Karlie the cow is spoiled. She spends her days on piles of wood shavings, eating the best food. She doesn’t have to share her space with the other girls. She barely knows the mud.
Monday Karlie, a Jersey show cow, brought a national record-high price at auction in Syracuse. She sold for $170,000, said Patrick Rohe, a spokesman for the family that sold the cow.
That’s more than the median home price in Central New York last month: $112,500.
See video of the auction below
The previous high record for a Jersey sold at auction was $92,000 in 2006, according to the Jersey Journal, a publication of the American Jersey Cattle Association. That was Stora of Oblong Valley. Karlie was purchased by Arethusa Farm of Bantam, Conn.
Karlie, a 3-year-old whose full name is Page-Crest Excitation Karlie, was brought to fame on the show cow circuit by Aaron Eaton, a cow scout of sorts, Rohe said. Eaton is married to Rohe’s sister, Caitlin, of Onondaga Hill. The couple were part owners of the cow with two others: Piggot Farms Show Cattle, of Ontario, Canada; and Martin Croft.
The auction was at Rohe Farms in Onondaga Hill. The 900-acre farm used to have a herd of dairy cattle, but, like many dairy farms, sold off the herd in 2010, said Rohe.
He said Eaton is something of a cow scout. Eaton scours farms looking for good traits to breed, said Rohe.
He can see through the mud and dirt and find the winners in a crowded barn, said Rohe. Rohe knows cows, too. Now a financial planner, he sold a Holstein he was part owner of for $100,000 when he was in college.
Karlie was a good bet, said Rohe, because she had well-bred parents. But no one knew she’d be worth quite this much.
So what makes a cow a bovine beauty queen?
“My best way to explain it is it’s just like if you look at what people think of as the ideal girl,” said Rohe, chuckling a little. He worked on his family’s farm and grew up raising show cows, too.
The pretty face and shiny coat matters a little. But not as much as the rest.
You want a cow that’s skinny and kind of tall, like a model, Rohe said. That means her body is efficient at producing milk. It’s not wasting energy on making fat stores.
The udders matter, too, in breeding dairy cows. You want udders that don’t sag and are well-attached, Rohe said. That means they’ll survive years of milking and they won’t be prone to getting lots of bacteria on them because they’re dragging around the barn.
“You wouldn’t change a thing about her udders,” Rohe said of Karlie.
Karlie the show cow also has the perfect, well, backside. In cows, the “hooks” and “pins” need to be in the right spot. The hooks, cow talk for the hip bones, need to be well above the pins, which are the butt bones. That makes it easier to birth calves.
Karlie has had one calf herself, and has had several other offspring born by surrogates. The genetics are where the real value is. Cows like her are put through a process called “flushing.” Their bodies are prompted body to super-produce eggs which are then artificially inseminated with semen from high-end bulls. Those fertilized embryos are worth about $6,000. A calf actually borne by Karlie: about $20,000, Rohe estimated.
Karlie will have to continue the show-cow circuit to maintain her genetic worth going forward, Rohe said.
Mike Van Amburgh, a professor of dairy management at Cornell University, said a cow like Karlie might live more than a decade and continue to produce viable eggs during that time. He said the dairy industry now is focused on breeding and cultivating the best genetic characteristics to get super productive cows.
He wasn’t familiar with Karlie, but said her DNA has most certainly already been under the microscope. That’s where the value is.
How is Karlie with all this attention? Rohe said it hasn’t gone to her big head (Karlie weighs about 1,000 pounds.). Don’t get him wrong. She expects good food, rubber mats to walk on and a bath every day. But she’s not full of herself.
“She’s a very laid back cow,” Rohe said.
Contact Marnie Eisenstadt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-470-2246
Source: The Post Standard