Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Olson's Brown Swiss honored for milk production

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 07/24/2013 4:26 PM

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SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — The folks at Olson's Dairy are a little excited.

Their cow, Thane Jesse Vigor Jessa, received the JP Eves Award for milk production, and she also was awarded a plaque for top protein production at Swissconsin, the 2013 National Brown Swiss Convention, held July 3 to 6 in Waukesha, Wis.

It is not common that the annual award for production and high protein go to the same cow, said Charlotte Muenzenberger, records superintendent for the Brown Swiss Association.

"This cow is exceptional," she said.

Jessa produced 42,610 pounds of milk in 305 days in 2012 and 1,437 pounds of protein, said Jo Olson, who owns Olson Dairy with her husband, Les, near Spring Valley. Jessa's production equals about 5,000 gallons of milk.

The average cow in Minnesota produced 22,434 pounds of milk in 2012, according to data from Finbin, the farm financial database. That's about 2,600 gallons.

Jessa, the Olson's registered Brown Swiss, is milked three times daily, and she receives BST. Jessa doesn't get any special treatment, rooming in the barn with the other cows and eating a ration made up of a lot of corn silage, a little hay, cottonseed and other vitamins and minerals.

The Olsons lost all of their hay — 140 acres — to winterkill. Only 22 acres of new seeding survived. They finished planting corn on June 30. A crop of winter rye helped them meet their forage needs.

Winning the award is rewarding for many reasons, Olson said.

Sometimes dairy farming isn't the most fun thing to do, but "things like this make you feel good about the job that you do."

They work hard to make their animals comfortable enough to produce more milk than the average cow and to have the genetics to make high production possible.

"It's a lifetime achievement; it's a lifetime endeavor," Olson said.

Jessa isn't the first high-producing Brown Swiss in the Olson herd.

Jessa's grandmother, IE Olson Thane Jane, won the JP Eves Award in 2000 and was the first Brown Swiss in the world to produce more than 50,000 pounds of milk in her 365-day lactation.

The Olsons have two of the top three lifetime high Brown Swiss milk producers in their herd.

Mitzy, a 15 year old, has produced more than 360,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime. She is the nation's third leading lifetime milk producer for the Brown Swiss breed.

KC, who is almost 17 years old, has produced more than 364,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime. That's enough milk to earn her the No. 2 spot on the national Brown Swiss list of lifetime milk production.

The Olson's herd is comprised of 285 cows and 250 heifers. About half the herd is Holsteins and half is Brown Swiss. They have six full-time and one part-time employee. They raise their own heifers and feed and sell their bull calves weekly.

The Brown Swiss Association collects the production data from Dairy Herd Improvement Association records to determine top-producing cows. To be eligible for the production awards, dairies must also be enrolled in either the BSA or the PTPR, Muenzenberger said.

The Olsons found out six weeks before the 2013 National Brown Swiss Convention that Jessa would be receiving the JP Eves Award.

"We knew she would be in the top five; you never know what everybody else has," Olson said.

This is the first time Jessa has received the prestigious award, Olson said. Jessa was four years and seven months when she started her top-producing record year.

Other dairy producers are after Jessa's high producing genetics. She has bull contracts, which means bull studs are hoping to buy a bull from her to market.

Having the contracts is the first step in what could be a long process, she explained.

"It's a very good thing," Olson said.

Last week, Jessa went to Postville, Iowa, for in vitro fertilization. Her eggs were retrieved, and they will be fertilized in a petri dish before being placed in an incubator and sent back to the farm for implantation in donor cows.

Olson expected to get between five and 10 eggs. About half of those won't fertilize, she said. The conception rate when implanted in a donor cow is about 50 percent and another 10 percent are lost during pregnancy.

In vitro fertilization is both an art and a science, Olson said.