|Taking the Fork
Marked "Registered Jerseys"
There are many
reasons the business plan for a successful dairy operation can be
redrawn, taking it in new or unexpected directions. The business
environment changes. Family members complete school and come home,
bringing different perspectives and fresh ideas. Sometimes oneís
own interests evolve.
Then, sometimes, itís
all of the above. The case in point: Kutz Dairy of Jefferson,
Ron and Pam Kutz and
their three sons, FILL NAME, Aaron and Allen, are executing a
deliberate expansion that will eventually grow their operation to
1,100 cows, all Registered Jerseys. Itís all because of protein
pricing, the sons urging a closer look at Jersey advantages, and Ron
Kutz re-discovering the rewards of the registered dairy cattle
business. The herd, not previously on DHIA, is now enrolled on REAP.
And instead of just budgeting for income from milk sales, they are
taking the initial steps towards marketing top-end genetics.
Itís been two years
since Kutz, a commercial Holstein producer, and his sons made a stop
at the USJersey booth at World Dairy Expo, eventually talking to
Executive Secretary Neal Smith about "trying out" Jerseys.
A pen was filled in due course and the cows delivered the goods as
advertised: top milk yield with high components, easy conception,
and no calving difficulties.
Registered Jerseys are now in production at Kutz Dairy, hitting a
60-lb. per cow average in July. "Thatís 80% to 90%
two-year-olds," notes Allen Kutz. Even when Jerseys "are a
pain," as they are in the Holstein-sized milking parlor, they
make dairying fun. "Twenty minutes before milking, these girls
will be gathered near the gate," he enthuses. "You open up
the gate, itís a race. Itís the neatest thing.
"And they breed
incredibly awesome," Allen exclaims. Just how awesome?
According to their DairyComp statistics for the first six months of
2003, the Jersey pregnancy rate is 22%, compared to 14% for the
Initially, the Kutz
Family thought that their expansion should go along the lines of a
half-Holstein, half-Jersey design. Now they talk about "when we
get to all Jerseys." And about flushing. "Weíre going to
do a lot of flushing."
The potential for
large-scale embryo transfer is the happy outcome of stocking their
Jersey herd with top genetics, plus Aaronís expertise in ET work.
"Weíre in the process of finishing a new office and
lab," Ron explains, adding that 120 cows are on a list of
potential flush cows. "They have to be triple A cows on the
test sheet, or theyíre ABA cows. Our goal is protein," so a
"brown Holstein" wonít do.
When asked about how
he feels about the developments on the dairy, Ron Kutz appears
somewhat bemused. "I used to have Registered Holsteins,"
he says. "I didnít enjoy it. I gave up on them. I guess I
thought I would never have registered cattle again, or care about
registration papers or anything else."
There are several
factors that seem to have helped rekindle his interest, among them
the accessibility of information and support from the Jersey
The Kutzes were
introduced to the Registered Jersey businessóand REAPóthrough
the backdoor of buying hundreds of Jerseys over the past 18 months.
The detailed pedigree and performance information in Jersey
Marketing Service catalogs were right up the alley for sons Aaron
and Allen. "When those JMS catalogs come in the mail,"
says Allen, "we go through them, pick them out, and send Dad on
his way" to see how many he could buy.
That helped sell the
Kutz Family on REAP for their own operation. "Iím still
trying to get used to everything thatís included in REAP and
taking advantage of all that," says Ron. "As far as Iím
concerned, itís a Cadillac program."
Even more important,
adds Allen, "Every question weíve ever had, weíve been able
to get answered."
Thereís no doubt
that this family is planning a future in the Jersey business. Itís
a future that they believe needs to include a greater array of
health tests for marketing Registered Jerseys. As Ron Kutz views it,
there is a responsibility to do everything necessary to help buyers
manage the risks involved when they purchase cattle and move them
into their own herds.
involved bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), which Ron says "is not
something weíve had before." Their quarantine protocol for
incoming cattle includes an earnotch test for BVD. There have been
some unhappy surprises. "It really sucks when a heifer that
cost $1,800 comes back positive for BVD," Allen notes.
BVD "is going to
hurt somebody with 50 cows," explains Ron, "but you bring
a BVD-positive cow into 500 or 1,500 cows, just think of the
exposure you have. In his mind, it should be a required test and one
that is likely to add value to animals. "Youíre willing to
pay a little more if you have the confidence that thereís no Staph,
no Myco, no BVD. If an animal came through with an earnotch,
Iíd pay $100 more for her than for one that wasnít tested."
Are the Kutzes happy
that they took a fork in the road marked Registered Jersey? The
answer is yes, and not just because of the breed. "The Jersey
staff are so good to work with and so sincere in wanting to help
you," Ron Kutz says. Along the way, "Iíve talked to a
lot of breeders. Everybody wants to help.
"Thatís a great