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Holstein Association USA recognized 11 herds as 2019 Herds of Excellence. This coveted honor has been presented since 2008, and honors Registered Holstein® breeders who have developed herds excelling in both milk production and conformation at the most elite levels.

The award is divided into three herd size divisions, based on the number of cows included in the herds’ milk production averages. The divisions are: 10 to 99 cows; 100 to 499 cows; and 500+ cows.

To be recognized as a Herd of Excellence, a herd must have classified within the last year, and have an age-adjusted average classification score (AACS) of 83 points or higher; have at least 70 percent of the herd homebred; and be enrolled in the Association's TriStarSM production records program.

Additionally, qualifying herds must meet the following production criteria:

  • 10 to 99 cows - 25 percent above breed average ME for milk, fat and protein
  • 100 to 499 cows - 20 percent above breed average ME for milk, fat and protein
  • 500+ cows - 15 percent above breed average ME for milk, fat and protein

This year’s honorees are:

Small Herd Size Division (10-99 Cows)

B-Long Holsteins – Bruce, Brenda & Bret Long, New London, Wis.

Bruce and Brenda Long started dairying near New London, Wisconsin, about 30 years ago. After working on their parents’ farms following their graduation from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, they decided to venture out on their own.

Cow families are what drive herd decisions at B-Long Holsteins. Many of the herd’s foundation animals originated from Bruce’s childhood herd. Their current herd can be traced back to two calves Bruce purchased when he was young — Belleview L-H Mars Happy VG-82 GMD and Belleview Barrett Ibis VG-82.

They place a lot of breeding emphasis on cow longevity, high-volume production and the ability to transmit to their offspring. They look for bulls that sire large, powerful animals with big frames, plenty of strength and good components.

Bruce and Brenda have passed on their passion for Registered Holsteins to their sons, Bret, Bryant and Brandon. Bret continues to work alongside his parents on the dairy farm.

Doorco Holsteins – Dan & Julie Vandertie, Brussels, Wis. 

Fifth-generation farmer Dan Vandertie says that as a child, he remembers anxiously awaiting the Red Book from Holstein Association USA to arrive on his doorstep. His enthusiasm for raising and breeding top-quality Registered Holstein genetics has stayed with him his entire life. Today, he and his wife, Julie, operate Doorco Holsteins in Door County, Wisconsin. They purchased the dairy farm from his parents in 1987.

When making breeding decisions, Dan says he uses genomics as a base point. Red Book Plus remains his program of choice when it comes to researching genetic information. It gives him a clearer picture of how the sires will perform, Dan says, leading to greater consistency within the herd.

Dan says he likes building cow families. He looks for long-lasting animals, cows that have a will to milk and strong frames, including wide front ends, when making breeding decisions. In addition to assessing pedigrees, Dan selects cows with wide fronts, because those animals can consume greater amounts of feed. He attributes their herd’s unwavering performance to good feed and cow comfort.

Ever-Green-View Holsteins, LLC – The Kestell Family, Waldo, Wis.

96.8% homebred; AACS – 88.2 points

ME Production Averages – 38,924M 1,516F 1,175P

Tom and Gin Kestell started farming with little more than a dream back in 1971. Today, Ever-Green-View Holsteins has grown into one of the world’s highest producing herds. Acknowledged internationally for their superior Registered Holstein genetics, this ten-year Herd of Excellence honoree has dedicated more than 45 years to breeding excellent dairy cattle.

Staying in tune with the world market and using genomic young sires has allowed them to be successful around the globe. Three-quarters of the farm’s income comes from exporting genetics, Tom says.

Since the farm’s inception, they have exported more than 8,900 embryos to countries including Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, Japan, India and the Netherlands. Embryos and live cattle from EverGreen-View Farms have been sold to 40 countries.

Many of their cows have been recognized with state and national records for milk, fat, and protein. Tom and Gin are in partnership with their youngest son, Chris, and his wife, Jennifer.

Hill-Ton Holsteins – The Hamilton Family, Cuba City, Wis.

Owned by John and Evie Hamilton, and their son, Charlie, Hill-Ton Holsteins has received the Progressive Breeders’ Registry award for 26 consecutive years. They believe one of the most important aspects of Registered Holsteins is the database where they access performance information and trace back pedigrees.

When making breeding decisions, John says they pay close attention to all the fine details. They use classification data and a cow’s linear breakdown to make sire selections. Low somatic cell count is a priority, while choosing for type first and production second.

The Hamilton family raises all their own replacement heifers and sells bull calves. John says that in the tough dairy economy, raising Registered Holsteins is a benefit. They offer an added advantage and market for selling genetics. Hill-Ton Holsteins boasts a Breed Age Average of 109 percent, with six Excellent cows residing in the herd, and they’ve bred more than 70 Excellent cows.

Hilrose Holsteins – Joseph A. Brantmeier, Sherwood, Wis.

