Their Holstein family

Timmers win PDCA Distinguished Breeder Award

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ELLSWORTH, Minn. — Matt Timmer has devoted more than 20 years of his life to breeding Holstein cows. And recently, his and his family’s dedication to their herd’s genetics has garnered attention.

Timmer, and his wife, Polly, and their children, Jacob and Aiden, of Mat-Ar-Dor Holsteins, were chosen for a Distinguished Breeder Award from the Minnesota Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. The Timmers were among three dairy farms recognized this year.

“I didn’t set out to receive any awards,” Timmer said. “I just breed cows because I like milking cows. It was a great honor to be selected since I was not expecting anything.”

The Timmers milk 45 registered Holsteins and Red & White Holsteins near Ellsworth. In addition, Timmer works at a neighboring dairy farm. 

“We started breeding cows for type and show,” Timmer said. “We are still trying to push for type with more incentive on components.”

Home of more than 30 Excellent cows, Mat-Ar-Dor Holsteins has a BAA of 111.3. The farm has a rolling herd average of 26,500 pounds of milk with a 4.4% butterfat test and 3.3% protein.

“We’ve been trying to achieve better components through feeding different byproducts, cow care and cow comfort,” Timmer said. “Plus, our genetics are starting to show up in that area.”

While they might focus more on milk production and components now than they used to, the Timmers continue to consider traits like snug udders and sound feet and legs.

“We never really paid a lot of attention to it, and now it’s kind of more in the forefront,” Timmer said. “In the early days, we’d sacrifice production for type, but they are getting some bulls that can do both.”

The Timmers have also been genomic testing their heifers to help with mating decisions.

One cow set their program in motion.

“Mat-Ar-Dor Vent Cut B3941-RED was 92 points, and she was the cow that got us into the Reds and showing,” Timmer said. “When she came around, we were offered some money to sell her but decided not to. We have been able to sell offspring out of her and keep breeding out of the cow family, so it’s cool to refer back to the Red cow. She is still relevant.”

Another cow family that can be found on the farm stems from the late Mat-Ar-Dor Lheros Kory B202 EX-94, the farm’s first 94-point homebred cow.

“I’m pretty proud of that cow and have a lot of offspring from her,” Timmer said.

Timmer said 50% of the herd goes back to those two foundation cows, resulting in offspring with the structural and production traits Timmer strives for.

To maintain good genetics, Timmer does his research on the sires he considers using.

“Sire stack is one of the biggest things,” Timmer said. “I make sure that multiple generations of Very Good or Excellent dams are behind them. Then, I just have to match up the right bull with the right cow, keeping in mind all the different functions and production traits.”

When new sires are released, Timmer sorts the list to find sires with traits he desires. For the Red and White Holsteins, which comprise about 30% of the herd, he uses about three sires for six months along with a handful of Holstein sires.

“Sires come out very regularly, cow families are prevalent, and a lot of families produce good bulls, so I just look through it and start matching,” Timmer said.

Timmer said there are many things he and his family enjoy about cows. He especially appreciates that he and Jacob share the same excitement for high-quality cattle.

“We are both passionate and feed off each other,” Timmer said. “We buy a new cow every once in a while and, after a month, enjoy exchanging what we like and what we don’t like about her.”

Jacob and Aiden are active in 4-H. Timmer leases cattle to nieces and nephews and two families that have expressed an interest in showing.

“My oldest son is getting pretty good with the clippers, so he will help them get the cow fit for the show, milk her and wash her,” Timmer said. “The kids that come around and help love showing the calves, so it’s pretty fun.”

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