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If not for the persistence of Holstein Friesian stud breeders Philip and Heather Wilson, of the Telesis stud and West Mains Farm, at Maungatua, one of the top, most prolific bulls in the country, Firenze, might have ended up on the bobby truck.
And if not for the Wilsons' son Geoffrey, Firenze could have been sent to the works once his usefulness to his owner had come to an end. Firenze's owner, CRV Ambreed, plans to retire him in November and he will be shipped back to the Telesis stud to retire.
The alternative is going to the freezing works.
At 12 years of age, Firenze has generated about $8 million in revenue for the company and produced more than 643,000 straws of semen, which have been sold worldwide.
''Firenze is probably the best bull that we have ever bred,'' Mr Wilson said.
The Wilsons have been Holstein Friesian breeders since 1970.
Firenze was born in 2002. Mr Wilson tried to interest CRV Ambreed in buying him as a calf.
''I recognised that his mother was something special so he had a good chance of being something pretty special as well.''
The company genetically tested him for the required productivity traits.
''There was even discussion about them having second thoughts about buying him.
''We were lucky they did the tests on him.
''He was unproven and if we hadn't sold him to CRV Ambreed, he could've been a bobby calf worth $25.''
Firenze was sold to the company for about $400 and the Wilsons had no further claim to him.
''The stud could have made a lot of money from him [had they not sold him],'' Mr Wilson said.
''We didn't get a lot of money but we do have the prestige and credibility of breeding a top bull.''
Firenze went on to produce about 90 sons that were available for AI and consequently had a huge influence on the national dairy herd through sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters in the 12 years he worked for the company.
''The New Zealand dairy industry is where it is because of the sacrifice and the hard work of breeders which they put into the industry,'' Mr Wilson said.
''This was our wee contribution to the dairy industry.
''We didn't get much money for him but we are happy to have done it and the industry is in better heart because of that bull.''
Mr Wilson said Firenze's mother, Telesis Elliot Fame, had high productivity and a lovely, quiet nature. Geoffrey Wilson said he was milking about 50 of her descendants in his present herd.
''I know very well who they are as they are the ones licking me,'' he said. CRV Ambreed recently telephoned Geoffrey to say they were going to retire Firenze, and asked if they wanted him.
They also sent down a large canvas photograph of him.
Firenze had been a hard-working donor and was one of the best semen producers for the company. He provided semen for straws two or three times a week, which was more frequently than other bulls, and eventually produced nearly 41,000 daughters.
At 12, which is old for a bull, Firenze is expected to produce the equivalent of another 20,000 straws before retirement ''He produces awesome sons and has been the king of the heap.'' Mr Wilson said.
''The challenge moving forward is to use a good bull that is not by him.''
Geoffrey said ''Firenze will have a smile on his face'' when he arrives on the farm.
''We will give him a couple of dry cows from time to time to keep him in practice.
''He has never mated naturally so it will be his big opportunity,'' he said.
Geoffrey has taken over the stud from his parents and hopes to breed even better bulls in the future. In the meantime, of the 14 bulls he bred this year, LIC and CRV Ambreed have taken four and the others are available for sale.
- by Yvonne O'Hara