Archive for Breeder Profiles

Terri Packard: When you build it…they do come

Kueffner Cows’ Terri Packard is a rare mix of elegance and grit.  

Although she isn’t royal in the strictest sense, there’s no doubt her iron-clad reputation makes her one of the industry’s blue bloods – and a shining example when it comes to talent, integrity, intelligence and grace under pressure.

Terri is married to Ernie Kueffner, and there is nothing this power couple has not achieved in the industry – for others – and, for themselves. They are among the small echelon of A-listers that influence the top end of the global registered-cattle business. (Read more: KUEFFNER DAIRY TEAMWORK “2 Dream the Impossible Dream!”)

 Terri was recently named a judge for the National Jersey Jug Futurity at Louisville. It’s only the second time a woman has been asked to judge the world’s oldest and richest class for dairy cattle. The first was Alta Mae Core, and it’s an accolade Ernie believes is long overdue.

 Terri is not only ready to step up to judge, she is also ready to speak up about the registered industry, her defining moments, what it takes to market cattle, and the extreme solution the couple has been mulling over to combat the cancellation of this year’s World Dairy Expo (WDE)…

Now settled full-time at Kueffner Cows in Western Maryland, Terri and Ernie are well-known for launching Arethusa Farm’s brand, and taking its cows – among other achievements – to a history-breaking effort at the WDE. It was 2004 when Arethusa won both Supreme and Reserve Supreme Champion with their Holstein, Hillcroft Leader Melanie, and Jersey Huronia Centurion Veronica. (Read more: Arethusa: A Winning Focus)

The couple also co-managed (with Dan Donor and Isaac Lancaster) and hosted the Global Glamour sale from Arethusa’s Connecticut base in 2008, which averaged US$97,491, when Apple was sold for US$1 million. They won Premier Breeder banners for Arethusa in the two toughest breeds at WDE – Holsteins and Jerseys.

More recently, Terri and Ernie were the co-owners, masterminds and grunt behind the 2019 WDE Grand Champion Holstein, Butz-Butler Gold Barbara EX95, who was 65 days fresh after a break of two years.

There have been too many blue ribbons and Grand Champions in between to mention.

Great cows need care

Known equally for her cowmanship as for her marketing genius, Terri’s talent – in combination with Ernie’s – has granted the couple access to some of the best cows and deepest pockets in the industry.

Yet being a sixth-generation farmer, Terri’s ultimate master remains as it has always been: hard graft.

Terri has overhead people saying it’s easy to market great cows on the budgets they’ve had access to over the years. Her reply is simple.

“Yes, we have worked with a lot of people who have had money, and some people say we bought the cows, and there was the money to do it.

“But, one of the biggest things for me in marketing is first and foremost you have to take care of the cows. Without them, you have nothing. It doesn’t cost anything to brush tails, and soap is cheap.

“Yes, you can spend a lot of money on a beautiful display at a show, but if all you do is look after the cows, you’re still promoting your ability, your programme, and your attention to detail.

“There’s honestly nothing I enjoy doing more at a show than brushing tails. It’s therapy. We were all taught in 4H to clean hooves, ears, and have the sweat out from the udders … and so many seem to forget that. It’s something you can do without a lot of financial outlay. That’s what my mother taught me. And, wow, she was tough. She taught me more about elbow grease than anything else.”

Within the bigger picture, it has been Terri’s upbringing in northern Pennsylvania, her 4H experience, her personal journey, and Terri and Ernie’s partnership – all of which has collectively contributed to her stellar career. 

More than show day

Terri says not having WDE this year will sort out who truly is prepared to put the work in on their cattle day in, day out.

“With the shows falling like dominos, it’s going to sort the people out. I’m talking about the people who take care of their cows every day, no matter what, and who takes care of them ‘just because there is a show on’ – because this is an every-day, detail-oriented business.”

Terri says Ernie still gets up every night between midnight and 2 am to check the cows whether there is a show on the horizon or not.

He either puts the lights on them if they are in the pasture, or he picks the shits while he’s there if they are in the stalls. Terri does the early morning shift. They know their best insurance is having eyes on their cows.

Terri says, “You can’t teach people to observe. You either have it, or you don’t. You can teach them all the other stuff. But not that.

“Ernie gets annoyed with me at shows, because I’m on the wash rack, which is my one-on-one time with the cows, and I’ll come in and say, ‘There’s a cut on this cow, this cow has some swelling in her neck, and I can smell some hoof rot’. He’ll say to me, ‘Did anything good happen on the wash rack?’.

“But, we both know that observing and the attention to detail is so important, and it’s unrelenting.”

Unsurprisingly, it was Terri who suggested a sign for the new barn’s entrance at Arethusa. It’s a statement that hung at Ernie’s family operation in Wisconsin: “Every cow in this barn is a lady. Please treat her as such.”

It speaks to both of their hearts.

Ernie on Terri’s talent

As always with industry couples who are both talented, Ernie has often been given the lead. However, his respect for his wife runs deep, and he says her judging role at Louisville’s National Jersey Jug Futurity is overdue.

Ernie says, “In agriculture, to get to the top requires sacrifices. If they’re willing to do it, I’ve always thought that women had as much – or more – ability than the men. I’ve never had a question about that in my mind.

“I thought there was an opportunity for Terri to go forward to judge because she’s ready, she enjoys it, and that’s extremely important. She’s been up for judging roles before now, and she’s been beaten by males that aren’t qualified as her … because they’re men. It’s irritating. In fact, it irritates me a lot, because I believe that holds a number of women back sometimes.

“When she got the Louisville appointment – even though we don’t know for sure [the event] is going to happen – it was quite thrilling.”

Ernie also says Terri has strong opinions – these will keep her steady when she gets to the pointy end of the day.

“Over the years I’ve seen when certain male or female judges get to the Grand Champion – the very important times – they start to second guess themselves. Terri doesn’t second guess herself.”

Terri confirms she enjoys judging, and she knows it includes some pressure for her peers.

“I think it’s hard being in a situation whereas a couple the two of us have had success. People think I might do what Ernie would like. It’s hard to get out of that shadow, and it seems to be hard for people to understand that you might have your own opinion.

“If a woman doesn’t do a good job judging, then it’s that much harder to get momentum for other women. If a man does a bad job, it doesn’t hurt the other guys as much.”

Terri’s associate in the National Jersey Jug Futurity will be the dry-witted Richard Caverly, who managed Arethusa before Ernie and Terri took over.

Ernie’s best deal

Ernie says his wife is one of the special ones, and when asked what she has brought to their operation, he doesn’t hesitate to give her the credit she deserves.

It’s a little difficult to answer real quick because she obviously brings a great deal. She brings a lot of energy and a lot of objectivity.

“She does physical, mental and emotional work, and she’s outstanding in marketing and advertising. Terri can do anything – and she does it well.”

He smiles, “We don’t always agree, and sometimes she takes longer to do some jobs than I’d like her to, but she always does it well.”

He quips, “And when she gets a new haircut, that looks good too!”

All jokes aside, Ernie knows he made the best deal of his life when Terri agreed to share her life with him.

“There is an integrity and decency in Terri which means she can also go to any farm anywhere, at any time and she will always be welcomed.

“That’s quite a compliment. I’m not sure I’d be welcome everywhere, but that’s okay. Because there’s some places I don’t want to go.”

Arethusa was defining

What some don’t know about the couple’s dominating run at Arethusa is that for the first 12 months of their full-time association, Terri managed Arethusa while Ernie continued to run their home operation – six hours away.

She was 33 at the time, and Ernie and Terri had never milked more than 15 to 20 cows at home. Her brother, David, worked alongside her, and Ernie commuted a couple of times a month. It was a defining appointment for Terri.

Ernie says, “That was probably quite extreme for Terri at the time, and she was probably quite shocked for the first five minutes after I suggested it. But, for me, it was simple. From a personal standpoint, I wanted her to be more challenged; I knew she’d do well, and I knew there would be no failure.”

Terri agreed that she was stunned when Ernie suggested it without discussing it with her first.

“That really changed me – because it threw me out there,” Terri says. “I wasn’t on my own entirely, but it sure felt like it. That first year we were there, our mother [Marilyn], passed away and David and I were on this new farm, with young employees, Japanese interns and college kids.

“It was like being a parent in many ways, but I also had the responsibility of the cows. It was a lot. But I enjoyed it. There were days in the beginning where I was out mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, and mowing the pastures, because in the beginning, we did it all. When it got to that first successful year at Madison, that put me in the office full time, and I then became the relief milker.”

The 2004 WDE success put a lot of pressure on Terri and Ernie because it “ratcheted” up Arethusa’s owner’s expectations. And the industry was paying attention.

Terri says, “When you have a certain amount of success, there are people that are happy for you, and there are people that are jealous. Some people are both.

“But Arethusa was great at letting us do our job. From the beginning we said we would stay involved as long as they remembered that the cows came first, followed by the owners, and then the employees. But, the cows would always come first.”

When the couple called time on Arethusa after a decade, they gave owners George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis just over a year’s warning to put their plans in place.

“Sometimes it feels like it was a lifetime ago. We had a great group of cows and a great group of young people.

“One of the best things was the people we got to work with. Because we had young people who wanted to learn. And, they were dedicated, teachable and they loved cows.

“They’ve gone on to do great things. At one point, we had former employees managing every one of the major show herds in North America.

“We still get calls and texts with what they’re doing. That’s been a major highlight for both of us to watch their careers.”

Reputations make sales

Terri and Ernie were planning a sale in conjunction with the Franchise Kind in June.

When COVID-19 happened, they were preparing to hunker down and ride it out until they could re-schedule.

In the interim, the Hogan family, who milks over 5000 cows at Misty Meadow Dairy in Oregon, approached them with an eye on acquiring the 2018 WDE Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand Champion, South Mountain Voltage Radiant EX91. Ernie had always said she was for sale. On one condition.

“There was one cow in particular that they wanted and other people have asked about her at different times,” Terri confirms. “And, the answer was, ‘Yes, Radiant is for sale, but not alone’. Because, if she is not here, the excitement is gone about going to the barn in the morning for Ernie.

“He’s said that for a couple of years now.”

“Finally, I just gave the Hogan family the spreadsheet of all our animals, and they came back and asked us how much for all of them. You can’t pass up that kind of opportunity. Ernie and I each picked out one baby calf to keep and we have a couple of donors, some Holstein heifers, a Brown Swiss donor and Barbara left.

“We still have Radiant here too on behalf of the Hogans, because we had planned to prepare her for Madison. Hopefully, Louisville will go ahead, so we can get her out there.”

Importantly, Terri and Ernie have never been able to ship milk in their operation, and so 37 head were loaded up for their new future. They are now in the care of Misty Meadow’s herdsman, Danny Upchurch. Danny handled a lot of the sale detail and is responsible for the family’s type herd, which is currently located in California while a facility is being acquired for them in Oregon.

“We sold because there was so much uncertainty in these unprecedented times. We didn’t know when we’d be able to have a sale, what the economy would be, whether anybody would be in the mood to buy anything and whether there would be any shows. And, when somebody comes along with sincere interest in type cattle with pedigrees who wanted to breed from them, we had to consider it.”

Ernie and Terri remain in the mix, helping the new owners with decisions related to marketing, showing and breeding.

“It’s hard to see them go, and I still cried when we left after visiting them, but they look good,” Terri said. “They’re doing well and they’re happy. The first day we walked in there they were so buried in this beautiful oat hay they were eating that they didn’t even want to talk to us. Which was good. They’ve adjusted well, and it couldn’t be more opposite living for them.

“But this is the first time since we’ve lived here for 23 years that there’s not been a Jersey heifer on this farm.”

Circular business

Terri says she wasn’t surprised when Ernie immediately started gathering new animals.

“This is an addiction, right?! No sooner had we got them loaded and out the driveway than Ernie started talking about Michael Heath and Nathan Thomas’s sale, which was running a week later. Ernie felt he should support it because he’s a firm believer that everyone in this industry has to give and take.”

They bought a springing heifer that caught Terri’s eye, who they say has calved out beautifully. Terri says while buying goes against their “sort of” plans to slow up, they both have a happy knack for finding the good ones.

“I give Ernie a hard time about it, but it’s usually beneficial,” she pauses reflectively. “If we sell a whole bunch of cattle, two years later he’ll end up buying one of them back. When we had our sale in 2016, we sold a bred heifer for $5500. She calved out the next year, and Mike Deaver called and said, ‘You might want to know about this one.’

“We bought her back over the phone, and we never saw her before she arrived at the farm. That was Radiant. And, he’s done it before.”

Another Jersey recently joined them – a daughter from Radiant – who was sold last year. She’s owned in partnership with RCD Jerseys (Rankin, Ceresna and Deist).
The two calves they chose to keep include Ernie’s choice of a Velocity out of Radiant, while Terri chose a calf who goes back to one of the first Jerseys they bought from Canada after they moved to Boonsboro in 1997.

Terri says, “I’m keeping something out of that Sofie family until we’re done. Her dam is a Premier x Comerica x Deluxe x Premonition x Sofie and she’s sired by Velocity too, so I’ve got my shot of Veronica in there.”

Giving up the business may have been muted, but somehow it still feels a world away.

“We did have that discussion pretty seriously, and I thought selling that many cattle during a pandemic might be a sign that perhaps it is enough, and we should slow down.

“Ernie is almost 20 years older than me, he’s got Parkinson’s Disease, and while he’s working hard against it, he does have it.”

Barbara: sweet win

When the talk turns to achievement and favourite cows, Terri says for Barbara to go all the way last year under judge Chad Ryan, of Fond du Lac in Wisconsin, was a personal sweet spot in her career. 

“I remember when Barbara was in the ring, all these people were wanting to talk to me. And, all I wanted to do was to watch that cow,” Terri said. “Finally I got up on top of a chair, so that no-one could talk to me.

“Because that moment was the culmination of so, so much work, and I just wanted to see Barbara be happy, and see her appreciated.

“We’ve shown some beautiful older cows in the last few years that have been hammered in the ring. And, I wanted to see a judge respect an older cow. And, I’ve never seen her in all the years we’ve had her behave so well and look so happy out there, and just show off like Veronica and Ashlyn used to do.

“That moment made up for all the hours of work over the years.”

Terri says Barbara calved at the end of July. She hadn’t had a calf in two years, was fat and angry to be in-milk again.

“She was wicked. She was the nastiest Holstein cow I’d ever milked for those first two weeks. She was so mad that her udder was full of milk. We had quite a roller coaster ride with her for 65 days, and then to stand there looking at her in the ring was a testament to the cow and to the judge, who was so respectful of both the cows and the exhibitors.

“I don’t think anyone would feel that he didn’t give their cows time that day.

“If we never showed again after that, I’m okay with that.”

Barbara inspirational

Terri Packard worries that missing WDE could be critical for a number of form cows, and she has been mulling over an edgy alternative because it also worries her what the industry will do without some light at the end of the tunnel.

“Every day since they’ve cancelled WDE, I have the discussion with my husband about another show.”

“So many of these cows have that one day like Barbara, and you may not ever get it back. That’s one of the main reasons why I want a show this year. For all these cows that are ready.

“People say there is always next year, but there may not be next year for some of them.”

Veronica still favourite

People who know cows, know that if they get great care and management, they have the confidence to show their personality and intellect.  

And, of all the great ones Terri has worked with – even though she was reared with Holsteins – it is a household Jersey name, Veronica, who remains her favourite.

“There’s been so many unique and interesting animals I’ve worked with, but I don’t think anyone else looked at you like they knew what you were talking about like Veronica did.

“She was so aware of people. It is 18 years since we bought her, and we worked with her for more than 10 years, and we still tell the stories about her because she was just that smart.

“She had such an appetite, and she was so aggressive at a show. When we would take her out to be washed, Ernie would have to stand the end of the barn and clear the way for her when she came back.

“Because as soon as she got to the door, she knew her feed would be in her stall, and no-one could hold her back. We literally always had the biggest guy we had in our team bring her in, and she’d start getting mad, and Ernie would say, ‘Let her go.’ She’d just storm into the barn, and into her stall, and start eating.

“She was the same in the clipping chute. And, she knew when people were watching her. You could see the angle of her head change. One day we were classifying Holsteins at Arethusa, and we were washing and clipping the cows and the Holsteins were getting all the attention, and that morning we left the Jerseys out.

“When they let the cows back in to feed, we turned around and Veronica had walked into the barn, and she was standing in the clipping chute like she was saying, ‘What am I? Chopped liver?’

“Norman [Nabholz] used to lead her, but I remember one year we took her to Louisville, and she was pissed that day. Norman saw her come out of the chute really mad, she was hauling arse as she stormed up the aisle and into her stall, and he was like, ‘I can’t do it. I’m out. She’s gonna take me for a ride’.

“Ernie was like, ‘We haven’t got time for this’. Norman said, ‘Steve White will do it’. And, Ernie didn’t think he would. And, Norm replied, ‘He will if I ask him’.

“Steve is such a big, broad-shouldered man, and luckily for us he said he’d do it. So, we walked Veronica down to the ring with Norman at the halter and right before Veronica went into the ring, Steve took over.

“And, you could see Veronica slowly look up at Steve, take in his size advantage, and you could literally see her thinking, ‘I’m not gonna be messing with this guy’. She led like a dream that day, and she was Champion.”

Does Terri think she would have led for Norman?

“I think that day she might have taken him.

“Everything she did was always extreme. It was great to be around her. I led her twice over the years – once at The Royal as a second-calved two-year-old when she was Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand under Steve Borland – and, as a 10-year-old at the Spring Show where she was Reserve Grand. But she was a handful and headstrong. Her great-granddaughter acts just like her.

“Jerseys have so much more personality than Holsteins, and they just draw you in. There’s the rare Holstein that is responsive like that, and Barbara is one of them, so I enjoy working with her, and I love observing her.”
Terri says Jerseys might get sick a little quicker than Holsteins, but they get better faster.

“And, don’t let anyone tell you they don’t eat as much.”

Delicate marketing dance

Terri warns that marketing in today’s world is a delicate dance.

“I think it’s just so important, especially now that we don’t get a Holstein World, and every state doesn’t have their own breed publications. We’ve got to build our own hype, and have our cows in front of people. And, it’s very accessible to do that through social media.

“But, I don’t like to badger everyone, because – when I need to market – I want them to listen.”

Every industry needs leaders

In closing, Terri hopes there is room in the industry for the next generation to come through.

“There are a lot of young people out there who have a strong interest in registered cattle, and they want to take care of good cows,” Terri said. “But I don’t see very many of them going out and buying the farms, or having the income to be the next generation of that.

“All these young people who love to do this – there needs to be the next layers of owners who can afford to hire them, and who can afford to take care of these good cows.

“I hope there are enough people that still get excited about going to the shows and having a nice cow to look at in the barn in the morning.

“Because it does take more work, those kinds of cows do need more care, and in order to be developed to that point…it’s every day – it’s not just once you get on the truck, and head out for the show.”

It’s been said that without someone to set the bar, how does everyone else know how high they have to climb?

There’s no doubt that Terri and Ernie help bring the energy, and the excitement, that makes this industry special and compelling for everyone else. And Terri is a beacon for young women who are aspiring to take lead roles at any level.

Panmure Jerseys Rebuilding After The Fire – It Will Never Be The Same

Jill and Brad Porter with their dairy cows. Picture: Christine Ansorge

It was the phone call every dairy farmer dreads when they are off-farm.

 Brad and Jill Porter were milking 600 cows at Panmure Jerseys, just out of Warrnambool in south-west Victoria. On March 17, 2018, they were in Tasmania for a short break when their neighbour, Jack Kenna, rang. He said a power pole had fallen on his farm, ignited a fire and it was headed their way. He said they had three minutes to get out.

 There was no time to do anything. The flames, propelled by the hot windy temperatures and a lot of fuel, would wreak unspeakable destruction within 30 minutes – including killing or maiming 400 of their herd. Cows which Brad adored. The life-changing event was to be so catastrophic and traumatic on so many levels that it still haunts them both today.

 Both Jill and Brad have become fierce advocates for change, board members for Blaze Aid, and they have advice and life lessons – that they wish they had never had to learn – for their colleagues facing up to their own recoveries after the recent bushfires across Australia…

Brad and Jill (who was still in her pyjamas) rushed to the airport. They left their rental car sitting in the middle of the drop-off zone, and sprinted for the ticketing counter. They managed to bag the last flight out of Tasmania. The airline put them in the front seats, giving them the best chance of a rapid exit when they landed.

The Porters arrived home at 3am and began immediately checking the cows. Jill, a pharmacist, stepped into her professional role to help assess and triage the herd. As the sun rose, the depth of the carnage became clear. They wouldn’t go to bed for the next three days.

Brad said, “There were the dead, the walking dead, the severely burned cows, the burned cows, and the cows that were okay. The fences were all gone, and the cows were in shock. So were we. One side of the farm wasn’t as bad, and we could put all the other animals over there so we could concentrate on the herd.

“We assessed all the cows and we had to get a number destroyed immediately, and we were forced to sell a large number of cows that were burned, but saleable.

“Some things you just can’t un-see. And, I don’t want to ever see what we saw that day ever again.”

‘I wouldn’t have my husband’

Jill’s life has also changed in the aftermath, and she is sure of one thing.

“I wouldn’t have my husband today, if we had been home,” she said without a pause of hesitation. “He would have died defending those cows. Every day I get up now and look at him and think, ‘Thank God, we weren’t there’.

“I still can see in my mind’s eye a cow who was burned … with her nose half peeling off. And she just stood and looked at me. I couldn’t help her, and I couldn’t protect my husband from seeing her. He knew every cow. He loved them all. Those memories remain very raw. I struggle to go to the dairy even today if it’s hot and windy.”

Brad still hasn’t had the heart to check the computer thoroughly to update his records on the cows which survived. Because he will see the ones that didn’t.

“I don’t even think about how many cows we’ve lost, and that’s why I haven’t gone back into the computer since the fire. I just block it out. It’s for my own mental preservation.”

Running to find peace

The fire was caused by a power company’s ageing infrastructure – with nothing the Porters, their neighbour Jack Kenna, or any other neighbour could do about it. The bitter pill to swallow is that was preventable. The result has been lengthy and engulfing litigation that threatened to swallow Jill. She was so enraged by the injustice of that day, that her counsellor advised her to take up a sport.

“I am not into sport at all, so I started walking,” Jill said. “But it was too slow because I was so angry, so I started running.”

How far does she run?

“Until I feel good.”

It could take 19 kilometres to achieve peace. It depends on the morning.

Jill didn’t work off-farm again for 18 months.

Daily, intensive treatment

Brad still tears up when he thinks about the cows and the suffering they went through.

One of the first things the Porters needed to do after the fire was to get the cows through the dairy. It was akin to a war zone: so many of the herd were injured and in pain. So many needed treatment every milking.

Neighbours and friends pitched in. There was a kindness and solidarity that Brad and Jill will never forget. For about six months afterwards they were feeding up to 150 people every lunchtime.

Milking health focus saved cows

Brad said they considered drying the herd off, but he needed the routine to make him get out of bed every morning.

“We needed the income as well. But mostly I needed my usual routine to maintain my sanity. I think it helps with making decisions.”

One of the first post-fire orders of business was the dairy. The clusters and liners, which had concerned Brad in the past, were now causing havoc.

“The cows’ teats were weeping, and their skin was so thin and so tender. We were so worried about stripping all the skin off the teats because we had really bad cup slippage. We needed cups and liners that were gentler on the teats.

“For the health and comfort of the cows we didn’t have a choice. There was no running away from it. We would have lost so many more cows if we hadn’t done something, and we knew it had to happen fast.

He made an SOS call on the Thursday to Mick Scanlon of Scanlons Dairy Centre in Terang, who in turn contacted Leon Lourey from Daviesway. By the Saturday, a full install of new Milkrite clusters and liners was complete. They chose Milkrite because the science behind the design gives cows the highest level of comfort (they have the world’s only internally triangular moulded plastic shell with mouthpiece vented triangular liners).

Team works with farmers

Leon said the whole team made it happen.

“Knowing the circumstances, we just knew we had to do something as quickly as we could,” Leon said. “Mick was also a big part of it. Our sole focus was to help in any way we could.”

Brad said it was a life-saving decision.

“Most of the cows’ udders were burned. The teat orifices on a lot were fine, but we would have lost the entire herd with that cup slippage. We needed cups that hung on, but which were gentle.”

Milkrite, which is used by 40% of farmers in the USA, includes a patented and revolutionary air-vent position in the mouthpiece of each shell. It introduces air above the milk-flow, stops splash-back and makes cluster removal gentler.

“I was so delighted and relieved with the result,” Brad said. “The clusters were much lighter, and much easier to use.

“I was a real sceptic about the air hole in the mouthpiece of the liner – I thought it’d get clogged up with shit – but it hasn’t been an issue.

“I’d be happy to stand on the corner of the street and sell Milkrite to anyone who would listen.

“They milk cows out properly, they are much gentler on their teats. We haven’t seen any teat-end damage in the last two years and that’s been a big thing for me because I can’t afford to lose anymore cows. I wouldn’t dare put my name to it if I didn’t think it was worthy.”

Fences around the district have been destroyed. Picture: Rob Gunstone

80% of bushfires preventable

What now haunts Jill is that her research has revealed that more than 80% of the bushfire deaths in Victoria can be traced to electrical failures. Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has determined that Powercor failed to identify the termite-riddled power pole which razed Brad and Jill’s property. That day six fires – all started by electrical failures – burned 40,000 hectares.

“These fires are really deadly. If you look at Black Saturday [February 7, 2009], six out of the 11 fires were electrically initiated. On Ash Wednesday [February 16, 1983] five from the eight were ignited by electrical failure. All of the 1977 fires [that burned about 103,000ha] were electrically started.

“On the day of our fire, all were started from electrical infrastructure failing. Every single one of them. And, it’s because the infrastructure is aging and it’s failing our community.”

Jill has been fighting for change ever since because their community’s pain remains real and raw.

“I think the biggest thing is I’m devastated that a Government and a system can let a community down like we’ve been let down. We deserve to be safe. That is not happening.

“Yes, we got a civil settlement, but they are now arguing about what they should and shouldn’t pay for. They’re still in the driver’s seat. They destroyed my husband, and you can’t get that back.

“His passion and his livelihood was gone. I can articulate that, and I’ll continue to take it to them. Because they are wrong, they are indecent, and they are cruel.”

People were the difference

Day-to-day their community’s resilience has been the shining star to come out of the experience.

Jill said, “We are still a long way from recovered. I’m not saying we’re not functioning. I’m back now, but it took me 18 months to go back to work.

“You listen to the psychologists and it takes an average of six years to recover from a bushfire. You’re not ‘right’, even when the grass is green again because everything changes. It rips you apart.

“People talk in terms of ‘getting back to where you were before the fire’. It’s very much the catch phrase in recovery. I’m absolutely certain that you never get back to where you were because the recovery takes you down a different pathway.

“It’s not all bad. There are some good things – people’s generosity and support of us is something Brad and I hope to pay forward.

“Our neighbours and community that were burned out have become very resilient, and we know each other on a much deeper level because of the fire.”

Brad said it had been a humbling experience, and it had been hard to accept help. But people had made the difference

“I remember walking out the door after the fire and thinking, ‘where do I start?’. People came from everywhere.

“It was a generosity you never, ever forget. It pays to be charitable in life. I would walk over hot coals for my neighbours – there are so many people I have such a high and healthy respect for in my neighbourhood. At the end of the day, they’re the ones that got us back up on our feet.”

Jill said her advice to peers now facing their own recovery in the wake of the most recent fires was to take care of each other, and not to be afraid to ask for help.

“It takes a long time to come out of the fog, and you don’t need to rush it. You have to attend to certain things straight away, but you don’t want to make too many decisions unless you have to.

“There are a lot of good people in this world, and you’re not on your own.”

Thanks to Daviesway for allowing us to share this story.  Also, be sure to check out Dianna Malcolm’s new venture Mud Media.



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Fawcettdale – Breeding success for a century

There’s a whip-smart quality in his storytelling that beguiles Allison Fawcett’s 93 years of age.

Names and dates aren’t lost on him, holding true to a form that marks the quality of a man who gave all of himself (and then some) to farming.