Established by Joe Brantmeier's parents, Hilard and Rose Mary near Sherwood, Wis., Hilrose Holsteins is committed to developing genetics and high-performing cows.

Today, the operation is a partnership between Joe and his wife, Chris, and their sons, Andy and Jeff. The fourth, fifth and sixth generations work alongside each other and continue the family tradition.

The Brantmeier family has concentrated on high-type animals with high components and longevity. Their perfect cow would be high scoring with more than four percent fat and three percent protein, in addition to great legs, excellent udders and a strong ability to transmit. They focus on a new calf’s potential with each mating, with the hope that each animal could become a future foundation cow.

A transformational cow for their family was Hilrose Advent Anna-Red EX-94, the 2018 Wisconsin Cow of the Year.

Spruce-Hill Holsteins – Mike & Margaret Raleigh, Elmwood, Wis.

Like many dairy farmers, Mike Raleigh says there’s no place he would rather be than in the barn with the cows. He’s a fourth-generation dairy farmer and manages Spruce-Hill Holsteins in western Wisconsin.

Mike purchased the family farm after his father’s passing in 1993. Since then, he and his wife, Margaret, have continued the tradition of excellent cow care and high production. 

When he was in high school, Mike started purchasing Registered Holsteins to build up his own herd. At Spruce-Hill Holsteins today, they take advantage of performance information and data to make solid breeding decisions. They classify once per year and use the TriStar production records system.

Feed efficiency is a top priority within the herd, Mike says. He doesn’t feed a TMR so he can closely track how much each cow eats. Cows that can produce more pounds of milk using fewer feed resources are an important profit-driver for their operation. They grow all their own forage and corn on about 250 acres.

Medium Herd Size Division (100-499 Cows)

Koepke Farms Inc. – The Koepke Family, Oconomowoc, Wis.

Established in 1875, Koepke Farms Inc. believes strongly in telling the story of their 350-cow farm, which is rooted in being stewards of the land. The dairy was one of the area’s first to adopt a completely no-till cultivation system on their 1,250 acres where they grow soybeans, corn and alfalfa.

Dave Koepke says the key to the farm’s longevity is having new generations interested in carrying on the dairy tradition. The ideal cow at Koepke Farms is medium height, powerful enough to withstand stress, has a good appetite and breeds back quickly, Dave says. The ideal cow is one that you don’t know she’s there.

The number one breeding priority for Dave is Cheese Merit Dollars (CM$). Ten percent of their milk is bottled, while the rest is used for cheese or other dairy products. He then pays attention to health traits — low somatic cell, daughter pregnancy rate and calving stillbirth percentage.

Koepke Farms has had five cows with more than 300,000 pounds of lifetime milk and 16 Excellent cows, 110 Very Good cows and 140 Good Plus cows.

Koester Dairy Inc. – The Koester Family, Dakota, Ill.

Large Herd Size Division (500+ Cows)

Bomaz Inc. – The Zwald Family, Hammond, Wis.

Bob and Kay Zwald, Bomaz Inc. near Hammond, Wis., have grown their Registered Holstein operation throughout two generations to be a herd that excels in both production and type.

The couple’s two youngest children and their spouses all work on the farm.

As the operation has grown, they’ve placed a larger emphasis on the herd’s genetic potential. The Zwald family stresses high production, good udders and sound feet and legs when making breeding decisions.

Using genomic testing information, they flush the top five percent of their cows to seize genetic progress for both the female and male sides of pedigrees.

“We don’t have a goal to necessarily have the highest classifying cow or the best show cow,” Bob says. “We breed for the working ladies with the goal that they can give 100 pounds of milk every day.”

Siemers Holstein Farms Inc. – The Siemers Family, Newton, Wis.

Currently the family’s fourth, fifth and sixth generation are working alongside each other on the farm — fully committed to excellence. Their mission is simple: to make every generation better than the last.

Established in 1908 with only a handful of cows, Registered Holsteins have been the cornerstone of the Siemers’ herd and key to their success, both in and out of the showring.

The Siemers have bred more than 1,000 Very Good and Excellent cows; and have achieved 28 Progressive Genetic Herd honors.

The Siemers breed for a wide spectrum of categories: high index cattle, show cattle, outstanding registered commercial cows, and red and white Holsteins. They may focus on different avenues when making breeding decisions, but Dan says their best cows are also their best production cows. They look for strength in the cow’s conformation, so their herd will give more milk for longer periods of time. Cows are bred almost exclusively to high genomic bulls.

Dinomi Holsteins – The Migliazzo Family, Atwater, Calif.

97.8% homebred; AACS – 83.2 points

ME Production Averages – 32,194M 1,221F 1,031P

Profiles of these impressive herds can be found in the Spring 2020 issue of The Pulse, available at www.holsteinusa.com under the Latest News tab.

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