Year in, year out, the name appears in international Holstein news: B-Long Holsteins. No less than twelve “Herd of Excellence” titles have been awarded by Holstein USA to this farm in the American state of Wisconsin. Those who arrive at the well-kept farm close to New London are then quickly impressed by the 50 Holsteins that are milked here by Bruce and Brenda Long and son Bret. Of the 50 cows, ten are EX and 30 VG, with six cows having passed 300,000 lb/136,360 kg milk, and more than 30 having surpassed 200,000 lb/90,900 kg. Yes, here indeed is a model of true excellence. And all of that, with two original cows at the foundation.
JAN BIERMA HAN HOPMAN
Of course, it is one of our very first questions when we arrive at the farm of the Long family. How is it possible that they have obtained no less than twelve “Herd of Excellence” titles? Bruce is clear: ‘That requires three things, which together make for a complete package: solid cows that consistently receive good care, and are provided with plenty of high-quality feed.’ In addition, he describes his sire selection as follows: ‘We breed for cows that are deep, wide, and open. A wide rump provides a wide rear udder. And take note: if you select for these traits, then quite a few sires are eliminated from the outset. We have facilities that are able to nicely house animals like this. In addition, we want outstanding udders and feet & legs, and we pay attention to two fitness traits: daughter fertility (DPR) and somatic cell.’
Right: a clear and consistent strategy, with outstanding results. The average production at B-Long is 32,800 lb/14,900 kg 3.96% 3.43% and of the 50 producers, 20% are EX. One of them is B-Long Popcorn EX-91: this eleven-year-old Goldwyn daughter (out of an EX-90 Finley, and then a VG-85 Mtoto; both Gold Medal Dams) has surpassed 300,000 lb/136,360 kg, is presently milking, and pregnant to Luster-P.
‘If you select for these traits, then quite a few sires are eliminated from the outset.’
It is now 33 years ago that the Long family started this farm near New London, in the northeastern part of Wisconsin. ‘My brother took over the farm from by parents. My wife Brenda and I were also interested in farming and started here in 1990. We began with twelve cows which we received from my parents’ herd. Today nearly the entire herd descends from these cows, with all twelve going back to two cows: Belleview Mars Happy VG-86 (<Lime-Hollow Elevation Mars) and Belleview Barrett Ibis GP-82 (<Barrett-Ranch Ivan Rockman),’ explains Bruce. One of the distant descendants of Ibis (behind whom we find a splendid EX-90 Bootmaker grandam) in the current herd, is the nine-year-old Baltimor daughter B-Long Chimera; in six lactations, good for 234,890 lb/106,768 kg 3.82% 3.19% and a score of EX-91. By the way, the earlier mentioned high lifetime producer Popcorn also descends from Ibis.
To be sure, the high quality at B-Long Holsteins has not gone unnoticed. Each year they sell a number of young bulls for natural service to dairy farmers in the region. At the same time, they regularly sell milking cows and calves for shows. ‘In years gone by, when our children participated in 4H and shows, we kept most of them, but now we often sell them,’ explains Bruce. Partly thanks to the sale of show calves, about 15% of the herd is Red Holstein. ‘If you have show calves that are also red & white, they are often just a bit more attractive: A kind of “marketing” then,’ says Bruce with a smile. And continues: ‘Now that we no longer go to shows ourselves, sire selection is focussed a bit more on production, although conformation remains important.’
In recent years, which sires have done good work at B-Long? ‘McCutchen did very well on our farm. We currently still have five McCutchen daughters in production and all five are EX. In addition, two McCutchen grandsons (via their sire, McCutchen son Kingboy) performed very well here: King Doc and King Royal. From both of them, we are milking a nice group of daughters: they produce well and also look superb. That is exactly what we want. We are still using Doc today.’ When we look at the outstanding herd of the Long family, then the McCutchens certainly stand out. For example, we find the nicely built, white, and nearly six-year-old B-Long Quartet EX-90 – a daughter of a VG-86 Shot Laser, who also traces back to the good old Ibis. Still more McCutchen quality can be found in the cow in the accompanying picture: B-Long Bobber EX-90. This four-year-old Solomon daughter descends out of a VG-88 McCutchen daughter, and: she also traces back to the frequently mentioned Ibis.
No, even though Bruce did not take over the farm from his parents, it does appear that he received two key cows of immense value for a herd of his own: B-Long. With prestigious titles as clear proof.
B-Long in Wisconsin
Located near New London in northeastern Wisconsin. Owned by Bruce, Brenda & Bret Long 60 acres (24 ha): 25 grass, 35 alfalfa Production: 2x 32,800lb/14,900kg 3.96% 3.43% 10 EX, 30 VG, 9 GP Ration: TMR of alfalfa and grass silage, dry hay, corn, cotton seed and protein mix (primarily soymeal), minerals Current sires: Luster-P, Parfect, Hancock, Doc, Altitude-Red, Rompen-Red