Truth be told, it was a consistent game of one-upmanship against himself that today has Fawcett recounting various aspects of his family’s history, and its 100-year association with Holstein Canada.

“I don’t really know what to owe my success to… I just always liked being the top conformation class in cattle,” he told the Winchester Press recently. “I got a kick out of breeding a better one.”

It was that drive to get better, be it in farming, growing crops or cattle production that instilled a lifelong race for validation.

Allison Fawcett sits among the family’s Master Breeder shield plaques, and the recently received Century of Holsteins Award. Uhrig Photo

Fawcett comes from a rich stock of Holstein Canada accreditation, with his grandfather Andrew taking a membership in 1919 and his father, W.J., submitting his application in 1923 and holding onto his entry until his death in 1957.

His own membership came in 1950, and continues to this day, a total of 69 years.

“The Fawcetts have been very strong in Holstein Canada for years,” Fawcett said. “My father served as national director for 10 years, and I served as national director for 18 years and then president in 1983-1984. It’s something vital – holding onto that membership.”

Given that the century mark has been reached, the family was honoured by Holstein Canada at the organization’s recent annual general meeting in Charlottetown, PEI.

Fawcett wasn’t suited for travel, so a fellow Eastern Ontario breeder, Karen Velthuis, accepted the award on his behalf and later presented it to the family.

Tracked along a gravel road that bears the family name just outside the village limits, Fawcettdale Farms serves as a legacy and today shares space with Coachside Farms, overseen by Fawcett’s son David.

The father-son duo remains the first to ever win a Master Breeder shield while working out of the same barn, just under different prefixes. This came in 2009, and was recognition Fawcett could add to his first-ever shield, won in 1975.

In his kitchen, the family patriarch has the plaques hanging alongside the one his family received in 1946.

These honours make the Fawcetts the only family in Canada to have three generations honoured with the shield.

In middle of the pack on the wall is the prestigious Century of Holsteins Award.

Just underneath, though, is the photo of a beaming beauty who sits resplendent in a fashionable top and mini-skirt, with high heels below. Her hands are placed exactly where they should, the image of a milking practice that seems so far removed from today’s culture.

It’s a cherished picture of Fawcett’s late wife, Jean.

“I’ve always said, if you’re interested in something, you’ll find the time,” he said. “But my wife, too, was a great supporter and a great promoter.”


The Jersey Future is Now

Last year I had the opportunity to contact an energetic 27-year-old dairyman who has enthusiastically selected the Jersey breed for his dairy operation. Listening to Tyler Hendriks of Seaforth Ontario as he talks about the dairy industry and Jersey breeding made me excited about the future possibilities for Jerseys.

Young Mind – Fresh Start

After college in 2011, Tyler bought his retiring uncle Gerard’s milking herd and quota holdings. He rented his uncles 100 acre farm and milked in a tie-stall barn. Within two years he had added in half his father’s quota holdings. His grandparents had immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands, working factory jobs and dairy farming part-time. Eventually, Tyler’s father and uncle took over and divided the operation into two average sized neighboring tie stall farms. Tyler’s parents had farmed with a mixed breed herd however Tyler saw breeds differently and swapped out the Holsteins for an established Jersey herd. In his own words, Tyler commented on his bold start saying, ‘actually being responsible both for the management and labor in a tie stall barn was a big wake-up call for a guy just out of college’.

While attending college Tyler had formed strong friendships which he maintains with other young dairymen who represent other types of focus including an organic and grazing herd, a large herd with high performance and a large herd including high genomics and embryo marketing. All those herds have Holsteins but after doing much research and study Tyler determined his goal of total concept from field to milk sales could be best realized by farming with Jerseys.

Family Foundations     

Tyler has the total support of his family – Emily, his parents and sisters, Brittney and Kylie. Noteworthy is the fact that Tyler’s parents gave him the opportunity to immediately be the dairy leader. Tyler and his wife Emily, who also grew up on a dairy farm and is a bank ag specialist, were married in 2016. They have a six-month son, Liam. Tyler gives much credit to Emily on the financial side as well as being willing and able to step in when needed for work or fine-tuning plans. Family time with Liam and off-farm time are important to Tyler and Emily. They both participate in CrossFit as a way to get off the farm and be active in their community.

Taking the Leap

In 2014, Tyler switched to a total Jersey herd when he combined the quota holdings of his uncle and half of his father’s quota for a total of 130 kgs of fat per day. At that time his herd was housed in a tie stall barn. In 2016 a new tunnel ventilated sand stall barn and double eight rapid exit parlor were built. This reduced the labor requirement and gave Tyler more opportunity to manage the milking herd at an elevated level. The Jersey herd came a whole herd, but Tyler found it necessary to cull especially on a production basis. His herd additions have been elite genetic heifers as they left the Progenesis Program. Currently (Jan ’19) the 93 Jersey cows are milked 3x with a daily average of 1.55 kgs (3.42 lbs.)F, 1.20 kgs (2.65 lbs.)P and 39.5 kg (87 lbs.) Energy Corrected Milk. SCC is 120,000 SCC, Pregnancy Rate is 30% and average days open is a remarkable 88 days. One important metric for Tyler is that his herd produces 2 kgs of Energy Corrected Milk for every 1 kg of Dry Matter consumed.

The calves are in hutches and fed 2x and weaned at 75 days. Younger heifers are housed in an old pig barn renovated by Tyler and Emily. Older heifers are housed in an older cow barn.

Tyler milks at two of the three milkings each day usually with his father or sisters. He employs a night milker and along with family this allows for family time, for harvesting to continue, for vacation time and for when he has meetings to attend.

Tyler quickly told me that his most important and ongoing mentor has been his father. To this day they usually have time during milkings to share, discuss and even, as Tyler says, to disagree. He was reluctant to start naming mentors as he has had and continues to have many. He values highly what he has learned from veterinarian Dr. Ray Reynen, when Tyler assisted him doing herd health visits to other farms, and also values the advice given to him by nutritionist Jesse Flanagan and his neighboring dairy farmers.

Fieldwork and cropping on 800 acres is on a shared basis between Tyler, his father, and his uncle. All forages are grown on the farm and they are stored in horizontal silos. High-quality corn silage is important as it forms 65% of the milking cow diet.

The Future is Information, Data Gathering and Improving Results

Tyler spends considerable time every day, except on the busiest harvest days, studying reports from Dairy Comp 305, searching the Internet for information and ideas, communicating on Facebook and participating in online webinars.  He shared that at times he may feel slightly guilty for all the time at the screen. However, in the big picture, there is little doubt that the hours spent are yielding great returns to Hendriks Dairies.

To date, Hendriks Dairies does not have parlor ID but that plus many other tools are on Tyler’s consideration list. All will be evaluated on a cost-benefit basis on his Jersey farm.

I did ask Tyler – “Why Jerseys?”. His quick and progressive thinking mind came right back at me with “Well, Why Not? … Feed efficiency, smaller more docile cow who isn’t so hard on herself in a commercial environment, lower age at first calving, less health events, less animal labor per unit of output, high fertility, … do I need to give your more reasons?”.

Other Young Dairy People Also Interested in Jerseys

One year ago, The Bullvine produced articles on the very progressive Suntor Holsteins (Read more: Suntor Holsteins – New Baby, New Robot, New Perspective and Suntor Holsteins – Breeding Goals Revisited. Kevin and Amanda Sundborg, Master Breeders and owners of ‘Lightening’ nominated for Holstein Canada’s Cow of the Year (2019) have added a few Jerseys to their robotic farm. Why? Partially we have learned that it is because of Kevin’s friendship with Eric Silva (Sunset Canyon Jerseys, Oregon, US) and mostly because of seeing how productive, efficient, trouble-free and fertile the Jerseys are at Sunset Canyon. Are Jerseys the future at Suntor? Time will tell.

The Future is Officially Here

Tyler shared with me some interesting thoughts that I feel we all need to consider:

  • It is facts and on-farm performance that should be the basis for all decisions
  • Look down the road to how milk will be priced in 5-10 years at the farm gate
  • The future pricing of milk will be for the solids not the fluid portion
  • High fat milk should be transported and processed separately
  • Jerseys can be 20+% of the national herd, provided Jersey breeders focus on productivity
  • Much can be learned by studying very successful Jersey farms in the US
  • Jerseys can work very well on automated farms – 3x or stall robots
  • Dairying with Jerseys in the future will be about much more than average first lactation score and the show ring. The Ontario Jersey Benchmarking Service (Troew Nutrition – Jersey Ontario) is excellent for bottom-line focused breeders to compare their herd to other herds.
  • More progressive Jersey thinkers need to be involved in farmer organizations
  • Lifestyle and family are very important, take time for both
  • Kevin Sundborg sees it as a total farm operation when he considers which breed suits best. It is the efficient use of all resources – facilities, land available, land value, topography, heat units, manure disposal, phosphorous run-off, investment in machinery, labor required and many more.

More thoughts on future Jersey breeding, heifers, feeding and managing from both Hendriks and Suntor Farms will be covered in a future article.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Future Jersey dairy farmers can follow the examples of Tyler and Emily or Kevin and Amanda’s models for including Jerseys. It isn’t absolutely necessary to copy the program of others or to maintain a farm’s tradition. Always look for new ideas and ways to farm successfully. The keys to future dairying will be data and information, thinking of and implementing ways to use it to increase revenue per unit of input, control costs and farm each day to maximize profit. The future is now for innovative dairy farmers. Move forward. Be Awesome.    



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Ferme Jacobs – “Dreams without goals are just….dreams”

It’s so hard to focus on the victories with Ferme Jacobs, because the way it wins is so well, winsome.

Just one other Canadian farm has won Premier Breeder at The Royal more times than Ferme Jacobs (Romandale Holsteins, 13 times). Notably, at The Royal, Ferme Jacobs showed no heifers and they have now nudged ahead of household names like Dupasquier Holsteins, Hanover Hill Holsteins, Glenafton Holsteins and Rosafe Holsteins.

And the last time a Holstein breeder won Grand and Reserve Grand Champion with homebred entries at The Royal was Agro Acres with maternal sisters in 1969. Before that the only other recorded time was by Mount Victoria in 1935.

The landslide results for Ferme Jacobs started here when The Royal judge Jamie Black slapped the family’s winning four-year-old, Jacobs Windbrook Aimo EX95 for Senior Champion.

This year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair belonged to Ferme Jacobs’ winning four-year-old, Jacobs Windbrook Aimo EX95, and their winning mature cow, Jacobs Lauthority Loana EX96-2E, who finished Grand and Reserve Grand Holstein respectively. Loana is owned in partnership with Pat Conroy.

And yet the lasting impressions from both WDE and The Royal are not only the family’s champions, but also the way they care for their cows, the way they celebrate and the way they share their success with the industry.

The squeals and multiple photographs of their children swarming ringside, together with the unadulterated joy between their parents in the ring, is infectious.

“We always have a party, even if we lose,” Ysabel Jacobs, 37, smiled.

“But that party at The Royal this year was one of the best ones we’ve had, for sure. We were so excited. We’ve never had Grand and Reserve Grand before, so we went wild.

“Because the level where we are now with our results; it’s easier to get there than it is to stay there. We know that.

“Last year we said we couldn’t have a better year than that was. Then this year, we did. We don’t know what’s coming up for us. But we know we are going to have to accept it when it comes, because we have kids around and we need to show them the right way to handle losing.”

The family was also unafraid to bring the reigning WDE Grand Champion Holstein out again at The Royal one month later – always a risk when a cow has something to lose.

WDE and Royal wins both special

“I think both the WDE and RWF results were special in their own way,” Ysabel said. “At WDE, Loana was perfect, and while Aimo [the 2017 WDE Intermediate Champion] won her class at WDE this year, she didn’t co-operate with us that day, and we had wanted her to look better than she did.

“At the RWF, it was the opposite. Aimo got ready perfect, and Loana didn’t want to co-operate. When we get our cows ready in the string, we get all excited before they leave the string if they are heading to the ring looking as good as we know they can be. After that, whatever happens in the ring is fine because you have no control over that.

“We think Loana might have had a big heat the day before the RWF because she was very mad that day. So, one show was perfect for Loana, and one was perfect for Aimo. We’re happy with that.”

As to which cow is best, Ysabel smiles. She always leads Loana and Yan takes Aimo.

“I don’t know,” she laughed. “If you talk to my brother he’ll say Aimo, and if you talk to me, I think I’d say Loana. There are some things that I like more about Loana and some things I like more about Aimo.

“We both like to lead, and we kind of always have our own cows. We never fight for who leads who, because we always differ slightly. We like the same kind of cow, but we like different things on individuals too. I would say Aimo is more Yan’s type, and Loana is more my type.”

Carl Saucier mentor

Semex’s well-known Carl Saucier, who has been a mentor and friend for Yan and Isobel, says there is something special about the family’s care of their cows, which always comes before winning.

“What I love about this family is that they are not only humble winners, they are great losers,” Carl said.

“I remember in 2015 at The Royal, they lost the Premier Breeder banner by the smallest of margins and they went down to Kingsway [Farms, the winner] and drank to their success with them. They are always happy for others. Ysabel is happy to help others at shows too – even her biggest competitors. She’ll give them some of their best hay to fill cows on show day. She just smiles and says: ‘Let the best cow win.’”

Buy when they want to

While the family is now recognised for its success with homebred animals, buying them is not without precedence. This year’s WDE Intermediate Champion, Erbacres Snapple Shakira-ET VG89, is jointly owned by Ferme Jacobs, Ty-D Holsteins, Killian Tehraulaz, Ferme Antelimarck and C & F Jacobs. The 2013 WDE Supreme Champion Bonnacueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95 3E 6* was co-owned with Drolet & Fils, Ty-D Holsteins, and Bonaccueil Holsteins.

Erbacres Snapple Shakira-ET VG89, gets the nod for Intermediate Champion at World Dairy Expo. She is jointly owned by Ferme Jacobs, Ty-D Holsteins, Killian Tehraulaz, Ferme Antelimarck and C & F Jacobs. She is led by Tyler Doiron.

“We do like to buy one once in a while and develop a cow to the max she can be,” Ysabel said. “But we’re never in a rush to buy them. It just happens when, ‘OK, I can’t get over it’. Then we get on each other. If I go to sleep at night and I still see her in my head, we need to buy her. We’re like kids and it’s satisfying to get a cow where you know she can be. With Shakira, it just happened that our friend, Killian, was there when we were looking at her, and he said he wanted in too.

“I think the partnerships we have now is that they know us. They know that we’re not going to call for a breeding decision. But they know also that we’ll make the best decisions we can on the cow’s behalf.

“If someone wants to be in with us, they need to just let us get on with it. We’re very bad for sharing news – very bad. We don’t spend all our time talking with a partner on the phone. They need to have trust in us and as soon as we flush, we usually separate everything so the partnerships don’t get too big. That’s the easiest way.”

Breeding with numbers often doesn’t add up 

When Ferme Jacobs decides on what bulls to use to breed the next one, genomics is the last consideration. The family is driven by cow families and the sires that leave the kind of cows the farm needs. They have alternated between high type and breeding for milk. It maintains a balance of stylish show cows that will work and last.

“We do look at the numbers, but that’s not big for us,” Ysabel said. “The only number we really do watch is that we will never use a bull that is minus for milk. Yan is starting to judge more now. He went to the USA, and Tyler and I are also starting to judge too, so we are all travelling a little bit.

“Between us, we see enough cattle in a year that we can see which bulls we want to use, and which bulls we don’t wanna use. When we go away, we usually also try and visit two to three farms to see what’s there and what’s working.

“Right now, we’re breeding for a bit more on milk, because you can have any good show cow in the world, if she doesn’t milk it’s not going to work.

“We are concentrating right now on balance, especially at our place because we have so many type cows. Using high type bulls here right now would be too extreme.”

Bulls in use now include Croteau Lesperron Unix, Seagull-Bay Silver, Comestar Lautrust, S-S-I Silver Spike, Sandy-Valley J Pharo, S-S-I Montross Missle, Monument Impression, and MR Mogul Delta.

“I know sometimes we use older bulls, but we don’t think using old bulls is a fault,” Ysabel said. 

Massive embryo demand

Their juggle remains working between showing cows, massive embryo demand (500 embryos were sold by Ferme Jacobs this year), and breeding a bull for the industry, to be marketed through Select Sires.

MOET embryo transfer work takes a seat behind show cow management and preparation. IVF is infrequent, because of the expense.

“If the cows are on a show programme, they are not going to be flushed,” Ysabel said. “We don’t want to work with hormones while they are showing. We’d rather flush them when they are done showing.”

And the Jacobs family remains true to itself when it comes to choosing potential bull mothers.

“Select [Sires] are not pushing us for the cross, because they know there are some crosses we don’t want and some crosses that make sense to us,” Ysabel said.

“It doesn’t have to be very high on everything, because we think that everyone in the industry is running a race right now on all that… for nothing.”

The cows they hope to make a bull from include 2017 Holstein Canada Cow of the Year, Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96 2E 10* (Braedale Goldwyn x Jacobs Jasper Best), Loana (Comestar Lauthority x Jacobs Outside Linsey), Aimo (Windbrook x Jacobs Minister Aima), and Shikara (Snapple x Miss Apple Snapple EX-94). Aimo has an ET bull calf coming, sired by Lautrust, and she will calve next May to Lautrust.

The family’s happy place

Challenges come to every family and Ysabel says it is always the cows that put them back in their “happy place”. An extended and supportive team, combined with watching their children develop the same love for cattle, has sustained them.

“It’s not easy, because there is sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice my brother, my husband and I don’t mind,” Ysabel said.

Yan Jacobs is swamped by his daughters Elsie and Nellie Jacobs as he leaves the ring after winning Grand Champion at The Royal. Tyler and Ysabel’s daughter Aylson is obscured.

 “Our kids have grown up around that. We have three farms together and we have an amazing team around us, including Mum and Dad, who always support us.

“Yes, it’s hard sometimes and sometimes you want to quit. But there is always something coming and someone slapping your shoulder, or you find a new cow and you get excited again.”

Pressure has been a constant, but they can now put it into perspective.

“I would say that two years ago we could feel there was pressure to back up our performance,” Ysabel said. “But last year, we realised there is so much more important things in life than showing, and this year we just wanted to go and have fun, and to try our best.

“We get nervous at certain points, but always a good nervous. I know there is money involved. But people are so much looking at us right now, that no matter what happens, we should do it for fun.

“We’ve lost before, and we’ll lose again. Let’s be prepared to do it, and if it happens, at least we had fun doing it. Our kids are starting to show and we are trying to teach them the right way, because they don’t always lead winners – they lead both. And, if they don’t practice with their calves at home, we aren’t going to let them show their calf.”

Ultimately, Ferme Jacobs loves good cows and they continue to see the good, and the good people in the industry.

“We have people in our team who come and help us on show day, who don’t want to be paid. They just want to do it with us. Those are special people for us,” Ysabel said.

“We are very lucky to have them around us. To be honest, there are so many good people in our business who have the same passion to try to get the right cow where she needs to be. We love it.”



Colorado’s La Luna Dairy Works in the Community

Neither Jon Slutsky nor Susan Moore had agricultural backgrounds but began their dairy career of 30-plus years in 1981 with a rented dairy that milked 64 head of cattle. They now own and operate their own dairy, La Luna Dairy in Wellington, Colorado, where they milk over 1,500 cows.

Education, community partnership and communication have always been their most important tools. In 2005 they started a program with Wellington Middle School that not only educates students and the community about the many aspects of a dairy – but makes them excited to be on the farm. Student groups get to visit the farm in workshops that are focused on dairy and tied into the science they learned in the classroom. The workshops include milking procedures, dairy products, feed/nutrition, special needs and manure management. Each workshop is led by industry experts, including Frank Garry, extension specialist veterinarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU).

La Luna Dairy has continued their partnership with Wellington each year, hosting their 11th consecutive tour in 2016.

“Participating in La Luna Dairy’s School Farm Tour is a rewarding investment of time. It’s good to feel the enthusiasm of the kids for learning about the operation and about how modern dairy agriculture works,” said Frank. “And it’s good to feel the pride that Jon and Susan have in opening their doors to these neighbors.”

They also work with other groups from their community and allow different departments from CSU to come to their dairy to do studies – including sociological, labor, health and environmental research.

“We have to be connected to the community since it’s in our front yard,” said Jon. “Plus, it’s nice to have friends in the business community, and it’s great to be recognized and thanked for a being a dairy farmer.”


SHOW AND TELL. It Takes Both at Riverdown Holsteins

Passionate dairy breeders can quickly supply the names of the top show cattle.  But, if your dairy business stops at show ring success, you are leaving dollars on the table.  The Bullvine recently had the opportunity to talk to Justin Velthuis about Riverdown Holsteins and the show ring and barn successes that they have targeted.

“The Riverdown Story is Upbeat”

“I am the third generation dairy farmer at our current location which is a half hour South of downtown Ottawa, “says Justin. Riverdown is truly a family farm operation he explains. “I farm with my parents and grandparents and have no employees outside of family labour.” The farm is comprised of 650 acres of which 550 are owned. “We milk 110 cows in a new robotic dairy barn with 2 Lely Astronaut A4 robots.” The robotic change is recent for the Velthuis family. “We moved in just over one year ago. All animals except the show heifers and calves on milk are housed in the new barn.”

The statistics on this Master Breeder Herd tell a growing story of success:

Herd:              27 Excellent.  76 Very Good.  23 Good Plus

Robotic:         Averaging 40 kg on 2.8 visits

The RIVERDOWN Show and Tell Story Has a Good Foundation

Earning a Master Breeder Shield doesn’t happen overnight. This is the part of the Riverdown story that Justin enjoys telling. “My parents and even my grandparents always had a nice herd of cows. “Riverdown won a Master Breeder shield in the late 90’s. “My dad bought half of BVK Dundee Delores Ex 91 2E 8* with his brothers at Velthuis farms in 2006. Her dam is Adeen and half our Riverdown herd traces back to this Dundee.”

The Riverdown Velthuis family has longstanding pride in their herd genetics.  This focus provided a natural and complimentary link with cattle showing where Justin says, “The 4H program has played a big part in developing my love for showing and genetics.” That said, Justin points out that nothing is overlooked at Riverdown where the Velthuis family work hard to make sure that their dairy ring stars are also dairy performers.

“Let’s Look at the 3rd Generation Beginning.”

Kingsway Tenacious Rochelle, 8th place Junior Two Year Old 2013 for Kingsway and Riverdown

Business Schools will tell you that managing generational shifts in a family business is an important and delicate process. The advice is to start planning early.  At Riverdown Holsteins the progression was one that all three generations foresaw as expected and natural. As for starting early, Jason started young following in the footsteps of those before him.

“I made two purchases at the age of 16 from Kingsway farms. The first being in March 2013. I was working their tag sale and picked out Cherrycrest That’s Neat Ex 91 (94 MS) as a three-month-old calf, not a show heifer by any means but a correct heifer from a good pedigree and was a red carrier. I called home and convinced my parents to go half with me on Neat. She has been a tremendous cow for us and put two bulls in AI: Incredibull at Semex and Unstopabull at Blondin sires. She is currently on a flush program and has made 35 embryos on her last two flushes.”

“The second animal I bought that year was Kingsway Tenacious Rochelle Ex 94. I was helping Kingsway at summer show, and this fresh junior 2-year-old really caught my eye. She stood 2nd that day, and I bought part of her. She would continue to develop in the excellent care of the McMillan family, and we sold her to Milk Source at the Royal Winter Fair as a Junior 3, where she stood 4th and was nominated All-Canadian. She has many impressive Goldwyn daughters in both herds from the one flush we did on her.

“Riverdown Jiggalea Is The Star of the Story”

1st place Junior Calf
2015 Royal Winter Fair

The highlight of our breeding program would be Riverdown Atwood Jiggalea. She is one of four Atwoods from Riverdown Redesign Jiggle Ex 92 that have been nominated in some form. Jiggalea is the most special though. She won the March class in 2015 at the Royal and was All-Canadian March calf open and 4H in 2015. Then as a junior yearling, she won all year including 1st and Honourable Mention for me at the Classic. She then stood third at the Royal behind the Junior Champion and Reserve Junior Champion. Picking up the Honour of All-Canadian 4H Junior Yearling and Honourable Mention Junior Yearling. Jiggalea is just fresh for the second time and scored 86 2yr.

“Other Family Success Stories Are Also Inspirational”

One of the best ways to create a sustainable multigenerational family dairy business is to anchor each succeeding generation in the story of the business.  Justin feels strongly about the impact his own and other dairy families have had on him, “I have been fortunate to have connected with some of the top people in the industry in my short time.

He looks back fondly, “I did a coop in high school at La Ferme Gillette and learned a lot and have so much respect for the Patenaude family.” Then Justin continues the list, “My first two purchases and several more have come from or been with Kingsway. Not only are they great breeders, but they’re also great people. Jiggalea would not have done what she did without the help of Rob Heffernan. Rob has housed a couple of heifers for me and sure taught me a lot about show heifers. He is flat out the best at heifers.

Despite his youth, Justin recognizes the value in understanding both old and new perspectives on cattle breeding. “More recently I have invested in genomic type and have learned a lot from Dann Brady and have partnered with Blondin on a type heifer, Kawartha Armani Memory, nominated All-Canadian Jr.2 and sold in a Blondin recent sale as well as a high genomic type heifer Creekside Callen May. Dann, Simon and the rest of the Blondin team have been very good to me. These mentors have shared their understanding of what it takes to remain competitive, and it bodes well for Justin as the third generation that he recognizes the value of the hands-on experience he gained at home. “My most important mentors have been my parents for the opportunity I have.” Justin pinpoints how the experience and talents of his parents, Karen and John Velthuis, have inspired his dairy passion. “My parents are the perfect combo. Mom has the same passion for showing as I do and dad is an excellent manager and an outstanding dollar and cents guy.” The dialogue between the two generations provides both sides with real-world prioritizing of dairy breeding goals and relevant discussions on the current marketplace that they are all interested in.

“Little Details Make a Big Difference When You’re Pursuing Dreams.”

Justin with parner and mentor Dann Brady of Blondin Sires and Ferme Blondin

Justin is inspired to be the best but recognizes that success starts in all the small details. “I have a lot of goals. Show ring success or another AI bull or a chart topper are all something I hope for, but my main goal is to keep growing the farm and improve little things all the time.” Continually improving the little things can be expected to provide a corresponding increase in the day to day dairy efficiency. Three generations of the family have paid this kind of attention knowing it would pay off in achieving their goals in milk production, dairy breeding and cattle showing.

“Know Your Strengths and Then Find Great Mentors”

When it comes to focus, it’s understood that you can’t be everything to everybody.  Dairying is such a huge investment it’s important to find out what works for your dairy strengths. Justin knows this. “The advice I would give someone looking at investing in genetics is to “decide what type of cattle (Holstein, Jersey, index, polled, show, etc.) works best for you and your operation and then learn from the best in that segment.”

“Consumers Come First”

Regardless of personal goals, the dairy industry must always listen to the customer.  Justin recognizes how important that can be as the dairy industry looks toward a sustainable future. “As an industry, we must deal with consumers. This includes facing criticism and demands while producing a wholesome product for them.” No matter how much we learn about cows, dairy facilities and genetics, the customer needs to be there with positive support, or we won’t be.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Justin is enthusiastic about continuing to maintain and develop a profitable and robust dairy operation.  He knows that it will be a big job. We at THE BULLVINE and our readers wish Justin all the best in using the family mix of skills, talents and genetics to carry “RIVERDOWN” successfully into the future.



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Suntor Holsteins – New Baby, New Robot, New Perspective

Progressive business owners know that if a business is not planning and moving forward then it will soon be average or behind.

Dairy farmers experience that reality in multiple areas – facilities, genetics, inputs, technology, labor efficiency, …. to name a few. The challenge to remain competitive is a matter that every manager must continually have on their mind.

Suntor Openly Shares

Suntor Holsteins, located in South-West Quebec, recently shared with The Bullvine some of the very positive results that they have experienced by their move to new animal housing and the use of milking robots for their high production and elite genetics Holstein herd. After reading details that Kevin and Amanda Sundborg posted on Facebook, The Bullvine decided to interview this progressive couple and share their story with our readers.  The fact is that they shared so many details, we decided to make it into two articles. This one will consider facilities and another one, to follow, will highlight their thoughts and plans for their breeding program.

