Sharing quality genetics with the world

Bindl implants embryos in Africa

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PLYMOUTH, Wis. – Last month, on a dairy farm more than 8,000 miles from his home near Plymouth, Dr. Kent Bindl did something not previously done in that region before. He implanted the first bovine embryos in the country of Tanzania, Africa.
Shafa Agra Dairy is hoping these embryos will help them reach their goals of improving efficiency and sustainability as they strive to create a higher quality, longer lasting, more productive cow.
“Shafa Dairy is very excited about the possibilities and is creating the infrastructure to make it happen,” Bindl said. “Shafa is a progressive organization extremely focused on increasing production to improve sustainability as they try to meet the demands of feeding their country.”
Bindl is one of the practice owners at Dairy Doctors Veterinary Services in Plymouth. Certified by the American Embryo Transfer Association, he has performed embryo transfer since 2005. Departing on the two-week trip to Africa June 5, Bindl was delighted to share the experience with his oldest daughter, Ella.
“We left on the day of Ella’s graduation from Plymouth High School,” Bindl said. “As soon as she gave her student council speech and turned her tassel around, we headed to the airport.”
After four plane rides while crossing eight time zones and stops in two continents, the pair reached their final destination. The Bindls spent five days on the dairy, performing embryo work in the mornings while afternoons were devoted to consulting.
The embryos came from Ever-Green-View Dairy near Waldo, which is owned and operated by Tom and Gin Kestell and their son, Chris, and his wife, Jennifer. Having shipped more than 30,000 embryos overseas, the Kestells’ involvement with the international embryo market is extensive. In 30 years’ time, Kestells’ sought-after genetics have reached more than 30 countries from China to Russia to Thailand to countries in Europe.
“Embryo export is another dimension to our business of producing milk,” Tom Kestell said. “We take it as our mission to help the world, as many countries do not have access to the technology, good land and other resources that we have in the U.S. When doing business with farmers in other countries, we also try to teach them the management and agronomy skills it takes to support modern genetics.”
Cows at Ever-Green-View Dairy excel in both production and type. With a 45,000-pound herd average, the 130-cow registered Holstein herd is the highest producing in the world. The farm has a BAA of 111.7, making it No. 1 in the country for herds of that size. Ever-Green-View Dairy has won the Herd of Excellence award 12 times – the most of any herd in the nation. In addition, the Kestells emphasize health traits and components in their breeding – features found important by the countries they do business with.  
“We give our customers a good base to work with,” Kestell said. “An old friend once told me, ‘Never promise more than you can deliver, and always deliver more than you promised.’ And, I try to do that.”
Shafa Agra Dairy has been in business since 2019 and is family owned under the umbrella of the Shafa Group, which is located in Dubai and includes other divisions such as construction.  
About 70 sexed female embryos were implanted into cows at the dairy, and all of the embryos came from cows scored Very Good or Excellent.
“We coordinated the trip with Tanzania’s winter to try to increase conception rates,” Bindl said.
Bindl enjoyed 75-degree days and 60-degree nights while in Africa. Bindl helped the on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Ibrahim, learn the process of implanting embryos so he can continue the work Bindl started. In the future, Ibrahim will be responsible for implanting embryos on the dairy.
Currently, cows at Shafa Agra Dairy average 70 pounds of milk per day. Bindl said their goal is to try and match production in the U.S. and get closer to 90 or 100 pounds of milk. The farm uses modern feed mixers and have bunkers for storing feed and a mill for storing dry corn. They do not raise alfalfa but instead grow grass for forage and also feed soybean for protein.
Africa is not the farthest Bindl’s work has ever taken him. In 2016, Bindl, who grew up on a small dairy farm in southeast Wisconsin, traveled to Siberia – going through 12 time zones to implant embryos. And in 2019, he went to Dubai for the same reason.
“Saying yes to this opportunity has allowed me to see parts of the world I never dreamed of,” Bindl said. “I’ve been really fortunate to have Tom, a leader in exporting bovine genetics, entrusting me with his product to create pregnancies and help build a successful market for him.”
Bindl has been Kestell’s herd veterinarian for more than 15 years and instrumental in helping Kestell expand his reach to other areas.
“Many foreign countries do not have people qualified to put in embryos, so you have to send in someone who is knowledgeable and personable as well as someone who is a good teacher, listener and observer and is willing to go there and do the work,” Kestell said. “Kent is all of those things. He has been to three vastly different areas implanting embryos on my behalf, and I really appreciate his willingness to do this work.”
Kestell often travels to the farms that purchase his genetics and has been to Russia and China several times and has plans to visit Tanzania this winter.
“It’s not hands off after we sell embryos or live cattle,” he said. “We try to be involved. We want to continue making contacts to develop new markets. It can be very stressful, but to me, it’s been well worth it.”
In his consulting work at Shafa Agra Dairy, Bindl started from the ground up with day-old calves through lactating cows, following each group of animals through the different stages of life and lactation while examining every aspect from treatments to housing to vaccinations.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel; they have a lot of expertise and know what they’re doing, but I offered a fresh set of eyes and perhaps a different approach of doing things,” Bindl said.
At Shafa Agra Dairy, cows are milked in a double-12 parlor and housed in a 500-cow freestall barn. They are in the process of building another barn and expanding to 1,000 cows. All of the farm’s milk goes to fluid sales, which Bindl said is fairly common in the region as demand cannot be met. The dairy is putting in a bottling facility and is going to sell milk directly, a venture that coincides with their upcoming expansion.
“There is really good water at this location, which is why the Shafa Group decided on purchasing this particular farm,” Bindl said. “It is a beautiful dairy, and the 4-row, natural-ventilated freestall barn was like one I could find anywhere in my practice.”
Labor is plentiful in the area, and as a result, the dairy utilizes about twice as much labor per cow compared to farms in the U.S., Bindl said. In rural Tanzania, working for the dairy is considered a premier job. Giving back to the community is also important to Shafa Agra Dairy, which is sponsoring desks, books, paper and teachers for the local school.
“No matter where I’ve been, dairy farmers are so similar across the globe,” Bindl said. “They’re good, honest, hardworking people who are passionate about what they do. They want to create a good product and have faith in that product as they help feed their country. The quality of people I meet and exposure to different cultures is one of the highlights of all these trips.”
Once his work at the dairy was completed, Bindl and his daughter went on a four-night safari at a local national park.
“It’s crazy where the Holstein cow can take you,” Bindl said. “I’m really fortunate to be in this profession.”


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