Cow families signpost the way at Knoxtown 

An IHFA Slaney club herd profile 

The Knoxtown pedigree registered herd of Sean and Breda Murphy, and son Gearóid, is steeped in quality cow families with depth of pedigree, excelling in performance on many fronts. Established as a new dairy herd in the 1980s, the herd is backboned by select cow families including Dairymaid, Florence, Memory and Phyllis. Combined, the families at Knoxtown have stood the test of time, and four decades on, the legacy impact of herd breeding policy and selection speaks for itself. Output for the herd last year was 1.97 million kilos milk, 140,300kgs milk solids. 154 cows were calved-down in a production system utilising family labour and supplying quality milk all year round. Allied to their high production credentials, the herd also excels in the top echelons of conformation standards, with close to 80% of the milking herd today scored to VG/EX standard. 

Situated in Rathfardon, Clonroche, the Murphy family farm is 19 kilometres west of Enniscorthy. In the 1980s, Sean established his own dairy farm three miles away from the home farm where he was born and reared, thus enabling two Murphy brothers to separately continue their passions for dairying. Sean established the Knoxtown prefix and so began assembling his chosen breeding lines. His decision to source quality breeding stock from the prize-winning Carrigmoss herd of Sean Kehoe, located in nearby Adamstown, was a key pillar in building towards latent prolific success. The Carrigmoss herd was itself founded on solid breeding lines with many families from established herds in Northern Ireland including Bellahill.   

“I have always liked and highly regarded good cow families”, explains Sean, “the Dairymaid, Florence, Memory and Phyllis families were impressive from the outset. The fact that all these purchases were daughters of Hanoverhill Starbuck EX was also a big contributory factor. In my view Starbuck as an influential sire is unsurpassed for what he contributed to the breed in terms of quality and consistency. Such was the positive effect that he transmitted, I used Starbuck so heavily that at one stage the herd composition was close to 50% Starbuck daughters”.  The herd has been milk recorded every year since the 1980’s. Use of IHFA Classification service has been adopted from the outset with Sean stating, 

“The level of detail provided is very helpful. The classification scoring system gives clarity and provides structure to benchmarking. The independence of the service is a very important asset. It is a breeding goal to have as many cows and heifers as possible with the necessary quality to achieve VG and EX standard.” These high attainments, reflecting functional conformation traits of the hard-working components of the cow, lends itself to a long lifetime of high productivity, with the ability to yield high volumes of milk and milk solids. 

The top longevity cows in the herd are also the top cows on conformation. The three oldest cows are all in their 8thlactation and all are scored Excellent (EX); Knoxtown Talent Dairymaid EX93 7E, Knoxtown Damion Dairymaid EX91 3E (Diamond Award recipient) and Copsewood Pronto Adeen ET EX92 6E. Additionally, there are seventeen cows of fourth lactation or older in the herd and all are scored Excellent. The superior yield effect of the mature cows in the herd is captured economically in the milk recording end-of-year report where a milk value over €3,000 per cow is computed. 

To date, seven Knoxtown cows have attained IHFA Diamond Award status for achieving 3,000kgs Protein production and scoring Excellent (EX) on conformation. 

Dairymaid family 

A naturally prolific and highly successful breeding family in the herd with a total of sixty-nine registered female members in the herd to date. Hanoverhill Starbuck daughter, Carrigmoss Dairymaid 23 EX90 with a lifetime longevity of thirteen lactations laid a solid platform. Knoxtown Lily Dairymaid EX90 3E is one of the pillar dams of the family with a lifetime performance including Diamond Award status, yielding 7,100kgs milk solids with a total longevity of eight lactations.  

