As we enjoy the NHL, football bowl championship and World Junior hockey season, it isn’t any surprise that these trained athletes can put a puck in the net or through the uprights far more often than the rest of us. For one thing, from the earliest hockey drills hand-eye coordination has been a big part of their training to score goals. Dairy breeders must likewise keep their focus on the goal. Arethusa Farm Dairy has achieved notable successes in the showring and in milk production by tightly fixing their vision on what is most important to their enterprise in Litchfield, Connecticut. Matt Senecal, Farm Manager began his employment as an intern six years ago and knows what they are aiming for. “Currently we are breeding for high type and show ring appeal but cannot lose sight of our obligation to provide milk to the processing plant.” To achieve this three-pronged success, quality must be the single over-riding focus at Arethusa.
The Focus on Quality is Shared by Owners and Employees
Arethusa Farm houses close to 350 head of Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss and is owned by George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis. Two successful business executives who took the world by storm when their shoes, Manolo Blahniks were catapulted into the urban consciousness through the television show “Sex and the City”. Who got the passion for cows when they originally purchased the farm opposite their home to protect their view from developers. (Read more: The Dairy Built on Stiletto Heels) Just like their signature stiletto heels, the focus is always on top quality in all that they do. After successes at the 2004 World Dairy Expo, Arethusa began milking 80+ cattle out of a brand new state-of-the-art facility located just north of the original farm. Today 100% of this milk is being shipped to their processing facility, located just a few miles away in the borough of Bantam. George and Tony set high standards and the demands for excellence are even higher. This attitude also filters down to each employee and instills a work ethic like no other.” Quality cattle need quality care and Matt feels strongly about the great work done by the Arethusa staff. “Heather Lord works with the milking herd along with Joe Knapp, Shelby Crawford and Chris Cole. Heather recently joined the team and does a great job overseeing the main milking facility and making sure we are providing the plant with exactly what it needs for production.” Excellence is the priority at all times.
“We Strive for Excellence 365 Days a Year”
You know a strategy works when results are achieved. In 2004 at World Dairy Expo Arethusa owned both the Supreme Champion Cow (Hillcroft Leader Melanie – Holstein) and Reserve Supreme Champion (Huronia Centurion Veronica – Jersey). Matt lists other successes. “We have been awarded numerous breeder and exhibitor banners at national shows, and have bred both Holstein and Jersey futurity winners at the World Dairy Expo.” This started with clearly defining the Arethusa goal. “We need our cattle to be true functional dairy cows so that we can then develop them into great show cows.” You can’t have one without the other.
New Benchmarks. Continued Success.
More recently Arethusa Farm Dairy entered products for the first time ever into the American Cheese Society competition held this year in Madison, Wisconsin. They were awarded second place for their Camembert in the Farmstead Cheeses-Soft-All Milks; Aged up to 60 Days-Over 50% Moisture Category. In the Cultured Milk Products made from cow’s milk category they received 3rd place for their sour cream.
The milking equipment was recently updated and Arethusa Farm milks almost 20 cows out of the original tie stall barn that also features a five bay pack barn. Any cattle that are potential show prospects are housed there as well. Arethusa Farm Manager Matt Senecal expands on this aspect of their strategy. “This allows us to work much closer in a one-on-one environment individualizing for each cow’s needs.” Dan Ceresna and Katie Deslippe are a key part of the success and work mostly with the show cows. Rod Rankin is the Herdsman and has been with Arethusa for almost four years now. Rod has tremendous ability and spends a great deal of time fine tuning the show cow program. He also oversees all other areas and communicates extremely close with all employees.
Communication is crucial.
Producing quality products requires focus on even the smallest details. Matt explains. “There are protocols in place to keep a constant check on the quality of the milk being produced. We then meet with the products’ manager to make sure we are supplying him with a superior raw product for him to then create into outstanding Arethusa Farm fresh products. We do not have room for errors. It does not work for us to lose a tank of milk. If we don’t have milk to ship, the dairy plant is not able to make products to distribute to the numerous stores and consumers. Our brand is marketed as a single source herd…all products are produced only from milk here at Arethusa Farm. This is a huge selling point to our customers. They are able to visit the farm and see just how we take care of the cattle and facilities. When they walk into the barn and see this environment they are sold right away.”
The Arethusa Team
To achieve the level of quality they are targeting requires that the entire team achieves excellence in their assigned areas. Matt recognizes the importance of teamwork at Arethusa. “We greatly appreciate the passion each individual has for what he or she does.” He goes on to outline specific contributions. “Tom Breakell acts as the General Manager. His time is split between the farm, dairy, and many other projects that may be going on.” Regardless of the responsibility everyone targets quality. “Linda Rankin and Kazmeira Nero work closely together to raise calves in a meticulous calf program. Taylar Sherman is responsible for the heifer program. The focus is on quality for all animals including 40+ recipients that are used in our extensive ET and IVF program.”