Suntor Background

Kevin’s parents started dairy farming in 1973 with grade Holsteins. By 1981 they had a fully purebred Holstein herd that has twice (2000 & 2014) won the coveted Canadian Holstein Master Breeders Shield.  The herd had been intensively selected for both production and conformation, but also important was sound cropping on the fertile land south of the City of Montreal.  

Kevin and Amanda are very thankful for the encouragement their parents gave them to seek higher education and in thinking progressively when it comes to dairy farming.

Until January 30th, 2017 the Suntor herd had been housed in a fifty-one tie stall barn. Cow care was always important and many awards for high production had been received. But the work was labor intensive and required long hours.

A New Generation at Suntor

2015 was a big year for Kevin and Amanda. In mid-year Suntor Holsteins was transferred from Kevin’s parents to Kevin and Amanda immediately joined in.  To top off this very busy year they welcomed their daughter Saydie in December.  Saydie will welcome a sibling in April. At the time of purchase the herd consisted of 51 cows in milk, 10 dry cows and 60 heifers with the cows producing, on 2X, 40 kgs (88 lbs) 4.3%F and 3.4%P.

Kevin and Amanda have a love for dairy farming. Both are farm management and technology graduates from Macdonald-McGill, and have worked and/or traveled off the farm. Once the farm and cattle were theirs, they immediately set about to take Suntor to new heights.

Big Picture Goals

Kevin and Amanda shared with The Bullvine the following thoughts that formed the basis on which they built their plans:

  • Lifestyle: Family is important and spending the time from 4:30 am to 8 pm in the barn, every day, is detrimental to family, friends and community time.
  • Managing staff: They prefer to work directly with their animals and not have to manage staff.
  • Get out of tie stalls: They found housing in tie stalls to be labor intensive and wearing on the body.
  • Use new technology: They want to know, hourly to annually, the facts about their cows and operation, so having new technology to do more of the work and capture the data was a must have. Their ten-year plan was to have double the daily milk shipments without any extra labor.
  • Happy and Comfortable Workers (aka cows) are a Must Have: Amanda in her off-farm worked (nutritionist and robot specialist) had seen the great results that other dairy farmers were achieving from cows that were comfortable in their environment, able to be milked on demand and that were fed high quality forage diets.
  • Efficiency – a key to a successful operation: Although gross output has advanced the bottom line for dairy farms over the past half century, Kevin and Amanda foresee the need for a successful dairy farm in the future to be driven by efficiency and net returns. Cutting out or reducing daily cow expense is, they feel, an incorrect and risky decision. Their plan is produce more milk with the same expenses.

Planning, Planning, Planning

Over a five-month period, Amanda and Kevin investigated every viable alternative available for dairy facilities in Canada. They talked with mentors, engineers and consultants and visited numerous farms that had recently built new with and without robots. Much was learned from asking critical questions.

Kevin and Amanda planned based on – ”How do you want to be milking cows for the next twenty years?”.

At the end of the five months they had a detailed plan complete with a budget that put milk income at  90% of current Canadian industry level, milk production level on par with their tie stall level, costs at 5% over historic operational costs and capital costs based on 4% interest. Upon presentation of their building, operation and financial plans to their financial institution, Kevin and Amanda were told that their plans were excellent and they were approved. They had thought, for sure, that they would be told that they needed to adjust their dreams, for an ultra-modern farm, downwards. What a relief that was!

Some of the building and start up decisions Kevin and Amanda made include:

  • They hired a top-notch engineer who costed out every detail for the new operation. They then identified areas for cost saving. Side note here from Amanda – “Always, always be prepared for meetings or suggested changes. Being prepared worked great for us.”
  • They built large enough with a twenty-year horizon on their projected herd size and production level.
  • They made the jobs of fetching and separating cows easy and quick. “Routes to the robot need to be direct. Have it so one person, operating alone, can handle the animals”.
  • A fresh and special care pen, with access to a robot, needs to be fully equipped with support materials. Most definitely include a fresh and special care pen and foot baths in the building plan.
  • Provide extra open space around robot entry and exit points. Expect cows to be both bossy and timid. Avoid sharp turns.
  • At start up, they planned on a maximum of 1,800 – 2,000 kgs (4,000 – 4,400 lbs) of milk per robot per day. Based on their experience they strongly recommend not to over-fill the robot(s) at start up.
  • In her experience with start-ups in other herds, Amanda recommends a maximum of 50 cows per robot at start-up.
  • After cows leave the fresh pen and go into general group, Kevin takes the time to make sure those animals know where the second robot is. They have found that some cows only go to one robot, while other cows will use both robots.

Kevin and Amanda told us that they committed 100% to the process of moving from the old tie stall to the new robotic barn. “Only going half way will only get you half way there.”

Pre-Move In Steps are Important

Kevin and Amanda had a very smooth transition. Amanda and Kevin shared the following ideas to help others transition to robotic single stall milking.

  • Hoof Care: “Trim hooves at least two months before and not any closer to the move in date. Cows need a good hoof build up when being moved onto freshly grooved cement floors.”
  • Minimize Fetch Cows: “Dry off any cows who would be a waste of time to train. Those end of lactation cows giving under 20 kgs/ 44 lbs will have no need / want to go to the robot. They will end up being a fetch cow until dry off. Don’t bother making them part of start up.”
  • Have DIM 150 days or lower: “Try to plan to have Days In Milk around 150 days for start-up. A stale herd takes longer to transition and your fresher cows will suffer.”
  • Dry Cow Program: “Our dry cow program was one key to our success. We feed a simple dry cow TMR which consists of corn silage and a low potassium dry hay. In the pre-fresh pen, we have an automated grain feeder (Cosmix) that feeds a pre-fresh pellet. It allows us to monitor and feed the exact amount they need. It also works to train our heifers prior to their first calving. They get accustomed to going into a box to get grain and the sound is like the sound of grain falling in the robot. We find that the heifers are calm in the robot for their first milking.”
  • Ration before Start-Up: “Suntor fed the robot feed to the cows as a top dress for two weeks before start-up. Cows need to know the feed when they go into the robot for the first time. Do not be afraid to drop the TMR energy at start-up. The less energy you have in the ration the faster they will go to the robot. We wanted our cows hungry, so they would go to the robot. They did drop on average 10 kg of milk per day the first week, but by 10 days 70% of the herd was going to the robot on their own. By one month, the average milk was back up to where it was when they were in the tie stalls.”

More Pertinent Details

Daily Cow Management: Amanda uses the reports generated from the T4C software, especially the health report, the expected heat report and the fetch cow report, to manage the herd on a daily basis. She noted that keen producers can also design their own reports.

Feeding Program: In the tie stall barn, cows were fed a one group TMR of 50:50 corn silage and haylage balance for 42 kgs of milk. Fresh and high producing cows were top dressed protein, fat and beet pulp. However now, based on Amanda’s five years of experience as a nutritionist and seeing how feed changes can significantly affect production, a one group TMR is still fed but it is now 75% corn silage and 25% haylage – balanced for 150 days in milk and for 6-7 kgs below herd average production. Feeding more corn silage allows for a more stable ration, given that haylage can vary greatly depending on stage, field and cut.

Six Month Results: First calf heifers have responded very well with 200 – 1,500 kgs more milk in the new system.  Three (20%) of Suntor’s first lactation cows have peaked at 50 kgs and have continued to give over 40 kgs past 240 DIM. And six months in the herd was averaging 42 kgs milk, the same as when they left the tie stalls. However, given that some older cows were dried off before the move and many were just calving by six months in, the Sundborg’s are very happy with the herd average from the younger milking herd. Cows are currently being milked 3.1 times per day on average. Reproduction is excellent with a 55-60% conception rate and 9 of 10 cows pregnant at herd heath check day.

Worthy of note is that Kevin and Amanda moved the entire tie stall herd into their new facility. All cows transitioned well or extremely well. They plan to increase their herd size by growing from within.

One Year Expectations: By one year in, January 30th, 2018, Kevin and Amanda can see easily reaching 45 kgs milk per day and average days in milk will be very good at under 140-150 days. By next spring they will be milking 70 cows with no added labor required, two things that were not possible in their old tie stall barn.

Some Added Benefits:  Kevin told us about some added benefits. “The expansion happened at the right time as they have been allocated or purchased 35% more quota since purchasing the farm. The robot reports help them catch any problems sooner, which helps to avoid sick cows. Having two robots, that were not used to capacity, shortens any line ups. We wondered about retaining and moving an older deeper uddered brood cow but she took to the new system like a duck to water. Using a higher percent corn silage assists by reducing the summer rush of harvesting of haylage.”

Future Operation Plans: The original plan was, in ten years, to milk 80 cows producing 140 kgs of fat per day. With more quota becoming available for purchase and the barn and robot working so well it now appears that that goal will be achieved in half the time. The higher revenue will speed up the process of implementing systems to monitor and manage calves, heifers and dry cows.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Planning to be successful is Step #1. Carrying out the plans is Step #2. The Bullvine congratulates Kevin and Amanda Sundborg and thanks them for sharing their dreams, thoughts and information on both these steps.  What cow would not want to live and be cared for at Suntor Holsteins?




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Master Breeder Dominique Savary: An Eye for Good Cattle. “On the farm. In the Show Ring. Through the Camera Lens.”

It is the dream of every passionate dairy breeder to achieve recognition. This can be done in many ways, from success in the show ring to earning Master Breeder status. Dominique Savary of Grand-Clos Holstein in Switzerland has earned both those benchmarks. However, he has not stopped there and is continuing to gain recognition for his skill in taking great photographs of the cattle, people and dairy industry that he is so passionate about. The Bullvine recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dominique and discussing his experiences as dairy breeder, showman and photographer.

“My father was one of the first who went to Canada and the US to search for Holstein genetics.”

Childhood influences have shaped Dominique’s success as an adult. “In my childhood, many people involved in breeding passed through our home. They came to talk to my father, Jean, about the arrival of the Holstein in Switzerland.  The first imports of Holstein semen from Canada were made when I was five years old.  My father was very active in carrying out this import project.  All my youth was bathed in the fighting so that the Holstein breed would find a real place in Switzerland. I think that is what gave me the biggest motivation to get involved in breeding.”

“North American dairy breeding has always fascinated me”

Dominique is proud of the pioneering dairy work carried out by his father Jean in the 1970s. “My father was the best role model for my future.  From my childhood, I said, “I’m going to go to North America.  I want to learn.  I want to understand.’ I traveled there for the first time when I was twenty-two years old and have been there more than 25 times since.”

“Everything that revolves around breeding has always been a driving force for me.”

Dominique’s family history with dairy is relatively recent. “I am only the second generation involved in breeding.  My paternal grandfather was the head of a small railway station.  In fact, it was my father who gave the taste for breeding and milk production.  He started his career with nothing. He fought for Holsteins to have a place in the Swiss landscape of the day.  Switzerland, was almost entirely populated by Brown Swiss, Simmental, Swissfleckvieh and some Black Spotted.  The dairy leaders in our country did not welcome the arrival of Holsteins into Switzerland.” Inspired by his father’s passion, Dominique “did a complete agricultural training and took over the paternal farm in 1994.” He proudly explains, “The milk produced on my farm is intended for cheese making “Le Gruyère AOP”.”

Dominique leads in the dairy industry through the Holstein Switzerland Association and Swissgenetics.

“Early on, I got involved in breeding and genetics organizations. Breeding, genetic selection and Breeding organizations have always fascinated me.” He is actively involved in leadership of the Holstein industry in Switzerland. “By presiding over the Holstein Switzerland association for eleven years and now Swissgenetics for three years, I have had the immense opportunity of getting to know many fascinating people in the world of Swiss and world breeding.  The fact of having also chaired the Holstein Genetic Commission of Swissgenetics for many years has also allowed me to travel around the world for the selection of bulls.

Dominique and Grand-Clos Holstein received the title of Master Breeder in 2015

Dominique states quite simply that “receiving the title of Master Breeder in 2015 was a great moment of my breeding career.  I am very grateful to the people who have trusted and supported me and feel lucky to have achieved all of this.”

“When I started photography again, it was to photograph cows.”

Sometimes hobby, career and passion all come together at the right time. Dominique started using his photography skills to photograph cows in the selection rounds for Swissgenetics. “I was taking pictures of the test daughters in North America to show them to our Swiss breeders.  Then I went to take pictures in some exhibitions.” Dominique’s passion goes beyond the simple cataloguing of conformation. “I really like to photograph cows at work in the grasslands when they are grazing.  In Switzerland, we have a lot of cattle grazing on the mountain pastures during the summer season. It is a pleasure to make images of cows or heifers in mountain scenery.”

“I really want to do more studying of the technical side of photography.” 

As with everything he undertakes, Dominique applies himself to doing the very best that he can. In talking about his interest in photography he provides some background.  “I always did a little photography but I really started seriously five years ago.” He feels he had good grounding in his understanding of the creative aspects. “I felt the artistic side in my eye, but I had a big gap in the technical side. I am an autodidact.  I have never taken a photography class.  I read a lot and watch videos on YouTube.  Gradually the technical aspects of adjustments and post-processing became clearer for me.” He sums up. “I still have a lot to learn. I wish I could spend a few days with a professional who could help me really master the technique to learn more.”

“I like to bring emotion into my images. Whether in nature or in the show ring.”

Dominique is very clear in describing what inspires the photos he takes. “I am sensitive. I like to bring emotion into my images. Whether in nature or in an exhibition ring, I want to bring a different look by trying to give a little emotion to my photos.  Posing cows as we see them in bull catalogs does not interest me.  I am an ambient photographer.”

Dominique’s favorite photos. “The right time. The right light. The right composition.”

Dominique has a growing reputation for capturing the candid and emotional side of his subjects. He doesn’t want to be confined in his approach. “What I prefer is freedom of action. Power without pressure.” He continues his explanation by saying. “I want to free my mind to take pictures. I like having carte blanche and being able to make my inspiration work.” Dominique gives specific examples. “This year there were two places where I loved taking photos.  One was at the Royal Winter Fair, where Holstein Canada gave me permission to enter the ring.  The second was at the Samsales Desalp, where I had fun as a child and was now taking pictures of the cows with flowers and the people who accompanied them.” His assessment of the year. “It has been a pleasure!”

Dominique’s favorite places. “The Royal Winter Fair” “World Dairy Expo” “Quebec landscapes”

“I am lucky to have my son Grégoire who made the agricultural agro-technician school. He is currently working 100% on our farm. He and my wife Christiane get involved on the farm and it gives me more time to do other projects like photography”.  Dominique enjoys the great showcases of the world’s top dairy cattle, “It would be great to go back to the Royal Winter Fair and World Dairy Expo in Madison to take pictures of the atmosphere.” But, he doesn’t limit himself to the show ring only. “For landscapes, I would like to take winter pictures in Quebec.”  He also goes beyond the subject of cattle and is attracted to the people side of photography. “I would also like to accompany artisans who work with their hands.” He goes on to describe another growing passion. “I really like the traditions that are at home or elsewhere. Photographing traditions with costumes and customs is something that I like very much. “

The future. “I would like more time to do photography.”

As more and more people have the opportunity to see Dominique’s work, he is growing a following. “I started posting my photos on Facebook a few years ago and had a lot of feedback encouraging me to publish more.  I also posted a portfolio (  Many people are interested in my images.  Little my little, orders came in for me to make enlargements, to illustrate websites or magazines. I was very proud when one day a multimedia company contacted me to buy photos.” No wonder he sums up by saying, “I would like more time to do photography.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Dominique loves capturing the emotional connection to cows, people and traditions. He has used his knowledge of cows and his skill as a photographer to provide something unique. “My clients want emotion and my goal is to do something different.”  The Bullvine joins with our readers in congratulating Dominique for turning his hobby and his passion for dairy cattle into a product that is an inspiration to dairy enthusiasts everywhere. 

Pinehurst Farms boasts rich history

Pinehurst Farms of Sheboygan Falls, started in 1838 by David Giddings, was a model of innovation from the very beginning.

This is a classic view of the dairy complex at Pinehurst Farms in post card form. At one point the dairy had seven barns and seven houses on 500 acres. The water tower, erected in 1912, stood 125 feet above the barns and cows it served.

An article in the March 4, 1908, edition of the Sheboygan County News states the following: “Pine Hurst Farms, which is situated partly within the limits of the picturesque village of Sheboygan Falls and part in the town of Lima, is one of the most beautiful and productive farms in the Northwest, consisting of over 400 acres, about 200 of which is under a state of cultivation, 120 in beautiful woods and the balance in natural pasturage, well supplied with water by the Onion River and an abundance of natural springs.”

Giddings, a consummate businessman and adventurous Yankee, never stayed very long with one occupation. He always took an active interest in political affairs.  When the Greenback party sprang up, he became identified with it, and in 1878 was a candidate for Congress, receiving more than the party vote.

In 1863, he purchased a farm containing 577 acres southeast of Fond du Lac, and in 1874 went there to live, leaving Sheboygan Falls behind.

On Nov. 20, 1912, Harvard Giddings, son of David Giddings, sold the Giddings Pinehurst Farm to Peter Reiss, president of C. Reiss Coal Company. Pinehurst Farm became the summer home of the extended Reiss family. Reiss upgraded the buildings and in the fall of 1913 the completion of the new 210-foot long barn was celebrated with a barn dance hosted by the Reiss family.

An article from the Sheboygan Press in 1913, entitled “Hundreds Enjoy Barn Dance at Pinehurst,” documents the event. “More than seven hundred were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Reiss at a barn dance at their country home at Pinehurst last evening. The affair which will linger with pleasant memories for a long time, took place in the large barn which is being completed on the farm and until one o’clock this morning the guests enjoyed themselves…For instance there was one dance where the lights were turned off, and the two large automobile lamps furnished the light for the dance.

“This was a novel feature that brought forth applause from the dancers as well as the onlookers and the orchestra was called upon for several encores before the lights were turned on…from eight to nine o’clock the full Sheboygan Concert Band was stationed in the south end of the barn on a raised platform.

“Looking down a space of 210 feet on either side were strings of lights shaded by leaves of tinted paper giving a color that harmonized with the entire decorative scheme. Giant corn stalks together with pumpkins, and sheaths of barley comprised the decorative scheme…the concert under the leadership of Henry Johnson was one of the treats of the evening. But the grand march, comprised of 608 dancers was the highlight.”

Peter Reiss enjoyed his farm and summer home for just fourteen years, passing away on Sept. 5, 1926. Peter and Mattie had two daughters, Carita who married Harold Bachmann and Gertrude who married John Corbett. Both families spent their summers at Pinehurst.

Mattie Reiss continued the operation of the farm after Peter’s death, but in 1930, hired Harry Hill to manage it. Mr. Hill managed Pinehurst Farms for 14 years. Hill, a native of Scarborough, England, was widely known in regional farm circles. He was active in the Wisconsin Holstein Breeders Association and was awarded the Wisconsin Agriculturist gold medal in 1937 as one of Wisconsin’s five outstanding farmers. Hill left Pinehurst in 1944 for a position in the farm industries’ division at Curt G. Joa.

At that point the dairy stopped bottling its own milk, selling its product to Verifine where it was processed. Besides the cattle, Pinehurst also operated a greenhouse and continued to raise poultry. In 1948, Mrs. Reiss donated a part of the property to the city of Sheboygan Falls to be used as an athletic field.


The following year, the summer home, the original Giddings home, a large garage, two poultry houses, a greenhouse, 10 acres of virgin pine woods, 180 apple-bearing trees and twelve acres of garden land comprising 37 1/2 acres were sold to The Christian Home Inc., a non-profit organization which took over the property for a home for the aged. The corporation represented 13 churches in Sheboygan, Oostburg, Cedar Grove, Sheboygan Falls, Gibbsville and Hingham. The Giddings home, greenhouse, stable and apple orchard were sold to private parties. The remaining property was remodeled into a residence for the aging. This part of the estate became Pine Haven Christian Home.

In 1950, Mrs. Reiss sold the rest of Pinehurst Farm to her grandsons, Peter and David Bachmann. The two young men operated the property together until 1955 when Peter sold his share to David. David Bachmann became known as one of the best-known registered Holstein breeders in Wisconsin. The prestige and reputation of Pinehurst cows brought foreign buyers on frequent visits to the farm and animals were shipped to all parts of the world.

Lightning struck between a pair of concrete silos the evening of Sept. 16, 1983, during a severe electrical storm. The large L-shaped frame barn, a landmark along State 32, was destroyed by the resulting fire. The barn was immediately rebuilt, but on June 29, 1993 a second fire demolished the barns at Pinehurst. No cause was ever found.

The 1993 fire marked the end of Pinehurst as a dairy farm, but began the dream of a championship golf course on the property. Construction on The Bull, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, began Aug. 4, 2000. The course meanders through the farm and features beautiful views of meadows, woods, wetlands and streams. Each of the 18 holes is named after a bull bred by Pinehurst Farms, each with its own unique story.

One hundred seventy-eight years later, this beautiful property, cared for by just two families, is a landmark of which the citizens of Sheboygan County can be proud.

Russell Gammon – Cheer Leading Dairy Cow People

Being lauded and recognized by your peers gives one a special feeling. That is exactly what happened recently to Russell Gammon when he was awarded the 2017 Canadian Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Distinction Award. For Bullvine readers living outside of Canada, this is Canada’s equivalent to The Industry Person of the Year which is awarded annually, in the United States, at World Dairy Expo time.

A Loving Start

Russell came from British Isle stock and was born and raised on the North Shore of Nova Scotia (Pictou County), Canada. His parents boarded a few dry cows and heifer from his Gammon grandparents milking grade herd, and as well his parents had a large garden and a managed woodlot.  Russell, the eldest child, fondly remembers a home with many visitors, an off-farm working father, who included him in everything, as well as a supportive, energetic, loving stay-at-home mother. Russell learned early that the people in your life are the mark of success and the material world is there to make the people part happen. His siblings were and continue to be important to him. Although, because they are in Nova Scotia and Alberta, it means that he must communicate electronically with them these days.

Russell Gammon with Family and friend, Lyons Brook, Pictou N.S. 1968.

Youth Training

School, church, and 4H all had a great influence on the young Russell. He was eager and successful on all fronts. Russell shared with the Bullvine that his eyes were opened wide when he traveled to Toronto Ontario as the recipient of the Nova Scotia CNE Award for his stellar leadership performance in 4H. For Russell that visit to the CNE and Toronto was a life changer. “My eyes were opened wide to a bigger world, one where a farm boy from Nova Scotia got to see what opportunities there are in Canada and in the dairy industry.”

A Life Long Learner and Generous Communicator

Russell’s studies took him out of Pictou County to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) and then to the University of Guelph. Russell excelled at taking in new knowledge and then composing it into the written word. The humanistic written word is something his friends and peers associate with him. Russell knows ‘the power of the pen.’ While in his youth he read every breed magazine he could get his hands on. He reports that subscribing to many, many breed and farm magazines used all his petty cash. Starting with the pencil, then the pen, the telephone, then as a magazine editor and now a very prolific facebooker, Russell uses each and every tool to communicate the latest news. He is an incessant reader. Russell, more than most, excels at sharing all things important and new, with his community of friends.

Dreams Really Do Come True. Well Almost.

Lowell Lindsay, Tom Byers & Russell Gammon , three Canadian Dairy Industry Legends

Russell dreamed, from an early age, of being the Canadian Ayrshire Breed Secretary. You see Russell started in grade Ayrshire cattle and in 4H showed purebred Ayrshires from a kind and helpful neighbor’s herd.

Though that Ayrshire Secretary dream did not materialize, Russell has had an interesting and fulfilling career in the field of breed improvement. After a summer job as Canadian Guernsey Fieldman, he returned to NSAC for three years of work in extension education. In 1981 the opportunity for more breed work arose. Russell joined Jersey Canada where he worked as Associate Editor, then (1982) Editor of The Jersey Breeder. And then it happened. In 1985 he was named Jersey Breed Secretary. His youthful dream of being a breed secretary had been achieved.

His career path changed one more.  In 2011 he joined Semex as the coordinator of the Semex Global Jersey Program. With that move, Russell’s career had expanded to include both the cow and the bull sides of dairy cattle improvement.

Going Above and Beyond

If you have ever met someone that gives greatly beyond their job description, then you have met someone like Russell Gammon. For Russell, going beyond is second nature.

When Russell joined Jersey Canada, it was an organization not yet recovered from the colored breed recession that followed the change in Canada to pricing milk more on volume than on solids content. Fat percent, a Jersey strength, was not what consumers were told they should consume. No longer could consumers readily purchase that full flavor Jersey milk. Add to that that in the early 1980’s Canadian Jerseys were not especially milky.  High fat percent, yes, but only with 20% more milk volume than thirty-five years previous. Like all Canadian dairy breeds, at that time, Jerseys were bred for type.

With Russell’s careful and visionary suggestion to the Board of Directors, there was an awakening within Canadian Jerseys to the benefits through more extensive use of milk recording and type classification. Following that came the realizations that faster breed improvement could be had by sampling more young A.I. bulls and extensively using the top daughter proven sires. Jersey Canada also looked beyond its borders, especially to the United States, where increased production and the marketing of Jersey milk were driving forces. Over time Canadian Jerseys would achieve higher milk volumes, especially in the younger cows.

There have been many other feathers in Russell’s peaked cap:

  • collaboration with other Canadian dairy breeds;
  • linkages with milk recording agencies and A.I. organizations;
  • a unified breed type classification program;
  • a progressive breed registry service;
  • a marketing plan focusing on a brown cow in every barn; and
  • extensive involvement in the World Jersey Society.

Russell became the face – Mr. Jersey Canada.

Mentoring A Key Gammon Strength

Gilbert Robison

Russell told The Bullvine that there were many mentors who helped him along the way. One was Gilbert Robison, of Jersey and Clyde fame, from New Brunswick. Russell only knew Gilbert for three years, in the early 1980’s, never-the-less, he benefited greatly from Gilbert’s sound advice and, to this day, Russell maintains a connection to Gilbert’s descendants. This article would be much too long if we included the many, many mentors that Russell feels he is indebted to.

Mentoring is not only just about receiving. It also applies to giving. This where Russell is a pro. There is a long, long list of young people, Jersey folks, agriculture enthusiasts and community workers, that Russell has mentored and continues to cheerlead. Russell’s facebook friends are very aware of the numerous times each day that he encourages or messages youth telling them to ‘soar with the eagles’.

“Changing the world one person at a time” is a fit way to describe Russell. He does it by focusing on attitude, approach, and vision. He meets people where they are at and moves them forward.

Diversity Abounds

Russell Gammon received the International Friendship Award last year at the Supreme Laitier! As was announced, “He has travelled to over a dozen countries and reached out as a friend, a confidant, a source of immense knowledge and sage wisdom. His name is synonymous with the breed… Think of Jerseys… Think of Russell.”

There isn’t a species of livestock that Russell does not follow, and yes, for each species he has favorite breeds. Ayrshires, Jerseys, Clydesdales, Barred Rocks and likely more to come. Russell knows by heart the ideals associate with each breed.

Russell’s friends in his home community of Fergus come from all walks of life.  Russell continues his encouraging ways there too. He is currently championing a local food store that was started a few years ago by a chef and a dairy gal. There isn’t a worthy cause in Fergus that Russell does not support is some way shape or form.

Of course, in his working career, Russell has been very diverse. He has been breed fieldman, goat and cow classifier, writer, editor, breed secretary, breed strategist, organization specialist, breed marketer, international liaison, national standards chairman, sire analyst and much more.

Selfless – Yes, Yes

Russell’s selfless nature comes out loud and clear. One example was when he and fellow church members raised funds and did on the groundwork, especially in adult education, over a twenty-year period in Haiti.

All one has to do is to meet Russell, and he’ll start inquiring about you. When asked “What about what Russell is doing?”  He brushes it off as only doing his duty. It’s about others not about him.

It’s Results That Count

Russell appears to operate on the premise ‘make a difference every day in some way’.  For him it is people first, livestock second, followed by industry collaboration and progressive organizations that deliver results.

