BARABOO, Wis. — The Wisconsin Holstein Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Distinguished Holstein Breeder and Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder awards.
Erik and Brenda Gilbertson, Hollandale, have been named this year’s Distinguished Young Holstein Breeders while the late Glenn and Joann Brewer of Glenn-Ann Holsteins, Albany, have been named Distinguished Holstein Breeder. Award recipients will be recognized at the Wisconsin Dairy Showcase on May 1 at the Jefferson County Fair Park.
Distinguished Holstein Breeder: Glenn and Joann Brewer and Family, Glenn-Ann Holsteins, Albany
Farming is more than cow families, pedigrees and production for the Brewer family of Glenn-Ann Holsteins in Albany. Farming includes sharing a connection with those in their agricultural community and in the Registered Holstein business.
Glenn and Joann Brewer grew up just a few miles apart, both graduating from Albany High School in 1962. The high school sweethearts both showed at the Green County Fair, but it was Joann who showed dairy while Glenn grew up showing pigs. After high school Glenn attended UW-Platteville to run cross-country. He stayed in Grant County after graduation, teaching agriculture and becoming a loan officer. Joann got her teaching degree and taught school in that same area. After daughters Tami and Traci were born they decided to move back to their hometown and raise their kids on the farm. They purchased the farm next to where Joann grew up, starting with 40 grade cows. As years passed, Tony was born and changes were happening at the farm. An addition was added to the barn, doubling the size and Registered Holsteins started to fill the barn.
As Tami got old enough to show, Glenn would buy registered calves, many times heading back to the Grant County area to find them. It was a purchase at the Green County Holstein Sale that changed Glenn-Ann forever. J-J Jonette EB Bootie was purchased in 1981 as a September calf for Tami to show. Bootie went on to be the first Excellent cow at Glenn-Ann, the first to go over 200,000 pounds milk lifetime, and was a Gold Medal Dam and Dam of Merit. While Bootie did not flush well, the next generations added many offspring to the herd. At one time half the herd traced back to Bootie. Traci and Tony got to show Bootie’s daughters and granddaughters to many show winnings with Brandi-Slush, Mark Sabrina and Xmas.
During this time, Glenn continued to make improvements to the farm for cow comfort to increase production or make things more efficient. A TMR mixer was purchased and the “old part” of the barn was remodeled with new larger stalls and cow mats. Through the years, a power feed cart and bedding chopper were added to speed up and make chores easier. All of this helped in reaching a herd average of over 30,000 pounds of milk with nearly 1300 pounds of fat and 1000 pounds of protein.
Glenn-Ann includes the home farm where the cows are milked and the heifer farm a mile up the road where Joann grew up and has been in her family for over 100 years. With the addition of some land purchased from a neighbor years ago, the farm now includes over 500 acres owned, plus another 130 rented. This is more than enough to grow feed for the over 200 head.
Through the years, not only did the cows produce more milk, but the overall type in the herd continued to improve. One example was Glenn’s favorite cow, Glenn-Ann Jasper Shiner EX-94. She was one of seven Excellent daughters of Glenn-Ann Durham Sharla, EX-93, and a descendant of Bootie. Sharla lived to be 16 years old, producing lots of milk and many show winning daughters. Her offspring won the Produce of Dam class at the district show many times, along with runner-up at the District 6 Futurity four times. Shiner’s daughter, Glenn-Ann Gold Chip Shiraz EX-92, was crowned Grand Champion at the 2017 District 6 Show.
Glenn and Joann truly appreciated their homebred animals and always enjoyed letting youth borrow heifers to show after the kids became too old to show at the county and state fairs. Occasionally, they even let a good one get away, including a Doorman fall calf that traced back to Shiner and Sharla, and thus Bootie. Glenn-Ann Doorman Bootie, EX-94, was sold to the family that bred Bootie and went on to be nominated Junior All-American in milking form.
While the majority of the cows were all homebred at Glenn-Ann, there were a few exceptions along the way. The one leaving the biggest impact was Wilcoxview BC Phinale EX-93 GMD, also with over 200,000 pounds of milk in her 18 years. All animals on the farm starting with “Ph” trace back to this family favorite. Phinale was a special young calf for Brian and Tami during their time at Wilcox Farms in Washington and made the long-distance trip to Wisconsin after one of the Wilcoxview herd sales. In 2019, Phinale had seven living generations on the farm.
Phinale joined a couple of other Wilcoxview bred animals – Wilcoxview Perfec Formation, VG-87 GMD DOM, along with a daughter of All-American Wilcoxview BC Cami. Glenn-Ann Miss Pepperdine VG-89, a Rudolph daughter from Perfec, became a major genetic player at the farm. Pepperdine, her daughters and granddaughters helped put the farm on the world map and garnered a lot of international visitors, AI contracts and embryo exports. Her son, Palermo, was a popular Goldwyn son at Accelerated Genetics and great-grandson, Providence (Meridian x Jeeves x Goldwyn), did well at Semex.
The breeding goal at Glenn-Ann was to breed for positive production and solid type as the first criteria when selecting sires. When the kids were young and showing, a portion of the herd was bred to high type show sires which also laid the foundation for families that continue to produce VG and EX cows. At the start of the 2010s, more emphasis was placed on cows that could score well but make at least 150,000 pounds of milk by the time they finish their 6-year-old lactation.
