The Road to Excellent-96% and Impacting the Breed

Every Jersey breeder dreams to breed or develop the ideal Jersey cow. While pieces of ‘ideal’ may flex depending on the operation, the foundation is still there. Most breed for a profitable individual whose body confirmation can support many lactations. Oakfield TBone Vivianne-ET is an excellent example of the type of cow every dairy cattle breeder can appreciate.

When “Vivianne” was officially appraised Excellent-96% this July, the emotions for her owners, Kevin and Annetta Herrington, Kevetta Farms, of Dansville, N.Y., were abundant and hard to describe. The sense of pride in developing such an elite individual is sure to have been overwhelming, in addition to extremely rewarding. Since 2000, only 19 other individuals have been appraised Excellent-96% by the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA). She has reached an elite rank that few others have. In fact, since 1973, the AJCA has only 35 individuals to earn this milestone.

“Vivianne” and her owners, Kevin and Annetta, are a prime example of individuals who understand the importance of breeding for cow families. In recent years, they have created quite the market for “Vivianne’s” offspring and work to maintain interest by consigning elite individuals to sales throughout the country.

The Journey to “Vivianne”

Ironically, “Vivianne” almost did not find her home at Kevetta Farms. During the May 2009 Spring Sensation Sale, Kevin and Annetta purchased a choice of December heifer calves out of Arethusa Response Vision-ET, Very Good-88%, and sired by Richies Jace TBone A364, GJPI -23, for $5,200 from Jonathan and Alicia Lamb of Oakfield Corners Dairy, Oakfield, N.Y. Sired by Hollylane R Response-ET, JPI -171, “Vision” is a daughter of Huronia Centurion Veronica 20J, Excellent-97%.

A cow that rarely needs an introduction, “Veronica” has certainly left her own impact on the Jersey breed. The winner of the 2015 Jersey Journal Great Cow contest, “Veronica” is one of six cows in AJCA history to be appraised Excellent-97%. She was National Grand Champion in 2004, Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo three times and Supreme Champion once. A true matriarch, “Veronica” transmitted to her over 100 offspring with descendants still making an impact today, such as “Vivianne.”

Kevin and Annetta went to Oakfield Corners in April 2010 to pick out their heifer from a group of four born that December. When talking about that day, Annetta said, “They pretty much all looked the same. It was a great group of calves, but we had picked a different heifer, Oakfield TBone Vanessa-ET.”

A few months later in June, Kevin and Annetta decided that they wanted to invest in another Jersey for their herd with friend, Robert Hill. So they called Alicia and Jonathan Lamb and asked if they could come look at available animals at Oakfield Corners. “Right away, “Vivianne” was in the pen right by the end of the barn and she caught our attention,” described Annetta.

“I looked at her eartag and said, ‘Oh, she’s going to be out of our price range,’ so I didn’t even ask about her.” However after looking at other animals and continually coming back to Kevin, he encouraged Annetta to ask Alicia what price they wanted for her. “It took a lot of prodding, but after he told me that about five times, I finally asked Alicia for a price on “Vivianne.” When she told me, it was pretty much a no-brainer and we just looked at each other and said that we would take her!”

“It’s not too often you get a second chance that ended up making a huge impact for us,” noted Annetta.

As two-year-old cows, “Vivianne” and “Vanessa,” the heifer the Herrington’s chose from the flush, were very different. At their appraisal that year, “Vanessa” appraised Very Good-88%, while “Vivianne” went Very Good-87%. In her second lactation, “Vanessa” endured a freak accident which caused her to leave the Herrington’s herd. Once again, it was good they had their ‘second chance’ with “Vivianne.”

Kevin and Annetta knew that “Vivianne” was special from the day they purchased her. However, as a two-year-old, she confirmed it for them. Then as a three-year-old, she matured and started developing into the cow they knew she could be.

