It’s hard to imagine what path you would take as a dairy breeder if you were facing the loss of your entire herd. Anton Ender faced that decision in 1981 when his whole herd of elite Brown Swiss cows had to be slaughtered due to disease. For him the next step was to move forward with Holstein cows. Anton’s son Thomas Ender explains the decision simply. “He chose Holsteins because of their willingness to produce.” Today Hellender Holsteins, which is located just 30 minutes from downtown Zurich, is comprised of 23 hectares, 25 milking cows and about 40 heifers and calves. The free stall housing was built in 1991. Anton’s sons Thomas and Andreas are involved in the operation but both of them have full time jobs off the farm. Thomas is the Head Classifier in Switzerland and responsible for all the breeding and marketing of the Hellender herd. Andreas works as a nutritionist and is on the farm on a daily basis and will take over in the near future.
“Targeted Milk Production. Exceptional Show Performance”
Production attracted Anton Ender to Holsteins and it remains the highest priority. “At the outset they have to be productive.” says Thomas who outlines the Ender breeding philosophy. “We always select for productive cows that last. They don’t have to be the big time producers in their first lactation, but they do need to get better every year.” He zeroes in on how this is done. “The key to achieving this goal begins with great conformation and especially well attached udders.” Of course this has produced great looking animals and a very successful side effect in the success that they have had in the show ring. “We really like to show cows, but never bred for it. Production is the first priority.” Having said that, Thomas acknowledges that the show ring is important to the dairy operation. “The biggest part of our marketing is the participation on the Shows. With this success behind us, it is a great opening for marketing your genetics through the Internet, sales or on a private basis, because the link to the buyer has been created.”
Small Steps. Big Success Now and in the Future.
There are always special animals that rise to the top of individual breeding programs and for Hellender Holsteins it was the Jurgolin Juror cow family. “Without any doubt the greatest cow we ever had and still have the pleasure to work with is Hellender Juror Jurgolin EX-92 6E GM 13*. She keeps impressing us with her own performance as she has already produced 125000kg of milk with really high components. Furthermore she twice topped the production cow class at the renowned Swiss’Expo.” Such achievements would make any breeder proud but Jurgolin is leaving a legacy as well. “The best thing about this hard working, zero problem cow is her progeny. Already 3 of Jurgolin’s daughters are classified EX-94 and EX-95 and there will be more great young cows to come.” Adding strength on the sire side is another achievement for Jurgolin. “Her son is the former N°1 bull in Switzerland and was sold out in a record time period.” Thomas explains the decision process that led to this success. “The mating was chosen to increase the production of her dam by Dixellen Design, which had really high components. Also could she have had a tighter attached udder but had excellent feet and legs, which made Juror a great mating sire for her.”
From a Small Start to Grand Successes
It is quite clear to see that, despite the traumatic cause of their start into Holsteins, Hellender building an outstanding herd. Thomas outlines current breeding lines. “Right now we are still working with the foundation cow of the family, Juror Jurgolin. But we also are building through her daughters by Champion and Goldwyn. The next generation of great ones will come up through the Dempseys and a Knowledge out of the Champions and a Hvezda with RC as well as a Windbrook straight out of Jurgolin.” The shine on the future is also being fulfilled in the show ring. “We own two milking Goldwyns out of Vangoh Durham Treasure EX-96 3E that have been really successful in the showring and that are fresh with their second calves and ready to be flushed. Treasure caught my eye being late maturing and showing a perfect udder already as a young cow.” New purchases are showing possibilities too. “We just purchased the Top Seller of the Riedmuellers Holstein Complete Dispersal, Bolton Chantal VG 2y, a show winning daughter out of Champion Cresta then Durham, Encore, Cinder and Tony Rae EX-96. This bull dam has a very high production in a great mammary system and shows us lots of potential in the show ring as well. Thomas modestly identifies the Ender family’s blossoming success. “I think we consider our greatest accomplishment is that we started with a herd of 25 cows and have been able to develop a successful cow family whose progeny is doing well in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark and Belgium.”
“We like security in our breeding program, so for the breeding part genomics hasn’t affected us as much.” Having said that he adds this caveat. “It is harder to sell a bull out of a great cow family if you’re not in the race.” He therefore outlines the Hellender sire selection philosophy.” The majority of the bulls we used are daughter proven because with a small herd we prefer a proof with more security and prefer not to experiment with young genomic bulls. At the moment we are using Atwood, Aftershock, Seaver, Sid, Observer, Dorcy and still Champion. On the genomic side we’ve been using Destined, Airintake and Lingo. All of these bulls transmit good milk production in great udders.”
“Little Things Make a Big Difference”
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the Hellender breeding philosophy is to look at in the context of their home country. Thomas agrees pointing out, “I think the biggest difference is size. Everything is smaller in Switzerland: the farms the machinery and the herds. This opens the opportunity to do a more individual mating for each animal. At the end this helps to increase the level of the average. We are really happy about the fact that size doesn’t matter as much as it used to in the past. A middle sized, well balanced cow with a great udder often gets a preference towards the big framey cow. For us this is the key to longevity. Do some wise investments in great cow families that reflect your breeding goal right at the beginning and go from there. Embryos I think are a good opportunity to acquire top genetics at reasonable prices. And be hard on the selection of your own animals, this makes you move forward with the right genetics over the years.”
“No Matter How Small You Start Out, You Should Always Dream Big”
The Enders are reaping the success of staying true to their vision. The history of this small herd attests to the success that a focused breeding philosophy can generate. In 2014 Hellender Champion Corina EX-94 was named Swiss Holstein Cow of the Year. (Read more: Hellender Champion Corina – Swiss Holstein cow of the Year!) This daughter of Hellender Juror Jurgolin has several show ring victories and has been 3 time Supreme Champion in Switzerland with multiple outings at the Swiss Expo in Lausanne. Another Jurgolin daughter, probably the most famous of them all is, Hellender Champion Calanda EX-95 3E. She was Honorable Mention Grand Champion of the 2010 Swiss ‘Expo. Of interest also, is that several sons of the Jurgolin daughters are in AI. With all this success, there are many who admire the achievements of Hellender Holsteins. In advising other breeders how to follow in their footsteps, the Enders encourage dairy breeders to stick to their goals and learn from the best. “It is important to have an open mind and always be willing to listen and learn from good cowmen.” The Hellender Herd has benefited from that mentoring and Thomas gives a personal example, “For me the person I look up to is Callum McKinven. I admire him not only as a breeder full of passion but because he made it possible for me to see new opportunities. I learned much during my stay at his place and in times with him after.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
There are many great examples to use as role models and it isn’t surprising that many of them have gone the route of big herds, big facilities and big investments. For the Hellender herd the focus wasn’t on size and numbers. It started with strong emphasis on milk and built from there. With scrupulous selection they have certainly achieved quality in both milk production and in the show ring. Congratulations to Hellender Holsteins for being an example of how a small herd can be managed to achieve remarkable success.