The results of Russell’s efforts can be found on many fronts. Russell told us that “He gets extra energy every time he interacts with young people.”

Always Moving On

For the last few months, since leaving Semex, Russell has been quiet about what’s next for this early sixties guy. He has recreated himself quite a few times to this point, and he told The Bullvine that his next career will be in an area where he can help others develop or enhance their careers. Stay tuned for more people being successful because Russell provided them with a helping hand.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We only pass this way once, and Russell Gammon always walks the talk. He is motivated to make this a better world. The Bullvine wishes Russell continued success in leading by example and cheerleading others to be the best they can be.





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Dairy farmer Sarah Chant leads the charge for women in one of Victoria’s toughest industries

There was nothing poignant in the final notes Sarah Chant’s dad left for her before he died.

He jotted one down to remind her when to service the farm machinery. Another, about seed and fertiliser.

The messages were not deep and meaningful. They didn’t have to be.

At just 55, Steven Chant lost his battle to cancer knowing the family farm was in good hands.

His daughter would step up to form a part of the small legion of young female farmers who are successfully tackling one of Victoria’s toughest industries.

“Dad had cancer for a long time so I’d been gradually stepping up,” Sarah said. “We knew it was terminal so he started keeping a diary for me and jotted down little notes of things I’d need to run the farm.

“It wasn’t easy but it was easier knowing that it was going to happen. It wasn’t like I

woke up one morning and was in charge of a 250-cow dairy farm.”

But in a cruel twist, the young farmer would get her first solo lesson in the difficulties of running the business on the same day her father died.

“We got news of the milk price drop the day we lost Dad,” Sarah said. “I know it was terrible for farmers but it didn’t upset me that much — we had bigger things to deal with.”

In the months since the Murray Goulburn supplier has become far more comfortable the role, despite not having her father by her side.

“There was a bit of cost cutting and we’re not spending where we don’t have to, but having such

a fantastic season has saved a lot of local farmers who buy in feed,’’ she said.

“We cut more hay and silage than ever before with the good spring.

“If we had the milk price drop and a tough season it would have been a lot worse.”

Even before her father’s diagnosis, Sarah never had any doubt she would return to farm life.

The property at Warrion, 20 minutes north of Colac, was purchased by Mr Chat’s parents when he was 18.

“Growing up on a dairy farm you’re born into loving it,” she said.

A recent a finalist in the best employee category of the Great South West Dairy Awards, Sarah hopes to eventually buy the cattle from her mum and extend into share farming.

“It’s a job you can never perfect,’’ she said.

“You’re always learning new things. Dad would always tell me when I was stuffing up.

“The best advice he ever gave me was that it didn’t matter that I was a girl and that I could do everything a boy could.

“I’ve held onto that and I hope he’d be proud of me.’’

Source: Herald Sun

Dairy Farmers of America 2017 Members of Distinction

Dairy Farmers of America’s Members of Distinction program honors members who embody the Cooperative’s core values and excel on their operations, in their communities and in the industry. Each year, one member farm from each of DFA’s seven regional Areas is honored during the Annual Banquet at DFA’s Annual Meeting. The 2017 Members of Distinction are:

Central Area

Haverkamp Family, Kelly Hills Dairy – Seneca, Kan.
Brian Haverkamp has never been happy with the status quo. Since 2002, Brian and his wife, Kristina, have grown the family dairy from 200 to 550 cows, with the addition of a new freestall barn, renovated milking parlor and flushing system. As they look to the future, the Haverkamps are working to grow their operation for the next generation. Along with his daughter and her husband, the Haverkamps are planning another expansion, with the hopes of expanding a freestall barn and adding additional technology, like a robotic milking system.


Mideast Area

Comp Family, Comp Dairy Farm – Dorset, Ohio
When Jim Comp returned home from the Army in 1957, he was greeted by two heifers, who were ready to calve. While it’s been a slow expansion over many years, today, Jim milks 1,200 cows with his son, Jerry, and granddaughter, Elisha Gozzard, who was also recently joined on the operation by her brother, Brice, and husband, Todd. The three-generation farm family credits their focus on cow care and high-quality milk as key reasons for the dairy’s success, as well as the dedication and commitment of many long-term employees.

Mountain Area

Burnett Family, Burnett Enterprises, Inc. – Carpenter, Wyo.
By relying on the family’s motto, ‘average goes broke,’ Jeff and Kim Burnett, along with Jeff’s brother, Jay and his wife, Lisa, have learned together to strive for excellence in running their operation. In 2004, the Burnett family started with a rented 200-cow operation. They have since expanded to milking 3,000 cows through the use of an innovative calf facility, an onsite feed mill that allows them to cut costs and more efficiently control rations and a separator that recycles manure as bedding for the freestall barns.


Northeast Area

Learned Family, Valley View Dairy – North Stonington, Conn.
Growing up on a farm, agriculture was always part of life for brothers Tim and Ben Learned. Yet, when the boys went to college, they pursued other careers, until a neighbor’s dairy farm came up for sale and the brothers decided to return to their family’s roots in agriculture. Starting with fewer than 10 cows, the brothers have expanded to milking 60 cows, while also making improvements such as expanding the freestall barn and purchasing new feed mixing equipment. In the future, Tim and Ben hope to explore purchasing a larger farm in the area and transitioning Valley View Dairy to become a heifer facility.


Southeast Area

Flory Family, Hillside Farm – Dublin, Va.
The Flory family – Dale and Janet, along with their son, Scott, and his wife, Laura – is all about embracing technology on their 240-cow dairy farm. Since 2014, the family has used a robotic milking system, which has helped them save not only time and labor, but also provides increased flexibility for milking. The family also uses the power of the internet to reach consumers by participating in a web series produced by Dairy Management Inc., called “Acres and Avenues,” which gives consumers an inside look at what happens on dairy farms today.


Southwest Area

Vanderlei Family, Five Star Dairy Texas and Milk Harvest Dairy – Amherst, Texas
For Case Vanderlei, an internship on a dairy in East Texas transformed into a passion for not only the industry, but for business. Along with his wife, Piertsje and their children, the family owns two facilities, where they not only milk cows, but also raise heifers. Between the two locations, the Vanderlei family milks more than 6,200 cows while also raising their own forages and grain as well as operating their own hauling business, which transports manure from each facility to their fields, ensuring sustainability from start to finish.


Western Area

Ken DeVries and Dale Ruisch, Hinkley Dairy – Hinkley, Calif.
Like many 1,300 cow dairies, Hinkley Dairy needs a tight-knit group to ensure its success. Unlike many dairies, that group extends across the country as Ken and Sherrie DeVries, along with Sherrie’s parents, Dale and Nellie Ruisch, live in California while Sherrie’s brother, Rob Ruisch, lives with his family in Iowa. The family credits evolving technology, like tractor geo-positioning and camera systems, with helping make this partnership work state-to-state. Additionally, smart financial decisions have helped Hinkley Dairy thrive in good years and meet challenges during slower ones.

Tech-Filled Barn Helps Dairy Stay Competitive

From smart tractors to meters in his barn to the ability to remote access into his office every day, he is able to keep a close watch on his 3,000 cows and 80 acres of land. By having a macro view, Van Der Toorn said he ensures the cows are in the best position to be taken care of by specialized groups of people.

“Technology helps us manage the herd as efficiently as possible. This allows us to feed the cows with a great deal of accuracy, making sure the cows get exact amount of nutrition to keep the cows very healthy,” Van Der Toorn said. “Technology helps us in the barn by being able to measure multiple points of the milking procedure to milk the cows in the most comfortable environment possible.”

Boschma Farm is a family-owned and run dairy farm that has been operating out of Tolleson, Arizona, since the 1930s when all the milking was still done by hand. The dairy gets its current name form the Boschmas who bought the farm back in 1974 and have since passed it down to their children.

After becoming an electrician and building systems on dairy farms, Van Der Toorn joined his wife’s family farm. Van Der Toorn said he believes his mother and father-in-law saw the dairy community going this direction with technology.

“I think they are very happy to see that all of their very hard work paying off. They used to do all of the work on the dairy by hand every day of the week,” Van Der Toorn said.

Wanting to remain competitive in the market as more advancements in the dairy industry were developing, Van Der Toorn remodeled his barn. When all of their work was done manually, it cost them additional time, money and labor.

“It might take as many as 100-plus employees to do the work of the 29 people doing it today,” Van Der Toorn said, in reference to how his barn has changed since his in-laws ran it.

In addition to remodeling the barn and installing advanced milking equipment, they improved production by installing an automated milking system so they could cut manual labor costs and move cows through the barn more quickly.

Van Der Toorn is now able to easily monitor and record data from different areas of the dairy to oversee any changes to their system done by each employee. He can also analyze how much milk each cow is giving each day.

The dairy equipment is controlled from a touchscreen device and allows for remote access to monitor milk meters, adjust controls and receive direct alerts via email or text if an issue arises, such as a change in milk temperature or a reduction in milk flow. All of these tools have made running the family farm more efficient, while the farm values have remained the same since the day it opened.

“We only succeed if the quality and comfort of our animals, coupled with dedicated employees are at their best. Bottom line is we love and are very blessed to produce milk,” Van Der Toorn said. “We love all of our cows and are grateful we are able to wake up every day and work in this industry.”

Source: DairyGood

Rai Valley farmer on quest for perfect jersey bull

Rai Valley jersey stud breeder Steven Leov  thinks his prize young bull, Glen, would fit in well on the catwalk.

“He loves posing for the camera at the shows, he’s a natural, ” said Leov.

At the Rai Valley A&P Show the R2 bull, Koroglen Glenmorangie , won both champion jersey bull, and champion all breeds bull.

Leov also took home champion jersey, and all breeds cow with Hasty River Key Jemma .

Leov bred the bull himself after trying embryo transfer on a previous show cow. Two pregnancies resulted from the transfer.

“He’s about 300 kilograms now but I expect him to get up to 700kg-800kg as he matures.”

The bull’s mother,  Koroglen NS Gloria, has a classification of VHC 92, or very highly commended, while his sire, Family Hill Ringmaster, is a well regarded United States sire.

Both Ringmaster, and the mothers sire, Sunset Canyon Nadene Supreme, come from dams which scored EX (excellent) 97.

“He’s got good conformation, and has a good temperament.”

The remainder of the total 500ha farm is used by his father, Bernard, to run 700 romneys. 

Slowly but surely the dairy herd is becoming more jersey, Leov said.

“My father liked friesians but I tend to like brown cows and I’m gradually changing the herd to jerseys,” he said.

Leov took over the Koroglen jersey stud prefix from his maternal grandfather, Rex Brew who bred jerseys at his Koromiko dairy farm, between Picton and Blenheim.

“When my parents took over the family farm from Bernard’s father they didn’t keep up the registrations on jerseys they had been given by Rex. The emphasis was more on dairy farming than stud breeding,” he said.

Leov started dairy farming in 2000 and started registering jerseys using the Koroglen stud name from 2001.

“I’ve always liked brown cows since I was a youngster,” he said.

“I can’t explain the reason why, I just like them.

“People go on about the two breeds, jersey or friesian, but it comes down to personal preference and what are easier to work with.

Rai Valley jersey cow breeder Steven Leov, with his prize winning bull, Koroglen Glenmorangi, or Glen.

“I find the jerseys more fertile and efficient, I can produce more milksolids per hectare from the jerseys than I can with my friesians, around 350kg of milk solids on grass.

“I can also run more jerseys to the hectare than friesians.”

Supplements would increase the production but with a low pay out grass was a cheaper feed, he said.

“We also grow turnips, and a chicory/plantain/clover mix crops.”

While the emphasis was on breeding top class jerseys, the bills still had to be paid from the cow’s milk, he said.

“I’d soon get bored if I only milked, and it is nice to try and breed something that is better and more efficient.

“Although you will never reach perfection it is good fun to try and achieve the best result you can.”

Leov admits he faced an uphill battle to maintain high breeding quality.

“It’s hard to compete against the big semen companies now who have dominated the market.

“This is the reason I always support the local shows.”

Facebook also worked to spread contacts and the wins at Rai Valley A&P Show had drawn interest from overseas as a result of social media, he said.

“We will use him on our own cows and see how he goes.

“If there is enough interest in him we will take straws from him if it is cost effective.

“There’s no reason he won’t be around in 10-12 years.”

Source: Stuff

Second-generation family farm grows quickly into a robotic dairy

Dan Steffens highlighted some of the features of the 120-cow freestall barn that has a lower ridge for improved tunnel ventilation and cow comfort. (Photo: Dan Hansen)

In 1971, at age 24, Joe Steffens bought an 80-acre farm on Mullen Road, south of Seymour. A year later he and Lorraine were married, and the couple began to grow their farming operation.

The farm continues to grow today as a robotic dairy with the help of sons Steve and Dan, and was featured on the recent Cow College tour of cutting-edge dairy farms in Outagamie County.

Joe and Lorraine bought their first dairy cows, and the herd grew from within. Over the years, additional land was purchased and several new building were constructed. The farm grew to 240 acres, the original 32-cow tie-stall barn was expanded to 64 stalls and the freestall shed was built. Two 20- by 70-foot concrete silos were erected, and a machine shed and new home also were built.


Sons Steve and Dan also were actively, involved in the farm’s operation, although both held full-time jobs off the farm.

In January 2003, Joe was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away in April 2004. With Joe’s passing, Steve and Dan took on a larger role in the farm’s management and operation while continuing to work at their other jobs.

For the next 10 years Lorraine, Steve and Dan were able to keep the farm operating successfully without the need to hire outside help. They handled all the fieldwork, maintained machinery and other equipment and milked their dairy herd twice a day.

“We put in some long days and even longer nights to get everything done,” said Steve.

Finally in 2014 Steffens Dairy Farm LLC was established, and Steve and Dan quit their off-farm jobs and became full-time partners with Lorraine. 

Their first improvement was buying a Patz portable mixer to provide their herd with a balanced ration. “Soon after that we saw a substantial increase in milk production,” he remarked.

Because their stall barn needed major repairs and updates, they decided to build a new 120-cow freestall barn, featuring sand bedding and tunnel ventilation to maximize cow comfort.

After a lot of discussion and research, the Steffens decided to install two Lely automatic milking units. “Now we we’re able to milk three times a day without hiring any outside help,” Steve emphasized.

A Lely Juno robotic feed pusher was added to ensure the herd always had a supply of quality feed readily available.

“To make sure the cows remained clean and calm, we finished of the barn by installing a Patz alley scraper,” he noted. “Milk production has been continually increasing, our somatic cell count is down, and our conception rates remain high thanks to the heat detection information provided by the robotic milking system.”

Their herd is currently just over 100 cows, 60 percent of which are heifers. Milk production has increased 17 percent since the robotic units have been in operation. Butterfat is 3.7 and protein at 3.1. Cows average of 3.2 trips to the robots each day. The seven-day average is nearly 82 pounds of milk per cow, with the top cow producing 137 pounds.

For the past three years they’ve been breeding their heifers with sexed semen to help grow their dairy herd more quickly. They’ve also temporarily broken their tradition of running a closed herd.

“We been adding only around four or five animals at a time so that we can work them into the herd easier,” Steffens said. “Once we reach the capacity of the barn, which we hope will be within the next year, we plan to go back to a closed herd.”

Currently, the Steffens’ family is also remodeling their old tie-stall barn to house young calves, heifers and dry cows as their robotic dairy continues to evolve at a steady pace.

Source: Wisconsin Sate Farmer

Wormont Dairy: Fire extinguished. Help, hope ignited.

2013 Photo: Chuck and Vanessa Worden

On Saturday evening, January 14, the entire Worden family was together at the dining room table celebrating Chuck and Vanessa’s birthdays, including daughter Lindsey who was home visiting from Vermont.

By daybreak Sunday, the family was facing an uncertain future, but was lifted forward by friends and neighbors showing up when news spread quickly of the fire at Wormont Dairy, Cassville, New York.

“I had just walked through the cows and done a little clipping that night, so proud of how the whole herd looked and how well they were responding to the changes we had been making in the ration and fresh cow protocols,” Lindsey Worden reflected. “Less than four hours later, I was calling 911.”


Photo from Kate Worden


Wayne and Mark Worden, who live off the farm but nearby, were throwing on clothes to come down and join their father Chuck and brother Eric in rescuing calves and heifers penned in the box stall barn adjoining their parlor/holding area and office, which was totally engulfed in flames.

Their mother Vanessa had gotten up in the middle of the night and saw the flames from the window.

“Just as Eric was carrying out the last calf, the fire trucks arrived and the barn was totally filled with smoke and starting to catch fire as well,” Lindsey reported. “Volunteer firefighters, friends and neighbors were pouring in. We managed to wrangle all the baby calves and young heifers into a bay of our machine shed, and got the older show heifers into our heifer freestall, while dad and the boys were helping the firefighters.”

Amazingly, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction of its usual course – sparing the main freestall barn and Wormont Dairy’s 270 milking cows from damage.

By 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, “It was quiet,” Lindsey shares. “At daybreak we met to try and figure out a game plan for how to get 275 cows milked on a farm with no milking equipment.”


Photo provided by Lindsey Worden


Not one person or animal was harmed, and the family was so thankful, but reality was sinking in. Now what?

“It was amazing,” said Vanessa. “There are no words for the way people just showed up and lifted us up.”

Chuck said a neighbor started the ball rolling to place the cows, and people came with trucks and trailers lining the farm lane. “I didn’t make one call, people just came,” he said.

As Wayne and Mark noted, “It was humbling.”
“At one point, we had at least 10 cattle trailers lined up out the driveway, and we got animals relocated more efficiently than I would have ever imagined possible,” Lindsey reflects. “We are so thankful to the friends and first responders who showed up at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning to help get our immediate emergency under control.”Before long, with the help of some awesome neighbors, the Wordens had figured out two farms that could take the majority of their milking cows (heifers and dry cows are staying), and a short while later, cattle trailers started showing up, as did more friends and neighbors to help get them loaded.

Friends and neighbors came from near and far – bringing trailers, helping to get cattle loaded and moved, helping to get scared cows milked off site.

“People brought enough food to feed an army for a week,” said Vanessa.

“At 7 a.m., my first thought is that we were probably just have to sell everything, but then as neighbors showed up, and connections were made, and trucks started moving cows, you start to feel how hope can change the whole outlook,” said Vanessa. “By 3:00 p.m., our friends and neighbors had given us hope that we can do this. I was actually happy yesterday. There is no way I could be sad after all that everyone has done, after all the hope they have given us.”

Each member of the family has so much gratitude for the dairies that opened their barns and took in cows. The 270 cows were moved to three locations by 3 p.m. Sunday.

“What an incredibly humbling day,” Wayne shared Sunday evening. “There are no words to describe the support we received and are still receiving with the cows. Thank you is not enough to say about what we were all able to accomplish today. What an incredible community the dairy industry is.”

2013 photo Wayne, Mark, Eric and Chuck Worden

Electricians worked all day Sunday to restore power – light, heat and water. “And companies worked with us quickly to help us with things like restoring our DairyComp records on a new computer, getting basic medical and breeding supplies and all those little things that we need to keep the wheels on the bus this week,” Lindsey observes. “It is a really strange feeling to literally have none of those everyday supplies like calf bottles, navel dip, ear tags, IV kits, etc.

Everyone who reached out with suggestions for help or just kind words, prayers and encouragement, by call, text message, email, and facebook, or dropping by in person. We are so very grateful.”

Eric shared how “truly overwhelmed” he was by the amount of support received from farmers across the state following the fire. “Thank you for making the day go easier,” he said. “This is a tough blow for my family, but we will come back stronger than ever.”

Adds Lindsey, “By some miracle, not a single animal was lost, not even our lone barn cat!”

While there is no question, “we’ve got a tough road to hoe to get back on our feet over the next several months,” said Lindsey, “with some luck and the attitude everyone in the family has maintained over the last two days, I have no question we will come out on the other side.”

Aug. 2016 Eric, Lindsey and Chuck at county fair

“Words cannot express how thankful we are,” Vanessa said. “The way people reached out to us in those early hours gave us hope. Hope is an important thing. It’s what we give each other, and it is amazing.”

As the family meets with insurance adjusters, lenders, builders, equipment specialists and others to chart a course for moving forward, the ready support of others in the darkest hour serves as a continual reminder of what the dairy community is made of – people who keep putting one foot in front of the other and helping their fellow producers get through times like this.

Even more importantly, the family notes that this dairy community is quick to give each other hope — that they’re not alone when confronted with a life-changing event — that when it seems everything is coming to a halt, it is the hope brought by others that carries everyone forward.

Crews from six fire departments responded to the fire at Wormont in the wee hours of Sunday morning, January 15, with others on standby.

Cleanup continues as the family pulls together to make decisions for the future – a future that they say reinforces how special the dairy industry is and how humbled they are to be part of it.


Source: Agmoos 

Pinehurst Farms boasts rich history

Pinehurst Farms of Sheboygan Falls, started in 1838 by David Giddings, was a model of innovation from the very beginning.

An article in the March 4, 1908, edition of the Sheboygan County News states the following: “Pine Hurst Farms, which is situated partly within the limits of the picturesque village of Sheboygan Falls and part in the town of Lima, is one of the most beautiful and productive farms in the Northwest, consisting of over 400 acres, about 200 of which is under a state of cultivation, 120 in beautiful woods and the balance in natural pasturage, well supplied with water by the Onion River and an abundance of natural springs.”

Giddings, a consummate businessman and adventurous Yankee, never stayed very long with one occupation. He always took an active interest in political affairs. When the Greenback party sprang up, he became identified with it, and in 1878 was a candidate for Congress, receiving more than the party vote.

In 1863, he purchased a farm containing 577 acres southeast of Fond du Lac, and in 1874 went there to live, leaving Sheboygan Falls behind.

On Nov. 20, 1912, Harvard Giddings, son of David Giddings, sold the Giddings Pinehurst Farm to Peter Reiss, president of C. Reiss Coal Company. Pinehurst Farm became the summer home of the extended Reiss family. Reiss upgraded the buildings and in the fall of 1913 the completion of the new 210-foot long barn was celebrated with a barn dance hosted by the Reiss family.

An article from the Sheboygan Press in 1913, entitled “Hundreds Enjoy Barn Dance at Pinehurst,” documents the event. “More than seven hundred were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Reiss at a barn dance at their country home at Pinehurst last evening. The affair which will linger with pleasant memories for a long time, took place in the large barn which is being completed on the farm and until one o’clock this morning the guests enjoyed themselves… For instance there was one dance where the lights were turned off, and the two large automobile lamps furnished the light for the dance.

“This was a novel feature that brought forth applause from the dancers as well as the onlookers and the orchestra was called upon for several encores before the lights were turned on…from eight to nine o’clock the full Sheboygan Concert Band was stationed in the south end of the barn on a raised platform.

“Looking down a space of 210 feet on either side were strings of lights shaded by leaves of tinted paper giving a color that harmonized with the entire decorative scheme. Giant corn stalks together with pumpkins, and sheaths of barley comprised the decorative scheme…the concert under the leadership of Henry Johnson was one of the treats of the evening. But the grand march, comprised of 608 dancers was the highlight.”

Peter Reiss enjoyed his farm and summer home for just fourteen years, passing away on Sept. 5, 1926. Peter and Mattie had two daughters, Carita who married Harold Bachmann and Gertrude who married John Corbett. Both families spent their summers at Pinehurst.

Mattie Reiss continued the operation of the farm after Peter’s death, but in 1930, hired Harry Hill to manage it. Mr. Hill managed Pinehurst Farms for 14 years. Hill, a native of Scarborough, England, was widely known in regional farm circles. He was active in the Wisconsin Holstein Breeders Association and was awarded the Wisconsin Agriculturist gold medal in 1937 as one of Wisconsin’s five outstanding farmers. Hill left Pinehurst in 1944 for a position in the farm industries’ division at Curt G. Joa.

This is the 125-foot Pinehurst Farms towers which went down for scrap on Nov. 11, 1942. Over 80,000 pounds of scrap metal was reclaimed. The 50,000 gallon tower supplied water on the farm.

This is the 125-foot Pinehurst Farms towers which went down for scrap on Nov. 11, 1942. Over 80,000 pounds of scrap metal was reclaimed. The 50,000 gallon tower supplied water on the farm.

At that point the dairy stopped bottling its own milk, selling its product to Verifine where it was processed. Besides the cattle, Pinehurst also operated a greenhouse and continued to raise poultry. In 1948, Mrs. Reiss donated a part of the property to the city of Sheboygan Falls to be used as an athletic field.

The following year, the summer home, the original Giddings home, a large garage, two poultry houses, a greenhouse, 10 acres of virgin pine woods, 180 apple-bearing trees and twelve acres of garden land comprising 37 1/2 acres were sold to The Christian Home Inc., a non-profit organization which took over the property for a home for the aged. The corporation represented 13 churches in Sheboygan, Oostburg, Cedar Grove, Sheboygan Falls, Gibbsville and Hingham. The Giddings home, greenhouse, stable and apple orchard were sold to private parties. The remaining property was remodeled into a residence for the aging. This part of the estate became Pine Haven Christian Home.

In 1950, Mrs. Reiss sold the rest of Pinehurst Farm to her grandsons, Peter and David Bachmann. The two young men operated the property together until 1955 when Peter sold his share to David. David Bachmann became known as one of the best-known registered Holstein breeders in Wisconsin. The prestige and reputation of Pinehurst cows brought foreign buyers on frequent visits to the farm and animals were shipped to all parts of the world.

Lightning struck between a pair of concrete silos the evening of Sept. 16, 1983, during a severe electrical storm. The large L-shaped frame barn, a landmark along State 32, was destroyed by the resulting fire. The barn was immediately rebuilt, but on June 29, 1993 a second fire demolished the barns at Pinehurst. No cause was ever found.

 The 1993 fire marked the end of Pinehurst as a dairy farm, but began the dream of a championship golf course on the property. Construction on The Bull, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, began Aug. 4, 2000. The course meanders through the farm and features beautiful views of meadows, woods, wetlands and streams. Each of the 18 holes is named after a bull bred by Pinehurst Farms, each with its own unique story.

One hundred seventy-eight years later, this beautiful property, cared for by just two families, is a landmark of which the citizens of Sheboygan County can be proud.


Source: Wisconsin State Farmer

Pedigree exhibitor explains commercial roots

090916_p114_-116-mark_robinson-2323_main1One of the younger exhibitors at Dairy Day is Mark Robinson who is making his debut in the event’s show ring. Neil Ryder reports.

As a teenager Mark Robinson once considered a career in professional golf, but instead trained in agriculture and joined his family’s dairy farming business in Nantwich, Cheshire.

This, in turn, led to an interest in Holstein genetics and showing cattle, with his next show ring appearance taking place at this year’s UK Dairy Day.

Show ring success so far this year has included the breed championship and reserve at Nantwich Show, as well as the breed title at Royal Cheshire Show.

He says representing Team GB in Colmar, France, earlier this year with his heifer, Woodhey Atwood Sally, has been the pinnacle of his showing accolade to date. However, he stresses these successes have only been possible from a strong commercial base.

The Robinson family moved from a farm near Winsford, Cheshire, to Woodhey Hall, Faddiley, Nantwich, 17 years ago in response to urban development encroaching on their Winsford farm.

They moved with about 300 dairy cattle which they ran as a commercial herd averaging 8,000 litres. After five years, they formed a contract farming agreement with a neighbouring dairy farm business, which entailed the purchase of 160 full pedigree Holstein milkers averaging around 10,000 litres. Milking continued on the existing two farms until 2012, when both herds were brought together to improve efficiencies.

During this time Mark had finished school and completed a three-year course at Reaseheath College, Nantwich, before returning home to farm with his father Paul and mother, Ruth. Now 27 years old, living with his partner Jocelyn, Mark became a director of the family business, Woodhey Dairies, five years ago. Apart from the family the business has four full-time employees.

The introduction of the pedigree milkers were a turning point for the direction of the herd. Mark says he found the yields these cows were achieving and general cow type highly desirable and this sparked his interest in pedigree Holsteins. It was this which would also lead to his passion for competing in the show ring.

