“Congratulations on winning!” That’s one of the nicest things you can hear when you show cattle. Congratulations is fine for winning the lottery or celebrating a birthday, but “well deserved” is reserved for people who put in the effort and the time and took the risk to get somewhere. Today we are looking at why the success of Paul and Ari Ekstein of Quality Farms Ltd. in Woodbridge, Ontario is well-deserved
Quality Shows to Win
Quality Holsteins is at the forefront of dairy cattle breeding and showing and Ari Ekstein of Quality Farms Ltd. attributes much of that to one cow, QUALITY B C FRANTISCO EX-96-3E-CAN 18*(Read more – The 8 Greatest North American Show Cows of All-Time). “Frantisco is having a great impact on our herd. There is no doubt that the two years that she was Grand at the Royal the Quality herd became more famous in the world. Her greatest impact is through her daughters and granddaughters (Read – Great Show Cows Can They Pass It On). This family is one of the most consistent breeding families in the world. The success of this family has helped keep Quality in the forefront of the Holstein industry. Both the Grand and Reserve grand cows at this year’s Autumn Opportunity go back to the Frantisco family.” (Read – Autumn Opportunity Holstein Show Results)
Quality Winners Don’t Happen by Coincidence
You can’t count on luck or chance in cattle breeding. You have to make a plan and stick to it. When you breed show cows, you’ve got to prove it with winners at the major shows. Ari is familiar with analyzing and planning for show success. “There is no doubt that WDE is one of the greatest shows in the world.” However he points out that Quality’s plan was different. “The last time we exhibited at Madison was with Quality Astro Sheri. She was second prize three year old in 1988. We are only a half an hour from the Royal and we decided to continuously show there rather than Madison.” They have had tremendous success at the Royal. Perhaps this will be doubled in the future as Ari reports “You will see Quality at Madison again in the next few years.” Obviously, the key is to know where you’re showing and how to win there.
Winning today (vs. winning tomorrow)
There can be high excitement and frustrating disappointments in the show ring … but everything you do today has an impact on tomorrow’s successes. Quality’s winners, in the barn and in the show ring, start before each cow is mated. Current stars in their lineup are, “Quality Goldwyn Flansco, Quality Gibson Finsco, Quality Gibson Ficoe, Quality Gibson Fantisco, Quality Carlton Pam, Quality Gold Danzi, Pine-Tree Finley Minnie and Valleyville Rae Lynn.
The Quality Strategy
“We try to breed the best type cow possible that will milk easy with no health issues. We are very particular in what bulls we use and we try and make sure we make the best mating every time. We love great type cows and we will continue to try and breed a “champion” cow every time.” Quality sets the benchmark high.
Change is Part of the Breeding Business
Everyone must find a way to deal with change and usually it starts with recognizing that it is happening. “I am sure everybody involved in this industry will tell you that genomics has had a huge impact in the value of cattle.”
Ari feels it isn’t’t just the sales ring but also the show ring that has seen change. “We have also seen a dramatic change in the style of today’s show winners. Goldwyn has set the new standard in today’s show ring.” says Ari, who then goes on to point out the benefits brought to the dairy industry because of evolving genetics. “Today’s modern dairy genetics have also bred cows that are profitable because they have the ability to milk throughout their lactation. The days of cows peaking in the first three months and barely milking in their last three months should come to an end.”
Genomics Is a Quality Tool
Ari reports that Quality Holsteins uses genomics. “We have concentrated more on the bulls that combine the extremely high type with high production and health traits.” This may surprise those who feel genomics and type are mutually exclusive. The top 10 bulls that Ari lists are: Windbrook, Sid, Goldchip, Fever, Dempsey, Braxton, Atwood, Brokaw, Bradnick, Brawler. When you break down their attributes you see that they are all high type and that there is a 70/30 split between proven and genomic sires. (Read more – Does Genomics Belong in The Show Ring and 7 Sires to Use in Order to Breed the Next World Dairy Expo Champion)
Type Leads the Way
Ari points out that even with genomics, he focuses on type. “We believe that type is still very important and we refuse to give up type for the sake of numbers. Whether you are a commercial breeder or someone who is trying to breed a show cow, the better typed cows are always worth more. When you go to a commercial sale barn the better typed cows always sell for more than the poor typed cows. Needless to say the cow in first is usually worth more than the one in 10th.”
Quality Formula Based on Hard Work
You could be forgiven for assuming that it has been easy for Quality Holsteins to achieve their outstanding show ring success. After all they are in the winner’s circle year after year. Sometimes we forget that the hard work really begins long before the ribbon is awarded. There is no book, “The Lazy Man’s Way to Champions!” Ari attributes success to this finely honed formula: “The combination of dedication, hard work and passion from the Ekstein family and some of the best employees in the world has contributed to our success.”
Only Elite Breeding will have Value in the Future
Experienced in the seed industry as well as the dairy industry, Ari knows that all businesses evolve with changing markets. Ari points out where the future is headed. “The farms keep getting bigger and the importance of high producing, healthy typey cows continues.” Rather than fret about this and worry about the impact, Ari analyzes what lies ahead. “As we move forward we will see that only the true elite animals will hold their value. Anything that is rare will always be valuable. The extremely high genomic animals and the great show cows of the breed will always be valuable. It is very hard to breed both of these and the cows in between will not increase in value.” Simply put, when all of your competitors are busy increasing value by cutting prices, Ari points out that you can actually increase your returns by breeding only the cows that are valued in the marketplace.
Quality Focuses on Success
Sometimes we assume that if we just copy the bull selection of an elite breeder like Quality Farms Ltd., our herd will rise in the rankings too. Ari’s advice disproves this simplistic idea. “I think it is important to realize what your goal is as a breeder, and make sure you focus on what your idea of success is.” You have to know your herd, your cow and yourself before you make even one mating decision. Of course, there are some basic rules to follow. “It is very important to try and breed from the most consistent breeding families in the breed.” Ari says. “There are many good cows with good pedigrees but very few have the ability to consistently breed.” The third piece of advice is probably the most important, “Once you realize what family you want to focus on it is equally as important to use the right bulls. Making the proper mating is very important and do not just use a bull because he has a good proof. It is important to use the bull that is the best mating for each cow or heifer you are breeding.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
You might think a breeding discussion with Quality Holsteins would boil down to a choice between genomics or type. Again, the assumption would be wrong. The Quality answer is that, based on your own clear goals, there is something of value in the proper use of both tools. The real foundation of success Ari points out is that,”The will to succeed, devotion and hard work will eventually pay off.” That’s when the title “Quality” is well-deserved.