September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Her full name is Hazel-Bush Flap Flower, and she has blossomed into quite the all-around cow. Holstein Association USA recently announced that the 6-year-old is its "Star of the Breed" for 2011.
Flower's owner, 22-year-old Beth Nelson, who works on her parents' farm near Blair, Wis., is pleased and surprised by the honor. Beth said Flower stood out from among the rest of the calves at the 2007 Barron County Spring Classic.
"I really wanted to do well at the state fair that year, and wanted to buy a nice show heifer," Beth said. "She was exceedingly big for her age and had a lot of type, a feminine head and neck, and lots of rib. Just really high dairy quality and really nice feet and legs."
Admittedly, buying a 9-month-old calf can be a bit of a gamble. For one thing, Flower did not have a pedigree. Her breeder, Hazel Bush Farms in Rice Lake, Wis., did not classify its cows, according to Beth. The farm was on test, but Flower had "just average milk production behind her," Beth said.
Nevertheless, Beth liked the calf so much that she went over budget to buy Flower. She had $2,500 budgeted, but ended up paying $3,100.
"I had to have her," Beth said. "I remember, I kind of looked at my dad. 'Please?'"
At first, Beth fibbed to her mom about the cost of the calf when they arrived home.
"I said I paid $2,500," Beth recalled with a laugh. "It's not a lot by any means, but it was a lot for me at the time."
During her first lactation, Flower began to hint at her value. In 305 days, and with no BST, the cow made roughly 26,500 pounds of milk. Flower began to bloom even more in her second lactation, when she produced close to 30,000 pounds.
But it was last year, during Flower's third lactation, the Nelsons began to suspect Beth had made a pretty good investment.
"We tested her when she was 10 days fresh, and she was at 142 pounds," Beth said.
Flower ended up with a 305-day lactation of 49,800 pounds. For a full 365 days, she pumped out milk to the tune of 59,160 pounds. Her "Star of the Breed" award is based partly on the 365-day number.
But the award is not for milk production alone. Instead, it's for all-around performance - sort of like baseball's all-star awards.
According to Holstein Association USA, excellence in the show-ring also factors in. To be considered for the star of the breed award, a cow must place in the top five in her class at a national Holstein show during the award year. She must also be in a herd that's enrolled in the association's TriStar program, and she must possess an official classification score.
When the eligible cows are identified, the results of this calculation decide the winner: combined mature equivalent fat and protein plus the cow's age-adjusted classification score, multiplied by the breed average mature equivalent combined fat and protein/breed average age-adjusted classification score.
Along with her 59,160 pounds of milk, Flower produced 2,471 pounds of fat (a 4.2 percent fat test) and 1,744 pounds of protein (a 2.9 percent protein test). The 2011 star of the breed is classified Excellent 92, earning an "excellent" rating in all five categories. She scored the maximum 50 points in rear udder height and rear udder width.
Last year, Flower was the third-place 5-year-old at the Midwest Spring National Holstein Show. She also placed third at the Mid-East Fall National Holstein Show. Her sire is My-John Free Flap-ET, and her dam is Hazel-Bush Delaware Dixie.
Flower is the highest-producing cow the Nelsons have ever had. A few others cracked the 40,000-pound mark.
The Nelsons are milking 155 cows. About 30 percent of the herd is registered. Besides the Holsteins, they own registered Brown Swiss and Jerseys.
Not so long ago, the herd was all grade. But that began to change when Beth was 16. She bought a registered springing heifer to show at the Wisconsin State Fair. Beth had been showing grade cattle at the Trempealeau County Fair, but wanted to see what it was like to lead registered animals in the ring.
Now the Nelsons have close to 50 registered Holsteins. Beth said any replacements her dad buys are now always registered.
Lee Nelson agreed with his daughter that raising and showing registered cattle adds another dimension to dairying.
"It's a little more than just milking cows," Lee said.
Said Beth, "I like looking at a cow and knowing she's out of a certain bull, and that I have heifers out of certain bulls. It makes it a lot more fun."
Beth did not know much about the business of registered cattle until she bought that first calf six years ago. She learned from friends about pedigrees, the different bulls, and "what makes a good dairy cow - longevity and whatnot," she said.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course graduate, Beth works on her parents' farm and is the main milker, being in the double-10 parabone parlor for 13 out of the 14 weekly milkings. The other milker any particular day might be her mom or dad, a neighbor or a cousin.
Besides Flower, the entire Nelson herd - all three breeds - is performing well. The family estimated the DHIA rolling herd average at approximately 24,500 pounds of milk, 900 pounds of fat, and 800 pounds of protein. AgSource recognized the Nelson herd for the high quality milk it produced in 2011. The herd somatic cell count (SCC) measured a low 98,000.
Beth's long-term goal is to farm with her parents or on her own, and build a registered herd. She has gotten two heifer calves out of Flower and hopes for more. The Holstein Star of the Breed might end up being her foundation cow, Beth said.
The Nelsons have two daughters, Gena and Sara, who are older than Beth. Both have their own careers off the farm.
As to why she became interested in dairying as a career, Beth said, "I'm the only one who didn't care about getting dirty. And I like cows."
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