“When I started showing in 2007 I was coming last or nearly last in every class I entered but each time I learned a little more and gradually I crept up the placings winning some firsts and now even some championships. I am lucky in that I have the support of my parents and the team here at Woodhey, plus a good friend Tom Lomas, who helps me prepare and show the cattle. It gives all of us a little boost when we win,” says Mark.

Woodhey Dairies now covers just over 405ha (1,000 acres) in a single block of land all grass apart from about 109ha (270 acres) maize and 51ha (125 acres) wheat. Wheat grain is milled and used for home feeding with the straw welcome for feed and bedding. As the dairy cattle are housed all year round, all the grassland is used for silage. Feeding is based on a grass and maize silage TMR ration, modified as necessary for different groups of cattle and supplemented by parlour fed concentrate.

The present dairy herd totals 640 cows with 500 followers. There are currently 550 animals milking three times a day, averaging 11,300 litres sold at 3.8 per cent fat and 3.1 per cent protein with a cell count of below 130,000.

“We are all year round calving with our milk being sold on a level supermarket contract.

“In 2012 we installed a new 64-point, fully computerised, rapid exit parlour. This now allows us to complete a milking in three hours including clearing and washing. Six months into our new parlour, we moved to three-times-a-day milking to increase yields and for better cow welfare, while enabling us to make better use of our investment”, explains Mark.

“The parlour has an American style underpass below the parlour, this allows noise levels to be kept low in the parlour as all milk metering and other equipment operate here” he says.

Mark has an ‘elite’ group, currently 32 strong, which he selects from for showing.

“I look for cattle which have show potential within the main herd for my elite group. Using sexed semen has allowed me to produce more females from the best cows in my herd, benefiting the herd in both the milk tank and the show ring.

“The show cattle are fed and managed slightly differently from the main herd being housed on deep sand beds instead of the mattresses used for the main herd and fed additional hay for rumen development. In the weeks running up to a show, we aim to develop a routine where there will be as little change as possible between moving from the farm to a show. They are like Olympic athletes and need additional care to compete in the ring,” he says.

Regarding breeding decisions, Mark selects a team of bulls in line with the herd’s goals, and makes bull selections based on each individual cow’s characteristics.

“The elite group are bred for show type. To me this means amazing udders with good attachment, wide square rumps, large body capacity, but still boasting plenty of femininity.

“For the rest of the herd we are breeding for more of a functional cow. She should still possess a solid udder and wide rump, but we are happy for these cows to be stronger and built for life in a large herd environment with large amounts of milk essential. Health traits are also heavily emphasised on, there is such a wide selection of bulls available these days there is no excuse for us not to be using a bull that isn’t positive for the traits we want.

“All bulls used are genomically tested, with very positive results being seen so far in the herd. As for cow family’s there are many different ones in the herd, such as the Adeens, Ambrosia, Roxy’s, Lustre’s, Destina (Raven) Spottie’s, Jennifer’s, Jazz and Pansy. All of these, we are keen to develop throughout the herd.

“Currently the best family we work with and have had most animals from are the Beattie’s. Now 100 per cent Holstein, they have British Friesian roots. These animals just seem to last forever, with most of our 100 tonne cows coming from that line. We currently have one that’s last three dams all made 100 tonnes of milk, and she is still working on her record so fingers crossed.” says Mark.

“Because we want to grow our herd, we currently retain all Holstein heifers born on the farm for replacements. The lower performing percentage of the herd are bred to British Blue sires and sold to Meadow Quality providing us with a good cash crop which we can reinvest in the business” says Mark.

Mark chooses his show cattle by eye, but his keen interest in superior dairy genetics and use of elite genetics has been fundamental in growing milk yields and improving herd health.

He is quick to say cow performance is dependent on both management and genetics, hand in hand; an animal can only perform to its true genetic ability if managed correctly.

“Growing the herd’s average yield from 8,000 to 11,300 litres is testament to this, our next short-term goal will be to achieve an average of 12,000 litres,” he adds.

Woodhey Holsteins show ring success


  • Champion Holstein Nantwich Show – My ABBA
  • Reserve champion and inter-breed champion heifer at Nantwich Show – Woodhey Saturday Night Ghost


  • First in class at the All Britain Calf Show – Woodhey Heztry Lustre
  • First Western Spring Show and reserve champion – Woodhey Bolton Jennifer
  • Champion Cheshire Sow – Woodhey Bolton Jennifer


  • First Western spring show and honourable mention – Woodhey Bolton Jennifer
  • Cheshire show 2010 champion Holstein – Woodhey Shottle Sunbeam 2

Mark says his last goal was to win a class at National Calf Show, which I completed in 2015 and his next goal is to win a milking class at a national show such as UK Dairy Day or UK Dairy Expo

He adds: “A bigger goal is to return to the European Holstein Show in 2019 and succeed near the top end of the ring. It is the most amazing atmosphere I have ever seen, it is just electric.”

Woodhey Hall facts

  • Slurry is stored in an above ground tank and two pits being spread through an umbilical system which reaches all fields on the farm
  • Rainwater is collected from building roofs and is used to wash down, including flood washing the milking parlour
  • Newborn calves are housed individually in open fronted kennel type housing moving on to being group managed using an automatic milk feeder
  • As much work as possible is carried out by the family plus four full time employees
  • Mark started showing Holsteins nine years ago and has a 32 strong show group of cattle managed and fed slightly differently from the rest of the herd to maximise their potential in the show ring

Source: FGInsight

On Cows and People: What I Got When I Bought Popsicle

I’d not personally bought a Registered Holstein since the 2011 Pinehurst Dispersal in Wisconsin. Owner David Bachmann, Sr., had for decades been a useful and wise resource, not only on breeding registered livestock, but on operating a farm entity with viable scale and income. I had bought a lot of bulls and some frozen semen from him, and he used me as a ringman in the World Premiere Sale series at World Dairy Expo. At his dispersal, I bought a direct maternal descendant of Audrey Posch, not so much because I wanted one, but because she was a good value, and Mr. Bachmann had been most generous and fair with me for many years, so I helped his sale a little.

Move forward five years to a Facebook message I got from Dan Hovden in late April, 2016. “Eric,” it started, “We have decided to offer Popsicle for sale.  She was Grand Champion at last year’s Iowa State Fair and due to Shottle June 24…” There was a photo attached, some more information and a price that was reasonable, but more than I was inclined to pay for pretty much anything.

“I’ll stop and look at her today,” I replied. Popsicle was housed by Jason Volker, and his farm was right on my way to a Wisconsin Jersey Show where I had an interest in a couple of head entered.

Mr. Hovden had introduced himself to me a year earlier at the Iowa State Fair, and Mr.

Volker, I knew only by his part in a successful Iowa Holstein show string from the last couple years with Mr. Hovden. Neither gentleman did I know well or at all, really.

I arrived at the Volker farm and put on a pair of boots I’d kept in my trunk from my sale days with Donny Vine and a couple of other sale managers in the 1980s. They still fit and serve a purpose, giving me an opportunity to babble mindlessly as a has-been about a bygone era and render control of the visit from the outset.

Jason took me into a modest barn with a clean, well-bedded area where Popsicle was stalled with some other exceptional cows. Popsicle was recently dry, kind of heavy, and had a huge middle that looked like she could deliver tomorrow. Maybe deliver twins – certainly a giant bull by Shottle from an Atwood from a Shottle. She looked like she could even have giant twin bulls. “Hells bells something smells,” I thought. “I need to look at the other stuff and take off.”

“We didn’t ultrasound her,” Jason said.

“OK, who wouldn’t ultrasound a champion cow?” I thought.

I looked over the rest of show stock, washed my old ringman boots and left for Wisconsin thinking how to word my facebook rejection message which ended up saying, “I’m going to pass for now but may reconsider in a couple of weeks…also, milk went under $13 today and there will be some good values in the months ahead…”

That night in Wisconsin we had the requisite pre-show supper with me heading the table and show cow-partner Jason Steinlage on my right. A win followed the next day for a Jersey cow named Rosa, owned with David Koss. Lea McCullough took a lovely picture after the show, and I posted it a couple of weeks later. This apparently gave Dan Hovden an excuse to pitch again.

“I like this one!” came a message from Dan. “A Purple Ribbon for Queen Rosa!!

Congratulations. ”

“Thank you,”  I replied.

Dan continued, “Jason Volker and I talked again about Popsicle and are willing to take…” The message went on and outlined an agreement that I could consider, but I just thought something was wrong. There was something wrong with this cow, and Mr. Hovden and Mr. Volker either knew it or thought it.

I made another trip to the Volker farm and Jason had a veterinarian diagnose her long bred. I looked at her and thought she had cleaned up some, and her middle looked less ominous for a cow due in 30 days. She was great with calf but didn’t look dangerously great.

I was under some pressure – disguised as encouragement – from dairy show enthusiast Jason Steinlage to buy Popsicle. Jason Volker was again most cordial and professional, and delivered what seemed to be a full account on the cow regarding her health, the price they wanted and an assertion that they did, in fact, not know what she was carrying for a calf or calves. One heifer, one bull, twins, it could be anything, but it was sired by Grandpa Shottle. A double cross of anything could result in a really big calf or two, or small ones. They told us that at Iowa State a couple of times, or at least that’s how I remembered it.

Popsicle did look pretty good, and I did think a best case scenario was a Holstein that could win her class at State Fair. Our last Holstein Grand Champion was during the Carter Administration. Another Holstein Grand Champion might be a fun goal, and Popsicle looked like a reasonable risk – once I found out what was wrong with her.

I had a signed check with me that day, printed out for the amount I was willing to spend on Popsicle.  I had no blank checks, maybe fifty in cash and Jason Volker had storm damage from a tornado the night before. Jason Volker and Dan Hovden were still wanting more than I wanted to spend, so I left on good terms and made it to the local Casey’s General Store for milk, cookies, a couple donuts, and coffee to go.

While eating my sack lunch, I decided to seek counsel from Jason Steinlage. I called and got some words of encouragement, and an assurance that he and his in-laws, Pam and Dan Zabel, would work in concert with me on Popsicle before during and after calving, then get her in to the ring at State Fair.

I decided to pay the price. I called Jason Volker, and he had left the farm to get stuff in another town, but he would call Dan Hovden and go back to the farm again. I drove back to the farm, as well.

Jason Volker and Dan agreed to sell, signed the transfer over to Jason Steinlage and me, agreed that I could send an additional check the next day, and got a health chart that said she was long bred. They also delivered her, though I said I would have my guy do it. They further assured me that Popsicle had not been ultrasounded to determine sex, and they knew of nothing wrong with her, health or otherwise.

They were right.

Jason Steinlage, Pam, and Dan Zabel cared for Popsicle, delivered her very nice typed, medium sized double Shottle heifer calf which, incidentally, was born unassisted and without incident. Popsicle got some Ca++ Boli for a couple days, milked down, uddered up and was named Grand Champion Holstein at this year’s Iowa State Fair. But that’s not the story here.


Mr. Volker and Mr. Hovden at all times and in every instance acted in good faith with full disclosure. I got a cow that cost more than I had hoped but turned out to be exactly as represented.  They, in turn, got their full asking price in full and on time.

I’ve bought and sold bulls and cows totaling a couple million dollars over 40 years, primarily as a family owned livestock farm that milked many cows, sold many bulls, and showed a few Holsteins, Ayrshires, and Jerseys. Few times have sellers apparently misrepresented, lied or lied by omission to me. I have refunded some money or replaced some livestock a few times, too. I didn’t get paid for all or part of three low-dollar animals over the years and had to bite a small loss on those.


From my perspective, Volker-Hovden Holsteins’ integrity ranks with current and former vendors Pinehurst Farms in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, Lyon Jerseys in Toledo, Iowa, and Tim Rauen here in Iowa. Mr. Rauen has sold me a few lots of ova, then promptly made a couple of adjustments when some eggs came up missing.  I think I got the long end of the adjustment both times.  These are four examples all well set for the registered livestock industry.

Photos by Randy Blodgett of Blodgett Communications



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The Hymers Cows Have Come Home Two Years After Fire

From left: Scott Hymers, Lauren Nelson, Tyler Hymers, Lloyd Bishop and Teddy DeDominicis stand in Hymers’ new barn on Elk Creek Road Tuesday. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter

It was a great day for the Hymers family and their livestock on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Scott and Gail Hymers lost their family barn to a blaze on Dec. 11, 2014, displacing their Holstein herd for nearly two years. The Hymers’ are one of Delhi’s few remaining dairy farms and their barn was destroyed after a tractor caught fire in the hay loft on Elk Creek Road. About 40 firefighters were on the scene from Delhi,Bloomville, Bovina and East Meredith, while the Walton Fire Department stood by for support.

The new barn is located just up the road from the original one.

“I bought this farm in 1981 and during the fire, we lost 14 cows,” said Scott Hymers, whose family has been farming for more than 100 years. “Today, we started moving about 60 milking cows in at 9 a.m. and we were done at about 11 a.m.

The Hymers cows were happy to be home following a 16.8 mile move from Warren Post’s farm in Stamford. 
Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter The Hymers cows were happy to be home following a 16.8 mile move fromWarren Post’s farm inStamford. Rosie Cunningham/The ReporterHymers said he is “very happy” the cows have come home.

“It will have been 20 months this Thursday since the fire took our barn,” he said. “We have been keeping the herd up at Warren Post’s farm in Stamford.Although I am thankful for that, I am excited not to make the 16.8 mile trip twice a day, each day, anymore.”

According to his son Tyler Hymers, the family milks at about 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., daily.

“I am happy we can start milking here,” he said. “It’s definitely been a process. We started the work last August during fair week and began moving dirt in the fall. In March, we started building the new barn and we were working with used equipment, so it took time.”

Area farmers and friends helped transport the herd from Post’s farm back to the Elk Creek Road location.

“We had eight people who hauled, which included Rick Holdridge, Andrew Post, Teddy De- Dominicis, Steve Hall, Dave Lloyd from Middleburgh, Al McClure, Randy Inman andDonnie Hoskins,” said Scott Hymers. “Everyone has been great through all of this and we have had a lot of support.”

Source: The Reporter

Dairy Farmer Shares His Loss With Dairy Community on Social Media

Kipp Hinz of Hinz Registered Holsteins has always been an active member on social media, especially Facebook.  But recently Kipp has been going through similar challenges to most dairy farmers in this tough dairy economy.  But Kipp’s most recent comments on Facebook and the troubling decisions have stirred a great deal of reaction.  In fact in under 8 hours Kipp’s post (found following) had over 1,000 reactions, 300 shares and over 150 comments.  While this is certainly troubling times, its great to see social media is allowing us to support our members who are having a really rough go at it.

kippKipp Hinz’s Facebook post:

The word omission, is defined as a failure to do something, especially something one has a moral to do so. Failure, other than “to fail something” is the omission of expected or required action. In the last two weeks these words have been ringing in my head. Because two weeks ago I experienced the biggest failure of my life to date losing my beautiful herd of black and white bovines and my best friends. I lost my farm.

Iv reflected a lot since saying goodbye. Defeated, heartbroken, overwhelmed losing a dream of a 10 year old boy that prayed every night to one day have his own dairy farm. I let myself down, my family down, an industry down being a fairy tale of inspiration that came to a bad ending. My goal in pursuit was never to milk cows and just have a “farm”. But instead provide an opportunity for a son or daughter that I myself never had. An opportunity of passing down a herd that shared love and passion for cows in hopes that they too would love them like their father does with the morals of hard work, honesty, and integrity. All while being raised with the best most rewarding lifestyle anyone could ask for.

However for my 27th birthday I watched a trailer leave the driveway with cows I had raised from birth and they were never coming back. 6 years, I fought the endless fight. When I shared the news with someone they replied “Oh you gave up huh”. Umm no. I did not just give up. If someone is tied to an anchor and thrown in a lake. Did they give up breathing? No. They drown. And that being said this is how I describe this experience drowning in a financial, physical, and mental lake of hell. Constantly fighting to swim to the top reaching for air. But only to go deeper where the pressure grew tighter, darkness surrounded me, and finally I could not breathe anymore. The worst part was making the decision. The 10 days following the decision before the cows left I had to go through the everyday actions like nothing was wrong. Looking at my cows in the eye feeling like I was a walking lie knowing their lives were about to change, or end. You can not describe that kind of pain to someone. Pain that that makes you feel numb. Where you’re unable to concentrate, unable to eat without throwing up, unable to sleep without frantically waking up constantly through the night in disgust. And when the day came and the cows were gone the worst sound on the farm was silence. Silence that echoed the end of an era.

Now I face starting life completely over. Starting my farm from scratch I rose from what I called the bottom. Built up what I had visioned from day one. I made accomplishments I never imagined in my short time. But one thing never changed no matter how good or bad it was. The cows always came first. People say “Kipp went broke because he spent too much money” “Kipp went broke because he had a hired man” “Kipp went broke because of… you name it” You know what, they’re right. Kipp Hinz went broke not because he did not take care of his cows, but because he took EXCELLENT care for his cows. And was determined to do so every single day of those 6 years. Never let them suffer, never let them parish because of what he could not control. Every single decision was made with confidence and was thought out. I love the people who will judge that don’t even have the balls to even try something of their own. If I hadn’t worked, improvised, experimented, or risked it all like I did starting on day one I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. I would not trade anything I did to settle for mediocre. And I would go back and make the same decisions every time. Show me someone who risked it all and never failed somewhere along the way. I have no regrets.

In fact I have ZERO regrets! None. I exploited and exhausted every single option or opportunity God provided me to a pulp trying to succeed. A friend has repeatedly told me “The dairy industry is the only industry where you can do everything right, and still fail.” That a corrupted industry filled with greed, selfishness, and lust for more doesn’t allow superior effort and skill to always win. I was finally at a dead end road and refused to put myself and my cows in the position I was forced into.

I am no stranger to failure. God has majestically had me experience many failures leading up to this. I have failed to clinch a state powerlifting title, missed the record breaking lifts, and have already been through a failed marriage to name only a few. But I know these failures were all part of Gods plan. And through those failures the experience gained helped me coop with this one. Tattooed on my arm is Psalm 56:3 that says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”. It is there for a reason. This is Gods plan and I have full trust in that plan. And it was put there to look at everyday and remember just that. On the other arm is “Live in vision, not circumstance”. It too is there for a reason. I know I have shared this many times and I’m here to say it again! I refuse to let my vision be determined by the damn circumstances I have to endure such as this. The greatest part about failures is the opportunity to learn. Without failure you would not gain experience. Wisdom would not be a word. And patience would not have the same meaning. With every one one of my failures I never ever woke up the next day and said that was it. I have always kept going. “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart”. This will be no exception.

For now Hinz Registered Holsteins is gone. But the experience, wisdom, and patience I learned and the character Iv built for myself can not be taken away from me. “It is not how hard you get it, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” My work is not finished and I swear HRH will be back someday. When that time comes it will be bigger and better than ever before. God has a plan for me and it will take more than this to knock me out. It’s going to take some time, and I’m still looking for the next opportunity to present itself in my next chapter. But rest assured, Hinz Registered Holsteins will be back.

Feel free to share the shit out of this so everyone will know. If I have the balls to tell the world about my stories of success you bet your ass everyone will know I failed and own up to it

North Cape dairy farmer won’t let wheelchair slow him down

Jim Waldron checks on some of the dairy livestock on Friday at the family farm near North Cape in the Town of Raymond. Waldron fell off a pile of hay bales in 2012 and broke his back. He ended up paralyzed but still works on the family farm despite having to use a wheelchair or tractor chair to maneuver about. He also sells crop seed and after-market agriculture parts.

July 23, 2012, promised rain after a long, hot summer.

With an agricultural upbringing bred in his bones, Jim Waldron could feel the storm coming in the heavy, humid air.

Waldron grew up on a farm, 300 acres of corn and alfalfa and 150 cows kept by his family for nearly a century. He participated in Future Farmers of America while at Waterford High School, and at 26 was working on a farm near his family’s acreage.

“Farming wasn’t work,” he said. “It was life.”

Waldron whiled away the near-drought that year by driving a truck, delivering bales of hay and straw up north. With the rain coming that July day, the bales had to be covered with plastic tarps to keep dry.

Waldron stood atop a 16-foot high heap of big square bales, yanking a plastic sheet over the pile. He pulled the tie on one bale to flip and center it.

Suddenly the cord snapped. One misstep later, Waldron plunged backward off the pile. He landed flat on the hard, water-hungry dirt. His spine, at a spot about the height of his belly button, cracked.

He had lost the use of his legs forever.

“I was awake the whole time,” Waldron remembered about the fall. “The guys who were with me kept touching my legs and asking me if I felt anything. I couldn’t. All I felt was a hot spot in the middle of my back.”

The road to recovery

Waldron recaps his fateful story, rolling his wheelchair through the family farm. He moves easily from barn to outbuildings. Two dogs trot next to his chair. A goat ambles past.

“The ambulance came into the field and got me,” he said. “What a bumpy ride.”

He was taken to a nearby grade school and transported to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa via Flight for Life helicopter. He had surgery on his spine. A day later, his surgeon told him he would spend the rest of his life using a wheelchair.

The next morning, a nurse rolled a wheelchair to his hospital bed and asked Waldron if he was going to get up.

“What else was I going to do?” he said. “You have to decide to move on. Lying in bed all the time just wasn’t an option. It was time to figure this out.”

Waldron began two months of physical and occupational therapy, relearning simple tasks most of us take for granted, such as taking a shower, going to the bathroom, getting dressed and tying his shoes.

“Realizing you can never do anything the way you used to do it strips away all of your confidence,” he said. “You have to start over. It became all about small victories.”

Back on the farm

By Labor Day 2012, Waldron was back on the family homestead. He moved in with his sister, Jackie Bratz, and her husband, Jeremy, who were running the farm. The three of them live in one of the houses on the farm.

The bad times came that spring, the first planting season since the accident. “Staring out the window, I saw everyone else getting the equipment ready, starting to plant, being productive,” he said. “Those were the darkest times.”

“There have been ups and downs,” said Bratz, who is director of the Racine County Communications Center. “Sometimes we talked about it. Sometimes he would decompress in his room, probably trying to not think about it. There have been more than a few heartfelt conversations at the kitchen table.”

Slowly, Waldron got stronger and healthier. He had surgery to ease severe leg pain. He stopped taking painkillers. He worked out almost every day. He started seeing a personal trainer once a week. He learned how to quickly disassemble his wheelchair and stow it in his truck. Best of all, he got back to the farm.

Using a special heavy-duty wheelchair, he went out among the cows. He helped with the chores. Last year he helped build a sand-filled, 150-stall barn for the cows.

“The more time I spent outside, the better I felt,” Waldron said.

An estimated 19 percent of farmers are unable to perform essential tasks due to a disability, according to AgrAbility, a national organization that assists disabled farmers.

Waldron is not one of them.

Waldron has adjusted the farm’s equipment, making it easier for him to use. He added hand controls for the foot pedals on the tractor and, this year, planted the farm’s corn crop. He modified a skid loader and climbs into it with no problems.

His side businesses are thriving — he sells crop seeds, planting technology accessories and agriculture equipment parts. He drives to trade shows and farms expos across the Midwest. He meets clients in their fields.

“Regaining that sense of independence and feeling like I am useful is so important to me,” he said. “I don’t want to weigh down the farm. I want to help raise the value.”

The local farm community has nothing but respect and admiration for Waldron, said Jeff Ehrhart, who farms about 2,500 acres and lives in Dover, a few miles south of Waldron’s house.

“He has a real drive. He’s not sitting back and feeling sorry for himself,” Ehrhart said. “He rolls through the door of my workshop and when I ask him how it’s going, he always says ‘good.’

“Everything is a struggle for him, but he doesn’t make it look that way. Nothing will get him down. He’s always out there working, looking for a new adventure,” Ehrhart said. “And this after suffering something that would make about 95 percent of us crawl into a hole.”

Looking to the future

At 28, Waldron knows he’ll probably never escape the confines of his chair. That hasn’t stopped him from planning and dreaming. He wants to expand his business, perhaps hire some employees, and help small farms get the best deals they can from big seed companies. He wants to build his own house and have a family.

Those are things the 24-year-old Waldron — the one who could walk and run — probably wasn’t thinking about on that hot, humid July day almost four years ago.

“In a way, this turned out to be a kick in the butt,” he said. “It pushed me in the right direction. I wish I could have learned that lesson without the chair, but sometimes that’s not how life works.”

Waldron grew up on a farm and, for the near future, will stay on the farm.

“He fits in just fine,” Bratz said. “He does so much that you would never know he was in a wheelchair unless you saw the chair. But the farm is where his passion is.”

“I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Waldron said with a smile, the sun shining on his face. “I’m exactly where I want to be.”

Source: The Journal Times

High-powered shoe execs find contentment at Arethusa Dairy

A little more than 20 years ago, George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis were just two high-powered businessmen who literally put the world on its heels (stilettos, that is) as president and vice president, respectively, of Manolo Blahnik in North and South America. They traveled around the world, escaping as often as possible to their Litchfield “getaway.” And then they started a farm. Not just any farm, but a 300-acre celebrated dairy farm in Litchfield that led to other ventures, including dairy stores in Bantam and New Haven, and their celebrated restaurant, Arethusa al tavolo, in Bantam. These days they continue with the Manolo Blahnik brand and are expanding a clothing and accessory venture with actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Jeans-clad George and husband, Tony, sat for a chat recently at the farm’s main barn.

Q: In New York City you live in a world of high fashion and celebrity friends; then you became farmers. What’s up with that?

George Malkemus: I think it’s because it started with the fact we had a home in Connecticut that was across the street from what at that time had been a horse farm. We found out it was being sold into development, and selfishly we didn’t want the view from our windows ruined, so we bought the property. Then we began researching the history of the farm and found out it was originally a dairy, one of over 4,000 dairy farms in Connecticut in its heyday. We had thought about just raising pedigree cattle and selling calves and embryos, focusing on preserving breeding. In 2008, when the recession hit, I said one day, “Why don’t we start to bottle our own milk?” and everybody went crazy saying, “You shouldn’t do that.” We rented a dairy in Bolton for a year to see if the market would embrace us. It did. We moved the bottling operation here and then added production of ice cream, butter, yogurt, the whole nine yards. And then it was the ice cream and cheese shop, and then we found Dan Magill and opened the restaurant and then Yale invited us to open a shop down there (in New Haven) and then it was the café across the street from the restaurant. We figure all those entities will provide an income that will sustain a trust that will keep everything going after we are gone and conserve our farmland.

Q: What does the farm offer that your Manolo Blahnik career does not?

GM: It’s a different kind of satisfaction. What we experience on the farm is so different than what we do in New York City. The city is not all about clothes and jewelry and being thin. People there have children and home and work with charities. But it’s the city. We come here and the people are so different. It’s a different lifestyle and, of course, there are the cattle and working with our employees here. It’s part of our lives now. It’s soothing.

Q: So is that the secret of your farming success?

GM: When this all started to take off, we wanted it to reflect the same attention to detail that the shoes we sell do. That is how we approached the farm. We are focused on detail and want our products to be the best. We won’t settle, and that means work. I love when people say to us, ‘So what’s it like to be a gentleman farmer?’ We aren’t. We are hands on. We have cattle that win blue ribbon after blue ribbon. We are going to San Diego, where our 16-year-old cow, Veronica, is going to receive an award as one of the world’s greatest cows. We are proud that we have developed a pedigree of cows that is like the pedigree of our shoes.

Q: What is your favorite chore on the farm and what’s your least favorite?

GM: I like being with the animals, seeing a new calf born. My least favorite chore is dealing with an employee who is not doing what they should be. When you are dealing with live animals, false moves can be serious.

Tony Yurgaitis: Oh, you know there are days you love this job, and then are those other days. I think my favorite time on the farm is going to the barns. I do clean stalls, but I don’t milk the cows. There is something about being there and doing what needs to be done. I love talking to other farmers about the business. The part I don’t like — paying the bills.

Q: You bought this property 20 years ago and have turned it into a business to be reckoned with. Any surprises along the way?

GM: The restaurant has been a fantastic surprise to us. It truly is farm-to-table because what we serve comes from the milk from our cattle. I think the secret of a successful restaurant is finding the right chef and letting him or her do whatever he wants when it comes to the menu. Don’t try to cut corners.

