IAN Collins and family are well known and regarded across the country for their showring successes, from their home stamping ground of the Great Yorkshire to national events such as UK Dairy Expo and UK Dairy Day.

But Ian is keen to work and breed on with his 130-head blended Dairy Shorthorn herd from where his parents Richard and Mary began more than 40 years ago – to be known for having a good herd of cows, not just one or two great individuals, although latterly the success of one or two have indeed brought the herd to the fore.

Church Farm in Whitley (on the outskirts of Dewsbury) brings the challenge of not only farming on the urban fringe (with restrictions of expansion and access) but also the need to breed a cow hardy and resilient to graze on this farm perched on the edge of the Pennines.

A lot of the farmland is on steep hillsides, and with Ian now the fourth generation to run Church Farm, alongside mother Mary. The ideal cow for this scenario is a mobile one, that can walk and graze, with excellent confirmation and is not extreme. Ian has been involved in bull selection within the Churchroyd herd since working alongside his father Richard in his early teens, and has not wavered from what he says is “an element of ruthlessness in an effort to take the herd forward – wanting width, great feet and legs and exceptional udders”.

To achieve this he has conceded that blending genetics from other breeds such as the Ayrshire to tighten fore udders on Dairy Shorthorns, or the Red and White Holstein to inject milk, is vital to progress his own core Dairy Shorthorn.

Testament to this is the herd which now supplies milk to Longley Farm, averaging more than 8,000kg, with milk from forage and grazed for as long as possible, having many animals in their sixth lactation and above – extolling the longevity that our native Dairy Shorthorn breed is indicative of.

For a breed steeped in so much history in this country, and indeed a herd with itself over 40 years of heritage, Churchroyd are privileged and humbled to achieve a world first in any dairy breed with two of their animals.

Churchroyd Heather 29 was the second Dairy Shorthorn in the world to score EX97, which is a evaluation of an animal’s type based on primarily their confirmation of udder, feet and legs, body and rump, as well as breed characteristics, and for which EX is the top class, and 97 points is the maximum within that grade scoring from 90 to 97 points.

Heather 29 yielded more than 84 tonnes of milk over nine lactations, was a show winner in her own right, including winning the Royal Cheshire Show in 2008, while just this year her daughter sired by a homebred sire Churchroyd Victor (a Windbrook Vince son from the Lady Barrington’s, for farmers with a Dairy Shorthorn breed interest), Churchroyd Heather 50, has also now been classified EX97 – making the first dam-and-daughter EX97 combo.

Heather 50, who is now 11 years old, has so far given 63 tonnes of milk, with four lactations over 8,000kg, and had a seventh lactation of 8,020kg at 3.97 per cent fat, 3.39 per cent protein and cells of 166.

She has improved from a VG85 milking heifer (top class eligible for a heifer is VG, on a grade of 85-89) points, to an EX94 fourth calver and now a maximum scored EX97 and has so far bred two daughters and two sons.

She has also forayed into the show ring, winning breed championships at UK Dairy Day and the South West Dairy Show 2015, where Ian’s sister Wendy is at the helm.

In fact Mary and late father Richard (whom the family unfortunately lost in 2004 – leaving Ian to take over the farm in his early 20s) have been very proud to often have a horde of family members and friends to feed at shows where large strings of the Churchroyd herd are presented.

Wendy runs the show teams alongside her own successful cattle-clipping and preparation business, called Clippaholics.

Wendy and her husband James rent a farm at Kirby Underdale where some of the Churchroyd youngstock are reared.

Ian’s elder sister Jill is a chartered accountant and does the farm’s books, while the next generation of the Collins family, Ian’s son Harry and daughter Molly, and Jill’s boys George and David, have all got the showing bug.

Harry’s hard work was last year rewarded with the title of Champion Young Dairy Handler at the Great Yorkshire Show 2019 in strong and competitive company.

While the Heathers have put the Churchroyd herd in the current limelight, it is the ability of Ian and his father before him to blend not only the right bulls within the Dairy Shorthorn breed but also sires from other breeds to furnish an animal that can milk, graze and be long living that makes this dairy business profitable.

Another breed leader from the herd is Churchroyd Kirklevington 13 EX93 17*, which makes her the most coveted Star Brood cow in the breed in the UK currently at 17*.

This is an endorsement of a cow’s ability to breed high producing and high type/confirmation daughters as well as sons which in turn are impacting by having good confirmation and transmitting productivity into their own progeny.

Kirklevington has come some way since being first place Heifer in Milk at the 2008 Great Yorkshire Show, going on to breed five daughters and six bulls, scoring EX eight successive times, and during her now 11th lactation in the autumn of last year she broke the 100,000 tonnes of milk produced during her lifetime.

Then of course Churchroyd Peggy 19 is worthy of a mention as the current ‘face’ of Churchroyd, having being thrice National Show Champion, three times Great Yorkshire Show Breed Champion and Interbreed GYS and Cheshire in 2016, and is now scored EX94.

So while individuals help create the picture at Churchroyd, it is the whole canvas of the herd that suits this hard farm, managed ably by Ian Collins in West Yorkshire.