Oakfield TBone Vivianne, Excellent-96%, throughout the years. ©Lea Jordan, Cybil Fisher Photography.

When asked to describe “Vivianne,” Annetta burst with pride as she said, “She has that big uphill run, deep rib, dairyness and overall style about her. As a three-year-old, her udder matured a lot but has held steady from that point. Where she lacks is maybe not having that really popping high, wide rear udder and being a bit long in the teat, but that certainly hasn’t made a difference in her performance.”

“Vivianne” has made several showring appearances throughout her 10 years. As a two-year-old, she was Grand Champion at the Erie County Spring preview. She’s also stood well at the New York State Fair and reigned Supreme Champion at their local county fair as a six-year-old.

While it’s been made clear that “Vivianne” has a beautiful appearance, every dairy enthusiast can appreciate a cow that spells milk like “Vivianne.” “She’s made over 200,000 lbs. of milk in 6½ lactations at 10½-years-old. That’s over 20,000 lbs. of milk each year of her life. That just seems amazing to us.” “Vivianne’s” lifetime production through July 28, 2020, equaled 206,918 lbs. milk, 10,796 lbs. fat and 8,087 lbs. protein. Over her six completed lactations, she had an average m.e. of 25,861–1,336–994.

To put this into perspective, “Vivianne” has produced approximately 17,243 gallons of ice cream, 37,967 sticks of butter or 454,754 cheddar cheese slices throughout her lifetime. That’s a lot of dairy products to feed the population!

“Vivianne”

Described as the “Queen of the Barn” of Kevetta Farms, “Vivianne” has a personality of her own. The type of cow that no cow wants to bother, “Vivianne” roams her home in peace. Not a real personable individual, “Vivianne” prefers to be left on her own to do her own thing which clearly works for her. In fact, it’s not uncommon for “Vivianne” to stand at the bunk for hours eating after Kevin places a fresh bale in the feed manger. Her offspring and their descendants also have this trait, as Annetta commented that most of the family also has great appetites and are eager to eat. This is something everyone loves to see in a productive cow family!

She also knows when she needs to alert her owners to give her special attention. In one case, she came into the milking parlor and just laid down. That is very uncommon for “Vivianne” or any cow for that matter. After feeling her ears, Kevin noted they were a little cold, so she was given a bottle of calcium. “Fifteen minutes later, she apparently was ready, and she just got up, walked into the stall to be milked and went back to her normal routine,” described Annetta.

Marketing “Vivianne”

When Kevin and Annetta invest in animals, they look to invest in cow families that are marketable. With the unique twist of a ‘TBone’ sired “Veronica,” “Vivianne” had an advantage in addition to being special in her own right as far as type and production.

With 52 registered offspring and more on the way, “Vivianne” has created a market of her own with the Herrington’s assistance. Many of her daughters and granddaughters have crossed the auction block or been sold privately over the years. In fact, she has a March 2020 ST-LO Nuance-ET, GJPI -9, daughter that sells November 8 in the All American Jersey Sale.

When asked what their breeding and mating philosophies were, the answer was quick and simple for Annetta. “We try not to use too many of the same bulls that basically get a common kind of animal, for example, some of the popular ‘show’ bulls. I’ve tried to find things that fit our criteria. We use bulls that have high udder composites and strong pedigrees. When I look at the bull, I want to like what I see in his picture as well.

Some of that hasn’t always been the case. A couple times, we think we’ll make an even more unique mating that sets her apart, yet still maintain bulls that aren’t horribly minus on milk. Trying to get that balance, we always use bulls on her that we have used across the board in the herd.”

Kevetta Citation A Verna-ET, Excellent-90%

Annetta went on to explain, “We aren’t doing these matings with the intent of breeding an elite show heifer. Instead, we mate her with the purpose of making a cow that can make a lot of milk and still look good doing it.” Nineteen different sires have been used on the registered progeny of “Vivianne.” Names of these individuals include “Academy,” “Eclipse-P,” “Renegade,” “Celebrity,” “Applejack,” “Metalica,” “Irwin,” “Genominator,” “Incentive,” “Citation A,” “Lemonhead,” “Chrome,” “Victorious,” “Primero,” “Colton,” “Casino,” “Oliver-P,” “Nuance” and “Craze.”