Q: So if you and Mr. Blahnik were going to collaborate on an Arethusa shoe, what would it look like?

GM: It would be a mule and it would be red. Red is the color of passion, and that’s what we are about. And a mule, well, because they are a stubborn animal and as a shoe they are hard to walk in, but incredibly sexy. It’s easy to slip your foot out of them and play footsies with someone.

Q: Has Manolo Blahnik ever tried any of your dairy products?

GM: Oh yes, he visited the farm, although he really doesn’t like being in the country, although I’m not sure people in Litchfield think this is the country. He loves milkshakes with vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

Q: What‘s new in shoes and in dairy products?

GM: In fashion we have a new line of bags coming out with Sarah Jessica Parker. And she will be launching her LBD (Little Black Dress) line with us. And as far as shoe style, classic is in.

Q: Something most people don’t know about you?

GM: God is very much a part of our lives, and we are very thankful for our lives. I was an Episcopalian who converted to Catholicism when I met Tony. We go to church every week.

Q: But the Catholic Church opposes your relationship. How do you handle that?

TY: Sometimes you have to walk around the church’s position on gay marriage.

Source: News Times

Two modern women dairy farmers defy stereotypes

These women are redefining perceptions of the modern dairy farmer

In today’s day and age, dairy farming is far from a black and white affair.

Firstly, the farm itself has evolved to catch up with modern times and technologies.

Then there are the farmers behind the scenes, running the whole shebang—and they, too, don’t always look like the stereotypes from your average childhood nursery rhyme.

Take, for example, Laura Flory and Lindsey Rucks, featured in the latest season of Acres and Avenues, a show that brings rural dairy farmers and young urbanities together to illustrate how dairy products get from farm to table.

As millennial, college-educated women, Flory and Rucks consistently deal with mitigating the stereotype of the “typical” farmer. But these two women are proving that their career paths are not only legitimate—they’re also making an impact upon a centuries-old industry.

Lindsey Rucks

A fourth-generation dairy farmer living in the South Florida sunshine

Lindsey Rucks lives and works on her family’s farm in South Florida. She’s had a passion for cows from the time she was a young girl. She has a degree in Agriculture Communications with an emphasis in Leadership Development from the University of Florida.

I don’t consider this to be a job, but more of a way of life. I wish more people could come to our farm to see what we do day in and day out.

Not everyone discovers his or her life’s passion as an infant, but Lindsey Rucks is one of the lucky ones; her future career path was evident from an early age.

“Becoming a part of our family farm was pretty much set in stone when my first word was ‘cow,'” Rucks tells Mashable. “My passion continued to grow, and when I was eight years old I started showing dairy cows.”

The “cow showings” Rucks refers to were part of 4-H, a global network of youth development organizations administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture. Showing a cow is comparable to the displays at a standard dog show such as Westminster. Today, Rucks still shows Brown Swiss cows at a national level all over the U.S.

Rucks applied her childhood interests to her education, majoring in Agriculture Communications with an emphasis in Leadership Development at the University of Florida. She believes her college education helped diversify her way of thinking, and hopes to one day be able to educate others about the importance of dairy farming.

“I feel that in today’s world, one of our biggest obstacles is educating the public about our farms,” she says. “With my dairy background and preparation at the college level, I can work toward advocating about the importance of what we do and, most importantly, the passion we do it with.”

For Rucks, a large part of her job satisfaction relates to providing the best possible care for the animals on her family farm.

“The circle of life is a phenomenal thing, and being able to witness it and be a part of it is so rewarding,” she says. “There are good days and bad days and we are part of a sometimes volatile industry, but there is nothing quite like waking up with the sun to care for our animals that give us so much.”

Laura Flory

A young dairy farmer hailing from Dublin, Virginia

Laura Flory is a graduate of Virginia Tech, where she received a B.S. in Dairy Science in 2009. She currently lives and works full-time alongside her husband and in-laws on their Virginia dairy farm. In her free time, she enjoys photography, writing and spending time with family.

We get to bring a new perspective to an industry that we have not traditionally been a huge part of. While it might evoke a few eye rolls from our husbands or male peers, we bring a lot of emotion with us to the job, and I think at the end of the day that is a benefit to everyone.

Laura Flory

Laura Flory grew up on a family farm in southwest Virginia. Today, she and her husband, Scott, work on their Dublin, Virginia farm along with her husband’s parents. The pair milks 240 Holstein cows in a robotic milking facility that they built in 2014.

Throughout Flory’s upbringing, she adored animals.

“Though my parents were not farmers themselves, the land was leased out to a family friend that owned beef cattle and I spent many summer days climbing on the fence watching the cows in the field,” Flory tells Mashable. “I always loved animals but was never really involved in an agricultural capacity until I was older and began participating in 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs.”

In college at Virginia Tech, Flory spent a summer feeding calves and helping with chores around a dairy farm, which ultimately influenced her decision to major in Dairy Science and pursue her passion for dairy farming. Post-grad, Flory returned to farm life to dedicate her career to the job she’d grown to love.

“My college education has been a huge part of any success I have achieved so far in my career,” she says. “The most important thing I learned was the ability to have to look for an answer in a situation. Dairy farming is not a career that comes with a handbook.”

Flory also cites the ability to see “cause and effect” and her acute attention to detail as crucial skills she picked up in college.

“When you are responsible for something, you better have a pretty solid foundation for what impact that decision might have and monitor it closely,” she says. “Really the most important thing I learned is that it never hurts to ask a few more questions. Two heads are always better than one.”

Flory has also found that sharing her passion for farm life with others is extremely rewarding.

“I hope to never stop learning,” she says. “I have a dream to one day open up some kind of agri-tourism business that can showcase that passion and encourage others to continue to learn, as well.”

“In my great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s generation, women working on the farm (with the exception of being a bookkeeper) was unheard of,” says Rucks. One generation later, the thought became a bit more acceptable—albeit still quite unconventional.

Today, however, times are changing.

“Gender is not an issue as far as working all positions on a farm, especially once everyone realizes that we can do the same things that they can do! I think women can bring more of a nurturing and compassionate feel to the farm, along with some patience,” says Rucks.

She admits, however, that there are some difficulties being a woman in what has traditionally been a “man’s world.”

“The stereotype is that we can’t work as long or hard as men, or that we don’t like to get dirty. I don’t find any of that to be true,” she says. “My compassion and attention to detail have helped me so much along the way in my lifestyle.”

Flory agrees that there’s often a common misconception about farm life, not only as a woman working on a farm, but regarding the industry in general.

“Being a working woman is hard enough, but when you add in the unpredictable schedule, the dirt and the 1,600-pound animals, sometimes you feel like there aren’t a lot of people out there who ‘get you,'” she says.

“The most common misconception I come across is that [many people] can’t—or don’t—believe I actually do this for a living,” she says. “I used to be quite offended when someone would ask, ‘Well, what else do you do?’ I have come to realize that they just can’t imagine a 5’1″ blonde milking cows and shoveling cow poop.”

Misguided public perceptions have fueled Flory’s desire to fight the stereotype.

“I try and help others see that dairy farming today doesn’t look exactly the same as the image they might have in their heads,” she explains. “Technology and increased knowledge have brought the dairy industry so far, and I hope to help people understand that women can bring a lot to the table when it comes to animal enterprises.”

Technology has played a big part in the modernization of the dairy farms on which both Flory and Rucks work.

“The first and most notable way it has made my tasks easier is that it is accurate,” says Flory. “While I take pride in knowing my animals, I am not there with them all day and all night. Just like people, not all cows are the same.”

She explains that the robotic milking system used on her farm helps ensure she’s tailoring her daily efforts to the right animals at the right time: “It maximizes my time and effort and, in the end, usually makes less work for me and better care for the cows.”

Another benefit of the fusion of modern technologies and old-school farming practices is that there’s been a massive reduction in physical labor.

Closely tracking the cows through technology allows Flory to quickly identify and devote time to the cows that need the most attention.

“As long as [the animals] are well and milking frequently enough, they get to do whatever they want. The calm atmosphere makes them easy to work with and for the most part they are highly cooperative,” she says.

I try and help others see that dairy farming today doesn’t look exactly the same as the image they might have in their head.

Laura Flory

Rucks has also noticed a shift toward using technology to better monitor the animals on her farm.

“We’re able to know if a cow is feeling a little ‘off’ that day before she ever begins to show clinical signs of illness. We monitor eating, standing, walking and laying times,” she says. Automatic calf feeders also ensure that young calves are able to drink milk whenever they need nourishment, 24/7.

“With today’s technology and the Internet at our fingertips, we can get ideas and answers immediately,” she says. “If my grandfather were still alive, he would be blown away by this ability.”

For Rucks, the “sweet spot” involves a combination of new ideas and technology mixed with the tried-and-true methods of previous generations.

“Even in modern times, people and ideas may change, but the cow is still the same,” she says. “Sometimes ‘listening’ to her is all you need.”

Source: Mashable

Getting to know 2016 European Red & White Show Judge Jaume Serrabassa Vila

While many of the top judges in North America enjoy celebrity status around the world, most of the top names in Europe are unknown to most tanbark enthusiasts.  With this in mind The Bullvine wanted to introduce you to this years Red & White Show Judge, Juame Serrabassa Vila.

Jaume owned the Comas Novas farm, Barcelona, until 2010 and still keeps some of his best cows in Cal Marquet farm (Best Breeder National Show 2013), where he has been technical director. Today he is Breeding Adviser at Triangle Holstein, and also he is a teacher at the Spanish National Young Breeders School and European School in Battice, Belgium.


When did you first find out you had been selected to judge the show?

It was in November after the Royal, and I started to receive congratulatory messages from good friends and then I found the nomination posted on Facebook. Then in December, I received the official invitation from the European association.


What was your reaction?

I felt very surprised and proud at the same time. I’m feeling very happy. It will be a great honor and a great privilege.



Was does this honor mean to you?

It is an honor to received such public recognition.  It also comes with a great responsibility to respond to the trust that the exhibitors have placed in me. It will be a big challenge and a great opportunity to introduce myself to many people who do not know me.


How are you preparing for the show?

I am not doing any special work to prepare for it. I’m doing my usual work, seeing cows every day, selling semen, and when I’m driving for a long distance I practice giving reasons in English and some words in French. But nothing special.


What have been some of your greatest experiences/accomplishments over the years?

Like many breeders, when I received the award for Best National Breeder at our national show. It was a great show and I I keep great memories, wining several classes including reserve grand Champion. I also am proud to have judged our national show, as well as in Èpinal (France), in Codogno (Italy), the junior show in Cremona (Italy).  It was also an honor to be one of the master judges in the meeting of European judges last year. Another great experience is teaching in Battice (Belgium) in the European young breeders school.


12496031_813381828772691_8776085710399473264_oWhat do you think the biggest challenge will be?

For now I am focus on Colmar and then we will see. My challenge in Colmar is trying to do a good job with the placements and through these placements transmit my ideas or philosophy about my type of cows giving good and real reasons.


How would you describe your ideal cow?

My ideal cow is the balanced cow. I don´t need to pick the tallest cows in the classes. I prefer the cows without weak points. I love cows with strength, angularity, dairyness, fancy udders and good legs. I´m a big lover of the mammary system, with strong fore attachment, nice rear attachment and with good depth of the udder. I look for feminine and stylish cows.  I think that my ideal cow is very similar of the true type of cow that most of the breeders are looking for.


11156302_354781261396641_7626364407593904518_nWho would you like to thank for help along your career?

I must thank to my family and specially to my brother Quim. (Read more: TRIANGLE HOLSTEINS – THREE PART HARMONY) I would like to thank to my teachers and people who had been my reference, my model, my inspiration… People like Gabriel Blanco, Mauro Carra, Alfonso Ahedo, Brian Carscaden, Roger Turner, John Gribon, to name a  few of the many people who have helped me over the years. And I thank to all my friends that give me all their support every day. THANKS to all.



12487017_803886763055531_3606754377441402980_oWhat advice would you give to someone who aspires to judge a major show like this one day?

It’s very important to know about the cows.  Take the time to work with them.  It is also very important give good and real reasons in the ring.  Don’t be afraid to feel and show your passion. Make sure you take advantage to visit shows around the world.  This will help you to keep an open mind and learn something new every day.  Be simple and friendly. Be a judge is a great honor but is is also a big responsibility.


Watch full coverage of the 2016 European Championship Show starting tomorrow.

Dairy farmer retires after 53 years of milking cows

A northern Michigan man who has known nothing but milking cows his entire life has decided to put away his working gloves.

After 50 years, Dean Edgecomb, one of the only dairy farmers in Traverse City is moving on.

“Ever since I was 18 years old I milked cows,” said Dean Edgecomb.

Dean Edgecomb grew up on a farm off Hammond Road, and for 53 years has been a dairy farmer.

“I still love it,” said Edgecomb.

But at 70 years old, it’s finally time for him to give it up.

“Maybe my wife and I can spend some time together doing something else besides milking cows every morning and night,” said Edgecomb.

But these cows are more than just his job.

“When you help the little baby calves be born and raise it up until it has a baby of its own, you get attached to them,” said Edgecomb. “I do anyway.”

His cows will be sold in livestock sale.

“He’d rather have it that way than to send them to somebody else because he likes to know who’s taking care of his animals,” said his wife, Victoria Edgecomb.

But his age isn’t the only reason he’s getting out of the business, he says the price of milk has plummeted.

“There’s no place in the dairy business for a little farmer anymore, it’s all big farmers,” said Edgecomb.

And while you can take him out of the dairy farm, you can’t take the dairy farmer out of him.

“Yeah I think I will miss it, I never tire of milking my cows,” said Edgecomb.

Dean says he wouldn’t have been this successful as a dairy farmer without the help and support of his wife and family.

Dean says he’s not retiring completely. He will continue being a beef farmer which is a lot less labor intensive then dairy farming.

Yellow Briar Farms: The Cows Are Sold But The Memories Are Priceless!

“Yellow Briar Ayrshire Farm isn’t on TV or listed in travel brochures of Southern Ontario but at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning it was the center of dairy farming not just for the Stephens family but for their friends, neighbours and farming colleagues as fifty years of dairy farming saw 70 head go under the auction hammer in Troy.”


Change the name and location and you will find similar events happening all over North America as the aging baby boomer generation decide to take the next … or even the last … step in their dairy journey. There is nothing unique about families dispersing the dairy herd that has been their 24/7 life for several decades.


“Three generations of ‘The Bullvine’ marvelled at the coating of ice that covered barns, eves and the auction tent as we drove up the typical farm lane that is the introduction to Yellow Briar.  After getting parked, the walk back through the barns to the sales arena was like a meet and greet of what has become a dwindling number of local dairy farmers.  Those who had already sold out of dairying compared how it was on their sale day.  Those who grew up with the “Stephen’s boys” compared how the next generation was growing up and looked just like Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa.”

Champion Classic Team that contained 3 Hunt children as well as 3 Stephens boys.

Champion Classic Team that contained 3 Hunt children as well as 3 Stephens boys.

That single day when a multi-generation dairy herd goes under the hammer presents every range of emotion.  Excitement for the future.  Anticipation for a profitable sale.  Nerves about what comes next, After all, for 50 years or more, life on the dairy farm has been solely focused on raising, breeding, caring for and showing dairy cattle. Nothing against other careers but dairy farming doesn’t wind down in the same graceful way that other careers do.  Even though it seems to take forever to arrive,  the day of that final sale seems almost unexpected. The whirlwind of cattle fitting, catalogue details and keeping the cattle and the prep crew fed and happy is a high intensity contrast to that moment when the last of the sale cattle roll out the lane and a new — non-milking routine begins. Is this what we really want?

john and grand

“The story of Yellow Briar embraces a history of generations of family and the roots that go deep into the community.  As our Huntsdale Holstein and Yellow Briar Ayrshire families shared community activities and show ring teams, the legends (some true, some embroidered) have grown as four generations shared fun and hard work that will always be fondly remembered.”


For those who may unexpectedly pass by a dairy dispersal, they probably wonder what exactly has compelled people to park down both sides of the highway outside the entrance to that farm and may not have anything more than the words “Auction Today” to answer their questions.  They might not be aware of the years of planning and breeding that saw this dairy provide sustenance for families, dairy stars born, judging skills developed and milking records completed and center stage at the very best shows. Unless you have lived it, it’s hard to explain, all the love, sweat and tears that build a life’s work.


“As I sit a ringside — absolutely loving the roll of the auctioneer’s call – and the excited shouts of the ringmen, I was in the perfect place to see the full spectrum of emotions slipping across the faces of the Stephen’s family.  Happiness in welcoming friends and neighbours.  Welling of tears as the progress of the sale also marks the approaching end of one way of life and the start of something different.”


So many factors impact the “success” of a dairy dispersal.  The quality of the cattle.  The size of the market.  The effectiveness of the marketing.  The hard work of the family and the sales team.  Even weather plays a role.  Who would have foreseen an ice storm in March 24th? Oh yes and how is the dollar doing?


“Explaining to a city person that there is excitement in listening to the auctioneer and pedigree reader count the opportunities that are being presented for those in attendance. They put their entreaties before those in the crowd and wait patiently for those who are on phones.  Cattle dispersals are international.  And also inter-generational. For our grandchildren hearing the large dollar amounts gradually going higher and higher until the hammer slams down may have given them one more reason to like the cows that Daddy is so passionate about.”


Looking around a dairy dispersal, you will see folks from all aspects of the industry. Breed officials.  International dairy owners.  Auctioneers.  People in sales.  Show personalities.  The dream is that there will be a balance between getting a great price for the sellers and getting a great price for the buyers.  The one side is taking a final step.  The other continues to build their herd or someone else’s for the future. It’s not always easy for either one.  It doesn’t always work out for everybody.  But one thing every dairy person is familiar with, you must always “keep on going”. Forward is the only direction that counts.

“Yellow Briar isn’t just cows.  It’s Marilyn’s good food from the bounty of homegrown vegetables and fruit.  That will go on. It’s shared experiences on local fair committees. That will continue.  It’s their three kids and our three sharing past memories and making new ones in the modern dairy industry. More to come.  It’s knowing that John is just one phone call away from helping with whatever you need. Hay wagons, bale wrapping or getting a stuck tractor out of a mud hole. The sharing and caring will continue.” 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Even though the paths between starting, growing and dispersing dairy farms may become less travelled and perhaps worn, the friendships forged will never wear out.  Congratulations to the Stephen’s family for what you have accomplished and all the best, as you look forward to what is yet to come!



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The Mackinson Dairy Blog. Get Connected. It Makes a Difference.

11390273_10102865360875860_8587866314628627565_nWhen you come from a fifth generation dairy farm, it is sometimes hard to put a single label on exactly what you do. That’s especially true if you live off the farm as is the case for Mary Mackinson Faber. Raised on the family farm located north of Pontiac, Illinois, Mary is well aware of the 24/7 commitment it takes to manage 165 milking cows and over 150 heifers and calves. In addition, there are roughly 2,000 acres of cropland where the Mackinson’s grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.

“The Family Connection Always Comes First”

Mary takes pride in the work done by father Donald, her Uncle Roy, her brother Matt and Dan, the hired man. “They begin their days long before sunrise and only call it a day after the stars come out.  Each is committed to providing the consumer with a safe, high-quality product. This commitment to quality means investing in how to best care for the cows and the land.” Great teamwork. So where does Mary fit in? While she freely admits that she has always loved the cows and agriculture, she qualifies that attraction by saying “I knew I was not cut out to be on the farm every day.”

“Bridging the Disconnect”

She was cut out for other facets of the industry.  Incredibly active in 4-H, Mary was crowned the National Ayrshire Princess in 2000. Experiences in off farm roles such as this helped Mary to develop her personal perspective on agriculture.” I started to realize the disconnect between consumer and farmer and soon discovered my passion for advocacy.” This was the beginning of Mary’s move from hands on farm projects to hands on a keyboard.  Throughout university she continued to hone her enthusiasm for agriculture and the need for advocacy. On the family side, she married and became a Mom. Today she works as the Controller for a local agriculture cooperative and her husband Jesse is an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.” There is no question that agriculture remains a truly important part of Mary’s daily life.

“On-Line Keeps her Supporting On-Farm”

Not everyone who loves dairy farming sets up a blog.  Mary outlines the steps that led her to her place online. “In early 2013, my parents were planning a trip to Brazil with my brother, David.  Of course, my Dad wanted to see a dairy farm while he was there.   David had some difficulty arranging a tour and he asked me, ‘Why don’t we have a presence online?’. The question was no sooner asked then it was answered.  On March 1, 2013; the Mackinson Dairy Facebook page was born.

“Blogging is A Different Way to Do What You Love”

Although it sounds simple, Mary‘s motivation was a little more complicated then the apparently spontaneous beginnings would suggest. “I started the blog for two reasons.  I found myself wanting to explain certain topics but they were too long for a Facebook post.  My second reason was, if someone asked google, what is ultra-filtered milk? I wanted to provide them with a correct answer.  For these reasons, I launched our blog on March 1, 2014 (1 year after the Facebook page).

12186843_712094265556990_2792467499877624874_o“Going Mobile Makes a Big Difference”

“This fall, we redesigned our website ( and logo with Becca at Jumping Jax Designs.” In the same way that dairy farmers work hard to realize the full potential of their dairy operation, Mary explains how the changes impact both the delivery and reception of information. “The self-hosted website is home to the blog and allows us to merchandise our Ayrshire genetics.  After the makeover, our site is mobile friendly, with 75% of our visitors viewing our site on their phone or tablet.” What a fine example this is of the importance of changing with the times. Whether it’s on the farm or on line! In today’s agricultural market, if you have a product or service to sell, you must be optimized for mobile or you’re ultimately losing sales.

“Making a Difference On Behalf of Agriculture”

148755_1524654521099134_8868224875197858192_nThere are many ways to make a positive contribution on behalf of agriculture.  Mary explains. “I encourage everyone in agriculture to speak honestly about what you do, why you do it and what you love about your way of life.  As a Mom, I understand how important it is for other moms and parents to not only know where their food comes from but whom is taking care of the land.  Therefore, my blog topics tend to focus on questions a consumer might have while grocery shopping, like the differences between skim, 2% and whole milk to why certain containers of cow’s milk have a longer expiration date.  In addition to our blog, I am a contributor to Ask the Farmers and Illinois Farm Families websites.  Last November, I decided to participate in a 30 Days series where I featured 34 millennial dairy farmers from across the United States and Canada.  Most bloggers (myself included) are excited to feature guest blog posts. This is a great opportunity to write a post without fully committing to a blog yourself.  This year, for the 30 Days Series; I decided to focus on women in the dairy industry.  I had such an amazing response!” Indeed, the response was outstanding and no wonder! The series concluded with a total of 61 features over 59 days!”

“Dairy Women Make a Difference ‘In their own words!’”

Mary agrees with many bloggers, including myself here at The Bullvine, that connecting with other dairy women in a place away from your business and office can be very uplifting! She shares her enthusiasm. “While blogging is not for everyone, I encourage everyone to share their story in a way they are comfortable with.  She feels very strongly that the story of agriculture is an important one to promote. She declares, “I am very much committed to sharing our way of life and my love of dairy farming as well as standing up for all agriculture not only on social media but in our real lives.”  She takes her own advice and, once again, sets a fine example of ways she connects with those who are becoming further removed from the farm and current farming practices, “I have been involved with our Farm Bureau Breakfast on the Farm, Cheesecake and Calves promotion and the Illinois Harvest Dinner.  Each event successfully connected consumers to agriculture.  We must realize we do not always have to have a “big” event to have an impact.”

“It is Important That We All Try to Make a Difference”

For Mary, people are the key reason she reaches out through “The Mackinson Dairy” blog.  “I love meeting consumers and should they have questions, answering them.  As a Mother to two toddlers, I have enough to worry about.  One thing I will never worry about is the dairy products, meat, fruits or vegetables I feed my family.  I want to share my confidence in our safe food supply with those who have doubt or questions.  I do not want others to fall victim to marketing gimmicks which breed fear to drive the dollar.”

Daniels-cover“One-on-One Builds Sharing and Caring”

There are many role models in modern social media and Mary describes one of hers, Laura Daniels. “I drew on inspiration from the Dairy Girl Network and decided to focus on an often overlooked part of the dairy industry, the women. If you are a woman involved in any segment of dairy please check this organization out!  I wanted to share these stories of hard working women who all care so much about the dairy industry and their families.

Each individual I featured has her own unique story.  Through the series, you will find those involved on the farm, in the industry or both but everyone is a dairy believer.  As Laura explained in her Women in Dairy Feature: You will find women who have been farming for decades to those young women who are just starting out.  The drive these women possess to be successful is inspiring.  Not only do these women raise calves into cows, they are helping raise the next generation of farm kids.  Most of all, you will find passion, lots and lots of it.”

“Mary Provides an On-Line Meet and Greet”

Dairy farmers are known for two things. They love working with cattle and they love a good get together. Mary’s brings those two loves front and center with her blog.  It isn’t surprising to learn that many ladies expressed an interest in being part of her series.

Mary is both humble and grateful to report on the uptake. “The reaction has been awesome and I am very proud of the series.  I truly appreciate everyone who has allowed me to share their story because without their help, this series would not have been possible.  The messages I have received about the series makes me so proud to be involved in this great industry! “

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Mary didn’t just hope for a better way to get the dairy story out to consumers, she set the example herself by making sure the message she delivers is informative, relevant and personal. “My social media goal is to post, tweet and share because I want to share agriculture with consumers.  I do not know what the future holds but I do want to continue to expand our social media presence by focusing on content and relationships, not the analytics.”  The Bullvine and our readers congratulate Mary Mackinson Faber for making a difference with her Blog. “Write on Mary!”



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Genomic Testing Discovers New Cow Family

When genomic testing came on the scene in 2008, it was hoped that genomic results would make possible the identification of new top cow families.  That remains a concern for the vast majority of traditional cow family breeders. However, for Alexerin Dairy, owned by the Nixon Family of Manotick Ontario it is a reality. Here is the story of their success despite not being traditional cow family breeders.

Alexerin – High Quality All the Way

Alexerin has been a well managed bottom line focused dairy for many years. Todd (son) joined Ron (father) upon graduating from agricultural college on the 45 cow tie stall purebred operation that Ron had developed converting from a high quality identified grade herd.  It has been a fast climb to the top ever since Todd and Erin joined. Today they milk 150 cows in free stalls and parlor with a 200 kgs fat quota utilizing three family members and two full-time and two-weekend female part-time employees. All herd growth, for this 45-year closed herd, has been from within and today is both Leucosis and Johnes free. As well they are strawberry foot rot free, something very few herds can claim. Farm biosecurity and conforming to the requirements for a Canadian Certified Quality Management (CQM) farm demonstrate that Alexerin is committed to producing the healthy milk products that consumers want to buy. In the past five years, Alexerin has ranked as high as #2 on Ontario DHI’s Top Managed Herd list.

(l-r) The Nixon Family, Todd and Erin with children Alexis and Harrison

(l-r) The Nixon Family, Todd and Erin with children Alexis and Harrison

The Generations Work Together

All family members are integral to the operation. Erin (Baird), Todd’s wife, Ag Business educated and a former bank commercial lending rep, reports that the incorporation of technology is ongoing at Alexerin. DC305, robotic calf feeding, automated heat detection, 3x milking, and a strict insemination program are already in place. Expanded data capture in the parlor is planned for the future.

Todd and Erin have three young children (1, 3 & 5 years old), so both grandmothers are called upon on an organized regular basis to free time up for Erin to be part of the herd and business management team.  Ron now devotes his time to machinery and crops. Todd and Erin much appreciate that Ron has handed over the leadership to them while retaining part ownership and being there to help out. Todd feels that Ron remaining involved has allowed for expansion, where total withdrawal would have required debt retirement instead of expansion.

The prefix Alexerin was chosen by Ron and Judy using the middle names of their two children, Todd Alexander, and Kylie Erin. That prefix continues to fit very well for Todd and his wife, Erin.


