January 26, 2023 at 4:47 p.m.
Breeding Profile

Breeding for higher type helps Ulrich meet evolving goals

Levi Ulrich kneels in front of his cows on his Price County dairy farm near Ogema, Wisconsin. Ulrich milks 24 Jersey cows. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Levi Ulrich kneels in front of his cows on his Price County dairy farm near Ogema, Wisconsin. Ulrich milks 24 Jersey cows. PHOTO SUBMITTED

Levi Ulrich
Crowncrest Jerseys
Ogema, Wisconsin
Pierce County
24 cows

Describe your facilities and list your breeding management team. I have a tiestall facility. Cows are housed in stalls, and heifers are in packs and pens. I handle all of the management of my breeding program myself but work closely with my vet and my nutritionist to make sure the cows have everything they need to be reproductively sound and efficient.

What is your reproduction program? I typically try to breed everything off natural heats. It seems I get the best results that way. If I have a certain animal I am having trouble getting bred, and she is getting a bit far out, I will use a fertility program. I will also try to synchronize if I am aiming for certain dates for potential show calves. Everything is bred using A.I.

Describe your breeding philosophy. I try to make mating decisions with corrective mating in mind. I breed cows to bulls that I believe will improve on their faults. My main emphasis is on sound, functional type.

What guidelines do you follow to reach the goals for your breeding program? I don’t really follow set guidelines. I spend time looking through other herds, seeing what other breeders are doing and how certain bulls are crossing on different cows. I use that information to help determine how those bulls might complement my own cows. Going to shows and seeing daughters of many different bulls helps make those decisions too. I also belong to social media groups where breeding dairy cattle, particularly Jerseys, is the topic.

What are the top traits you look for in breeding your dairy herd and how has this changed since you started farming? I have always placed an emphasis on hard tops, wide chests, correct feet and legs, spring of rib, good rumps and especially high, tight udders. If anything has changed, I breed for a higher-type cow than I used to, working to meet the changing goals I have set for myself.

What are certain traits you try to avoid? I avoid the opposites of the traits that are in my goal set: weak loins, narrow chests, sickled legs, shallow and tight rib, extremely high or low pins, and poor udder traits.

Describe the ideal cow for your herd. My ideal cow is one that will be around for a long time, 10 years or more. She has to be bred correctly to last that long, meaning she is not falling apart and that her top remains strong. She must have great width to withstand years of production and consume the forage she needs. Her udder must remain above her hocks as she ages. Her feet and legs are correct and allow for trouble-free mobility.

What role does genetics have in reaching the goals of your farm? Genetics play a huge role in the goals I have set for my herd. Without working to improve each generation, you are sitting idle with nothing changing positively. To me, that is never a good thing.

What percentage of your herd is bred to sexed, conventional and beef semen? On average, I use about 50% conventional and 50% sexed semen. Maybe 30% of the herd gets bred to beef. I am hoping to begin doing some embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization work on some of my top cows in the near future.

What is your conception rate? How does this differ with different types of semen? My conception rate is about 90%-95% on everything. Working with my nutritionist to make sure the vitamins and minerals in my ration are up to par; having the vet check cows right away when I am suspecting an issue; and breeding mostly off of natural heats are what make that possible for me.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned through your breeding program? The key to developing the best genetics for your herd are working with really good cow families. That is so important in my opinion.

What is the age of your heifers at first service? I evaluate my heifers individually to determine when to breed. I’ve bred heifers as young as 12 months and as old as 18 months. I’ll typically try to grow them to start breeding at 14 months.

How does your heifer inventory affect your breeding program? I try not to have a huge inventory of heifers. Everyone knows that they are not cheap to raise. That is why I started breeding some of my low-end cows to beef and will probably up that percentage. The heifers I do have and keep are of a higher quality, and I want and need them to add value to my breeding program.

Tell us about your farm. I own Crowncrest Jerseys, which is a small herd of registered Jerseys with a show-type focus. My barn holds 24 cows, but I currently have 18. I have two cows scored EX-94, one EX-93, one EX-92, one EX-91, three EX-90, two VG-88, four VG-87, two VG-85 and two unscored 2-year-olds. I buy all my feed and graze when I can. I’m not located in the greatest area to farm. It is not convenient here, especially business-wise. My goal right now is to find a larger facility to double my herd size in the Medford-Dorchester-Curtis area to get into a larger farming community that would allow me more options, opportunities and conveniences close by.        


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