Wisconsin Holstein Association recognizes exceptional Holstein breeders
A pair of Holstein breeders in southwest Wisconsin are the recipients of the 2020 Distinguished Holstein Breeder and Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder awards.
The Wisconsin Holstein Association announced that Erik and Brenda Gilbertson, Hollandale, have been named this year’s Distinguished Young Holstein Breeders while the late Glenn and Joann Brewer of Glenn-Ann Holsteins, Albany, have been named Distinguished Holstein Breeder.
The recipients will be recognized at the Wisconsin Dairy Showcase on May 1 at the Jefferson County Fair Park.
Distinguished Holstein Breeder
Located in Albany in Green County, Wisconsin, the Glenn and Joann Brewer family of Glenn-Ann Holsteins said the gem of their milking herd was the result of a purchase of a September calf for their young daughter back in 1981.
J Jonette EB Bootie became the first cow to be classified as Excellent at Glenn-Ann Holsteins and would go on to produce over 200,000 lbs. of milk in a lifetime.
That turned out to be a game-changing purchase by Glenn who was more attuned to the finer points of hogs than Holsteins. After graduating from college Glenn taught agriculture before becoming a loan officer. At the same time Joann - who grew up on a dairy farm - was teaching school in Grant County.
After daughters Tami and Traci were born, the couple moved back to Albany to raise their children on a farm they purchased next to where Joann grew up.
Starting with 40 grade cows, as the years passed, the couple would add a son and an addition to the barn, doubling the size. Soon Registered Holsteins started to fill the barn - including descendants of Bootie.
During this time the Brewers began improving their operation to increase both cow comfort and production. As a result, the rolling herd average increased to over 30,000 lbs. of milk with nearly 1300 lbs. of fat and 1000 lbs. of protein.
The Brewers added Joann's century family farm to house the family's heifers, along with additional farmland, bringing the total acres owned to over 500 with another 130 rented acres – more than enough acreage to feed to 200-plus head of animals.
Over the years the genetics of the herd continued to evolve including Glenn-Ann Jasper Shiner – one of seven Excellent daughters of Glenn-Ann Durham Sharla – a descendant of Bootie.
While the majority of the cows were all homebred at Glenn-Ann, there were a few exceptions including Wilcoxview BC Phinale EX-93 GMD, also with over 200,000 pounds of milk in her 18 years.
Phinale joined a couple of other Wilcoxview bred animals – Wilcoxview Perfec Formation, VG-87 GMD DOM, along with a daughter of All-American Wilcoxview BC Cami. Glenn-Ann Miss Pepperdine VG-89, a Rudolph daughter from Perfec, became a major genetic player at the farm.
Pepperdine, her daughters and granddaughters helped put the farm on the world map and garnered a lot of international visitors, AI contracts and embryo exports. Her son, Palermo, was a popular Goldwyn son at Accelerated Genetics and great-grandson, Providence (Meridian x Jeeves x Goldwyn), did well at Semex.
The breeding goal at Glenn-Ann was to breed for positive production and solid type as the first criteria when selecting sires. When the kids were young and showing, a portion of the herd was bred to high type show sires which also laid the foundation for families that continue to produce VG and EX cows. At the start of the 2010s, more emphasis was placed on cows that could score well but make at least 150,000 pounds of milk by the time they finish their 6-year-old lactation.
Glenn always believed that consistency in feeding and milking was key to a successful herd. Heifers needed to be well cared for and fed to have large frames so they can calve in at 23 to 26 months. Cows needed to be fertile enough to calve regularly and healthy to remain in the herd for a long time. This philosophy earned Glenn-Ann Holsteins a spot on Holstein Association USA’s Herds of Excellence list in 2016, one of only four herds honored that year.
But with Glenn’s passing in February of 2020 and Joann following soon after, the decision was made to start selling the milking herd privately after the August 2020 classification. That classification day resulted in a 109.6 BAA, placing Glenn-Ann in the top 200 herds for BAA.
