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International judges and a new schedule for New Zealand’s premier dairy show

The New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE) is pushing hard to become the country’s premier show destination for dairy cattle.

Three of the five judges released for the January 22 to 24 event in Feilding are international appointments. The show’s organisers have also made sweeping changes to the schedule to make it more user friendly for the animals and the public.

Exhibitors have responded with strong entry numbers despite the more challenging milk price this season. There are 86 junior exhibitors, 82 Jersey entries, 62 for the Combined breeds, 96 Ayrshires, 127 Holsteins, 44 youth handlers, and eight youth challenge teams.

The judges include well-known Dutch Holstein breeder Nico Bons will judge the Holsteins. Nico has judged more than 150 shows in the Netherlands, and his international resume includes Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, France, Russia, Czech Republic, Japan, Ireland, and the UK.

Nico and his wife, Lianne, milk 65 cows and have 60 head of young stock at Ottoland, a village in South Holland which is about 15km northwest of Gorinchem. The herd has been 100% homebred for more than six decades with an average 305-day average production of 10,800kg milk, 4.4% milkfat and 3.5% protein. Bons-Holsteins includes 36 EX cows with an average herd score (including two-year-olds) of VG89.5 points.

Three homebred cows have scored EX94 points and Bons-Holsteins has won a number of Dutch and international titles. Nico’s driving passion remains to own and show the Grand Champion of the Open European Holstein show.

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US judge Brian Behnke will judge the Ayrshire show. Brian has attended every World Dairy Expo (the biggest dairy show in the world) in Madison for 56 years – judging there three times (Milking Shorthorn in 2018, Guernseys in 2016, and Red & White Holsteins in 2005). He has also judged the Western Spring National and Wisconsin State Fair, the Canadian Scotia 4-H Classic, the US National Guernsey Show in Louisville, Australia’s International Dairy Week, in addition to shows in South Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic and Columbia.

Brian and his wife, Tami, live in Brooklyn, Wisconsin. They are active on Tami’s family farm, Glenn-Ann Holsteins LLC – the 2016 National Herd of Excellence award winner from Holstein USA. Brian also works off-farm at ABS Global – managing St. Jacobs product line.


Australian Simon Tognola will officiate the Jerseys. Simon has travelled the world working/clipping (fitting) cows – including living in Canada briefly.

In the nine Victorian Winter Fairs Simon has been involved in at Bendigo, he has helped prepare four Junior, five Intermediate, and three Champion Holstein Cows – along with a swag of Reserve Champions, and Honourable Mentions. He is well-known for his cattle photography business – having pictured multiple All-Australians, in addition to an All-Canadian finalist. He successfully blended videography into his cattle marketing portfolio.

In 2023 he took a step back from fitting to work with ST Genetics as an area sales manager, servicing Northern Victoria.


The Combined Breeds judge is Taranaki’s Jamie Taylor. Together with wife Donna and their family the couple are in their 12th season 50/50 sharemilking 320 cows at Auroa.

Jamie is a senior judge for both Holstein and Jerseys, and he has travelled throughout New Zealand officiating at shows. The president of the Taranaki Holstein branch says he is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the other judges.

Fresh from representing New Zealand at the European young breeders school in Belgium, Kate Cummings, will judge the Youth Show.

Kate was the highest placed New Zealander at the event, which included approximately 160 young people from 16 countries. She finished sixth in the handler’s class, and third in the heifer conformation class.

The Southlander is the daughter of Helen and Jock Cummings, who own and operate Maylan Holsteins. Kate owns Maylea Holsteins, which she runs within her parent’s herd.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Lincoln University (with a focus on ruminant health and nutrition) fueled Kate’s passion for the industry.

She now uses that knowledge in her role as the West Retail Lead (with a team of 12 staff under her) at juggernaut Southland veternarian clinic, Vetsouth. Vetsouth, which also edges into Otago, employs more than 100 staff across the entire business.


Cow comfort and staying relevant is at the heart of some major changes to the New Zealand Dairy Event’s (NZDE) show schedule in Feilding from January 22-24.

