Australian bull earns first Holstein Legend of the Breed status and a special final resting place

The legend of Genetics Australia’s bull MEDALLION will live on with a new award and a special resting place for the record-breaker.

Bundalong Marks MEDALLION, who died in June (2019) just short of his 14th birthday after siring thousands of daughters, has been named the first Holstein Australia Legend of the Breed.

MEDALLION also became the first bull in Australia to be cremated, with his remains being shared in small wooden caskets between Genetics Australia, breeders Bundalong Holsteins run by Brian Anderson and his father Bill at Kongwak in Gippsland, and Holstein Australia.

The popular bull produced more than 500,000 straws of semen in his lifetime.

Genetics Australia’s Breeding and Genetics Manager, Peter Thurn, said few bulls had had the impact of MEDALLION,

“His ability to produce a cow that suits Australian conditions was unparalleled,” Mr Thurn said. “The consistency of his daughters and their magnificent udders cannot be matched. If I had to choose one bull to exemplify our breeding program and goal, it would be MEDALLION.

“Very few bulls have been held in such high regard by the farming community. His breeding value contains many thousands of daughters and he still ranks amongst the breed’s best for mammary systems and farmer likeability.”

Mr Thurn said many commercial farmers were milking multiple daughters of MEDALLION and still have more to milk in coming years.

Brian Anderson said the family was proud to breed such a successful bull.

“He was never a star as far as breeding values go, but he produced daughters that farmers wanted,” Mr Anderson said. “He’s gone over a big portion of the national population of cows and he had such a long career. Because he lasted till nearly 14, farmers had the opportunity to use him again and again because they got what they wanted.”

“People are still using him today. I know a farmer who bought 200 doses last year (2018) and wants to use them over a long period of time on certain cows.”

Born in 2005, MEDALLION was bought by Genetics Australia is early 2006.

“His indexes were good but he was never right at the top of the tree,” Mr Anderson said. “He wasn’t the number one bull but when he first graduated with a proof; he had the best ever ranking for udders with 119. People used him at the start because of that but when they milked his daughters, they thought `wow, I need more of these’.

MEDALLION remained a sought-after sire for his traits and consistency. Ten years after his initial proof, he was still 110 for udders, 106 for type, 110 for body depth, 107 for chest width but only 94 for stature, rear udder height 112, rear udder width 110, milking speed 102, temperament 103, likeability 104.

“These are the traits farmers really want,” Mr Anderson said. “That’s what farmers are asking for, shorter animals with plenty of grunt about them.

“He had incredible longevity. When he was nearing 14, he could still match it with the young bulls as far as what farmers really want.”

Mr Anderson said he was amazed at the positive response from farmers, often delivered anonymously. “You hear people talking in general conversation about a bull that’s a cracker and they had no idea we’d bred him. That’s really pleasing; it’s coming from the heart.

“One thing that made us very proud was that a lot of people who wouldn’t use a Genetics Australia Australian-bred bull saw his daughters and thought I’ve got to have some of that. It was all about what was in the paddock.”

Bundalong Holsteins has had many successful bulls, but MEDALLION stands out. “We feel very humbled and gratified to receive the award, especially as it’s the first in Australia and it will only be presented when it’s justified,” Mr Anderson said.

At the recent Holstein Australia annual meeting, the Andersons were presented with some of MEDALLION’s ashes.

“When we came home from the awards night, I drove past the dairy and calf shed and stopped and thought this is where his journey started. He went off and he achieved all that and now he’s done his job and come home to rest in peace.”

The Andersons have an avenue of honour of cows and MEDALLION’s ashes will be buried there under a headstone.

“His legacy lives on and we’ll make sure he’s not forgotten,” Mr Anderson said.

His legacy will also live on in his daughters who continue his features and strong production values that make money for farmers.

“MEDALLION typifies what we’re still trying to do,” Mr Anderson said. “We’re trying to breed what you’d call the best bull, not necessarily the highest bull on the indexes. Only a certain number of traits are calculated into the breeding value; you have to take into the account the traits that aren’t in that but still have value.”

While MEDALLION is irreplaceable, Mr Anderson has recently sent a bull to Genetics Australia that has the potential to rival his success.

“MEXICOLA is potentially the best bull to leave the farm since MEDALLION,” he said. “I believe he exhibits the traits the farmers will want. He’s not necessarily the highest bull, but I believe he has the pedigree and right traits to rival MEDALLION.”

Holstein Australia CEO Graeme Gillan said the Legends of the Breed award was introduced to recognise bulls that made major contributions to the industry over generations.

Mr Gillan, who has a wooden box with some of MEDALLION’s ashes in his office, said Holstein Australia’s breed development committee wanted to acknowledge bulls that had made a tremendous contribution to the breed.

“Medallion was a bull that fit the picture,” he said. “The award wasn’t necessarily about whether it was ranked number one, it reflected the feedback of farmers milking his daughters,” he said.

“There was such a high level of satisfaction that people would go back and use him,” he said. “All the feedback we’ve had through our members and the general industry was so positive that we felt this bull has had the most user satisfaction as we’ve seen for a long, long time in Australia.

“Bulls often start at the top of the tree and move down as new bulls come along; but as time went on dairy farmers would still want MEDALLION.

“They wouldn’t even look at his numbers; they’d just say I’m milking his daughters and they do everything I want them to do and I’d like more of them in the herd.

“If he hadn’t died, he’d still be in high demand.”

The award won’t be given annually award will only be allocated when there is an appropriate winner.

Source: Genetics Australia

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