This week Topher and I made a big decision for the farm – to purchase a new bull from another farm. The new guy is now only 8 months old, but he will come to us in November and hopefully start breeding our cows next spring. Topaz is from Dharma Lea Farm in Sharon Springs, NY.
We have heard about Dharma Lea farm for many years – the farmers there are known for their highly successful breeding program and genetic selection. We finally met the farmers – Paul and Phyllis – when they were speaking at a conference this winter. We heard them talk about their system of line breeding, and about their legendary bull named Rex. We were so impressed with their talk that during the lunch break we found them at their table and started firing questions at them. The table didn’t have any extra chairs at it, so we were literally kneeling on the floor while we talked, trying to get as much information we could. We talked about soil improvements, medicinal practices, calf rearing, minerals, pasture renovations, and genetics. We learned enough to know that we wanted to know more, and we wanted to stay in touch with them.
Later in the winter we heard them speak again, this time at Hawthorne Valley. They courageously raise all their replacement heifers by letting them nurse from their mothers for the entire lactation – 10 months – until the calf has gone through puberty. I say courageously because this system is a far cry from the norms of calf rearing in the dairy industry. You may have read in our previous newsletters that we are experimenting with this system and have one lovely little calf, named Colette, who has been nursing from her mom for almost 3 months.
Paul and Phyllis firmly believe that a calf who lives with her mom and drinks milk directly from her mom through puberty will be much healthier, more robust, and closer to reaching her genetic potential than a calf raised any other way. And they have the results to prove it. They have also been using a very handsome and prepotent bull, Rex, for almost 10 years, who has brought many desirable traits into their herd. They have been line breeding with him and his daughters in order to concentrate the desirable traits over the years.
Topaz is from Rex, and is looking great already. Paul and Phyllis have developed a strong sense of what to look for in a good cow/bull and they are cultivating Topaz’s whole family. I am feeling very optimistic about this new introduction to our herd. We think Topaz will bring many of the traits that we are looking for in order to improve our cow’s hardiness, health, and efficiency on the grass-based diet. Along with these genetics, and continually refined mineral programs and pasture improvements, there is a lot to look forward to. Stay tuned for more on this, and get excited to see more pictures of Topaz when he finally joins us in a couple months!