September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Making it onto the famed wall

Hendels humbled by recent induction into MLBA Hall of Fame
A freestall barn now houses the farm’s herd of 350 cows consisting of registered Holsteins and Brown Swiss. When Pam and Matt joined the operation in 1990, the Hendels milked a herd of 40 Brown Swiss. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
A freestall barn now houses the farm’s herd of 350 cows consisting of registered Holsteins and Brown Swiss. When Pam and Matt joined the operation in 1990, the Hendels milked a herd of 40 Brown Swiss. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

By By Krista Kuzma- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

CALEDONIA, Minn. - When Matt and Pam Hendel were in college at the University of Minnesota, they would pass by the wall in Haecker Hall displaying all the pictures of farmers who have been inducted into the Minnesota Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame.
"We never thought much about it at the time. They were people who bred good animals. They were people I looked up to," Matt said.
Now, over 25 years after walking that hall in college, the Hendels have joined the famed club, being inducted into the MLBA Hall of Fame earlier this year. Pam and Matt, who farm together with Matt's brother, Karl, milk 350 cows on their dairy near Caledonia, Minn. They have three daughters: Hannah, Lauren and Sydney.
"It was pretty humbling and a very nice honor," Pam said about being inducted.
Inductees into the MLBA Hall of Fame must fit certain criteria including, being an excellent breeder of purebred and commercial livestock; contributing to local, state and national organizations; serving as a leader in other organizations and contributing to youth programs. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, both Matt and Pam worked in the industry for a couple years before they joined Matt's family's farm in 1990. The next year, the couple formed a partnership with Matt's brother, Karl, on the dairy, which consisted of 40 registered Brown Swiss.
Since then, the Hendels have included registered Holsteins to their Brown Swiss herd. They focus their breeding around top genetics, which has allowed them to market their animals around the world.
"We like to breed profitable cows," Matt said. "We know we want to sell livestock across the country in different environments, so we use certain bulls that perform well in those areas."
So far, the Hendels have sold over 100 bulls to dairy genetics companies, along with females and embryos throughout the United States and to several countries. Currently, one of the bulls from the Hendels' farm is the second highest in Japan, Matt said.
In order to do this, Matt tries to balance his breeding program for cows have good health traits and high production.
"It's sometimes difficult because these two [traits] work against each other, but we've been slowly progressing," he said.
Many of the successful Holstein families in the Hendels' herd stem back to animals from other Minnesota dairies from the Czech, Glende and Marti families.
"You can get into a cow family once, but what you do with them afterward affects the herd," Matt said.
Matt also blends different breeding philosophies, using bulls he likes, but also bulls that other people like.
"In order to keep up with market demand, you have to watch for what people want," he said.
Their Brown Swiss rolling herd average on two-time-a-day milking is 22,500 pounds of milk with 1,008 pounds of fat at 4.4 percent and 770 pounds of protein at 3.4 percent. The Holsteins average 28,000 pounds of milk with 1,100 pounds of fat at 3.9 percent and 870 pounds of protein at 3.1 percent.
"Genetics is a tough business, especially now with genomics. You have to take some risks to do well. And it's a bit of luck, too," Pam said. "It's a lot of work, but it can be rewarding. We hope we can keep up with the pace because genetics have changed in the last few years."
But they don't rely on their own research about what bulls work.
"We talk to a lot of people in the industry about what they've seen," said Pam, who also works full-time off the farm as a regional sales manager for Accelerated Genetics.
Talking with others helps keep them informed about breeding trends and topics in the dairy industry.
"We find out what is happening around the world," Pam said. "You have to keep yourself educated and open minded."
Beyond genetics, the Hendels try to keep up to date on all practices in the dairy industry.
"We try to do a good job in every area we can. We are lucky to have good employees working for us," Matt said. "Every aspect is important in order to take good care of the cows, which is the ultimate goal."
While working towards their ultimate goal, the Hendels didn't think it would earn them a spot on the wall featuring all the farmers in the MLBA Hall of Fame.
"It's a big honor for us," Matt said. "And hopefully we do a better job for the next generation to continue in the future."
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