For Annetta, her favorite matings on “Vivianne” so far have been the BW Citation-A-ET, GJPI +46, daughters. “The “Citation A” daughters were all carbon copies right down through. We had three of them in our herd with one appraising Excellent-90% and the other Very Good-88%. I know the ones that we sold also performed and appraised well for their new owners.”

However, this mating taught the Herringtons more about marketing. From the single flush, they had eight heifers born at various times. While all the heifers were very similar, the interest in the mating plateaued after selling a few and the purchasing prices reflected that.

“After that, we decided that we need to consider just selling the best one out of the flush and then we would be more reserved with selling additional animals,” explained Annetta. With recent matings, the Herringtons are also really impressed with the Dutch Hollow Oliver-P, GJPI +23, daughters. They have additional pregnancies due to arrive this fall and winter from “Craze” and “Nuance.”

Kevetta Applejack Vegas, Excellent-93%

In the Herrington’s herd, there are currently 13 daughters of “Vivianne” with six of those in the milking string. They have an appraisal average of 88.5% with the highest scored individual and natural calf of “Vivianne,” Kevetta Applejack Vegas, being appraised Excellent-93%. In addition, there are 10 granddaughters and two great granddaughters on the farm currently.

The Road to Excellent-96%

In order for a cow to be appraised Excellent-96%, a committee of three appraisers have to agree on this decision. In July during the Herrington’s regularly scheduled type traits appraisal, their appraiser nominated her for this opportunity after breaking down her linear traits himself. When asked how this made them feel, Annetta replied, “At first it was really exciting, like WOW! But then it became a little nerve-wrecking as we waited for the next two people to come evaluate her.

It almost made it hard because nobody could talk about it. It was top-secret stuff, which made it almost like a letdown. It reminded me of the one-day shows where you’re released immediately after the show, everyone is geared to packing up and no one is celebrating. It was like ‘Wow, this is so exciting!’ but we can’t tell anyone.”

At Kevetta Farms, “Vivianne” roams the pastures and pack barn with her fellow herd mates. She does not receive special treatment and really prefers it that way. For the initial appraisal date, they had clipped her to give her that little extra flare, but otherwise, business was as usual for “Vivianne.”

Kevetta Farms

The farm that Kevetta Farms sits on today was purchased by Annetta’s grandfather back in the 1950s. It acted primarily as the heifer raising facilities for her family’s Holstein dairy farm located three miles down the road. Kevetta farms was established in April 1988 when Kevin and Annetta were married, primarily consisting of Holsteins. They had returned to Annetta’s home farm and were working towards a partnership with Annetta’s parents. But unfortunately, a small 60-cow dairy could not sustain four families, so shortly after Jessica was born, their small herd was dispersed in 1991. Someday, they had hoped to return to the farm when Annetta’s father was ready to retire.

When their daughter, Jessica, was very young, she loved to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm to help feed the calves. They gave Jessica her first calf when she was five-years-old and she started showing at the fair. The kids enjoyed going to the fairs and taking care of their calves during the summer.

Annetta’s father sold his dairy herd on December 31, 1999. After that, Kevin and Annetta took over the old heifer facilities with the intention to purchase the 110-acre farm to raise dairy animals for their children, Jessica and Tyler, to show throughout their time as youth, as well as raise beef. At that time, they did not intend on getting back into milking cows.

On January 1, 2000, Annetta’s father passed away from pancreatic cancer, and once the estate was settled, they officially purchased the farm. Since the kids no longer had someone to supply them with calves, Kevin and Annetta encouraged them to apply for scholarships and other grants to use to purchase calves. The first Jersey came to Kevetta Farms in 2001 after Jessica won the Herbert Wheeler Scholarship put on by the Niagara Frontier Jersey Club.

