November 14, 2020 at 5:48 p.m.

A great Brown Swiss Christmas

Portners provide calf for Dairy Star giveaway
Port-Haven Silvers Jordana, a 2-month-old Brown Swiss calf, is one of the grand prizes in The Great Christmas Giveaway. Jordana comes from the Portner family, who milks 280 cows near Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
Port-Haven Silvers Jordana, a 2-month-old Brown Swiss calf, is one of the grand prizes in The Great Christmas Giveaway. Jordana comes from the Portner family, who milks 280 cows near Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA

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

    SLEEPY EYE, Minn. – Tom and Mary Portner admit the cow family of their 2-month-old calf, Port-Haven Silvers Jordana, is not always at the forefront of their mind; however, the Portners appreciate having these animals as part of their herd to create a solid foundation.
    “It’s a cow family that is doing well, but you don’t know is there,” Mary said. “You don’t have to worry about them. They’re not on the top of your list of sick cows. They’re the wonderful silent constants. Every herd should have a whole pile of them.”
    The Portners are excited to give a young person the opportunity to share in this cow family’s genetics. Jordana is one of the grand prizes in The Great Christmas Giveaway 2020 in the 17 and under category.
    “I hope she ends up in a herd that can appreciate a good quality Brown Swiss calf, whether it is a Brown Swiss herd, Holstein herd or herd with other breeds,” Tom said.
    Tom and Mary farm together with Tom’s brother, Mark, on their 280-cow Brown Swiss dairy in Brown County near Sleepy Eye.
    “We’re more of a commercial production herd but still like good looking cows,” Tom said. “We’ve been a high production herd over the years. That’s important to us because we want to be able to pay our bills.”  
    That is why Jordana and her cow family fit so well in the Portner herd. They follow the family’s breeding philosophy with animals that are good quality type that can milk well.
    “She has a nice frame and looks like a uniform structured animal,” Tom said. “Her sire is a bull that has decent production and has good type.”
    The Portners also like the calf’s demeanor.
    “She appears to be gentle,” Mary said. “I think that says a lot about the way we handle our livestock.”
    Jordana, born Sept. 7, is an LA Rainbow Sweet Silver ET daughter with a net merit dollar value of 282 and 130 progressive performance ranking in the Brown Swiss breed. Her dam is Port-Haven Treasury Jodi, a cow scored Very Good 85 with a 305-day first lactation record of 20,920 pounds of milk with 878 pounds of fat (4.2%) and 713 pounds of protein (3.4%). Now in her second lactation, Jodi recorded 112 pounds of milk for the most recent DHIA testing. She will be rescored in December.
    “I think she’ll go higher (than VG 85),” Tom said. “She’s got an 85-point mammary, and I think she can improve on that.”
    Jordana’s granddam, Cie Port-Haven Payslis 1638, is scored Very Good 87 and is milking in the herd as a 6-year-old with a lifetime milk record just over 100,000 pounds. Her great-granddam, IE Port-Haven Prontos 1024, was scored Very Good 85 and lived to be 7 years old with a lifetime production record of 171,689 pounds of milk with 5.5% fat and 3.8% protein. In 2016, this cow won the Minnesota Brown Swiss 2X production award in the 5-year-old category with a 305-day record of 31,996 pounds of milk, 1,842 pounds of fat and 1,218 pounds of protein. Energy corrected milk was 43,086 pounds.
    “They’re not necessarily the top show type,” Tom said. “But they’re good quality animals.”
    The cows have always been a favorite part of farming for Tom.  
    “I love the challenge of having Brown Swiss and the opportunity to compete with the rest of the dairy industry at a high level,” he said.
    For Mary, the variety of dairy farming keeps it interesting for her.
    “Every day is different,” she said. “If I had to go to an office and do the same thing every day, I wouldn’t last very long. I like to say I’m the jack of all trades and a master at nothing.”
    In one day, Mary can switch roles many times – from milker, to accountant, to human resources to cook, among others.
    This winter, their daughter, Isabella, 22, will be graduating from Iowa State University and returning to work at the dairy. Their other daughters, Boston, 27, and Sabrina, 23, work off the farm while Crystal, 20, is a junior in college and Sophia, 17, is a high school senior.
    In preparation for her return to the dairy, Isabella has been helping her parents and uncle with management of replacement heifers.
     “We’ve decided we have ballooned over our facilities and now is not the optimum time to put capital investment in more facilities,” Mary said. “Tom and Isabella have been very busy this summer. They’ve sorted through all the animals and created a list of animals to be sold.”
    Every animal is genomic tested as a calf.
    “So we have some new things coming out for us to draw Isabella into it,” Mary said. “She and Tom are developing new things for the farm since we’re at maximum capacity and need to make decisions.”
    While the Portners would love to keep Jordana in order to add another animal with a solid pedigree of combined type and production to their herd, they are excited for a dairy youth to win Jordana to create their own Brown Swiss foundation.

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