It was the phone call between two international photographers and the friendship of multiple industry professionals that lead to a record breaking Jersey sale, and a championship dream.
Bushlea Van Fernleaf 10 EX-93 was first introduced to the spotlight when, at her first show, she won Grand Champion Jersey and Australian grand champion at International Dairy Week in 2017 as a four-year-old.
In 2018, under a new ownership, Fernleaf returned to Australia’s premier dairy show to win Grand Champion Jersey for the second year in a row.
In October last year, Fernleaf was purchased for an Australian record price for a female Jersey -which had not been broken for 36 years – of $50,000 at the Global Impact Sale, hosted by Declan Patten.
The deep-pedigreed five-year-old was purchased by an international syndicate of Bradley Cullen (Australia), Cybil Fisher (USA), Matt Senecal (USA), Avonlea Genetics’ Andrew and Jennifer Vander Meulen (Canada), Frank & Diane Borba (USA) and Jake Hanford (USA), with the under bidder also being an Australian and US partnership.
Brad, who is one of Australia’s leading cattle photographers, said he had been watching Fernleaf following the IDW win in 2017 due to her marketability potential.
“Last year in March, I saw her after she had won and she had really developed a lot and I’d been keeping my eye on her, not knowing that I would want to own her,” he said.
The night before the sale, Brad sent photos of Fernleaf to long-time friend and mentor Cybil Fisher in the hope of buying the cow together.
“I’ve always wanted to own a cow with Cybil,” he said.
“And this cow came up and I thought she would be the perfect opportunity.”
With a price in mind, Brad, Cybil and Arethusa farm manager Matt Senecal purchased Fernleaf, with immediate interest following the sale of other partners wanting in on the syndicate.
“It wasn’t until after she sold that we received immediate interest from others in wanting to also be a part of the purchase and we couldn’t be any more excited to have each individual involved in the Fernleaf story,” Matt said.
Jennifer Vander Meulen said the opportunity to buy into the syndicate was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Andrew and Jennifer were in Australia and attended the Global Impact Sale as Andrew was to judge the NSW State Show the next day.
“We knew a group of our friends were putting together a syndicate to try and buy the cow, but it wasn’t until we actually laid eyes on the cow, that we asked to join,” Jennifer said.
Fernleaf was seven weeks fresh when purchased and to ensure the best potential of getting her ready for IDW 2018, it was agreed by the syndicate to keep Fernleaf at Bushlea Farms under the management of breeder and previous owner Wayne Kuhne, who milks 400 cows in Victoria.
Wayne said it was really rewarding to see Fernleaf win champion at dairy week for the second time.
“It was probably more important to me this year than last year, I got nearly a bigger buzz this year knowing that we were able to sell her and she was able to get up again for her new owners,” he said.
Jersey judge Pat Nicholson, Victoria, Australia, said Fernleaf was a well-balanced cow
“She is sharp and dairy, and she has that beautiful texture and softness about her,” he said.
Brad said the credit to Fernleaf’s success was all due to the team at Bushlea.
“They did a phenomenal job getting her there and getting her in form,” Brad said.
While Brad was not able to watch Fernleaf ringside due to photography duties, Matt and Cybil had front row seats.
“I’m not sure exactly how you describe that rush of excitement, you’re honored to have the opportunity to own a grand champion at an international dairy show, you’re proud of the people who have done the work and put their heart and soul into taking care of her, getting her in the ring looking the way she did,” Matt said.
“And you’re relieved to know your decision to make that kind of investment was in fact all worth the stress.”
While being at the top of her game in the showring, Fernleaf has also proven herself as the highest PI cow in the Bushlea herd on her last lactation with a PI of 134, 7323 litres, 3.7% fat and 4.9% protein in 300 days.
Bushlea Van Fernleaf 10 EX-93 (Vanhalem x EX-90 Senior x EX-90) completes eight out of ten generations of EX dams and comes from one of Bushlea Farm’s strongest cow families, with the original Fernleaf cow purchased in 1945.
Fernleaf’s maternal line is no stranger to success at IDW with her dam Bushlea Senior Fernleaf 6 EX-90 winning Intermediate Champion in 2011 as a junior two-year-old, and granddam Bushlea Fusion Fernleaf 2 EX-90 being the dam of Bushlea Tequ Fernleaf 2 EX-90, the winning four-year-old at IDW in 2016.
Another notable family member is Bushlea Galaxie Fernleaf 4 VG88-2YRS (Max) – owned by Declan Patten, Frank and Diane Borba, and Callum Moscript – which won Intermediate Champion in 2016 and Honourable Mention Intermediate Champion in 2017.
With inquiries already coming from across Europe, Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia, Fernleaf will now enter a flush program in hopes of making pregnancies in Australia and North America.
“We hope to have a first choice, provided everything goes smoothly, for the Avonlea Arethusa Splash Sale in July,” Brad said.
“The idea at the end of the day is to have progeny in Canada, America and Australia out of her as that’s where all the syndicate people are from.”
When asked if Fernleaf would return to the ring at IDW, Brad said they would not rule it out.
“I guess it’s too early to really tell if that’s what we’re heading towards.
“At this stage our primary focus is on putting her into an intense flush program and try to breed from her.”