Historically, New Zealand has stood alone by offering a multitude of interbreed age classes that were open to everyone – regardless of where they placed in their respective breed classes. It extended the schedule, took significant time, and often resulted in different winners (because the breed judges all get a vote in the interbreed classes).

It also meant some animals got limited time to rest before they were trucked home – which also put additional pressure on their owners for the drive ahead of them.


The world standard in interbreed judging is that just one representative of each breed (the breed champion in the Junior, Intermediate, and Senior sections) moves forward to compete respectively for Supreme Junior (of all breeds), Supreme Intermediate, Supreme Senior Champion, and ultimately a Supreme Exhibit of the show (chosen by the judge collective from the three age Supreme Champions).

The 2024 NZDE interbreed will adopt this practice for the first time.

NZDE committee member Isaac Kelsen said there were concerns after January.

“It was an important conversation for our committee to have – a lot of cows walked a long way in January, and the programme was long. We want everyone to get home safely, and we felt that the old schedule was starting to put that in jeopardy.

“Things have changed in this space too, so that was a consideration. Gone are the days where you enter cows to participate. This is a serious competition, it’s expensive to commit to it, you go to win, and you want to look after your cows while you’re doing it.”

He said it was also important to appreciate that international judges invited to the NZDE take their impressions home of New Zealand – making it important for the NZDE to come into line with other shows around the world.

“We wanted to harmonise with other events – such as IDW [International Dairy Week in Australia) and WDE [World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin], for example – because we do want to be recognised as a global event,” Isaac said.

He said the committee was also concerned that the extended programme meant no-one was getting the chance to come together.

“The last night of the show last year I never got to socialise, which is part of showing. If you’re that wrung out at the end that you can’t have a catch-up with all your friends and competitors, we’re doing something wrong.”


Another change is that just one ring will be running at a time. In January 2023 there were two rings, and the breed judges alternated judging a class before they had to wait while another breed class came in and was judged. Isaac said the “stop-start” nature didn’t give the judges’ continuity so they could establish a judging pattern, and it wasn’t easy for spectators either.

“It also makes more sense for the people on the sidelines or for those who can’t attend if they want to watch the Jersey show, they can sit down and watch the whole Jersey exhibition without chopping and changing to other breeds that they may not be interested in. It will give a better flow for each of the breeds,” Isaac said.

This year’s judges include Nico Bons (Holland, Holsteins), Simon Tognola (Australia, Jerseys), Brian Behnke (USA, Ayrshires), Jamie Taylor (Taranaki, Combined Breeds), Kate Cummings (Southland, Youth Show).


The additional time means that this year’s cattle sale will be a feature. It will include close to 35 lots that include international pedigrees, index, and show type. It will be held on Monday, January 22 in the evening.

“We did that purely because we want to hold the sale while everyone is fresh, and they can socialise around it, and the committee now has more time to put more focus into it,” Isaac said.

“If a potential buyer doesn’t have an animal to show they can go and buy something and show it the next day. Because all the sale animals will be entered for the show.”

2024 show schedule:

Monday, January 22

From 9am:

Breed judging competitions

NZ Dairy Breeds Federation WWS All Breeds Junior Judging Competition

Youth Show Young Handlers

Sale animals on display and a food truck fiesta night

Carrfields Sale of the Century

Tuesday, January 23


From 8.30am: Futurity Classes – calves and yearlings

Youth Show – calves and yearlings (including Junior Champion Youth Show)

Combined Breeds junior show (including Junior Champion Youth Show)

Ayrshires (including Junior Ayrshire Champion)

Jerseys (including Junior Jersey Champion)

Holsteins (including Junior Holstein Champion)

Supreme Junior Champion

Youth Challenge


Wednesday, January 24


From 9am:

Futurity two-year-old

Combined Breeds (including Intermediate, Senior and Grand Champion)

Ayrshires (including Intermediate, Senior and Grand Champion)

Jerseys (including Intermediate, Senior and Grand Champion)

Holsteins (including Intermediate, Senior and Grand Champion)

Intermediate Supreme Champion

Senior Supreme Champion

Supreme Exhibit of the 2024 NZDE

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