While Glenn-Ann is done shipping milk, there are still many heifers and calves running around one of the two farms. With a few of the cows sold in partnership and a few others that might calve in before getting sold, there will be Registered Holsteins calling Glenn-Ann home for years to come.
Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder
The Gildale prefix has been a familiar name among Registered Holstein breeders for more than 40 years. Erik Gilbertson and his wife Brenda are the fourth generation to operate the dairy, located right within the borders of the town of Hollandale nestled in Iowa County.
Both Erik and Brenda boast a solid background raising Registered Holstein prior to their marriage. Today, they farm together at Gildale Holsteins with their young daughters, Makenna, Elise, Naydeen, Janelle and Braxton.
After graduating from the UW-Madison Farm & Industry Short Course, Erik farmed with his father, Mark, while also working off the farm at shows and sales. When Mark suffered a stroke in 2004, Erik made the decision to stay on the farm and continue the Gildale name. The couple farmed in partnership with Mark until purchasing the farm in 2017.
The herd they have built today is a result of breeding from genetics purchased from Canada in 1996 when Mark and Erik wanted to rebuild the herd following a dispersal a few years earlier. At that time, the Gilbertsons were able to invest in Canadian genetics for an ideal price. The pair invested in high type individuals like Bridgewood Stardust Barbie, EX-93, who transmitted her big, tall and wide frame with youthful udders to her offspring that still remain in the herd today.
Since they started farming together in 2008, Erik and Brenda have improved their BAA by nearly two points, up from 109.6 to 111.1. The barn currently houses 18 Excellent cows, 24 Very Good cows and just seven Good Plus cows.
Over the years, Erik and Mark continued to make trips to Canada to invest in new genetics. This allowed Erik to develop a breeding philosophy similar to breeders in Canada and develop an eye for animals. Two other individuals that were purchased that had an impact on the herd were Valley Lane GDR Nutmeg, EX-92, and Paradigm Formation Mint, EX-90.
This breeding philosophy and eye for cattle led Erik and his friend Nik Sutter to purchase Sunnyset Mason Trixie EX-92. Her daughter, Ms Gildale Roy Tabitha EX-94, became a cornerstone of the breeding program and was also Grand Champion of the District 3 Show twice and produced a number of high type daughters.
Another cow family that the Gilbertsons are working with is that of Vale-O-Skene Atwood Stars, EX-94, who was the Grand Champion of the District 6 Holstein Show in 2019 and was owned in partnership with Brandon Flannery. Stars transitioned into an even greater cow with so much potential which motivated Erik to become a better breeder and caretaker.
Gildale Advent Primrose sold as a calf in the 2008 “Gildale and Company” sale to Second-Look Holsteins. Through their care, she was the first Gildale-bred cow to achieve the score of Excellent-95.
The Gilbertsons plan to continue breeding cows that produce good components while also exemplifying good type and longevity. “Milking cows is a daily thing for me, it’s part of us and our way of life. We take pride in breeding cows and it’s our hope that we can share success with other breeders as well,” Erik says
Management also remains a very important part of developing these types of cows. In the last few years cow comfort has become one of the most important aspects of care. Over the years, the Gilbertsons have installed mattresses, more fans, aisle mats, improved neck rails, and the addition of box stalls. Grazing also gives cows the ability to exercise and get outside during the nicer parts of the year. The Gilbertsons value care of heifers, too, so in 2016 a new heifer barn was built for younger heifers and breeding age heifers.
In addition to shows, other Wisconsin Holstein activities are critical to the success and involvement of both Erik and Brenda but also for their children. In 2017, Gildale was the site of the Wisconsin Holstein State Picnic. The couple is active with the Iowa County Holstein Association and Brenda serves on the District 3 Show committee
Installing a strong work ethic in their children is something both feel strongly about and believe that farming is one of the best ways to do so. They hope to offer their children this way of life and character building skills through the connections of the dairy industry.