The Inch herd from Downpatrick, Co. Down, has won the prestigious British Friesian Herd of the Year Award, which recognizes the UK’s top-performing British Friesian herd. Owned and cared for by the Cleland and Morrison families, the Inch herd boasts 30 elite milkers, predominantly consisting of British Friesians with a few Swedish Reds. For the past three years, the Inch herd has been ranked the top herd in the UK for Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI).
The British Friesian portion of the herd produces an average of 8,343kg of milk at 4.87% butterfat and 3.62% protein, with 61% of the British Friesian milkers in their fifth lactation or more. The calving interval over a six-year average is 368 days, and 60% of the milking herd is classified as ‘excellent’ (EX), with the rest achieving ‘very good,’ and one exception of GP83. The partnership between the Cleland and Morrison families sees James and Sarah Cleland manage the milking herd at the home farm, while Jim and Jeannie Morrison care for the young bulls and heifers at their base, which is five miles away.
The Inch herd’s milking production began in 1949 when Tom and Marion Morrison purchased Dairy Shorthorns before introducing three British Friesian heifers three years later. Although these heifers averaged £200/head, they proved to be an exceptional investment and have bred over 3,000 animals registered to the Inch prefix, according to European breed society Holstein UK. The Morrisons were one of the first families to embrace Holstein genetics in the 1970s, and under the management of Tom’s two sons, Jim and Frank, numerous quality-cattle were produced. This includes Inch Star Nina EX, the first Irish National Holstein Show Champion, who went on to sell for the record price of 6,500gns before becoming Winter Fair Champion for her new owners.
The Inch Holsteins are the current Northern Irish Premier Holstein Small Herd and two-time winners of both the national Premier Herd Competition and the Master Breeder award. After almost 50 years of breeding Holsteins, the Morrison family revisited the British Friesian bloodlines with the result being an “impressive hybrid,” according to Holstein UK. One particular cow, Inch Jed Daphne EX93 (4) 40 stars, started the Friesian line and bred the only cow in the herd book to classify EX 12 times.
A simple grass-based system suits the Inch herd well, with buffer feeding of silage and concentrates fed in the parlour. The partnership currently has 15 bulls at leading artificial insemination (AI) studs, plus many more bred to Holstein herds providing hybrid vigour. The Cleland and Morrison families’ hard work and dedication have paid off in the form of the British Friesian Herd of the Year Award, a well-deserved recognition of their outstanding performance in the dairy farming industry.