Harris Dairy

Earlier this year the STgenetics? marketing team and ST representative, Lindsey Kreier stopped at Harris Dairy, a 330 cow dairy only about 10 minutes from our New Vienna Farm in Wisconsin. Josh Harris the herdsmen and part owner of Harris Dairy was able to show us around and talk about their operation. Josh along with his parents, Stewart and Cheryl, and siblings, Mike, Chris and Chelsea, run Harris Dairy. Like stated previously, they currently milk 330 cows, while having 40 – 50 dry cows at a time, production-wise, they average about 91 pounds per cow, and their cell count is right around a hundred thousand.

As we walked into their free-stall we noticed in their calving pen they had a clean, straw bedded section to sort out the newborn calves, in here they had a few Holstein heifers and multiple beef cross calves. This led us to our first question, what’s your current breeding structure look like? Josh went into detail with, “Our current breeding philosophy is that I use pretty much beef to all the older animals, second lactation and on is going to get beef semen. We use sexed semen on all the heifers for between two and three services, depending on what they look like, we kind of pick and choose. First lactation animals will get sexed semen as well.”

Since a large portion of their herd is being bred to Beef on Dairy, we wanted to know more about this decision. Josh said, “Overall we are just trying to keep profitability per stall at a maximum, we’re not trying to raise any extra heifer calves that we don’t need and then we are selling the beef calves at birth within the first week to get a little extra income from that as well.”

This led us to inquire about how they choose exactly which young stock will be bred to sexed semen vs. beef semen. Josh told us that they started genomic testing probably 9 months prior to our visit, they started this management practice because they were having plenty of heifer calves born and they only wanted to raise females that would be profitable to their operation. As a herd, they use Net Merit as their benchmark for the value of each animal. When they first started genomic testing, they started out by keeping everything that was above +450 NM$, and it has now increased to about +525 NM$.

After finding out that Harris Dairy was relatively new to genomic testing, we wanted to know what other genetic traits are important to their breeding decisions. Josh stated that the two most important genetic traits they select on are NM$ and A2A2. With the correlation A2A2 has with components, along with the ability for consumers to freely consume A2A2 milk without sensitivity, Josh says, “A2A2 definitely plays a large role, I'm hoping that it continues to get marketed appropriately and consumers become more aware of it. We would like to switch slowly as the market kind of develops for it, to our herd being all A2A2. We believe this could help our components and hopefully if this is marketed correctly it could also be a premium for producers as well.”

With these traits in mind, we started to talk about the sires that Josh has been using. Some of the older sires they’ve had quite a few daughters of is Delta, Josh stated that when they calved in they looked and produced great. He went on to say, “Some of the more newer sires we've had coming through are some Director’s that have had some gorgeous udders, looking really nice, very excited about what we have from him. We also have some Pledge’s and Battle’s coming through as well. The Detour’s are looking great too.”

Some of the bulls they have been using that haven’t had calved in yet were Charl, Nashville, Yoker, and Dediate. Lindsey, Harris Dairy’s STgenetics? Sale Representative, also stated, “Harris Dairy is part of our mating program, Chromosomal Mating?. As it started out, we liked using ten bulls at a time, because you can pick which bulls you wanted. We tried to narrow it down to using two or three bulls on the cows, two or three bulls on the heifers, keeping track of who's doing well conception wise, who's maybe not toeing the line as well. Charl was doing really well conception wise, at the last check I believe he was 85% on the heifers, so we have moved him onto the cows now. Watson also did super well conception wise, so did Paco and we used two sires for a while now.”

Now knowing that Harris Dairy uses STgenetics? SexedULTRA 4M?, Beef on Dairy, Chromosomal Mating? program, as well as our Vision+? Genomic Testing program, we wanted to know what he thought about the integrated programs STgenetics? has to offer. Josh stated confidently, “Products that we get from STgenetics?, that I think really improved our bottom line is actually the genomic testing. Initially, because we needed to cull out animals that we didn't have room for, that we just had too many of. Genomic results really helped us there, as we continue to test I’m really interested in watching to see how it improves the herd, moving forward with making every stall more profitable. We want to make sure we are getting all of our best animals, and not below average animals that we just don’t need. Genomic testing mixed with the Legend? Program that we are on to get their best, highest bulls they have available, I’m really looking forward to seeing these Legend sires mated with our genomic tested animals, to increase that genomic value a little bit faster. I’m quite confident that is going to work out well for us.”

As we were wrapping up our interview with Josh we were just curious as to why he has switched his herd to mainly all STgenetics? programs and bulls, Josh stated, “The business relationship I have with Lindsey is built on trust, I know I can always call her and she’ll answer the phone, give me her opinions, get me results on different things whether that be Chromosomal Mating’s or our Genomic Results. Lindsey sold me on the bulls first she made us feel confident and important, she made us feel like she and STgenetics? cares which we don’t always get. The value I see with STgenetics? with the bulls especially, is the 4M, we have tremendous luck with that product. I like the bloodlines they have with the Delicious sons, overall I couldn’t be happier.”