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Arethusa: A Winning Focus

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

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.

Anthony Yurgaitis, left, and George Malkemus, both Manolo Blahnik. owners of Arethusa Farm Dairy (Photo by Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times)

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.

Arethusa Farm Crew Shot

The Team at Arethusa Farm Dairy

“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.

Veronica Laying in Field

Huronia Centurion Veronica 20J EX-97-USA
Supreme Champion – World Dairy Expo 2006
Grand Champion World Dairy Expo 2004, 2005, 2006

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.


Arethusa Farm Dairy were awarded second place at the recent American Cheese Society competition held this year in Madison, Wisconsin for their Camembert in the Farmstead Cheeses-Soft-All Milks; Aged up to 60 Days-Over 50% Moisture Category.

One-on-One Attention

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.

Picturesque show barn facilities at Arethusa Farm Dairy

Picturesque show barn facilities at Arethusa Farm Dairy

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.”

Heifer facilities at Arethusa Farm Dairy

Heifer facilities at Arethusa Farm Dairy

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.”

Arethusa show team at the recent Royal Winter Fair.

Arethusa show team at the recent Royal Winter Fair.

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 Response Vivid EX 93 World Dairy Expo Reserve Supreme Champion Royal Winter Fair: 1st 4-yr old; Sr. Champion; Grand Champion ABA Unanimous All-American 4-yr old Member ABA All-American Sr. Best 3 Females Member ABA All-American Produce of Dam All-Canadian; Champion All-Canadian Cow

Arethusa Response Vivid EX 93
World Dairy Expo Reserve Supreme Champion 2011
Royal Winter Fair: 1st 4-yr old 2011
Sr. Champion; Grand Champion 2011
ABA Unanimous All-American 4-yr old 2011
Member ABA All-American Sr. Best 3 Females 2011
Member ABA All-American Produce of Dam 2011
All-Canadian; Champion All-Canadian Cow 2011

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.

Roquet Jasmine Sanchez was Grand Champion at Expo Quebec where she was the only cow to defeat the great RF Goldwyn Hailey in over a year.

Page-Crest Excitation Karlie was purchased by Arethusa for a world record $170,000 at last springs The Franchise Kind Sale.

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)

Page-Crest Excitation Karlie, owned by Arethusa Farm of Litchfield, Conn., was awarded Grand Champion honors at the 2013 International Jersey Show at World Dairy Expo

Page-Crest Excitation Karlie was also named Senior and Grand and Supreme Champion at the 2013 Royal Winter Fair

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!


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1044772_138370643033411_538080046_n[1]To have a winner at a major dairy show is a dream for those who are passionate about dairy breeding.  To lead a Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo or the Royal Winter Fair are moments that only a special few can experience.  For Ernie Kueffner, of Kueffner Holsteins and Jerseys in Maryland,  once was not enough and, as a result, he and Terri Packard have shared a countdown of achievement that hits those big first places not just once or twice, but four times.

“The Without Compromise Kueffner Countdown”

Here’s the Kueffner Top 4 Countdown: FOUR Royal Champions in THREE  Different Breeds; TWO  World Dairy Expo Supremes in 2 Breeds and ONE All-Time All- American 4-year old. He looks back and urges simplicity.  “Some people ask for advice from too many sources, and then they collect it all and don’t know where to go with it. Decide what kind of cattle you like and stick with it. Know the traits that are most important to you and don’t compromise when you are making mating decisions!” This particular focus has been the foundation Kueffner counts on, builds from and wins with!


“Good Ring Sense From Good Cow Sense”

If you`re thinking of ways to either start showing cattle or how to improve, Ernie has some advice derived from his observations. “I do think there are a couple things to watch.  Rear udders have become extremely important – maybe too much so. I feel that fore udder attachments and teat placement play a bigger role in the longevity of a cow. And the emphasis on big rear udders in the show ring has increased the pressure to get the udders extremely full. As you watch the great cow classes at our major shows, you see many that have lost the definition of crease and the quality of their mammary. It is not attractive.” Having shared his thoughts about udders, he goes on to other areas that shouldn’t be overlooked. “Feet and legs is the other area I am concerned about. This is not always emphasized as much as I think it should be which may be related to the focus on rear udders. In reality, feet and legs will have much more effect on a cow’s longevity.”

“They’re Always Seeing Stars!”

