March 1, 2021 at 7:52 p.m.
Breeding Focus

Bred & Butter Dairy emphasizes genetics to improve herd potential

Tony (left) and Greg Sabolik manage the breeding on Sabolik’s family’s farm, Bred & Butter Dairy LLC, near Kensington, Minnesota. Tony is the head breeder on the 500-cow dairy. PHOTO BY DANNA SABOLIK
Tony (left) and Greg Sabolik manage the breeding on Sabolik’s family’s farm, Bred & Butter Dairy LLC, near Kensington, Minnesota. Tony is the head breeder on the 500-cow dairy. PHOTO BY DANNA SABOLIK

Bred & Butter Dairy LLC
Greg Sabolik
Kensington, Minnesota
500 cows

Describe your facilities and list your breeding management team. We have a 500-cow sand-bedded freestall that has grown in three stages. We have one key employee, Tony, primarily dedicated to reproduction while a few others dedicate a small amount of time to it as well.

What is your reproduction program? Do you use a synchronization program? How do you get animals pregnant? We use a combination of ovsynch, double ovsynch and activity monitors. We use the protocols and then listen to what the cow is telling us based off the monitor data. It has been very effective.

What guidelines do you follow to reach the goals for your breeding program? We stick to the basics by making sure she is in good health, well fed and under the least amount of stress as possible. If all those are accounted for, the reproduction will fall into place.

What are the top traits you look for in breeding your dairy herd and how has this changed since you started farming? I never have put that much emphasis on traits. I typically fall back to net merit if I had to choose one specific thing.

What are certain traits you try to avoid? We avoid any trait that will drastically reduce the physical size of my cows and any trait that increases her level of orneriness. I don’t like cranky cows.

Describe the ideal cow for your herd. The ideal cow is one I see outside the parlor three times per year. Once at calving, once at breeding and once at dry off. If she can come to work every day and not need any extra attention, she will be profitable.

What role does genetics have in reaching the goals of your farm? We have placed more emphasis on genetics and have started to genomic test every animal. We’re hoping this will escalate the improvements in our genetic potential over the coming years.

What percentage of your herd is bred to sexed, conventional and beef semen? We use sexed semen on our females with the highest genetic potential. We try to manage that usage to produce a heifer rate of about 75% of our herd. We don’t want any more heifers than we need, so we aim to get the right amount to keep our herd productive and healthy. All other cows get bred to beef semen or implanted with Angus embryos.

What is your conception rate? How does this differ with different types of semen? Our conception rate on sexed is 61% and is 56% for beef semen. We haven’t had nearly as good of results implanting embryos but are in the learning stages of that.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned through your breeding program? It’s important to utilize all technology available and become an early adapter to it. What we’ve learned and the tools available now are nothing short of amazing compared to what it was when I was growing up and even when I started dairying.

What is the age of your heifers at first service? We target a 13.5-to-14-month age for our first service on heifers.

How does your heifer inventory affect your breeding program? We try to produce a 75% heifer rate. We don’t want any more than we need.

Tell us about your farm. Bred & Butter Dairy LLC is owned and operated by the Sabolik family, including my wife, Marisa, and brother and his wife, Gary and Beth. We are entering our third generation, with seven children between the four of us. The farm started in 1968 by my parents, Arlen and Ruby, with 36 cows and has grown to its present size of 500. We strive to be the best stewards of the land, caretakers of our animals, and foster a culture that brings out the best in all our family and employees.


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