A long line of outstanding cattle

Larcrest Holsteins wins PDCA Distinguished Breeder Award

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ALBERT LEA, Minn. — For as long as he can remember, Jon Larson has been interested in breeding good cows.

“I remember being a young kid and flipping through a bull book,” Larson said. “People have different loves in life, and this was one of my early ones. I still love it as much as I ever have.”

Dedication to raising quality cattle, as well as service and leadership in a long list of organizations, has led to Larcrest Holsteins being named one of this year’s Distinguished Breeder Award winners by the Minnesota Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. 

Larcrest Holsteins is owned and operated by Larson and his wife, Ann, of Albert Lea.

Larcrest Holsteins is home to 250 cows and 400 youngstock. The family owns 500 acres and rents an additional 100. Larson’s parents were the first generation to dairy farm there, but the land has been in Larson’s mother’s family, the Whites, since the 1850s. Larson milks cows in the same tiestall barn that his dad, David, did.

“My father had a passion for registered cattle,” Larson said. “He loved breeding cattle, and certainly I learned from him.”

Larson has developed cows that are recognized on a global scale that have fetched high prices through embryo merchandizing and have earned top awards for excellence.

In 2013, Larcrest Cardigan sold on the Party at the Park sale for $400,000. Other Larcrest cows have fetched high prices as well. In 2019, Holstein International named Larcrest Holsteins as one of the 12 most influential Holstein breeders of the world within the past 25 years, and in 2020, it named the Larcrest Cosmopolitan family of cows one of the top eight most influential cow families of the past 25 years.

Cosmopolitan and the other members of the Larcrest “C” family line began with one special cow — Cosmopolitan’s granddam, Chanel — who was born through what Larson calls a lucky series of events when he was in his early 20s.

“I had purchased some semen, and the bull I had ordered was not the bull that was delivered,” Larson said. … “I wound up using the wrong bull on about 10 of our best cows.”

The breeder made it up to Larson by giving him 20 units of semen from the bull of his choice.

“I took a bull called Ked-Juror,” Larson said. “The Ked-Juror semen I used sired something really great, and that was a cow named Juror-Chanel. She wound up being 93 points, milked her heart out and was just a phenomenal animal.”

Today, 75% of the milking herd at Larcrest Holsteins are descendants of Chanel.

When Chanel was a calf, a man contracted with Larson to use Chanel for his kids to show. However, when Chantel returned, three weeks before her due date, she weighed 900 pounds and had a hip injury.

“I was nauseous when I saw her,” Larson said. “She gave birth two weeks later to a 150-pound bull calf, which knocked her hip out. She was laid out flat for five days.”

The vet scolded Larson, wondering why the cow had not been put down yet.

“We stuck with her, and after five days, she sat up,” Larson said. “It was probably two weeks before she could get up and down on her own. She was 800 pounds and couldn’t walk on one hip, but she had shown well in the ring, and I certainly wanted to keep her.”

They put the cow in pasture for the summer. By the next spring, she was healthy and produced a calf.

“Chanel shouldn’t have made it, and it was more luck than sense on my part,” Larson said.

With semen from Convincer, Chantel produced a heifer, Convincer Chante. It was when Chante was just fresh that Dave Erf, of Accelerated Genetics, asked to visit the farm.

“Erf contracted Chanel and Chante for bulls to go to A.I.,” Larson said. “It absolutely floored me and my father because we had no idea why Dave was coming out, and that was the start to everything.”

When Chanel’s due date arrived, she calved in the middle of the night with a set of twins, one heifer and a bull.

It was a happy result for a cow who almost had to be put down. The bull calf fulfilled the contract with Accelerated Genetics, and the Larsons kept the heifer calf, who became Larcrest Champagne. 

Champagne later produced one of the Larsons’ most successful cows, Cosmopolitan, who captured the No. 1 spot in the country on the Total Performance Index and went on to produce more winning cows for the Larsons.

One of Cosmopolitan’s offspring was Crimson, who turned out to be a favorite of Larson’s.

“Cosmopolitan was probably about 65 inches tall and one of the most enormous cows I’ve ever seen, and Crimson is a little bit bigger,” Larson said. “In her peak, she was a 2,600-pound cow, and she has a personality twice that size.”

Larcrest Crimson EX-94 was the highest scoring Ramos daughter and is the granddam to Larcrest Commander, one of the Larsons’ many winning bulls, who in 2017 became the No. 1 Lifetime Profit Index bull in Canada and top 10 TPI bull in the U.S. 

Crimson’s lifetime totals include a 96-point mammary system, 372,038 pounds of milk, 15,915 pounds butterfat and 13,180 pounds protein. She was named the 2016 Global Cow of the Year by Holstein International.

Today at 17 years old, Crimson is retired, living in a box stall adjacent to where Larson milks.

“Milking takes me about 5.5 to 6 hours, … so I’m with Crimson 12 hours a day,” Larson said. “She is the most intelligent animal I’ve ever been around and just as full of personality and as good a friend as I will ever have — other than my beautiful wife.”

Crimson is wonderful with visitors, Larson said, and she is a favorite of kids who visit during the Larsons’ annual farm tour they hold for Freeborn County’s third graders.

“She absolutely knows she’s the star of the show,” Larson said. “She loves people and all children.”

Looking back, Larson said he is grateful for his wife who helps with calf care, does the bookkeeping and has been by his side since they married in 1993. Larson calls her the “morale” of the farm.

“She is absolutely a wonderful woman,” he said.

Their son, Tyler, is at college, but their nephew, Chase Saxton, works with them on the farm.

Larson said he and Ann could not have accomplished what they have without so many helping them.

“A good share of our success I can attribute to the people we have met and surrounded ourselves with and those who have represented us,” Larson said. “When it’s all said and done, it’s about the people we’ve met, and we’ve met some incredible people along the way. It’s been an unbelievable ride.”

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