Having developed superior Holsteins and Jerseys, it isn’t surprising that more than one have won special places in Ernie and Terri’s hearts.  For Ernie there are three in particular. “They are – Tri-Day Ashlyn-ET, KHW Regiment Apple-Red-ET and Huronia Centurion Veronica. (Read more KHW Regiment Apple-Red – Beauty, performance, and even more record accomplishmentsGreat Show Cows: Can they pass it on? and The 12 Greatest North American Colored Breed Show Cattle of All-Time)  All three are great cows – all have been Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo – two have been Supreme Champion at Expo – and all three have been voted World Champion within their breed.”  As glorious as their show records are, what they have accomplished through their offspring (both sons AND daughters) for multiple generations makes them special in Kueffner’s eyes. “It continues on and on – it is amazing to me. You can talk about the best show cows in the world, but we all know that very few of them became respected brood cows. Some of the greats produced a good son or a couple nice daughters, but it is rare to have a cow transmit superior genetics to her sons and her daughters. Ashlyn, Apple and Veronica have distinguished themselves through what they have done both inside and outside the show ring. And they aren’t done yet – they continue to raise the bar.”

Huronia Centurion Veronica at 10 years old. Photo take  by Karen Knutsen at NY Spring Show

Huronia Centurion Veronica at 10 years old. Photo take by Karen Knutsen at NY Spring Show

Teamwork “Running Rings Around the Best”

Ernie and Terri express their feeling for their cattle in the sign which has hung in more than one of their barns, “Every cow in this barn is a lady, please treat her as such.” Perhaps this respect sums up the “Ladies’ First” achievements that their girls have delighted them with. “It was a great thrill to have Supreme Champion & Reserve Supreme Champion at 2004 WDE from the same string – two cows that we purchased for the owners, then developed and managed.” As well there have been four Grand Champions at The Royal in three different breeds.  There is justifiable pride in other career highlights which include purchasing a Holstein 2-yr old who stood 14 at Expo and then developing her into the All-Time, All-American 4 year old.  They earned the WDE Premier Breeder banner in two breeds during the time they managed Arethusa Farm and in 2009 had the All-American Produce of Dam for both Holsteins and Jerseys. Oh yes and both of the dams were past Supreme Champions at World Dairy Expo. Impossible feats are simply expected successes for Ernie and Terri.

“I’m Seeing Barbara From A New Perspective”


First impressions sometimes disappoint later but, in all respects, Butz-Butler Gold Barbara was everything she appeared to be when Ernie saw her in Madison in 2012. “Barbara is one of the few cows, in any breed, that offers a complete package. She is an outstanding show cow with a great pedigree, and that combination gives her worldwide marketing appeal – which makes the financial investment worthwhile. All of this makes her special.” With such obviously strong inclinations toward owning this cow, it isn’t surprising that great partners could be convinced to share his enthusiasm. “When I heard that she was for sale in August, I made a trip to Illinois. She looked outstanding but was recently fresh. I thought waiting a few weeks would help me to make the proper decision. The package price for Barbara and 10 offspring made it difficult to purchase her alone. Tim Abbott joined me on the return trip to Butlerview. After they paraded her at milking time, it was an easy decision….we agreed that it was time to own another Barbara.” Then another opportunity presented itself. “Hearing about my trip, our friend and veterinarian, Dr. Matt Iager, mentioned that he would like to invest in a great young cow if we would take care of her. Shortly thereafter, the representative from River Valley contacted us expressing their interest in investing in a Holstein. Tim and I agreed that the four potential partners all had something to offer – each brought a unique talent/skill to the partnership.” (Read more SOLD – All-Canadian & Unanimous All-American Senior 2 Year Old to Kueffner, St. Jacobs, and Dr. Matt Iager UPDATE: River Valley now a partner) Beyond Ernie’s first instincts and the impact she’s making through her offspring, Barbara continues to surprise. “Now we have worked around the cow for six weeks. And we’ve learned that Barbara is special in other ways – her attitude, appetite, great willingness to milk, and the way she responds to attention make you look forward to going to the barn.”


“Your Reputation is Your Marketing Brand. Share it on Social Media”

Ernie and Terri know that good business starts with the trust people have for the work you do and the cattle you promote. Ernie points out how important that can be. “In this business, you must build a reputation for marketing your best. We always sell cattle with deep pedigrees that the buyer can build on. And we always want to see buyers do well.” For eleven years they have used their website as a marketing tool, but recently launched a Facebook page. Terri is enthusiastic. “I am amazed at the interest this generates. It helps us grow the “brand” and allows people to feel a connection to our business, no matter where they are located around the world. Now we use Facebook to get news out quickly – whether information about a consignment, show winnings or new photos – and this leads people back to our website. I feel that combining the immediacy of social media and the substance of a good website works together to successfully promote our herd.”