Alexerin – Planned and Focused

Goals and targets are in place for all areas. Sires are selected that will produce efficient barn cows. The minimum requirement for sires are high fat plus protein yields supported by functional udders and excellent mobility. Todd gives Erin credit when it comes to sires used based on an organized mating program. Currently, the sires being used are top genomic sires (80+%) and one proven sire, Brewmaster. Forage forms 70% of the TMR diets so producing high-quality forage get priority so that milk production can be maximized while maintaining healthy cows.  Calves are housed in outside super huts and fed by robotic feeders. Heifers are in free stalls. Both calf and heifer development is carefully monitored to achieve first calving by 22 months. Milk cows are housed in free stalls, and dry cows are on open dry pack. Milk quota is purchased on a continual basis.

Todd and Erin mentioned to The Bullvine that “we wake up every morning with a distinct set of goals, and since we took over we have been breeding for a certain type of cow, one that may not win in the show ring, but is more than a commercial cow – the cow with the perfect blend of style and milk”. Now that is focused.


How Genomic Testing Got Started

Obviously recognizing their progressive approach to dairy farming, Alexerin’s vet encouraged them to take part in a study of heifers to verify the genomic testing system.  It did not take much encouragement as Todd and Erin are always looking for ways to improve. The results were exciting for Alexerin as their Alexerin Oman 993 came out very high. It took awhile for the results to come out, so Oman 993 was already milking in her first lactation and bred back by the time she was identified as elite. With the goal of getting sons to enter A.I., David Eastman of Genervations contacted Alexerin and started working with Todd and Erin after Oman 993 calved for a second time Oman 993 has lived up to her genomic indexes as she is VG88 with all of her four records designated by Holstein Canada as Superior Lactations. Her latest record, calving at 5-10, was (305D) 19,503 kgs (42,985 lbs) milk 4.0%F and 3.2%P.

Alexerin Oman 993 has lived up to her genomic indexes as she is VG88 with all of her four records designated by Holstein Canada as Superior Lactations. Her latest record, calving at 5-10, was (305D) 19,503 kgs (42,985 lbs) milk 4.0%F and 3.2%P.

Alexerin Oman 993 has lived up to her genomic indexes as she is VG88 with all of her four records designated by Holstein Canada as Superior Lactations. Her latest record, calving at 5-10, was (305D) 19,503 kgs (42,985 lbs) milk 4.0%F and 3.2%P.

Hitting the Jackpot

Fast forward to November 2015. A granddaughter, Alexerin Monterey 1504, of Oman 993 topped the Sale of Stars at $170,000. Monterey 1504 has an outstanding DGV +3307 LPI, Pro$2681 and Fat + Protein 186 kgs. Going from unknown to a sale topper, the family has caught the attention of the Holstein breeding world. The owners of the buyer syndicate were impressed with the family and wanted to be in at the start of this potentially great cow family.

 Monterey 1504 topped the Sale of Stars at $170,000.

Monterey 1504 topped the Sale of Stars at $170,000.

Let’s fill in from when Oman 993’s genomic results were publishable to when this granddaughter sold.

Oman 993’s first calf (GP80) sired by Steady has two Superior Lactations as does her second calf (GP83) by Windbrook. During 993’s second lactation she was started to be flushed. So far her best flush mate has been SuperSire with four very high indexing daughters and two sons in A.I. The four Supersire daughters have projected or completed 2-year-old records that average (305D) 14,843 kgs (32,718 lbs) milk 3.7%F & 3.2%P. In actual terms, they, on average, produce 7.4 lbs of fat plus protein per day. As well on the December 2015, CDN genetic index lists Oman 993, and her Supersire daughters were rated at #1, #2 and #5 for protein, #6 for fat and #8 for milk. Given all that, maybe The Guinness Books of Records should look into recognizing the family as top in the world.

Alexerin Supersire 1334 #1 Protein Cow in August 2015-

Alexerin Supersire 1334
#1 Protein Cow in August 2015-

Today Oman 993 is the #2 Oman in the world. And it very interesting to see that her Supersire daughters have the #1 Oman, Seagull-Bay Oman Mirror, on the paternal side of their pedigree. Oman 993 is the sixth generation born from a first calf heifer, calving at 1-10, 1-09, 2-04, 1-10, 2-00 and 2-00.  That’s great heifer growth and age at first calving, and you don’t see that very often.  As well another thing you don’t see often is a family, like Oman 993’s, that consistently genomically indexes high for heel depth.  Todd does the hoof trimming for the herd and noted that he has yet to find a sole ulcer in the family.

Oman 993 can be described as every breeder’s dream. You start using a new tool, genomic testing, and you find you have a breed outlier who’s DGVs exceeds her pedigree index by an astronomical amount. Her Buckeye dam was a good herd cow with very good milk, but Oman 993 got great genes from her parents for fat and protein yield. After finding this out, it encourages you to use all improvement tools to the fullest extent. In Alexerin’s case, they went from only type classifying once in the first lactation to re-scoring all animals as they improve in type as they mature. Using all herd improvement tools to their maximum has added greatly to their dairy farm’s net value.

Alexerin Supersire 1343 dam of Alexerin Monterey 1504

Alexerin Supersire 1343 dam of Alexerin Monterey 1504

Family Well Respected

Now let’s ‘talk cow’ for a moment.

Brian Craswell, who co-managed and auctioneered the Sale of Stars, described Oman 993 as follows “I just love this family. They are outstanding barn cows. Someday this Oman may be scored Excellent, and definitely her SuperSire daughters have more points in them.” Craswell continues “Here is a family that meets the requirements of many many breeders. They have very high production and excel for fertility and functionality. All this while being housed and fed with the rest of the herd. I would love to have half my herd made up of that cow family” In other words the family members are not show winners, but they are big time winners when it comes to profitable lifetimes.  They are the kind of cows that the majority of dairy breeders want to have in their herds. Dann Brady of Ferme Blondin agrees “Alexerin used the systems available to create a cow family that works for them and is also something that many breeders are looking for.” (Read more:  FERME BLONDIN “Passion with a Purpose Builds Success”Ferme Blondin – “Built on Teamwork” – Dairy Breeder Video Interviews and 10 Tips for Purchasing Dairy Cattle Embryos

Dave Eastman, the former owner of Genervations and a partner in Vogue, thinks highly of the family. “I have been telling people about the family for a while. Alexerin has brought attention to the family by consigning top family members to the Sale of Stars. Breeders and studs visited the farm prior to the sale and saw for themselves – seeing is believing. You cannot help but be enthused when you see the family in their working clothes – give them the feed and environment – no fuss just take the money to the bank.”

Alexerin Capital Gain

Alexerin Capital Gain

The success does not stop with the sale topper. Also sold in the Sale of Stars was Alexerin Capital Gain 1488, DGV +3270 LPI, Pro$ 2384 and Fat + Protein 185 kgs.   Her dam is Alexerin Supersire 1338 a full sister to the dam of the sale topper. It could be that 1488 will also be a winner for her new owners, Vogue Cattle Co.

Will this be a New Top Family for the Breed?

Today we cannot say for sure that the Oman 993 family will continue to be a breed leader in the future. Nevertheless, the chances are that we have not heard the last from this family. At this time, Oman 993 is definitely one of a kind. Her four high indexing SuperSire daughters are now milking very well in their first lactations and classifying well. Confirming Brian Craswell’s thought “…. the SuperSires have more points in them yet”. Add to this the fact that these Supersires have many many daughters by top genomic sires including AltaSpring, Capital Gain, High Octane, Kingboy, Lottomax, Main Event, Monterey, and Pulsar. In fact, since the sale topper Monterey 1504 has seven full sisters at Alexerin and a full brother on his way to Cogent, it would seem to be for sure that the story has just begun.  It is true that the family is not backed by the many generations of Very Good and Excellent cows that more traditional breeders believe is necessary for a family to be outstanding. However, it is becoming clear that we may just be seeing the start of a cow family that 21st-century dairy breeders will consider to be their ideal.

Alexerin Oman 993 with Alexis Nixon

Alexerin Oman 993 with Alexis Nixon

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Great people, a very well-managed dairy farm, and functional high-profit lifetime cows have all come together at Alexerin Dairy. Their leading cow family burst into the limelight as a result of the decision to start genomic testing of heifers. This cow family came about as a result of many generations of identification and grading up and using plus proven sires.  The family has moved to the top of the breed status by using top genomically indexed sires in the last three generations.

IT IS A PLAN AND DREAM COME TRUE. A plan that involved using systems and information to make wise progressive decisions. The outstanding result was not expected, maybe even unusual. However, getting results from hard work, focused breeding, and a clear vision are the keys to Alexerin’s success.



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Australian genetics in two high profile Canadian barns

Two well-known Canadian barns have opened their doors to a decorated Australian cow family.

The news bubbled up in the lead-up to Australasia’s premier dairy show – International Dairy Week (IDW) – which will be held at Tatura (two hours north of Melbourne) between January 17 and 22.

This year’s Holstein judge is Pierre Boulet, from Montmagny, Québec and he is at the epicentre of the story.

Pierre and his partner, Katie Coates, milk 110 Holsteins. Pierre also deals in thousands of cattle annually for commercial dairies and export. He is the co-owner and auctioneer for Les Encans Boulet.

Pierre’s keen eye to find the good ones and develop them is well documented (particularly) through the achievements of three EX97 global household names in the business – Thrulane James Rose EX-97-2E 3*, Bruynland Storm Kendra EX97 and Loyalyn Goldwyn June EX97.

In November, Pierre bought milking yearling Fraeland After Bash VG87 for $24,500 from Fraeland Holsteins, in Ontario, through the Sale of the Stars at The Royal.

Fraeland After Bash VG87-2YRS-Can sold by Fraeland Farms to Ferme Pierre Boulet.

Fraeland After Bash VG87-2YRS-Can sold by Fraeland Farms to Ferme Pierre Boulet.

After Bash’s granddam was Australia’s two-time IDW Grand Champion Holstein (2005 and 2007) – Fairvale Jed Bonnie 94-ET EX-1E.

Fraeland Goldwyn Bonnie EX95 is owned by Fraeland Farms who imported her as an embryo to Canada. She has established the Australian family in North America.

Fraeland Goldwyn Bonnie EX95 is owned by Fraeland Farms who imported her as an embryo to Canada. She has established the Australian family in North America.

The Aftershock daughter is out of an EX95 Goldwyn, which Ontario dairyman Steve Fraser (Fraeland Farms), imported in a package of embryos from Jed Bonnie. Steve came into the embryos because he is the co-owner of Jed Bonnie with Leslie Farms – his good friends and colleagues in Australia – who managed Jed Bonnie on behalf of the partnership during the height of her career from their northern Victorian base.

Australia’s two-time IDW Grand Champion Holstein in 2005 and 2007 – Fairvale Jed Bonnie 94-ET EX-1E. Photo: CrazyCow In Print.

Australia’s two-time IDW Grand Champion Holstein in 2005 and 2007 – Fairvale Jed Bonnie 94-ET EX-1E. Photo: CrazyCow In Print.

Steve, who last saw Jed Bonnie aged 15 when he visited Australia in 2014, says her Goldwyn daughter is a head-turner and a favourite at Fraeland.

Fairvale Jed Bonnie 94-ET EX-1E

Fairvale Jed Bonnie 94-ET EX-1E

“Even this fall, when she was milking about 19 months, visitors were amazed at the cow for her dairy length, udder and her mobility for an eight-year-old cow,” Steve said.

“We don’t fit her into our program, we try to work with hers. She is quite the cow to work with. She is the boss around here. She is an extremely dairy cow with an awesome udder. She may not have had the stature to run with some of the cows at the Royal or WDE in her prime. But she is fast becoming a great brood cow.

“I have sold heifers locally for people to show that are now developing them into VG two-year-olds. I have exported embryos from her to Europe, New Zealand, Australia and even sold some locally. She is due early March to Doorman and she will be flushed heavily again next year.

“With the few daughters she has, and how they have developed, we would really like work with her reproductively and not worry about how much we show her now.”

Although showing is no longer a priority, the Goldwyn held her own, winning Reserve All Ontario Junior two-year-old in 2009, 1st Jr 2yr and Res Int. Champ Autumn Opportunity 2009 and 2nd 4yr Dufferin Wellington show 2011. She was also 2nd 5yr and Res Grand Dufferin Wellington 2012, 2nd 5yr Autumn Opportunity show 2012 and 1st aged cow and Hon. Men Champ Dufferin Wellington 2014.

“I do rate the Aftershock as a tremendous young heifer with an extremely high-ceiling future. She has an incredible udder. She is so very correct through her loin, rump and rear leg. Currently she lacks a bit of balance. She is very tall with an open rib but you would like to deepen her rib and give her some more width of chest. To be honest, she is made quite a bit like her granddam, Jed Bonnie, as a first lactation animal. If all goes well, she could be quite a cow in a year or two.”

Pierre confirmed he had big plans for the young cow.

“I noticed her before the sale and kept my eye on her in the ring in hopes of buying her,” Pierre said. “She has an exceptional bone quality, she’s very dairy and has a great udder. When cows have feet and legs like hers, you know they’ll be around for a long time. To top it off she has a great pedigree behind her, and she comes from a good family.

“She’s due back in the fall so we will be working with her to get her in top shape to hopefully bring to the fall shows,” he said. “I really like bringing that kind of pedigree into the barn with a good sire stack and strong family because it’s the type of families that you want to breed from and develop.”

The root of the family comes from Master Breeders Fairvale Holsteins, owned by Ross and Leanne Dobson, in Tasmania.

Fairvale is Australia’s most successful prefix when it comes to breeding Grand Champion Holsteins at IDW – despite being separated from the mainland by 240km of ocean and expensive transit costs.

Still, three cows – bred and reared at Fairvale – have collectively won five IDW Champion Holstein titles (for three different exhibitors) between 2005 and 2014.

The anchors for the Bonnie family internationally is the EX95 Goldwyn at Fraeland and an EX94 Derry daughter at Bluechip Genetics in Australia (Fairvale’s longtime partner in marketing its profile animals).

The Derry, now 10, was the lucky result of the single C-grade embryo Fairvale and Bluechip retained after they sold Jed Bonnie to Leslie Farms and Fraeland in 2004 soon after she had won Reserve Champion Holstein at IDW milking over 300 days, set for IDW 2005.

Fairvale and Bluechip have since sold 40 embryos from the Derry, and 30 live animals. Ten Bonnies remain at Bluechip – including the 2015 IDW Junior Champion, Bluechip Goldchip Bonnie (x VG87 Shottle x EX94 Derry x EX-1E Jed Bonnie). The Goldchip will return to IDW this year as a milking senior two-year-old.

“Over the years, Bluechip have developed and shown many Bonnie family members from their branch of the family,” Steve said. “Our Goldwyn Bonnie does not have as many daughters as the Derry, but they all have been showable and marketable and I am starting to admire and like the consistency in which this family breeds for show type,” he added.

Fraeland has an 88-point second calved Sid and two October 2015-born Bradnick daughters. Goldwyn Bonnie is carrying a Doorman heifer and two more Doorman heifers will be born in the spring.

Pierre has never visited Australia before. Now, he has a vested interest in seeing what the country has to offer – including seeing the full sister to After Bash sell at IDW (she will be offered by Windy Vale Holsteins).

He also has Australian partners in Goldwyn June (Diamond Genetics – Justin Walsh, Phil Duncan and Matt Warnes) in addition to Kevin Doeberiener, of Ohio. The final piece to the jigsaw puzzle will be landing on Australian soil and seeing what the top cows in the southern hemisphere look like lined up in the ring together.

“I’ve always heard of the quality of the Australian genetics and wanted to make it to the show for several years,” Pierre said. “I guess the opportunity just never presented itself, and it all seems to be happening around the same time. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to visit a bit and check the cow families out.”

This is a journey that begs the question – could it signal a subtle shift as North American breeders widen their net looking for fresh genetics in a market, saturated with core families?

The Bullvine will be at IDW capturing pictures, interviews and results with CrazyCow In Print12469421_799074293536778_5170522758805005227_o – the publications known the world over for bringing the complete story.

Australian Dairy Industry Outstanding Service Award Presented to Harlock

Prominent Western Victorian dairyfarmer Shirley Harlock was awarded the Australian Dairy Industry Council’s Outstanding Service Award at the annual dairy industry breakfast on Friday.

“It really is a true honour to receive this prestigious award,” she said.

“This really is the Brownlow to me.”

Mrs Harlock said she was extremely proud to be a dairyfarmer.

“I get very irate when people turn their noses up,” she said.

“And even though I’ve gone into other commodities – we are also in South Australia with beef and sheep – I have never, ever seen an industry like dairy that’s out there to support and help everyone.”

Mrs Harlock said 2015 appeared to be the “year of the skirt” in the industry with Wagga Wagga, NSW, dairyfarmer Simone Jolliffe being elected president of Australian Dairy Farmers on Thursday.

Outgoing ADIC chairman Noel Campbell said Mrs Harlock had been a key player in shaping the policy landscape for Australian dairy since joining the industry more than 40 years ago.

“Shirley has a strong belief in advancing industry change through science and innovation,” Mr Campbell said.

Mrs Harlock held local and executive positions with United Dairyfarmers of Victoria and was a director of Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF).

She also served as chair of Dairy Food Safety Victoria for 10 years.

In 2005, Mrs Harlock was appointed chair of the Dairy Australia Future Dairy project, charged with research, development and adoption of robotic technology for Australian dairy farms.

In partnership with her husband, John, Mrs Harlock continues to actively operate dairy farms in Warrnambool and support farms in South Australia.

She is also chairwoman of the Sustainable Agricultural Fund that owns farms throughout Australia.

Mrs Harlock paid tribute to her husband of 46 years, John, whose encouragement and support and love and passion for agriculture, particularly dairy, had been critical to her achievements.

She spoke of some of the key lessons she’d learned in her time in the industry.

“The first lesson is that all that glitters is not gold and you need to look at both sides of the ledger,” she said.

The second lesson was explained by way of an anecdote about an incident in the dairy one evening when her husband sprayed her with a hose after a disagreement and she eked revenge by turning off the power as she left the shed.

“The lesson is always work as a team, solo is not much fun,” Mrs Harlock said.

The third lesson was to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

“I always wanted to see if there was something I could do rather than stand by and criticise,” she said.

Source: Australian Dairyfarmer Magazine

The Burdette Family – Triumph and Tears, Perseverance and Pain Leads to Hope and Healing

The following story originally appeared on Jennifer Didio website.  Jennifer is an extremely talented photographer located in Westminster MD, who’s pictures will melt your heart and her writing will inspire you.  Please take a moment to read this.

On this day when thanks leaps from our lips, I’d like to share with you a story.  A sweet and tender tale of a precious family, who under intense pressure is not cracking, but instead producing a rare and treasured beauty. Their story is intricately entwined with scores of people who love them. Their story is full of triumph and tears, perseverance and pain and ultimately hope and healing.

Where to begin?  Perhaps the moment that stopped me in my tracks while creating family portraits in the hospital with them…one so easily missed in the frantic pace and noise of daily life…one that had me stuffing back tears?  Seems like as good a place as any to begin our story.

Her tiny hand rested delicately inside her father’s big strong hand… until she noticed what no one else did, an almost imperceptible cut. She picked up her Daddy’s hand, with her own burn scarred hand, and placed a gentle healing kiss on the tiny wound. She was clearly mimicking something she’d had done to her hundreds of times in the first 8 years of her life.  She did this as she nestled herself comfortably into her Daddy’s lap for the first time in 17 months, since the PICU had become her home.

This moment, so full of raw tenderness, offers a tiny microscopic view into the beauty being raised from the ashes in the lives of the Burdette family.  I was privileged to partner with them to create family portraits at the hospital because of a dear friend of the family and client-friend of mine, who texted me days earlier, saying“we need to chat.”


It was 17 months ago that the Burdette family’s lives changed in one terrifying evening.  Reese and her sister Brinkley were staying at her grandparent’s farmhouse in VA over the Memorial Day holiday.  Patricia woke to the smell of fire and raced into Reese’s room to find her sleeping in a room on fire.  She moved through the flames to rescue her precious granddaughter.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 12.02.32 AM copy.jpg

Meanwhile, her husband rescued Brinkley in another room and they emerged unscathed.  Unfortunately the same could not be said for Patricia and Reese.

Ambulances transported Patricia and Reese immediately to Winchester Hospital.  Before long, they were both airlifted to hospitals that could better treat the extensive nature of their burns.  Patricia went to Washington Medical Burn Center where she was treated in the ICU for 2 months.  Reese was flown to Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital where she is still receiving treatment in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).  Patricia is now at home and visits Reese weekly though she continues to suffer complications from the fire.  She is scheduled for her next surgery on December 15th to help remove some scarring in her throat and remove more of her vocal cords to help open up airways so she can breathe more easily.  Everyone hopes the benefits will last longer than the last surgery.

Reese suffered burns on 35% of her body; however, the most severe damage was to her lungs as a result of the smoke inhalation.  The damage was so severe, Reese was kept in an induced coma for 4 months following the fire. This allowed her ravaged body time to begin the massive healing process that lay ahead. Reese’s tiny frame was, quite simply, wrecked.  She suffered the first of 5 cardiac arrests she would endure a week after the fire.  The first led to her being placed on ECMO, a device designed to do the work of her heart and lungs. Reese remained on ECMO for 10 weeks, an almost unheard of long time.  In it’s introductory phases in the 1960’s, ECMO patients could withstand the device for a maximum of only a day or two …ECMO’s come quite a long way, thanks to skilled and tenacious physicians!

Doctors knew Reese could not survive on ECMO any longer and made a decision to put her on RVAD.  RVAD is typically used for heart support but at this point in her journey Reese just needed lung support.  Thanks to the ingenuity of Dr. Kristen Nelson, who was able to innovate treatments specifically for the demands of Reese’s body, the Hopkins staff was able to adapt the RVAD to support Reese’s lungs.  The RVAD pumps oxygenated blood through Reese’s heart, which directly leads to her lungs.  The RVAD has saved Reese’s life.

The first 3 months of Reese’s stay, Claire and Justin had to wait in the waiting room, often sleeping there.  Daily they walked the long hall and rounded the corner to Reese’s room with what felt like lead weights in their shoes and their hearts.  This walk required Herculean strength because it was so often met with the terrifying sight of crowds of doctors and nurses piling frantically into Reese’s room. Desperation flooded their souls at this sight.  There were times when Claire could not be a part of the daily rounds because hope seemed absent from every clinical conversation.

The family was called the hospital too many times in those first several months to  say what doctors thought would be their goodbyes.   Yet, Reese is here today so full of spark and life; doctors say she is a miracle child.  The Burdettes know, without a doubt, that prayer has been their lifeline.  They covet every prayer, from every person who is partnering with them before the throne of our Heavenly Father.

The Burdette’s know the prayer coverage surrounding them has been indispensible in their fight.  They believe that the Lord is using Reese to teach the Hopkins medical team how to help other sick children.  Claire has plans, when Reese is discharged, to advocate for continuity doctors for patients with long hospital stays.  Current protocol in the ICU is to rotate a new attending doctor in every week.  This is one of the scariest hurdles parents have to scale each week.  Having to update each new doctor with Reese’s history while they each debate a new course of action has been exhausting and terrifying for Justin and Claire.

Reese’s first 4 months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was like a nightmare the family just could not wake up from.  They had no idea throughout those long months if Reese would still be Reese when she woke up.  It was suspected that all the heart attacks might have resulted in a loss of brain function. Would their spunky little girl who loves her family and friends, music, her cows, belly laughing and being in 4-H still be there?

Between the first cardiac arrest that led to the need for ECMO, the 4 following cardiac arrests that followed due to mechanical issues, a daily need for blood transfusions, internal bleeding, surgeries to repair holes in her lungs, and collapsed lungs …it seemed any combination of those things could rob them of who they knew Reese to be.  The Burdettes summoned courage from the prayer network that surrounded them.  This helped them to hold onto unwavering hope, despite the repeated delivery of bad news.

Claire shared a powerful turning point in those early, desperate months in the NICU.  Reese required repeated thoracotomies (lung patches) which were followed by surgeries to remove the combat gauze used to patch her lungs.  At the time, it had been going so badly for Reese, Claire recalls she and Justin were at a loss for what to pray for their girl.  They finally landed on this simple prayer, “Lord, please give us hope.”

Moments later, the surgical team assembled and a nurse walked up to introduce herself to the Burdettes, “Hi, I’m Hope and I’ll be assisting with Reese’s surgery today.” Claire melted. Thank You Lord for hearing and providing the answer they so desperately needed.  She and Justin have never given up hope that Reese would be the ‘tough girl’ they know and love who would rise to each new level required to heal.

Reese began to wake slowly in late September.  Claire and Justin read her cards and stories and just talked to her all day.  Then on September 23, Reese was showing more signs of being conscious and everyone eagerly waited to hear if she would be responsive.  Justin questioned her about her beloved cow, Pantene.

“Is Pantene your cow?  Should Dad sell Pantene?  Would you be mad at Dad if I sold Pantene?”  These questions elicited a definite response from Reese and mom caught it on video.  Justin and Claire smiled big knowing their little cowgirl was still there.  This past June Pantene made a surprise visit to Hopkins to the great delight of Reese and the staff!

The day of our portrait time, we moved through the hospital with our giant entourage of medical staff and equipment, and I asked, “Can Reese sit in her dad’s lap?”  The team all looked at one another and said, “I think she can, let’s try it.”  To move her from her chair into a lap required several people and Reese began to cry almost immediately.  I thought, “Oh no, maybe I shouldn’t have suggested it!”  But then I noticed her cry actually seemed to be a cry of fear, not pain.  It lasted very briefly and then I watched Reese relax and rest in her Daddy’s arms.

To be back in her Daddy’s arms, now that was a million dollar moment for the family.  And with a dad like Justin, it quickly became evident why.  Justin’s quick smile and sense of humor knows no limits when it comes to making his girls laugh.  I brought a giant bag full of princess attire for Reese and Brinkley to create an outfit of their choosing.  What I did not anticipate was Justin taking part as well to get repeated belly laughs and smiles from his girls.  I commented to Claire about what a beautiful expression of love that was to behold.  She said Justin is often admired for his no holds barred approach to doing what it takes to identify with his girls and keep them laughing.  Precious and rare to watch this gift Justin is giving his girls.

Reese was so excited to be photographed in her dad’s lap, she quickly decided it was time to make rounds!  She began requesting time in everyone’s laps for a photo-op.  She got to sit in Claire’s lap next.  With tears in her eyes, Claire said, “it’s been 17 months since I’ve been able to hold my girl like that!  We are going to start doing that all the time now!”  This is the tough job of physical therapy…encouraging wounded patients to take the next, often painful, steps required to make progress and heal.  Claire is mighty in that role for Reese, strong as a lion, gentle as a dove.  She is unflinching in her work to help Reese progress.  She has her eyes on the prize for her sweet girl and she is championing her cause every step of the way, even when that involves tears of protest.  Claire realizes there is pain in this journey to heal and that is the key to Reese going home.

Next it was Steph’s turn to hold Reese.  Steph has cared for Reese since the beginning and holds a special place in Reese’s heart.  Reese doesn’t see Steph as often as she’d like anymore since her situation is more stable.  Steph is such a phenomenally talented nurse, she is needed for more critically unstable patients.  But Steph stops in to see her girl whenever she can and then Reese pulls out her “Steph glasses” so they can be twins.

And last to hold Reese was Dr. Kristen, a tender soul who cried when she held Reese.  Reese has been fortunate to have Dr. Kristen with her since the beginning of her stay at the PICU.  Dr. Kristen was the brain behind adapting the RVAD to replace the ECMO for Reese, saving her life.  Dr. Kristen suggested the plan to use A-Cell to treat her burns, which has helped them heal amazingly well, even better than skin graphs. The scarring on her forehead, where she had third degree burns, is amazingly minimal for this point in her recovery.

Dr. Kristen was able to hold the little girl who calls her family, who wears a “I love Dr. Kristen” dress, whose life she has been so deeply vested in daily over the last 17 months…she got to hold her for the first time.  As soon as Reese was placed in her lap, Dr. Kristen burst into tears. Reese went right into action; she grabbed a tissue and began blotting Dr. Kristen’s tears.  I’m fairly certain this is a moment that Dr. Kristen will never forget and helps to make all the exhaustion associated with being a physician worth it.


