This lineup of cows at the McCullough farm – (from left) Rock-N-Hill-II Absolute Cami, Rock-N-Hill-II Phoenix Cosmo, Rock-N-Hill-II Atwood Biscuit, Rock-N-Hill-II Hero Cinnabon-ET, Rock-N-Hill-II Sid Winnie, Rock-N-Hill-II Absolute Shiny, Glenn-Ann Doorman Bootie, Rock-N-Hill-II Roy Casey and Rock-N-Hill-II Phoenix Shaboom – are scored EX-94.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LEA JORDAN
This lineup of cows at the McCullough farm – (from left) Rock-N-Hill-II Absolute Cami, Rock-N-Hill-II Phoenix Cosmo, Rock-N-Hill-II Atwood Biscuit, Rock-N-Hill-II Hero Cinnabon-ET, Rock-N-Hill-II Sid Winnie, Rock-N-Hill-II Absolute Shiny, Glenn-Ann Doorman Bootie, Rock-N-Hill-II Roy Casey and Rock-N-Hill-II Phoenix Shaboom – are scored EX-94. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEA JORDAN
JUDA, Wis. – On Oct. 10, the McCullough family added two more cows to their EX-94 club, bringing the total to nine. These cows make up nearly 20% of the herd at Rock-N-Hill-II Holsteins, and all but one is homebred.
“It’s a nice accomplishment, but I actually get more excited about a 3-year-old scoring 91 or 92,” Chris McCullough said.  
Chris and Kathie McCullough and their children, Rachel and Brian, milk 50 cows and farm 185 acres near Juda. Registered Holsteins are at the center of the McCulloughs’ world where constant improvement has been the name of the game since 1994 when Chris and Kathie started Rock-N-Hill-II in partnership with Chris’ parents, Mike and Marcy. Smart breeding decisions helped accelerate the quality of their herd which now contains 37 Excellent and 17 Very Good cows earning a BAA of 113.2.
“I didn’t do this by myself,” Chris said. “It’s very much a family effort.”  
Rachel, 22, and Brian, 20, share their parents’ passion for the registered Holstein and devote countless hours to helping care for the farm’s cattle. Rachel returned to the farm full time two years ago after completing the farm and industry short course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I would put Rachel up against any cow man,” Chris said. “She has a great eye for cattle and knows every detail about our cows by heart. If I want to know when a cow calved or when she was last bred and to who, I ask Rachel.”  
Kathie agreed.
“Reproduction is Rachel’s specialty,” Kathie said. “She’s very into breeding.”
Brian is working on an electrician apprenticeship while also helping on the farm. In addition, Brian’s fitting skills are being utilized by high-profile farms where he clips cattle for the showring and classification.
 “Our kids have heated arguments over what bull to breed a cow to instead of the normal stuff kids fight about,” Chris said.
After their most recent classification, the McCulloughs added 14 Excellent cows to their herd. Cows scored Excellent are in the majority at Rock-N-Hill-II, with three-quarters of the barn boasting a score of 90 points or higher.
“The first time we scored here, we had one Excellent from my dad’s place and three Very Goods,” Chris said. “The rest were lower. Now, we have strong maternal lines and are working with multiple generations of high-scoring cows so it’s easier. Instead of trying to turn an 81-point cow into a 90-point cow, we’re working with 90-point animals to begin with. Colleen was our first 94-point cow. She helped put us on the map.”
The oldest EX-94 gal on the McCullough farm is 12-year-old Casey. Cows at Rock-N-Hill-II age well as many of the best scored cows in the barn are 5 years old and above.
“Our goal has always been to improve, so to have that many EX-94 cows in the barn at once is a big deal to us,” Kathie said.
Tall, long, angular, deep-bodied, large-framed dairy cows fill every stall of the barn. Pedigrees are stacked in this homebred herd where each cow’s placard reveals generations of rich type. In many cases, Excellent-scored cattle extend five or six layers deep.
“There are only two cows in the barn without our prefix,” Chris said.
The McCulloughs have bred 155 Excellent animals, including 25 cows scored EX-94 and one scored EX-95. Their philosophy of making each generation better than the last has proven successful in producing cows of this caliber.
“Our goal is to make the daughter better than the mother,” Chris said. “It’s hard to look at your best cows and say, ‘We need to fix this on her.’ But, you can’t make the next generation better if you can’t figure out what’s wrong with the current generation. Just because you have a high-scoring or show-winning cow doesn’t mean she doesn’t have problems. Does she need more dairy character? Better feet and legs? We try to correct those problems with her next mating.”
Type is not the only thing important to the McCullough family. Cows have to earn their keep too. The farm’s rolling herd average is 25,118 pounds of milk, 1,020 pounds of fat (4.1%) and 794 pounds of protein (3.2%).
“There is no such thing as a dry and open cow around here,” Chris said. “Although a cow may score high, she doesn’t get a lifetime pass. When her time is up, she has to go.”
When it comes to making breeding decisions, Chris said they keep things simple.
“There’s never more than a half-dozen bulls in our tank,” he said. “We carry two for dairy, two for strength and two in-betweeners. Just because a bull is three points on type doesn’t mean he’ll make the kind of cows we want.”
In the early years, the McCulloughs used a lot of Durham and Linjet, which Chris said built a good foundation for the farm. Now, the family is using bulls like Doc, Tatoo and Thunderstorm, along with a little Addison and Showtime.
“Our best calves right now are out of Thunderstorm, and our best young cows are sired by Saturn,” Chris said. “My dad taught me a lot about breeding and mating, and I’m also fortunate to call many of the best cow people in the world my best friends – whether breeders, judges, fitters, A.I. people or others working in the industry. Also, I’ve been privileged to judge a lot of really good shows, and I pay attention to what’s working and what’s not.”
Chris stressed the need to breed cows to good bulls and care for each animal to the best a farm’s facilities will allow.
“There are no secrets in this business,” Chris said. “You just have to shut up and listen. You can learn a lot by going to shows and sales and talking to fellow breeders you respect and admire. There are a lot of herds we look up to and respect.”
As the McCullough family continues to build a barn of superb type, Chris believes there is more work to do.
“I’m proud of our accomplishments, but we’re not done yet,” he said. “There are always things to improve.”