One of our favorite Bullvine things to do is to compare the incredible success stories of people in the dairy industry. From show ring legends to dairy breeding icons, we are inspired by their tenacity, hard work and passion. When we meet dairy breeders who have managed to excel in breeding for both type and production, it is especially inspiring. Such is the story of Bob and Denise Behnke and Bur-Wall Holsteins of Brooklyn, Wisconsin.
“We Were Inspired After Entering the Show Ring.”
Bob, the youngest of five children of Donna and Wally Behnke looks back on the beginnings of their Holstein story. “My grandparents had grade Holsteins, but when my oldest brother was old enough to start showing cattle at the local fair, my dad purchased our first registered Holsteins.” That was a defining moment for the Behnke’s “From that point forward, all of us had a tremendous interest in growing our herd.”
“We Focus Primarily on Proven Performance”
Today Bob and his wife Denise have done the practical hard work and careful management that has built Bur-Wall Holsteins’ success. “We milk 60 head of registered Holsteins in a tie-stall barn and also raise 70 head of young stock. We crop 265 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa.” This modest summary doesn’t yet highlight the dairy operation achievements that this dairy has benchmarked. Bob points out the philosophy that has been their foundation. “We focus on making sound, productive cows from good cow families. We show and classify, so type is certainly important to us, but it’s more important that our cows be balanced with good front end strength, deep rib, a wide rump, good feet and legs and strong udder attachments. Cows like this will last for many years. We also have learned that good cows from good pedigrees will always have interest in the marketplace, so while we do contract and breed to some high-ranking genomic sires, we focus primarily on proven sires with proven performance.” And performance has been outstanding for this hard working committed family.
“Camille is the Definition of What We Are Looking For.”
The Behnke’s, like many passionate dairy breeders, have worked with many favorites, but they point with pride to Rose-Lyn Durham Camille, EX-93 3E. “Camille just fit what we were looking for: she classified VG-88 as a 2 year old, grew into a hard-working cow with all records over 30,000 lbs. of milk, and was a cow that would undoubtedly catch visitors’ eyes with her wide front end, walk-uphill frame and wide rear udder.” That beauty would set her apart alright, but Bob then explains what made her truly outstanding. “Perhaps the best thing about Camille was her ability to transmit. She has Excellent daughters from Shottle, Goldwyn and Jasper, and numerous high-VG daughters from Shottle, Goldwyn, and Stormatic.” Again rising above the crowd but then, even the daughters excel. “Virtually all her daughters have posted records over 30,000 lbs., with some over 40,000, and we are excited to see this type and production being passed along to her granddaughters.”
Choosing Camille’s Sire was Key for Behnke
“Camille’s dam was an EX-93 2E Rudolph from Wilcoxview BC Cami that was a very powerful cow in her own right, but needed a little more youthfulness of udder. With the Rudolph’s overall strength and width, we felt Durham would be a great mating.”
Bur-Wall is Always Preparing for the Spotlight
When your plans come to fruition, it can be great in many ways. Bob talks about how the future is shaping up. “Rose-Lyn Jasper Corvette EX-90 is the Jasper daughter of Durham Camille and is showing as a 4-year-old this year. Corvette was Res. Senior and Res. Grand Champion of the Junior Show at this year’s Midwest National Spring Show. She is a silky black cow with a great leg, fantastic udder quality and a high, wide rear udder. She classified 90 points (2nd calf) just 10 days fresh and is looking to exceed 40,000 lbs. of milk this lactation.” Wow! Seems appropriate here. And then Bob summarizes in understated fashion. “So we are really excited to see what else is in store for this young cow.”
Corvette will have plenty of help in carrying Camille’s legacy. “Two full sisters by Pellerat Moon from an EX-93 2E Shottle from Durham Camille are due to calve early this fall for the first time and are looking exceedingly promising. These heifers are a result of a contract mating, and both are incredibly balanced and stylish.”