The Team Pulls Together Wherever They Are Needed
It is always nice to have a trophy room and to have your name in the record books for achieving results in dairy production. Behind the scenes it takes a lot of people who can step up as needed explains Matt. “Dana Chase and Bryan Colbert fill many different positions whether they are needed at the calf barn, heifer barn or cow barn. Bill Pulver spends his time at the farm when things are much quieter. He has been with us for almost two year now working the night shift making sure everyone is safe and sound. Bud Dore and Jeff Jarl are important to the farm, and they will do anything you ask. Bud is currently the longest running employee to date. Jeff runs a top notch chicken house and will paint anything and everything that may need painting.” Arethusa recognizes that there is a role for mentoring dairy industry personnel and they actively support that outreach. “Sammi Wilson is currently working with us for a year through a program called AgriVentures. She is here from the UK to learn about the many different aspects of dairy farming. We have designed a program for her to become familiar with all areas of Arethusa Farm.” Regardless of the individual tasks, Matt emphasizes how important the whole team is. “EVERYONE is important to the farm. Without one of these people, Arethusa would not operate as smoothly or be as productive as it currently is.”
Arethusa and Quality Cows
Matt looks back on Arethusa’s cow story. “Arethusa has been extremely fortunate to have worked with and bred many great show cows since its inception. Of course, Huronia Centurion Veronica 20J takes the ribbon for a cow that has proven that she can show, put sons into stud, and breed the kind of cows that win (Read more: The 12 Greatest North American Colored Breed Show Cattle of All-Time). She is a remarkable cow with a personality like no other. Her daughter Arethusa Response Vivid went on to prove Veronica is not just a show cow but a brood cow, too. With all of her mother’s personality and more, Vivid gained lots of attention when she was crowned 3x Grand Champion in 2012 and Reserve Supreme Champion at the World Dairy Expo.” At Arethusa they are currently working with Crovalley Knowledge Akika VG 89, Roquet Jasmine Sanchez EX 91 and Ernest-Anthony Allure EX 92. All three have been nominated for All Canadian and /or All American in 2013. It isn’t surprising that Arethusa’s focus on excellence would earn them success in the Jersey show ring as well.
Arethusa and Karlie, “The True Type Jersey Cow!”
One of the interesting parts of the dairy breeding industry is learning how owners, breeders and great cows came together to build success. Matt enthusiastically recalls. “Karlie came to our attention first in 2012 when she was named Reserve Intermediate Champion at the World Dairy Expo. A month later at the Royal Winter Fair, Page-Crest Excitation Karlie went on to become the Reserve Grand Champion. Upon return from the shows, George and Tony had expressed interest in purchasing another great young jersey cow. As winter went on and many changes took place here at Arethusa, spring sale time quickly approached. Ads began to run and people began to talk about the Franchise Kind Sale, a sale that is known for quality and show ring success. I had seen Karlie was being offered as Lot 1. Not only were the owners going to offer Karlie for sale, but also a package of IVF pregnancies too. The chance presented itself to purchase not only a young show ring star but the potential for nine immediate heifer calves to begin to develop in the herd. After much discussion George and Tony expressed their interest in the purchase of Karlie. The stress built in the days to come, and when the gavel dropped, it was announced Karlie would be heading to Arethusa Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. At that instant we knew the pressure was on. It was now in our hands to bring Karlie back to the ring just the way she left.” (Read more: Jersey cow sold in Syracuse for a record $170,000) And the rest, as they say, is history. Matt happily reports. “It was said at different times this fall during the judge’s reasons… ‘This is the true type Jersey cow!’ She is complete, she is balanced and when she is ready to work… she just gives you chills. Karlie has gained many fans this year not only in the Jersey breed, but from those that love great show cows. She has been a pleasure to work with as she too just loves every part of the competition.” (Read more: ARETHUSA FARMS TRIUMPHS IN THE 2013 INTERNATIONAL JERSEY SHOW and Royal Winter Fair Jersey Show 2013 Results)
Arethusa Attracts Attention
Whether it’s sports or dairy breeding, when you achieve exceptional results, you will achieve exceptional attention. Arethusa Gold Valencia became the first home bred EX95 Holstein this year gracing the cover of the Holstein World Ring Side edition at World Dairy Expo. Matt lists other attention getting opportunities. “Arethusa has also been featured in The New York times, The Wall Street Journal, on the CBS Early Show, and many other well-known publications.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Wayne Gretzky says it best. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!” And every aspiring baseball player has been told. “If you want to hit a home run, don’t take your eye off the ball!”
While hockey and baseball analogies are perhaps overused, the lessons they provide are useful. When it comes to focus, Arethusa farm isn’t playing games but they are winning. The reason? They are maintaining laser like focus and advise others to do the same. “Make a plan that is practical for your goals. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion. Focus on what you love, and be confident in the choices you make.” At Arethusa this focus is a winning strategy!