is convinced exploiting breeding technologies and genetics will drive herd profitability.

Rob Higgins farms with his family at Bentley Ford Farm, Shrewsbury where they currently milk a herd of 190 pedigree Holstein cows.

Aimed at providing aspiring cattle breeding enthusiasts with a comprehensive introduction to genetics and sire analysis, Rob was one of just four young farmers selected to take part in this year's Cogent Dairy Futures programme.

While on the programme Rob visited Cogent's Cheshire headquarters including the state of the art facility at Lea Manor Farm and went on a study tour of leading UK dairy herds, helping him learn more about the sire acquisition process and identifying potential bull mothers, proposing matings that he thought could produce an AI sire. The competition concluded with each finalist presenting on various matings to suit the different markets operated in by Cogent.

His prize was an elite Holstein embryo package for use within his own herd. He will also travel to Holland with Robert Stewart from Northern Ireland who took a close second spot. During the trip they will visit a number of farms to further their breed knowledge, as well as attending the Tulip Sale and HHH Show. The visit will provide a greater insight into the International side of sire procurement.

Looking forward, Rob has big ideas for the dairy farm with plans for his own herd focussed on utilising the latest technologies and genetics to improve the productivity and efficiency of the herd and develop female lines to hopefully breed AI sires in the future.

"I'm particularly interested in how data can be used to drive efficiencies," says Rob. "Technology such as mating programmes will allow us to selectively breed our animals. Coupled with female genomic testing and the use of sexed semen we can identify the top cows to produce the next generation of our herd, creating an opportunity to breed the lower end to beef thus driving efficiencies."

Commenting on the 2016 Dairy Futures Programme Andrew Holliday, Dairy Product Manager for Cogent Breeding added, "Yet again we have had another successful year of Futures with outstanding candidates. Congratulations to our exceptional winner Rob, who displayed a good depth of knowledge with a true passion for breeding."