Not too long after, longtime friend, Bob Hill, asked if they would raise his three Jersey heifers for him. They agreed and those individuals eventually became the foundation for the Kevetta Jersey herd. The pair started milking cows when Jessica’s first Jersey calved in. Then they milked Bob’s Jersey heifers, feeding the milk to calves. With the kids’ and Bob’s heifers calving in, everything just sort of fell into place and they made the decision to get back into the dairy business and officially start shipping milk in 2005.

“Vivianne” and Kevin Herrington the evening she was officially appraised Excellent-96%. Photo provided by Annetta Herrington.

When they first started milking, they had about 17 cows in the string, including Holsteins, Ayrshires, Jerseys and even a couple of Angus-Holstein crosses! Today, they’re milking about 50 individuals giving the time with the population being close to 2/3 Jersey and 1/3 Holstein.

The farm is an intensive grazing operation with the intent of the overall operation being very efficient. Their ration is supplemented with free-choice bailage and they purchase TMR during the winter months, fed at 50% and top dressed grain according to milk production. Milking occurs in a flat-barn parlor and cows are housed in a compost pack barn which was constructed in 2011.

In 2012, friend Bob decided to sell his herd of Jerseys, including his half of “Vivianne,” to Kevin and Annetta. This prompted their first real introduction to the AJCA when then AJCA-NAJ Area Representative Sara Barlass came to the farm to appraise their Jerseys to ensure they were giving Bob fair prices.

Over the years, Kevetta Farms has made a name for itself and has received many awards and accolades, from being a 15-year Super Milk producer, to the Jerseys being ranked nationally for their milk and protein production and their Holsteins being ranked in the top 200 BAA (breed age average) in the United States, along with being a recipient of the Holstein Associations Progressive Breeder Award.

The Future

When asked about the future of the herd, Annetta stated, “The herd has come a long way in 15 years. Regardless of which breed it is, everything for the most part has a very strong pedigree with several generations of Very Good and Excellent, as well as including a ‘name’ in the pedigree people recognize.”

“One of our philosophies was that whether it’s the equipment or the cows, we consider it an investment into drawing people to our eventual auction. We have a lot of name brand equipment, a well-maintained nice farmstead and we have really invested in the pedigrees of the cattle so there is something that will draw a crowd on the day we decide not to do this anymore.

In addition, by merchandising some of our best animals, we rely on the success of those animals with our prefix to do the advertising for us.”

Such as most notably Vivianne’s Chrome daughter, “Violin,” who scored Very Good-89% as a two-year-old for new owners Michael Heath and Jamie Black, and Vivianne’s Citation A and Victorious daughters owned by Dreamroad Jerseys who stood first and second in their respective classes at the 2019 New York State Fair.

On the Holstein side, Oakfield Corners Dairy purchased Kevetta Redburst Luscious-Red, Excellent-94%, who had a successful show career and produced an All American and Honorable Mention All American Winter Red and White Holstein calves. Three years later, Oakfield Corners purchased “Luscious’” daughter, Kevetta Daniel Lexi, Excellent-92%, who was recently name Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand Champion at the 2020 New England Holstein Show and Honorable Mention Intermediate Champion at the 2020 North American Open Holstein Show in Ohio.

“As we approach our mid-50s, we don’t foresee either of our kids coming back to the farm.” Their son, Tyler, is in the diesel technology field and is employed by three different farms in the area. Jessica is a herd manager on a commercial dairy with about 900 cows nearby. The sibling duo recently purchased the 200-acre home farm Annetta grew up on from Annetta’s mother.

While the future of Kevetta Farms is to be determined, one thing is for sure. Their insight and ingenuity with the offspring produced from the Jersey breed will leave a lasting impact for many years to come.

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