Encouraging engagement

Clark County Holstein Breeders Association hosts competition

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MERRILLAN, Wis. — With a desire to increase engagement in activities of the Clark County Holstein Breeders Association, Joe Meyer took a page from the book of his Canadian counterparts and spearheaded a herd competition for Holstein breeders.

“Our association is getting smaller as time goes on,” Meyer said. “To continue to keep that smaller membership engaged, increasing opportunities for involvement is vital.”

Meyer operates Badger Holsteins near Unity alongside his family.

Meyer became aware of several counties in Ontario that hosted on-farm herd competitions. That ignited an idea for Meyer. He began setting the wheels in motion to hold the county’s first-ever Breeders Cup competition.

Members of the organization were invited to make a single entry in each of three classes of cows — first lactation, second lactation and three or more lactations — for an entry fee of $10 per cow.

The rules stipulated that the cow must be owned by a member of the association and be bred and housed within Clark County. Cows were not to have been exhibited at any show during 2023. Placings were based on conformation.

“There are a lot of good cows that never leave the farm for a variety of reasons,” Meyer said. “They deserve to be recognized, and their breeders deserve the recognition for those cows as well.”

The announcement of the contest caught the eye of Roger Turner, global sales and genetic manager of Jetstream Genetics, prompting the company to sponsor the contest.

“I’ve judged contests like this in Australia and find them to be great things for the breeders who take part,” Turner said. “In every aspect, from encouraging participation in the local organization and keeping it vital to recognizing great cows, it’s a positive experience.”

Six breeders entered 14 cows in the inaugural contest. Participants included Badger Holsteins of Unity; Hornland Farms, Jeremiah Hagen and Kaiser Farms, all of Loyal; Echowood Holsteins of Neillsville; and Selz-Pralle Dairy of Humbird.

The judging took place Feb. 7. The Clark County Holstein Breeders Association invited fellow Wisconsin Holstein breeder Mark Rueth, of Rosedale Genetics in Oxford, to evaluate their cows.

Rueth traveled to central Wisconsin and spent the day visiting the five farms, evaluating the entrants. Although he was familiar with the competitions held in Ontario and abroad, Rueth said he had never been involved with one himself.

An accomplished dairy cattle breeder and judge, Rueth put a great deal of thought into approaching his first experience judging a herd competition.

“I took a lot of notes about each cow — what I liked about her, what I might change about her — and took photos of each cow with my phone to help jog my memory,” Rueth said. “It’s been a great experience, judging the cows like this.”

After Rueth concluded his on-farm evaluations, the winners were announced March 20 at the Clark County Holstein Breeders Association annual meeting in Merrillan.

Winning the class of first-lactation cows was AM-Kaiser Hancock Abby, the entry of Kaiser Farms. She was followed by the entry of Echowood Holsteins.

“The winning cow is a beautiful-uddered cow that is milking well on a robot farm,” Rueth said. “She has great width and dairyness. She uses that incredible udder to place over the second cow. She has a higher, wider rear udder and is more correct in the size, shape and placement of her teats.”

Rueth admired the second-place cow for her frame and balance.

“She uses her power and upstandingness to go over a beautiful cow in third,” Rueth said. “The cow in third looks like she milks well and does it with a beautiful udder.”

The third-place cow in the class was entered by Badger Holsteins, followed by the entries of Selz-Pralle Dairy and Hornland Farms.

The class of second lactation cows was topped by Joliam Acme 5930, an entry of Selz-Pralle Dairy, followed by the entry of Badger Holsteins.

“A pair of nice, beautiful-uddered cows topped this class,” Rueth said. “I find it a close placing, giving the advantage to our first cow in dairyness and the depth and openness of rib structure. Our first cow’s udder is tighter and longer in her fore udder. She is harder on the top in the loin area.”

Rueth granted that the second-place cow was more sound on her rear legs walking on concrete.

“The second cow places over the third on the volume of udder and maturity of her frame,” Rueth said. “She is higher and wider in the rear udder and shows more width and flatness over her rump. I like the cow in third; she just needs to calve again.”

The third-place entry was made by Echowood Holsteins and the fourth came from Hornland Farms.

In the mature cow class, the winning cow was MLTU Glitter-Red-ET, the entry of Jeremiah Hagen. She was followed by the entry of Selz-Pralle Dairy.

“A stylish red cow wins the older cow class,” Rueth said. “She has had four calves and has a beautiful udder with lots of style to her frame. She uses that style and udder to go over the tremendous, open-rib dairy cow in second. With one more lactation, the red cow shows more balance to her frame and udder, with a little more width to her pins in a close placing.”

The second-place cow used that advantage of mammary system to place over the third-place cow, entered by Hornland Farms, according to Rueth. The fourth- and fifth-place cows were entered by Echowood Holsteins and Badger Dairy, respectively.

Rueth said the contest was a great addition for Clark County Holstein enthusiasts.

“It’s a great idea to get the members interested and involved in the activity,” Rueth said. “I’m really enjoying visiting these farms, seeing these cows that are among their favorites. Any time you can talk about cows with other people, it’s a good day.”

According to Meyer, plans are underway for the second Breeders Cup event to be held in 2025.

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