In much the same way that they have excelled at bringing show ring beauty and milk house parlor production together in their own breeding, the Behnke’s seek it out when purchasing cattle as well. “Another young cow we are particularly excited about is a Jr. 2-Year-Old Braxton from a VG Marconi out of an Excellent Goldwyn we purchased from the Hagen family of Milton, WI several years ago. She’s a bit immature to hit the shavings this year, but the Braxton has tremendous promise, and we plan to breed her back right away to hopefully bring out for next year.”
Finding the Right Bulls for Beauty and Production
“Sires we are using are Armani, Gold Chip, Brokaw, Chipper-P (on our red and red carrier cows) and Shottle. As I mentioned earlier, we focus are making balanced cows with good type, and these bulls have all the potential to get us the kind of cows we are looking for. We have also seen numerous calves from each of these sires at local and state shows and they have been particularly impressive. We are continuing to use Shottle, although he is an “aging” bull because, with the amount of Durham and Goldwyn in our herd, he makes for an excellent cross.”
Star of the Breed Award Spotlights Bur-Wall Holsteins
Receiving the 2013 Star of the Breed Award has been a pretty neat experience. “It came completely out of the blue, and we were absolutely surprised and honored. We knew Gigi was a special cow, since she has had a successful show campaign over the last few years, but we never anticipated how special she would become!”
Continuing to Raise the Bur-Wall Profile
“My father, Wallace, has been by far my biggest influencer. He always demanded the very best from us, something which has helped shape our farm and our family. His passion for the Holstein cow and his extensive involvement in the industry has also been instilled in myself and the rest of my siblings, and we plan to pass on this passion to the next generation.
“Just this year, we started a farm Facebook page to provide instant updates on the day to day activities, show happenings, classifications, etc. It’s also an excellent way to connect with other breeders and to create awareness of what we have on the farm.” Bob and Denise are happy to see that awareness paying off and they are continuing to grow. “With the success of our cows at Spring Show and the Wisconsin State Show and having been honored to receive the Star of the Breed Award for Bur-Wall Buckeye Gigi EX-94 2E, we will be doing a bit more advertising at the national and international level to promote our genetics.”
Always Moving Ahead
The Behnkes are looking forward to seeing how dairy farming will change with the use of more and more technology whether it’s on the breeding side of things or in terms of equipment, software, etc.
The use of genomics has probably been the biggest change I’ve seen in my lifetime” reports Bob. “Its great information to have on both male and female animals, and it’s exciting to see how breeding animals will evolve as we learn more about genomics. I think we will certainly see more and more from genomics to the point where genomics may be able to approach the reliability of daughter-proven information. That would give us, the breeders, a way to better our herds at a faster interval.” As he specifically looks at genomics and Bur-Wall, he says “It has affected us to the extent that I now know more about the bulls I am using in my herd. I also may be a little more apt to use a “young sire” if he has genomic information available. However, my personal opinion is that the “gold standard” is still daughter-proven sires. Genomics are a great tool, and that tool needs to be used wisely.”
The Bur-Wall Action Plan
So often we admire the successful examples we see in the dairy business, but overlook that one thing that they do so well. They take action. All kinds from the biggest to the smallest. But they are always in motion. Bob says it best. ““Know what you want and go for it, whether it’s in the show ring, in merchandising, in the milk cooler or all of the above. And never be afraid to ask for advice or help…that’s often the best way to build connections in the dairy industry, connections that will help you succeed as your business grows.” Following in and enlarging the footsteps of the family they have learned from and enjoy working with, Bob and Denise are an exceptional team. They will undoubtedly leave clear signposts not only for their own young family but for others who are passionate about dairying.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Bur-Wall Holsteins demonstrates the exceptional management, breeding, selection and understanding of the hard work and detail that is required to achieve goals. This is what sets them apart among those unique dairy operations that target and achieve both type and production. We wish Bob and Denise well as they continue to pursue their passion at Bur-Wall Holsteins.