Tears fell often throughout the day.  A nurse came to visit Claire with a basket of homemade goodies which were an outpouring ‘thank you’ for Claire’s listening ear and gracious comfort offered the day before to this nurse.  Claire understands that as she walks through her storm, others are walking through their own as well.  She claims no market on suffering and is so keenly aware to it happening around her.  Her encouragement to others pours from a grateful heart for all that’s been poured into her family.

So how is Reese today?   She’s full of smiles and mischievous grins, tenderness and spunk, silliness and questions.  She is able to leave her room to visit the library and the courtyard on mild days with no wind.  She is attending her school in Mercersburg via “Double” an iPad robot that broadcasts her live to the classroom.  She muscles up for her regular therapy sessions which has most recently progressed to a walk down a hallway with balance support and cheering on from mom.  She plays a lot of board games, listens to music and even had her own personal performance from one of her favorite bands, Aberdeen Green.  Reese has a special connection with this band as Amanda, their lead singer, sang at Justin and Clarie’s wedding 10 years ago.

Reese Facetimes her friends, including hospital staff.  She even Facetimed one of the pioneers of ECMO, Dr. Bartlett or, as they like to call him, Father ECMO.  She has a new favorite past time–creating hilarious pictures with snap chat.  Beware if you are in her room and bend over—you are liable to end up with a sombrero on your butt and be adorned with a pretzel arm drinking a glass of wine!


Reese recently celebrated a Halloween party with 17 friends who journeyed to the hospital to be silly with their friend who they miss terribly.  They got to see her for the first time since the fire and found she was still full of the same wit, sass and spark they have always loved her for.  Everyone dressed up and they played “pin the leg on the skeleton” per Reese’s wishes.  Mom was a witch and Dad was a whoopee cushion and they reinforced what they so strongly believe –  laughter is healing.

Reese sits in her wheel chair through the day and sleeps in a cardiac chair at night.  She associates the bed with the place where bad things happen, so she prefers the chair.  Most recently, Reese has begun standing up with the assistance of a table to lean on and working on puzzles at the table.  She is also learning to cope with the loss of her leg due to ECMO and the poor circulation it caused in the early weeks at the hospital.  Her prosthetic leg, she’s nicknamed “Leggo”, is helping her to build the muscle tone she’s lost and get her moving again.  Reese is inspired by “Winter the Dolphin” who re-learned how to swim with a prosthetic tail.

Reese is busy making plans for all she and her family are going to do when she gets to go home to their dairy farm.  They all eagerly anticipate this day but know they’ll be back to visit the staff that has become family to them over the last year and a half.

So many hold a special place in their heart because they have gone above and beyond their job description in providing care for Reese.  For example, nurse Judy meets with Reese weekly to change her site dressings.  Reese anticipates these visits because Judy creates drawings on the bandages and brings her donuts.  Reese is making a scrapbook of the drawings that Judy brings her.  Something tells me long into her old age when Reese eats a donut she’ll remember fondly the extra measures of love Judy poured into her care.

What’s up next for Reese?  She’s preparing for her next big surgery coming up on Wednesday.  She will be having her sub-clavian catheter replaced and that will be used for both dialysis and CO2 clearance.  CO2 clearance is the lung support she will continue to need.  The second and big part of the surgery will reconvene on Friday, via an open heart/by-pass surgery where they will remove the RVAD from her heart.  This is a tedious surgery that has caused great concern for all who love Reese, but her doctors say she is ready and the surgery is necessary for Reese to continue to progress.

As with any surgery of this type, there are specific concerns about bleeding and the Burdette’s ask that everyone join them specifically in prayer about this.  Reese will stay in an induced sleep state for no more a week this time before she will be awakened and start the labor of movement that will be required to keep her recovering.

Reese’s therapy team is helping to prepare her for her surgery in waves that an 8 year old can digest.  One of Reese’s most persistent questions about her surgery has been, “Will I be able to Facetime?  I am going to need to Facetime!” Claire tried to explain she was going to be very sleepy and it will probably be a little while before she could do that.  She asked, “Who do you need to FT so badly?”  Reese answered, “Riley, (Reese’s cousin) she’s having her scoliosis surgery on Dec. 8th and I have to check in on her and see how she’s doing.”


The healing journey from the surgery will not be easy, but Reese has shown she can rise to each challenge with grace and determination.  Her lungs still have a lot of healing to do and her kidneys as well.  She is on dialysis, but doctors project that because she is so young her lungs can regenerate and her kidneys can heal.   From early one, doctors estimated it would require about a 2-year hospital stay to heal from her injuries.  The Burdettes are ticking off the days!


The Burdettes are lavish in their praise for their family and friends who have surrounded them with prayer and support in hundreds of different ways.  Claire and Justin continue to run their dairy farm while they split their time staying at a room they’ve rented at a local hotel so that someone is with Reese everyday.  Justin’s parents have stepped back into a very active role in helping to run the dairy and care for Brinkley.  Reese has plenty of visits from her extended family as well. Justin and Claire are also taking special care of Pantene and Pretzel, Reese’s prized cows that eagerly await her return to the farm.


I asked Claire what has been her biggest take away from her time at the PICU so far.  Without any hesitation she said she’s learned patience and how resilient kids are. She’s learned the importance of expressing her concerns and fears, even when speaking up can be intimidating.


Last week the family celebrated the lighting of the tree in Mercersburg and Santa was projected into Reese’s rooms via a screen to chat with kids.  “What would you like for Christmas Reese?” he asked.  To which Reese replied, “To spend more time with my family.”  Family is everything to Reese and with parents like Justin and Claire, who are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary this year, it’s easy to see why.  When they consider Reese’s hospital stay they say, “What’s two years when she’s 80!?”

What perfect timing for this blog. Thanksgiving is what floods the Burdettes’ hearts right now.  The first photo they posted of Reese in the PICU was last Thanksgiving, 6 months after the fire.  It was a photo of Reese and Brinkley having lunch and Justin simply said, “What I’m thankful for.”

This Thanksgiving the Burdettes can barely express how grateful they are without crying.  When they begin to recount where God has taken them in this last year… they are overwhelmed with joy.  They look forward to being home this time next year celebrating at the farm with their family and friends!  Please be in fervent prayer for tough girl, spunky girl, tender girl Reese!

Reese’s thank you for everyone’s support:

Special thanks to Jennifer Didio for doing this amazing work, and if you are in the Westminster MD area and need a outstanding photographer please contact Jennifer the quality of work and her professional are 2nd to none. As Claire Burdette said to me “She was so wonderful to work with.”

Video Interview with Larry Bennett – 2014 Curtis Clark Achievement Award Winner

Often the people with the fewest words are the ones we should listen to. Larry Bennett fits that mold. This soft spoken man was the 2014 winner of the Curtis Clark award and takes his place with others who represent the sportsmanship, showmanship and pure enjoyment of everything dairy that was so vital to Curtis Clark himself. Those who have had  privilege of knowing Curtis and Larry will recognize that there are striking similarities between these two gentlemen, the most notable being their passion for dairy cattle.

Recently The Bullvine had the opportunity to talk with Larry.  The resulting video captures the sincerity and good nature that has been Larry’s trademark …. along with his conductor’s hat…throughout his career in the dairy industry.

Larry is deep. He is self-confident. He has tried and been successful at many things all of which have dealt with the dairy cattle industry (Link to other Bullvine article). Through this video you will learn that family and friends are very important to Larry.  It’s clear that for him, as for many people that make a difference in life, it is first all about the company one keeps and then it means always doing the best you can.


I highly recommend that you listen twice to the ending, where Larry recommends youth training, including getting an education. The icing on the cake, for me, is his strong recommendation to keep a daily diary. What an interesting way to appreciate life’s important moments. When hubby Murray watched the video he noted, “If this video was a book, I would say it was a great read.” It is my hope that you too will enjoy this video as much as everyone at The Bullvine did.  Larry Bennett “A man of few words ….keen perception …and the ability to continue working with quiet enthusiasm for whatever he undertakes … until the job is done.” We tip our hat to Larry Bennett and thank him for the legacy he continues to build in the dairy industry.



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Donnanview – The Culmination of a Lifetime Journey in Dairy Farming

The Bullvine sat down with Donny Donnan of Donnanview Holsteins to discuss his journey in developing this amazing herd that will be offered for sale next week. Donny and his wife Bev have spent their lifetime breeding great dairy cattle.  Opportunities to invest in herds like Donnanview are few and far between. Not only a Master Breeder Herd, home of the 2014 Canadian Cow of the year, sires in AI, but they are also 90% VG and EX cows.  These achievements have been built over years of intuitive, selective breeding choices.  Not since the likes of Hanoverhill’s complete dispersal have we seen a herd of this size and quality, sell all at once in a public auction.  Join us in watching this video as Donny explains how they have achieved this success and who has helped them along the way.

Conant Acres Named 2015 Elite Breeder at Holstein USA Annual Meeting

Gen-Com Holsteins – Dairy Breeder Video Interviews

In a rare opportunity the Bullvine sits down with Mario Comtois of Gen-Com Holsteins to discuss their success, their team, and the two great cows they work with RF GOLDWYN HAILEY and CHARWILL ATTIC MARCY.

Watch this video and find out, what makes Hailey and Marcy so special and the members of the team that do just a great job keeping these and all the cows at Gen-Com looking so great.


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Kelloe Mains – Good heifer rearing leads to strong milking performance

The McDonald family recently invested in a new housing facility for an additional 330 cows at Kelloe Mains Farm, near Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Bruce Jobson reports from the Scottish Borders.

The McDonald family milk 720 Holstein cows at Kelloe Mains Farm, Duns, Scotland, 10 miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The farmland totals 2,500 acres (1,000ha) stretching over a distance of 10 miles and incorporates two farms.

Robert McDonald and his son, also named Robert, are the driving force behind the family farming business with 27-year old Robert, managing the day to day management of the dairy herd. His father continues his role at the forefront of the business and also manages the arable side of the enterprise.

Kelloe Mains has undergone a continued expansion programme and recently added a new 330 high-spec free-stall housing facility, which was completed in January 2014. The housing unit cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300)  (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000) and includes automatic scrapers and rubber matting as well as incorporating “green bedding.”

The building is high, with lots of light and ventilation and cow comfort has been a strong feature of the design according to Robert Jnr. “Animal health and welfare is a priority at Kelloe Mains and we continue to focus on management and cow comfort.

“We are currently milking over 700 cows and place strong emphasis on best management practise from the day a calf is born, through to milking. We have incorporated the Alta Advantage Programme into our management structure and this provides essential data and benchmarking of the business,” he said.

An new housing unit for an additional 330 cows cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300)  (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000)

An new housing unit for an additional 330 cows cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300) (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000)

Imports from Holland

The McDonalds increased their herd numbers in 2014 by purchasing 138 in-milk heifers and 140 in-calf heifers from Holland. The imported animals have now settled into their new environment and Robert is pleased with their performance.

Robert said. “The herd has been averaging around 10,500 – 10,700 litres at 3.8% fat and 3.3% protein, however, with the additional influx, the herd currently containing 65% heifers, and this year, we expect the yield average will be lower.

“It takes time for new animals to adjust but overall, we are pleased with the performance of the herd. We use the Alta Advantage programme as part of our overall herd management system in order to benchmark our performance data. The herd is running at 23% pregnancy rate with 45% of the cows currently pregnant at 75 days.

“Calving interval, which is based on the milking cows, rather than the latest influx, is around the 377 days with days open at 99 days. The herd is averaging 24 months at age of first-calving and in due course, we are aiming to reduce the figure to 23 months. The cows are milked through a 40-point Alfa-Laval rotary parlour on a three times per-day milking routine, averaging 34litres per day with a through-put of 125 cows-per-hour.”

The herd is fed a TMR ration using a Keenan mixer-wagon, with a separate ration to the in-calf heifers and dry cows. The milking herd ration contains 20kg of DM of forage; 2kg of whole crop; 6.5kgs grass silage, 0.5kg straw and a protein blend. The herd receives its first feed at 5.30am and is supplemented at around 10am.

Dry cows receive a close-up and far-off ration and bedding is kept clean and dry due to the availability of straw. The new 340 cow free-stall facility and older unit for 368 cows, link into a 1.9million gallon slurry tower and 2.8million lagoon incorporating an umbilical system.


Kelloe Mains Open Day

Alta Genetics recently hosted an open day at Kelloe Mains, and the event included presentations from several Alta staff as well as Robert McDonald Jnr. Over 200 visitors attended the event including 60 farmers from Holland and 16 from Italy.

Farmers seeking to breed the next generation of profitable, animal welfare friendly cattle were treated to a demonstration line-up of milking Holstein heifers using the Alta Advantage programme. Visitors could inspect the animals and were provided with milk recording details and yield projections.

Alta programme manager Drew Wilson used hand held technology to assess the type characteristics of an animal and the programme provides a list of suitable matings; based upon the type and production criteria for each individual herd requirement. The line-up of animals on display demonstrated the success of the Alta Advantage Programme Mr Wilson stated.

Mutual Benefits

Paul De Goojier, global marketing manager for Alta Genetics, led a group of 60 plus farmers from The Netherlands, as part of a UK tour and emphasised an open business philosophy. He explained: “Farmers are looking for ways to improve and learn from each other. The openday will bring value to UK farmers, the Dutch as well as Italian group, who have also attended the event.

“Everyone can discuss their needs on a full strategy basis and breeders are able to apply the genetic tools in order to select the right bulls. We have a focus on the progressive farmer in order to help with the direction of their business goals. Our programmes add value and help bring better results, breed better animals and increase genetic results,” he concluded.

Calf Rearing Trial

Calf rearing is an essential part of the Kelloe Mains philosophy based upon management and animal health and welfare aspects. New born calves are given four litres of colostrum within the first few hours of birth, followed by an additional two litres, two hours after the initial feed. After the first week, the calves receive 5 litres per day increasing to 6 litres per day after the 10th day.

Robert Jnr commented that milking cow performance starts with good heifer rearing practise. He said: “Calves can be easily overlooked but good milking herd performance and animal health and welfare issues start with quality calf management.

“We aim to wean calves at 60 days and by that time, they are receiving adlib feeding, taking onboard approximately 3kgs of 18% protein pellet and straw. Pellet feed and fresh water is introduced early in order to increase growth rates. We aim for heifers to calve-down at 24 months of age and we manage their inputs accordingly in order to achieve the required weight and growth-rates, prior to insemination.”

The farm operates a strict system with one person feeding the calves 12 out of every 14 days in order to maintain consistency of feeding, hygiene, observation and overall management. The calves are fed on waste milk, which is pasteurised on-farm after each milking, and calves are fed at 8 hourly intervals.

Kelloe Mains has traditionally reared calves in crates and the McDonald family recently purchased calf hutches as an alternative method. Calves are currently undergoing a trial to see if there are any benefits by switching to 100% rearing in calf hutches. Both sets of heifers are being weighed at 60 days, and the early results indicate a 10 – 11kg increase in weight using a calf-hutch.

Robert McDonald (left) and Alta Genetics' Regional Manager Billy Campbell

Robert McDonald (left) and Alta Genetics’ Regional Manager Billy Campbell

Kelloe Mains is now using 100% genomic sires across the board according to Alta Genetics Regional Manager Billy Campbell, who has worked closely with the McDonalds for the past 25 years. “Kelloe Mains operates on a commercial-basis and animals are mated to provide profitable, long-lasting, healthy and animal welfare friendly cattle.

“The first group of genomic heifers demonstrated the reliability of the programme and the latest group of 18 heifers by 10 young genomic bulls is averaging 34 litres per day and are currently 118 days in-milk. The group is predicted to yield over 11,500kgs with two heifers projected to produce over 14,000kgs.”

All the cows are bred to Holstein bulls and in the past; sexed-semen has been used to help increase replacement heifer numbers. According to Mr Campbell, the Kelloe Mains herd demonstrates the benefits of using a large number of genomic young sires across the herd and by using a professional evaluator, has achieved positive results on type, production, herd health and animal welfare.

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

Roybrook Revisited

Legendary Holstein breeder Roy Ormiston celebrates his 100th Birthday in a few weeks hence. Bruce Jobson and Roy recount the legacy of Roybrook in an exclusive interview. In this unique conversation, Bruce included some additional datelines for reader clarity and understanding.

Roy Ormiston, of Robrook fame, will celebrate his 100th Birthday in February.  Photo Patty Jones

Roy Ormiston, of Robrook fame, will celebrate his 100th Birthday in February. Photo Patty Jones

There are very few cattle breeders held in the same esteem as Roy Ormiston. He is one of an elite group globally known by a single name; “Roy” (Roybrook) “Wally” (Linskoog: Arlinda) “Pete” (Heffering: Hanoverhill) and in the UK “Moff” (John Moffitt: Hunday) As time has marched forward; only Roy remains with us from what is considered the halcyon era of cattle breeding.

The story really began 70 years ago; when Roy, a young Holstein breeder, joined the Canadian Holstein Association as an Ontario fieldman in 1944; where he worked for seven years as extension officer, including some classifying duties. He had already started farming at 21, taking over his father’s farm (Ormsdale) at Brooklin, Ontario and owning five cows. He later farmed with his brother before establishing his own Roybrook prefix.


BJ “Roy, you purchased a cow bred by Ben Brown, of Bowmanville, Ontario; Balsam Brae Pluto Sovereign Ex. This animal became universally known as “the white cow. How did you find her?

Roy: “I heard about this “white cow” and decided to visit Ben and first saw her as a Very Good five-year-old in 1956. I really liked the look of this cow, despite her being dry; and her age. Ben had turned down $700 that morning from a US dealer; I made an offer of $700, but she had not been on “test” recording and we did not known what her butterfat percent would be – so I offered another $50 bonus – provided she tested at 3.6% or higher.

“The offer was accepted and after she calved-out, Sovereign, known as “the white cow” was judged winner of the All Aged Cow Class at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto and also Best Uddered Cow. She had come from nowhere to win the most prestigious of shows. Albert Seiling of Seiling Holsteins offered $10,000 – a large sum of money at the time – but I refused to sell.”

BJ “There are many people who consider you as the greatest exponent of “line-breeding” owing to the success of the Roybrook bloodlines. Some consider line-breeding; when it does not work is, “inbreeding.” You are the man – what is your take on the subject?”

Roy: “It was line-breeding – not inbreeding. We never inbred. But I owned a remarkable cow family and wanted to capitalise on these immense qualities. It’s a case of wanting to increase or intensify the best traits or qualities such as size and strength. Inbreeding can result in lack of size and strength and vigour. The white cow was strong, more than the average cow – she was dominant and “controlled” the matings.

“Two of her daughters were Roybrook Model Lady and Royal Delight, and both scored Excellent. The latter cow produced the most famous daughter; Roybrook Model Lass Ex, she was bred from Roybrook Ace, a son of the white cow, from a mating to Lakefield Fond Hope.

“We therefore had the white cow as the bull dam on the top side, and the third dam on the bottom line. The resulting bull calf was Telstar, (born December 1963) Telstar was sold at the National Holstein Sale in the following May to the Telstar Syndicate for $25,000. A few weeks later, having sold the bull, I bought into the syndicate.”

BJ “The bull was named after the world’s first satellite, Telstar; which was launched on July 10th, 1962; the date is recognised as the day that “information went global.” Roybrook Telstar arguably did the same in the bovine world; as the first global Holstein superstar?”

Roy “He certainly had an impact in Canada and Japan. Cattle photographer, Jim Rose, suggested the name. The syndicate sold Telstar to Japan in June 1967; his Canadian progeny were outstanding and all the talk was about Telstar. His daughters were show winners, became brood cows and outstanding bullmothers. Due to widespread AI, and export of progeny, his proofs and influence became global.

“Telstar was designated as a Class Extra sire (in 1971, Canada’s highest accolade on the basis of simultaneous improvements in type and production)  In Japan, he was equally admired and in 1978, I was privileged to unveil a bronze statue of Telstar at the All-Hokkaido Show; at the opening of the Dairy Shrine.”

BJ “OK, Telstar paved the way for another bull that arguably had an even greater global impact; Roybrook Starlite. As you stated, the bull was line-bred and only carried 0.93 inbreeding levels. Roy, what was the thinking on that mating?”

Roy “Seiling Rockman was known as the “Genetic Giant” and his daughters had prolific milk production. Starlite was a mating that truly encompassed the best traits of his sire and his dam. For many years the Canadian production Honour List was dominated by Rockman, his son, Starlite and Starlite’s maternal brother, Telstar.  Therefore, Rockman was a very powerful mating.

BJ “I will just mention; the University of Guelph Top Transmitter List contained the top 600 cows throughout Canada. When Starlite died (in 1981) 376 cows ranked on this list were from Ontario – and 103 were Starlite daughters; almost 30% of the top cows in Ontario were related to Starlite.

“Starlite semen was exported all over the world. In 1982, three Starlite daughters at Mowry Farms, Pennsylvania, were rated in the top three positions in the USDA Cow Index. At that time, the chances of one daughter being the No.1 cow USDA milk and butterfat producer were rated above 8 million: 1.  In fact, Starlite had the top three USDA cows – all bred in one herd.

“The bull came to prominence in the UK when 25 Starlite heifers were imported into the UK by the late Harold Nicholson, herd manager for Sam Noble, owner of the Deehaven Herd in Cheshire. The Starlite daughters were an outstanding success. His global influence was immense as well as, through his sons.  Roy, I now want to move on to the next era and will you explain the mating of the third Roybrook superstar; Tempo?”

Roy “I judged the Ontario Show and first two-year-old was Briarwood Melissa. She was an immense Telstar daughter; almost twice the size of others, she had such power and strength. After the show, I went to the barn and asked if she was for sale and they wanted $25,000. I said I wanted to buy the cow; not the farm.

“She was subsequently shown and won at Toronto; and I purchased her at The Sale of The Stars for $14,000. The next day, I went to the bank to borrow the money. Melissa was bred to Starlite; therefore “the white cow” influence was close-up on both sides of pedigree. Tempo had a type proof with the qualities of both bulls.”

BJ “Roy, I will interject, Tempo was born in 1973 and like Telstar and Starlite, he was awarded Class Extra Sire status. Tempo had over 15,000 Canadian scored daughters (29,000 in total) and averaged 70% Good Plus and Better on classification. His sire, Starlite had over 8,000 scored daughters (13,000) that averaged 55%.

“His maternal-sire, Telstar, had 611 Canadian daughters (863) that averaged 86% Good Plus. Tempo came out with an identical average of 70% Good Plus and Better; the exact “mean average” figure between the proofs of both Starlite and Telstar.  Tempo – bred “true.” The legacy was a remarkable achievement, all line-bred from a single cow family, housed in a traditional 30 stall Canadian barn. So, which of the three bulls is your favourite?”


Roybrook Telster

Roybrook Starlite

Roybrook Starlite

Roy brook Tempo

Roy brook Tempo


Roy “I do not have a favourite. All three bulls achieved Class Extra status and all three were different and each bull transmitted different things. Starlite daughters transmitted higher levels of production and were slower to mature as two-year olds – and therefore did not classify as high.

BJ “Roy, 40 years ago you said “Life is too short to start with poor stock.” You are now approaching 100 years old, what advice would you give to someone starting out today?”

Roy “That is still true. Start with the best you can afford. But it is extremely hard for any young person to get involved in farming today. It is even harder in Canada owing to having to buy milk quota, the farm and cows. Everything is bigger and unless your parents are involved or are extremely wealthy, it is almost impossible to get started in dairying.

“Today, many farms have 200, 400 cows or more. That takes a lot of funding with Canadian milk quota at around $25,000 per cow. We kicked the trend even back in the 70s and 80s, we were a small 30-odd cow dairy and the farm was 100 acres; yet I sold cattle to every continent on the globe.

“Things were rapidly changing in the late 80s, with bigger commercial herds and several high profile pedigree breeder herds; (Comstar, Dupasquier, Gillette) these were exciting times; great days, and I remember sitting next to your wife, Helen, at the 1987 Hanoverhill Sale. I sold the Roybrook herd in 1990 – I was getting on in years although, I had a few cows around the farm for another 12 months.

BJ “With all the indices, sexed semen, ET and genomic information available, is it easier to be a breeder in 2014, than in 1944?”

Roy “Bruce, there is more information available today – and maybe there is too much information. It was easier in the past; and breeding goals have changed. We now have genomics and this has changed the bull breeding game and the industry. I have concerns about the level of inbreeding and the possibility of losing, size, capacity, vigour and strength.

“We are also asking two-year-old heifers to produce 120lbs of milk or 50litres per day; and I wonder how long these young cows will last? I still believe in the value of cow families, longevity and a common-sense approach to cattle breeding. Today, everything is faster; everything is bigger.”

BJ “Roy, besides your influence within the global cattle breeding industry, you have, and will continue to have, a strong influence within the local community. How did that happen?”

Roy “Well, I believe in putting back into the local community and since the sale, have done that. I sold land for development and have made donations to local charities. Brooklin has now expanded over the farm and the barn has made way for a new highway. The streets are named in our honour such as Roybrook Avenue, Telstar Avenue, Tempo and Delight.

“I still live on my own, in a bungalow built on the farm – and keep myself busy and active. I have donated 25 acres of land and $2million in order to build a new hospital. It’s something I want to do for the local community; one that I was brought up amongst, and where I have lived my whole life. That will be a true and lasting, Roybrook legacy.”

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

Dairy breeders combine looks, performance


Thierry Jaton’s family looked for the cheapest land possible to buy when they moved from Switzerland to Quebec 34 years ago.

What they found was a dairy farm with an old barn, fields full of stones, old machinery, no artificial insemination or dairy testing program and a barn full of grade cows.

They bought it.

“It was a way to have something,” Jaton said during a tour of his award winning Holstein farm organized by the Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association.

“The only way to have something is to work hard, and we work hard,” he said.

The owners included Jaton’s wife, parents and aunt and uncle. His parents are retired, but his uncle, 66, is still milking cows every day.

The hallway into the barn sports rows of awards, certificates, banners and photographs of the farm’s purebred Holstein herd.

“We love the cows.”

The Jatons milk 110 of their 290 cows. Of those, 17 are rated excellent, 74 very good and 34 good plus. The classification system is based on the animals’ physical conformation compared to breed ideals. The classification program helps producers make breeding and marketing decisions.

Jaton juggles good milking and breed characteristics in his cow herd with cows that do well on the show circuit. Cattle are shown at local and provincial fairs, and a strong contender will travel to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto to show off the Holstein herd.

“We like a show-type cow,” he said.

The cows’ tails are washed and trimmed weekly to help reduce man-ure buildup and keep them ready for show or the continual stream of buyers and visitors to the farm. They are washed and clipped once a month.

Jaton always has a curry comb on hand for brushing and scratching the cows.

“We like to keep them clean.”

The cows are tied in a long line of tie stalls. It takes slightly less than two hours to milk the cows twice a day using eight milking units at a time. The workers kneel beside each cow to hook up the machines to the cows and then plug the hoses into a pipeline beside the cows’ heads.

The family does the milking with the help of one employee, but without a massive investment to upgrade equipment, they don’t know what will happen in the future.

“I don’t know what will be the next step, but at the moment everyone is healthy.”

The cows are fed one-third corn silage and two-thirds alfalfa.

The hay is fed in the morning, and a machine dumps the rest of the feed in front of the cows four times a day. The machine can adjust the amount of ration each cow receives.

Heifer and cow sales are key to the farm’s profitability. Jaton will sell 40 to 55 cows to other dairy producers this year, mainly in Quebec.

“We have too many heifers,” he said.

Most of the heifers are sold just after their first or second calf.

Good cows sell for about $3,000 with top-end cows fetching $10,000 to $15,000 each.

Jaton tries to avoid selling embryos because of the quickly changing trends in embryo selection. He flushes embryos from his top performing cows and implants them in the bottom 40 percent of his cow herd.

He is increasingly using genomics as a tool but doesn’t rely only on the genetic selection of traits for breeding or picking his cattle.

“It’s a good tool. For the moment, if you want to be in the market you have to use genomics,” he said.

Producing good quality hay is important for the farm, which uses hay as a large portion of its dairy ration. The 1,000-acre farm grows wheat, corn and soybeans, plus corn for silage.

Excess hay is sold into the lucrative U.S. horse market.

Source: The Western Producer

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