 “Mother Knows Best”

Terri Packard looks back to her parents, Richard and Marilyn, for life lessons that led to cows she worked with becoming well-known successes. “My mother taught me about preparing an animal for a show and she was tough! She had a winning calf at the National Show in Chicago as a teenager. She paid attention to every detail – something she learned from her father. I have clear memories of pulling all the dead (brown) winter hair off the heifers in the days before body-clipping; washing animals with bluing and putting them in the sun to whiten; having to rewash animals because she found dander; using a piece of glass to smooth the hooves; and more. But my mother felt that everyone was on an equal playing field when it came to fitting and showing. It didn’t matter how good your calf was. If you used soap and “elbow grease” and put in the time, you would be competitive.”

“Change is Good.  Natural is Better”

ashlyn and tobi

Along with collecting numerous awards, Ernie Kueffner has witnessed changes in the show ring. “The biggest change for me has been the appearance of the cattle. Cows have much more dairy character, angularity and style. Ashlyn was a great cow, but when we look at her pictures from 2001 and compare them to cows competing today….the changes are obvious. Many cows today have a flatter, cleaner bone. They may not have as much strength and depth as in the past, but there is more style and more milk. More emphasis has been placed on breeding/buying cows with outstanding mammaries now that the major shows have been cleaned-up. And cows are going to the ring with their udders full of milk. This has been a positive change. Being somewhat familiar with what goes on at WDE, I find it a great compliment to the cattle people that they have weaned themselves from the udder tampering that went on in past decades. Almost 100% of the cattle are natural now.”

 “With a Heart for Cows and a Head for Business”

For Ernie the family farm was the ultimate training ground for the business man he would become. He outlines the process.  “After high school, I went to auctioneer school in Billings, Montana. Eventually, I joined my father (Ernie Sr.) as a partner in the cattle and auction businesses. In my mid-20’s I purchased my father’s share of the sale barn. I really enjoyed this business because I could travel to several states, and Ontario, purchase cattle and resell them to my customers in Wisconsin. I was very particular about what I purchased and sold, so I established an excellent customer base that appreciated what I offered. As time went by, I expanded into different businesses including a real estate company (owned with my brother) while continuing to help my father with his auction business.” With a growing resume under his belt, Ernie was ready to focus on what was closest to his heart. “At the age of 34, I sold the sale barn and moved to North Carolina to work for Arlen Buttke. We were partners on some cattle and I also helped manage his operation.”

“Talk, Look and Listen”

Both Terri and Ernie had their love of dairy cattle inspired by their parents.  Terri recalls her parents’ influence. “My father enjoyed the breeding side of the business and loved to “talk cows” (or bulls) with anyone else that shared his passion.” It was similar for Ernie. “When the sale barn opened I was 10 years old. After school and on weekends, I would travel with my father to different farms to look at cattle to purchase or sell on consignment. As soon as I got my drivers’ license at 16, my father put me on the road to buy cattle. I was given a lot of responsibility and the opportunity to take it as far as I wanted.”  Kueffner was introduced early to exceptional cattle buyers and sellers. “My first experiences were with four Jewish cattle dealers in Wisconsin and Illinois. They were very wise and I enjoyed listening to them. One of the dealers had many sayings that I still quote to this day. My favorite example is – ‘the good deals never quit winning and the bad deals never quit losing.’ For me, this applies to cattle, business and dealing with people on an everyday basis.”

“The ‘Glamour Purse’ Sets a Shining Example

Having been an eager student of cattle dealing, Ernie was always destined to become involved in that side of the dairy business.  He fondly recalls one sale that still ranks high as a personal-best   achievement.  “Global Glamour (2008) was a huge undertaking and a resounding success with an average over $96,000 on 40 lots and the money was real. We co-managed the sale with Isaac Lancaster and Dan Donor of ADI and wanted it to have an international appeal.” He offers these insights into what it took then and now to build the success of the sale. “A lot of effort went into providing an “experience” for those that attended – from organizing a pre-sale trip to New York City, to the cattle presentation and the atmosphere before, during and after the sale. GG set a standard for high-focus sales in our industry and you see a lot of those ideas used today. “

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Success in the Show Ring.  Success in the Sales Ring. Achieving either one is admirable. Achieving outstanding success in both areas is a mark of exceptional focus and commitment.  Teamwork over the past 16 years has earned a lineup of awards second to none …and still growing! It only seems impossible until we watch Ernie Kueffner and Terri Packard doing it! Congratulations!


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