Knoxtown Damion Dairymaid EX91 3E DMD 

  • Diamond Award recipient, still going strong in the herd today, now in her 8th lactation. 
  • Lifetime yield 84,473kgs milk, 6,329kgs milk solids, 3.86% fat, 3.63% protein. 
  • Her milking daughters include; 
  • Knoxtown Raphael Dairymaid GP82, 1st lactation 7,653kgs milk, 528kgs milk solids, 3.40% fat, 3.51% protein. 
  • Knoxtown Doorman Dairymaid, 2nd lactation 9,575kgs milk, 699kgs milk solids, 3.70% fat, 3.61% protein. 
  • Knoxtown Atwood Dairymaid GP83, 1st lactation 8,090kgs milk, 659kgs milk solids, 4.34% fat, 3.81% protein. 
  • Knoxtown Sid Dairymaid VG89, 2nd lactation 8,991 kgs milk, 692kgs milk solids, 4.10% fat, 3.60% protein. 
  • Knoxtown Frontrunner Dairymaid VG88, 6th lactation 10,170kgs milk, 789kgs milk solids, 4.17% fat, 3.59% protein. 
  • Her dam, Knoxtown Inquirer Dairymaid EX92 3E, recorded a lifetime yield of 79,065kgs milk, 5,998kgs milk solids, 4.08% fat, 3.51% protein. 

 Knoxtown Prelude Erle EX94 6E DMD 

Lifetime milk production of 117,620kgs milk with 11,537kgs milk solids. She completed 15 lactations and lived until the ripe age of 22 years old. Her quality of conformation and functionality is captured with a classification score of EX97 for feet & legs. Conferred with IHFA Diamond Award status for achieving a milestone of 3,000kgs protein production and Excellent standard of conformation. Her sister by Sunny Boy is also a Diamond Award recipient. Bred from a Deslacs Midnight ET EX daughter purchased at a dispersal sale, both sisters accumulated a combined lifetime productivity of twenty-four lactations. Present day descendant members of this family include Knoxtown MPW Erle EX90, Knoxtown Bradnick Erle VG89, Knoxtown Rampage Erle VG88, Knoxtown Aftershock Erle VG87, Knoxtown Seven Erle VG87, Knoxtown Sid Erle VG87. 

Memory family 

The lineage can be traced back to Carrigmoss Memory 13 VG a Scottish Sovereign Star daughter born in 1984 with a lifetime longevity of eleven lactations. Members of the family were very successful in the show ring in the past for Sean Kehoe. This inherent quality of the family continues as a hallmark many generations later. Knoxtown Bradnick Memory was purchased by Gary Jones who attained showing success with her in winning 1st Junior 3-Year-Old at the UK Dairy Day in 2017. She also won All Britain Junior 3-Year-Old that year. Classified VG87 as a Heifer, she later scored VG89 in her second lactation with an EX90 mammary. Among the family members in the herd, Sean is milking a VG85 Mogul daughter from the Bradnick, now in her second lactation. 

Over time new cow families were added to the herd to help grow herd size gradually and to also help reinforce the depth of quality. A profile of the cow families in the herd today includes; Pine (Sanfield), Adeen, Maude, Dallas, Carmen, Torch, Portea, Wendy, Evon, Chrisi, Erle, Mia, Pearl (Northlodge), Christina, Fran, Indianink, Lulu, Fame, Gretchen, Jodie, Twain and Ashlyn.   

In a snapshot, the following is a spotlight as an overview of some of the established families;                                                                                                                                                 

Knoxtown Raphael Phyllis VG86  

  • As a heifer in-milk she was part of the IHFA team of cows on display at the National Ploughing Championships last year. 
  • 1st lactation yield 10,206kgs milk, 700kgs milk solids 
  • VG86 2 year old 
  • Bred from Knoxtown Toystory Phyllis EX94 5E with her grand dam Knoxtown Inquirer Phyllis EX91 5E a Diamond Award recipient. 

 Knoxtown Seven Riva EX91 

  • 3rd lactation yield 10,472kgs milk, 807kgs milk solids, 3.97% fat, 3.74% protein 
  • 6th generation VG/EX 

Littlerock Seven Rebekah EX92 2E 

  • 4th lactation yield 10,854kgs milk, 775kgs milk solids, 3.51% fat, 3.63% protein 
  • Bred by Ken Chapman, she was purchased at the Littlerock dispersal sale 

Knoxtown MPW Erle EX90 2E 

  • 3rd lactation yield 10,808kgs milk, 798kgs milk solids, 3.85% fat, 3.54% protein 

Knoxtown Fever Florence VG88 

  • 3rd lactation yield 10,029kgs milk, 750kgs milk solids, 3.85% fat, 3.63% protein 
  • 5th generation VG/EX with the family tracing back to foundation dam Bellahill Florence EX by Horwood Emperor 17 
  • Sire stack; Crackholm Fever EX x Sandy-Valley Bolton EX x Startmore Rudolph EX x Hanoverhill Jethro EX x Parboldhall Maple Prestige EX x Ullswater Roybrook EX 

