IT’S a story that’s taken three-quarters of a century to tell, and it’s not over yet.
Simply titled Bushlea 1945-2020, the 180 pages capture the history and ongoing success of the Kuhne family’s Bushlea Jersey Stud at Koonwarra.
Author Keith Kuhne describes the book as a tribute to “my parents and to everyone who has at sometime contributed to the progress and success of the stud”.
Tracing the development of the stud founded by his parents, Norm and Marjorie, the book is filled with photographs, newspaper clippings and recollections of neighbours and fellow breeders.
“The Bushlea Jersey Stud was founded in 1945 with females from the Elm Grove Stud at Bega, NSW, and the Bangor Stud in Gippsland,” Keith wrote.
“In the early ‘50s females were purchased from the Austral Park Study, Berry NSW. Female lines from these three Studs are still in the herd today.”
Soon after his father’s death in 1964, Keith visited two respected Gippsland studs, Bob Hardie’s Glen Urquart and Jim Smethurst’s Lang Park.
Jim’s philosophy was “no vessel, no cow”, while Bob’s was “you must have the correct confirmation”. Taking both theories on board, Keith decided Bushlea should aim to breed a cow that combined both of these characteristics.
Success followed with many award-winning show cows, from local through to world conference shows. Beyond the showrings, Bushlea was a leader in the adoption of artificial insemination and their careful breeding made the Bushlea progeny highly sought after around the world.
Headlines such as “Bushlea’s record breaking sale”, “Top world Jersey visit”, “World Bureau loves Bushlea” and “Bushlea’s $50,000 record breaking cow” were common over the decades.
In fact, the Kuhnes are so proud, and justifiably so, of their stud, they have an honour board to commemorate their most celebrated cows over the 75 years.
Members of the Kuhne family added their memories and congratulations on the milestone.
Keith’s wife, Pat, wrote she wasn’t even born when Norm registered the Bushlea Jersey Study in 1945. She moved to Leongatha with her parents in 1960 and met Keith at a Leongatha Football Club 3rds presentation night at the Leongatha South Hall that same year.
“We married in 1967. I had no knowledge of farming whatsoever. We had three sons, Mark, Brett and Wayne. Over the past 20 years our family happily increased to welcome Wayne’s wife Lisa, our granddaughter Ruby, and Mark’s partner Peter.
“The collation of this book made me realise I have not been fully aware of Keith’s many and varied achievements, particularly his unbelievable knowledge of hundreds of animals carrying the Bushlea prefix, and the Jersey breed in general.”
Wayne and Lisa became partners in the stud in 2000, becoming the third generation to continue the Bushlea prefix in 2017.
“For the last 25 years I have worked alongside my father and mentor,” Wayne wrote. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have such a teacher.”
The book is littered with “Bushlea Titbits” from Keith, including moments that potentially changed the course of history for the stud.
“Throughout the book Bushlea Iris 40 is featured many times. When I was clipping the heifers for one of our earlier sales, Iris was half-clipped. I stopped and thought ‘this heifer should not be sold the way she was bred. I would never be able to breed another like her’. Took off the halter and put her back with the heifers to be kept for Bushlea.”
A vet advised culling Bushlea Fernleaf 106 who was lame during her first lactation. “That advice fell on deaf ears, she became our most flushed cow and lived till 16 years of age.”
“Soon after Pat and I took over Bushlea, we were very excited at making our first bull sale for $150. We delivered the bull… the cheque bounced!”
“We made a swap of a load of second-hand timber for a bull calf and made new calf pens with the timber. The first batch of calves in the new pens were getting sick and dying. The vet diagnosed lead poisoning from the paint on the timber. Pens were pulled down and burnt!”
And the final word from the doyen of jersey cattle – “There is no such thing as reaching the top in breeding. Thinking should be that the calves born today will be better than last year’s drop. Breeding is simply an endless challenge.”