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It’s often written, talked about and probably understood by many that the dairy farming population is all “old farmers” with young farmers few and far between.  I’m not at all sure how true that perception is: just attend a field day, a big organization meeting like PDPW, DBA, WPS Farm Show or World Dairy Expo and look around and see the many young farmers in the crowd. You might be surprised.  

Graig Carncross is a 40-year-old dairyman who milks some 420 Holsteins that average 31,600 pounds of milk on a three time a day milking schedule. He was recently honored by Holstein Association USA as the 2017 US Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder at the organization’s annual convention in July in Bellevue, Washington.  

Note -The Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder award is presented each year to a U.S. dairy farmer between the ages of 21 and 40 and is designed to recognize significant accomplishments of young registered Holstein breeders.

Craig grew up as the third generation on the family registered Holstein farm that dates to 1946 when Warren and Marvel Carncross bought the original 200 acres with a 20 stall dairy barn.  In 1971, Warren’s name and that of his son Gordon were combined to create the Wargo Acres farm name and the dairy continued to grow.   

Growing up

He was active in the dairy enterprise at an early age as a Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association member and coach of the Columbia county 4-H dairy judging team.

Although his dad was not active in the show ring, but knew good cattle, he encouraged Craig and his sister to fit their own cattle and even make breeding decisions at a young age.  

“By age 12 I had pretty much taken over our show program,” Craig says. “This served to further increase my interest in breeding good cattle.’”

As his interest in registered Holsteins grew, Craig began building a registered herd of his own while in college. 

Changing

“In 2004 we began taking a serious look at our operation and options for the future,” Craig remembers. “We had grown our herd and were switching cows in the 50 cow barn. (Note - Most of the herd expansion came through internal herd growth with few purchased animals.) By 2006, we were running cows from three barns through the old tie-stall facility and had to something. We were keeping cows as our cattle sales were increasing and space was at a premium. “

That something was a free stall barn followed by a Double 8 parlor a year later.  

"The building debt was shared by my father and I,” Craig says. “We finally had some space and the herd size moved to 420 cows where it remains. We have no plans to expand."

"The farm provides much of the forage for the herd with 500 acres owned or rented, but we do buy some extra forage from a neighbor and put up some high moisture corn in a silo," Craig says.  

Marketing

"We have been able to sell bulls to A,I companies, cows locally, heifers nationally and embryos worldwide," Craig explains.

Embryos have gone to many countries: Sweden, Norway, Japan, Portugal, Spain, New Zeeland an Australia among them.

“We just signed a contract to sell embryos to China,” Craig says. “The Chinese are beginning to purchase more embryos from the US - they have the land but not the breeding know-how.”
 
The large number of cattle and embryo sales did not happen all at once.  

“Buyers found out we had good genetics and that our cattle did well for them - and told other breeders who then bought from us,” he says.     

Two cows

Wargo Acres has long worked within Holstein US breed programs including the classification system that has resulted in a high number of Excellent cows including Wargo Acres Durham Dazzle EX 94 and Wargo Acres Melrose Ex 94 who set the stage for the current herd.

“These two cows were the basis of our herd with over half of our current herd  tracing back to these two cows," Craig explains.  

The herd classifies on a regular basis and has a current BAA of 108.2 with 52 Excellent cows, 165 scored Very Good, and 75 Good Plus.

The farm has received Progressive Breeders Registry honors for 17 years and earned the Progressive Genetic Herd award seven years. Thirty-nine cows bearing their prefix have obtained Gold Medal Dam recognition, as well as 17 Dams of Merit, and nine cows honored as National Elite Performers.
 
Fifty-three of their cows have produced 200,000 pounds of lifetime milk and 11 have produced over 300,000 pounds.

Using the best

“We use the best A.I bulls available,” Craig says. “Udders are most important followed by protein and product ion. First and foremost, our cows must be trouble free, profitable cows. Those cows will make daughters that we can work with. High genomic cows are almost always the most efficient producers as long as they have adequate health characteristics." 

Yes, Craig follows genomics closely.  

"We test our heifers with Zoetis and the test is very accurate. Breed genomic information is updated monthly and readily available on my computer," he says.  
 
The Wargo Acres herd is milked 3 times daily at 12:30 a.m.; 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.  with the milk going to Grande cheese. 
 
Carncross enjoys studying cattle genetics and using them to develop cattle that will produce milk and be marketable as live animals or embryos. 
 
Craig’s parents Gordon and Emily Carncross are still very active at Wargo Acres and Craig credits them and the farm employees - many who have been with the farm over 10 years - with helping achieve the success gained by the dairy.
 
Craig and his wife Jen are parents of Nolan (first grade) and Gavin (third grade) who are the next generation Wargo Acres dairymen growing up.

Yes, here are many young dairy producers in Wisconsin of which Craig Carncross is but one - a very good one!   
 
John Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications. He can be reached 
at 608-222-0624, or e-mail him at jfodairy2@gmail.com.

 

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