A new release Illawarra sire carrying the combined blood of arguably two of the greatest Illawarra cows of the modern era presents a unique opportunity for Australia's dairy industry.
Combining the best of the best is always the quest, but it's not always as easy as it looks on paper.
According to the breeders who collectively contributed to the result, the planets have aligned this time.
StormyJon's pedigree boasts the only two EX95 Illawarra cows in Australia on both sides of his pedigree.
His dam is Llandovery JR Joan 982 EX95, Grand Champion Illawarra at International Dairy Week (IDW) in 2018 and again in 2022 (aged 10 with seven calves to her credit).
StormyJon's sire is SunSupreme (sired by Pingerley) out of Wallumlands Sunstorm 8 - the sole Illawarra to twice win Supreme Champion of all breeds at IDW (2015 and 2019).
Notably, between these two cows, either Sunstorm 8 or Joan 982, have won Grand Champion Illawarra at IDW five out of six successive years during their reign.
Happily for the breed, they were run on the same property.
Joan 982's story is a special one.
She was bred by IDW's six-time Illawarra Premier Breeder - Tony and Elle Hayes from Girgarre, Victoria. The couple offered her for sale as a fresh two-year-old in 2015.
She was snapped up by Holstein breeder Glen Gordon (Gorbro Holsteins) and New Zealand investor Craig Rapley for $15,000.
Many potentially great cows are lost when they are sold on from great herds, but Joan bucked the system in Gorbro's 600-cow Holstein herd, which is run on 486 hectares at Cohuna, in Victoria.
At the time, she joined the other Illawarra, who had already made her home at Gorbro - Wallumlands Sunstorm 8 EX95.
Glen managed Sunstorm throughout her career on behalf of the three-way partnership, including good friends Daniel Bacon, Brookbora Jerseys, and Ben Govett, Tandara Brown Swiss.
We often get asked which cow we preferred out of the two of them, and luckily for us - because we owned shares in both - we never had to make that difficult choice.- Glen Gordon, Gorbro Holsteins
The three men - who have excelled independently in their breeds, winning Premier Exhibitor at IDW 2022 in the Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss, respectively - enjoyed a high-profile ride with Sunstorm 8.
They showed her four times at IDW for four Grand Champions and two Supreme Champions (of all breeds) between 2015 and 2019.
While their public achievements happened in the show ring, Glen believes these kinds of cows work for any operation.
"The cows that win champions at the shows today are modern-day cows," Glen said.
"They are generally medium-sized, have to walk long distances, carry large amounts of milk, and get pregnant.
"The fact that Sunstorm and Joan are both 95-point cows proves that they are not just for the show ring.
"They are functionally sound cows, look good daily, and are from deep cow families."
Glen said buying an Illawarra wasn't as much of a stretch for him as many may have thought.
"I have always had a soft spot for a great Illawarra cow. I much admired cows from Llandovery like Verbena (Llandovey Rangers Verbena 2 - twice IDW Grand Champion), Ruth (Lemon Grove Ruth 146 - twice IDW Grand Champion) and Margaret (Lemon Grove Margaret 162 - Reserve Champion Cow IDW 2006) before I bought one," he said.
"I guess I just always wanted to have a really nice one. Luckily, we got two."
While Sunstorm 8 and Joan 982 were only two Illawarras living at Gorbro, they were two exceptional individuals, and Glen and his partners were determined to capitalise on their joint genetics.
"We often get asked which cow we preferred out of the two of them, and luckily for us - because we owned shares in both - we never had to make that difficult choice," he said.
They decided to join Sunstorm 8's son to Joan 982.
"We felt that Sunstorm and Joan were not only of the best Illawarra cows in this country at the time," Glen said.
"But they also had different strengths and would complement each other very well.
"Sunstorm had so much style through her front end and so much width and height to her rear udder, and we felt it was a nice match for Joan, who has such great wedge to her frame.
"Joan also walks on a really nice set of legs.
"Both cows have great rumps and nice temperaments.
"Both Joan and Sunstorm competed very well in our Holstein herd and made really good production records."
Joan's nine-year-old completed production was 9699 litres, 3.1 per cent 295kg protein, 4.0pc 393kg fat in 293 days. PI: 101.
"Both cows had different things you would like to change a little bit," Glen said.
"But we felt we could make a really nice bull for Illawarra breeders by combining their bloodlines."
Joan 982's breeder Tony and Elle Hayes have worked with many exceptional Illawarras during their career.
Today, they run a 400-cow (50pc Illawarra and 50pc Holstein) herd on 296 hectares at Girgarre in northern Victoria.
Tony said of all the great families they have handled and won with, the Joan family is close to surpassing them all.
Today up to 20pc of their herd is a "Joan".
"I've never seen a more consistent maternal family - be it bulls or heifers," Tony said.
"The original cows in this family were so milky that they've now taken over our Prides and Verbenas.
"They just keep coming in with good udders, milk well, and most have great temperaments."
The decision to sell Joan 982 had been a measured one.
He said the family originated from a group of cows they bought in 1986 while farming in NSW.
He said it had continued to build because each generation had consistently delivered good heifers.
"I thought she could have big things ahead of her, and I knew if we were going to sell one, it needed to be a good one," Tony said.
"Glen has certainly looked after her, it was good to see her go to a good home, and the rest, as they say, is history."
Tony agreed that using SunSupreme over Joan 982 was logical.
"It's the perfect mating," he said.
"We have some SunSupreme daughters that have calved, and they have beautiful udders and good frames.
"They are maybe not quite as dairy as the Joan family, but because Joan has dairyness in spades joining SunSupreme to Joan 982 was always going to be ideal.
"We also have several sons from the Joan family, and they all turned out great.
"I'll be getting 50 straws of StormyJon straight up."
Tony said showing Joan 982's granddaughter at IDW this year, who is sired by Myrtleholme Josh, was a special moment for their family.
Llandovery Josh's Joan won Junior Champion the same year her grandam won Grand Champion for Glen and Craig - giving the cow family a telling finish.
They said they only had a homebred heifer out of Joan 982 when they sold her.
That heifer would classify VG87 and deliver them Llandovery Josh's Joan.
"We couldn't have asked for any better for Josh's Joan at IDW," Tony said.
"It was a really big highlight for us in addition to the breeder banner."
Like everyone, they are enjoying a good season and milking it for all it's worth.
"The milk prices look even better for next year. We're building numbers now and getting back on track," Tony said.
"I think, like most of the farming community, we enjoy farming so much more now."
StormyJon is available from Agri-Gene.
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