A historically golden day for Guernseys

Malt becomes breed’s first-ever Excellent 97 cow

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CUMBERLAND, Wis. — Some children growing up on dairy farms may dream of having cows that accomplish once-in-a-lifetime achievements. Some dream of having an All-American, some dream of having a World Dairy Expo champion, and some dream of having a cow obtain the ultimate pinnacle score of Excellent 97.

Brandon and Kim Grewe each grew up with those goals, Brandon on his family’s northwestern Wisconsin dairy farm and Kim on her family’s farm in southwestern Missouri. Together, they have ridden the whirlwind of accolades accomplished by their bred-and-owned Guernsey cow, Valley Gem Atlas Malt, a daughter of the cow that brought the couple together over 15 years ago.

“Malt has made all of our wildest dreams and goals come true,” Brandon said. “What she has done, and how she has done it, it is really just amazing. She is an amazing cow.”

The Grewes operate Valley Gem Farms in partnership with Brandon’s parents, Roy and Gina, near Cumberland. The Barron County dairy farm is home to 170 head of Guernseys, Jerseys and Holsteins. The Grewes crop 500 acres as well.

Malt has spent the past five years claiming titles and banners galore. On Dec. 27, 2023, Malt was cemented in the history of the Guernsey breed by being confirmed by Holstein Association USA classifiers as the first-ever Guernsey cow in the U.S. to be assigned a final score of Ex-97. With the mark, she joins an elite group of dairy cows.

Before the American Guernsey Association joined the Holstein Association USA classification program in 2017, the top Guernsey had a score of Ex-96.

Malt had been recommended for evaluation for the score in November 2023 during the Grewes’ regular herd classification at the age of 8 years and 9 months and freshening Aug. 20 with her fifth calf. The 30 days until the confirmation visit was a long month for the Grewes.

“You were afraid to be too far from the phone, worried you might miss the call about when they were coming,” Brandon said. “It was a long month, nerve-wracking, worried something might happen or go wrong.”

Kim agreed.

“It was another month of managing her in such a manner to keep her looking her best, ready at a moment’s notice,” Kim said. “Normally, this is the time we would let her be able to just be a cow.”

Malt sailed through the long month with no hiccups. She presented herself to the confirmation committee of classifiers in such a fashion that she met their criteria for the final score.

“The whole experience was really interesting,” Kim said. “There was a lot of great discussion about Malt and the breed’s ideals. They were very thorough, making sure that not only were they doing the right thing for their classification program but for the cow herself and the Guernsey breed as a whole. They understood they were setting a precedent — the standard for what a 97-point Guernsey cow should look like.”

Holstein Association USA classifiers use a system of five categories to arrive at the final score. Malt broke down at 98 points for dairy strength, 97 points for front end/capacity, 96 points for mammary, 92 points for rump, and 98 points for feet and legs.

“It is still hard to believe it,” Brandon said. “We have so much respect and admiration and appreciation for this cow and what she has done for us.”

Malt has claimed four All-American titles to-date with three being unanimous. She was named the reserve All-American junior 3-year-old in 2018 and has been nominated All-American as a lifetime production cow for 2023.

Malt was named grand champion of the International Guernsey Show at World Dairy Expo in 2019, 2021 and 2022 and is the reigning reserve grand champion.

Malt is also credited with being a three-time grand champion of the National Guernsey Show held at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the first Guernsey to win supreme champion at NAILE, earning laurels in 2020 and 2021.

Adding to her credits are grand champion titles at both the 2019 Wisconsin State Guernsey Show and Minnesota State Fair, where she also earned a supreme champion banner.

Not only a beauty queen walking across the colored shavings, Malt is writing another chapter of her story as a brood cow. With her accolades, there has been demand for her genetics from Guernsey breeders.

“She has been working pretty well for us,” Brandon said. “We have 10 or 12 daughters on the ground at home and have sold six or eight over the past couple of years.”

Malt’s daughters are following in their mother’s footsteps. Valley Gem HC Magnolia has already achieved an Excellent classification score and was nominated All-American junior 2-year-old in 2021. Valley Gem Top Gun Merlot VG-88 placed third in the senior 2-year-old class at World Dairy Expo in 2023. Valley Gem Legend Meringue-ETV was named the 2021 All-American winter calf.

Two of Malt’s sons are in stud: Valley Gem Missile-ET, a Mar-Ral Royal Mentor son at Semex, and Valley Gem Richard McDreamy-ETV, a Dairyman Legend Richard son marketed by Guernsey Gold Sires.

Several other Malt sons are on the farm. The Grewes plan to offer two of them in their upcoming sale May 18 at their farm.

Thankful for everything Malt has accomplished, the Grewes plan to retire her from the show ring and continue working with her to produce embryos.

“There really isn’t anything more she could do for us,” Brandon said. “She’s done everything we ever dreamed or wanted her to do and so much more.”

Smiling and thinking about the moments she has shared on the colored shavings with the cow, who at times can be a little strong-headed, Kim agreed.

“We will just celebrate her,” Kim said. “(We will) let her retire, with our focus being to make babies and get the next generation rolling.”

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