Knoxtown Fever Dairymaid 2 VG88 

  • 4th lactation yield 8,567kgs milk, 607kgs milk solids, 3.51% fat, 3.57% protein 
  • Maternal sister to Diamond Award recipient Knoxtown Damion Dairymaid EX91 3E  

Knoxtown Atwood Dairymaid VG87 

  • 4th lactation yield 8,981kgs milk, 700kgs milk solids, 4.16% fat, 3.64% protein 
  • Her VG87 Dorcy daughter recorded 3rd lactation yield 11,416kgs milk, 802kgs milk solids, 3.55% fat, 3.47% protein 

Knoxtown Wind Dairymaid VG88 

  • 2nd lactation yield 9,438kgs milk, 720kgs milk solids, 3.95% fat, 3.67% protein 

Knoxtown Windbrook Florence EX90 

  • 3rd lactation yield 9,224kgs milk, 691kgs milk solids, 3.96% fat, 3.52% protein 
  • 6th generation VG/EX 
  • Sire stack of Windbrook EX93 x Shottle EX96 x Jocko Besne EX95 x Comestar Lee EX x Etazon Addison x Jabot VG x Cleitus VG x Ivanhoe Bell EX93 x Valiant EX95 

Crossnacole McCutchen Andrea VG87 

  • 2nd lactation yield 9,286kgs milk, 702kgs milk solids, 3.86% fat, 3.71% protein 
  • From the Tri-Day Ashlyn EX96 family, her VG88 dam yielded a production average of 11,598kgs milk, 863kgs milk solids in her previous two lactations 

Knoxtown Atwood Adeen EX90 

  • Scored Excellent (EX) in her 3rd lactation she recorded 2nd lactation yield of 1,153kgs milk, 829kgs milk solids. 
  • 7th generation EX from Aitkenbrae Starbuck Ada EX94 

Knoxtown Atwood Twain 

  • 1st lactation yield 9,089kgs milk, 732kgs milk solids, 4.51% fat, 3.55% protein 

Knoxtown Atwood Breeze VG86 

  • 1st lactation yield 10,793kgs milk, 832kgs milk solids, 3.88% fat, 3.82% protein 
  • VG86 2 year old 

Herd breeding policy is predominantly all AI breeding using the top type bulls, with a preference for daughter-proven. Sean carefully does his homework when deciding on sire selection. “Ideally bulls will be close to +3.00 on type, be bred from a proven cow family with depth of pedigree and have a sire stack combination that is appealing. 

‘I am very impressed with my Mogul and Doorman daughters. Given the lie of the land in breeding trends nowadays it’s difficult to avoid using some young genomic AI bulls and so I will use a limited number of deep pedigree genomic bulls such that the element of guess work is reduced down as much as possible. Sexed semen as a new technology has worked well thus far, I am happy with the results. It has allowed more selective and targeted matings to be made in terms of replacements.” 

Quality grazed grass forms the bulk of the diet during the main grass growing months of the year. Concentrate is fed in the parlour depending on yield and stage of lactation. Quality grass silage is made every year with Sean harvesting in early May in an effort to maximise dry matter digestibility (DMD) as much as possible. Sean explains that the land frequently suffers from drought. A TMR mix of mostly home-grown crops including maize and whole crop wheat fed during the winter indoor months is therefore conserved in sufficient quantity so as to allow for supplementary feeding as conditions dictate throughout the year. A keen member and supporter of the Slaney Friesian Breeders Club, Sean and Breda regularly attend the many club events. 

Sean comments “There are many great people and high achieving breeders involved in the club, it’s great to be able to share and learn from everyone’s experiences and perspectives. The social element is very enjoyable. I take part in as many field evenings as I can and take some learnings on board from each invited master judge, with his/her placings and reasons. I participate in the club herds competition every year and I’m happy to say the herd has had some successes including going on to represent the club in the National Herds Competition a while back. 

“Having been due to host a club field evening this year, before Covid-19 brought everything to a shuddering halt, maybe at another stage in the future we’ll be able to give something back to the club by taking on the role of host and we look forward to playing our part in helping out.” 

(First published in 2020)