Glenn always believed that consistency in feeding and milking was key to a successful herd. Heifers needed to be well cared for and fed to have large frames so they can calve in at 23 to 26 months. Cows needed to be fertile enough to calve regularly and healthy to remain in the herd for a long time. This philosophy earned Glenn-Ann Holsteins a spot on Holstein Association USA’s Herds of Excellence list in 2016, one of only four herds honored that year.
Over the past few years a decision was made on the future of the herd. The tie-stall barn and stalls were showing their age, so the possibility of a freestall shed was discussed. But with Glenn’s passing in February of 2020 and Joann continuing to fight, and then losing her own cancer battle, the decision was made to start selling the milking herd privately after the August 2020 classification. That classification day resulted in a 109.6 BAA, placing Glenn-Ann in the top 200 herds for BAA. All fall, the cows left the farm as they were sold to nearby herds in small groups. With the remaining cows and a group of heifers calving in November, it left about 30 head that were sold in an online auction the end of December.
While Glenn-Ann is done shipping milk, there are still many heifers and calves running around one of the two farms. With a few of the cows sold in partnership and a few others that might calve in before getting sold, there will be Registered Holsteins calling Glenn-Ann home for years to come. The next generation, Jaxson and Kinslee, need to know what it is like growing up on a farm. The family will continue to remain active in the Registered Holstein community to build on the legacy Glenn and Joann built and share their love of the Holstein cow with others.
Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder: Erik and Brenda Gilbertson, Gildale Holsteins, Hollandale
The Gildale prefix has been a familiar name among Registered Holstein breeders for more than 40 years. Erik Gilbertson and his wife Brenda are the fourth generation to operate the dairy, located right within the borders of the town of Hollandale.
Erik grew up on Gildale Holsteins and Brenda also came from a Registered Holstein dairy, Cava-Lanes Holsteins in Reedsville. Today, they farm together at Gildale Holsteins with their daughters, Makenna (10), Elise (7), Naydeen (5). Janelle (1) and Braxton. After graduating from the UW-Madison Farm & Industry Short Course, Erik farmed with his father, Mark, while also working off the farm at shows and sales. When Mark suffered a stroke in 2004, Erik made the decision to stay on the farm and continue the Gildale name. Erik and Brenda were married in 2009, and farmed in partnership with Mark until purchasing the farm in 2017.
The herd they have built today is a result of breeding from genetics purchased from Canada in 1996 when Mark and Erik wanted to rebuild the herd following a dispersal a few years earlier. At that time, the exchange rate was in favor of the US dollar so the Gilbertsons were able to invest in Canadian genetics for an ideal price. The pair invested in high type individuals like Bridgewood Stardust Barbie, EX-93, who became a very successful member of the herd. She did well in the showring and transmitted her big, tall and wide frame with youthful udders to her offspring that still remain in the herd today.
Since they started farming together in 2008, Erik and Brenda have improved their BAA by nearly two points, up from 109.6 to 111.1. The barn currently houses 18 Excellent cows, 24 Very Good cows and just seven Good Plus cows.
Over the years, Erik and Mark continued to make trips to Canada to invest in new genetics. This allowed Erik to develop a breeding philosophy similar to breeders in Canada and develop an eye for animals. Two other individuals that were purchased that had an impact on the herd were Valley Lane GDR Nutmeg, EX-92, and Paradigm Formation Mint, EX-90.
Nutmeg was one of the cornerstones of Erik’s junior showing career and was named Grand Champion of the District 3 Show two years in a row. Her Jasper granddaughter also did well in the showring, placing second in the 2013 Wisconsin Holstein Futurity.
Mint was known for her components and high scoring family members. This cow family has produced two herd favorites today – Gildale Storm Marie EX-93, and her daughter, Gildale Aftershock Maria EX-94.
This breeding philosophy and eye for cattle led Erik and his friend Nik Sutter to purchase Sunnyset Mason Trixie EX-92. Her daughter, Ms Gildale Roy Tabitha EX-94, became a cornerstone of the breeding program and was also Grand Champion of the District 3 Show twice and produced a number of high type daughters.
Another cow family that the Gilbertsons are working with is that of Vale-O-Skene Atwood Stars, EX-94, who was the Grand Champion of the District 6 Holstein Show in 2019 and was owned in partnership with Brandon Flannery. Stars transitioned into an even greater cow with so much potential which motivated Erik to become a better breeder and caretaker. Erik also says it was a privilege to partner with a great friend who inspired him to work even harder. They lost Stars last summer but have several promising young daughters thanks to success with IVF.
A recent purchase that the Gilbertsons are excited about is Our-Favorite She Vintage-ET. This Avalanche daughter was fresh last fall and is coming along nicely. She has high genomic type that comes from a deep cow family, Our-Favorite Unlimited EX-94.
Gildale Advent Primrose sold as a calf in the 2008 “Gildale and Company” sale to Second-Look Holsteins. Through their care, she was the first Gildale-bred cow to achieve the score of Excellent-95. She is a descendant of Windy-Knoll-View Ultimate Pala EX-94 DOM. Another consignment in the 2008 Gildale and Company sale, Ms Ava Pronto Alice from Marty Kinyon, made her new home at Gildale and established strong red lines in Erik’s breeding program. Her daughter, Gildale Aso Attractiv-Red-ET EX-93, is a favorite Red and White Holstein at Gildale and transmits well.
The Gilbertsons plan to continue breeding cows that produce good components while also exemplifying good type and longevity. “Milking cows is a daily thing for me, it’s part of us and our way of life. We take pride in breeding cows and it’s our hope that we can share success with other breeders as well,” Erik says
Management also remains a very important part of developing these types of cows. In the last few years cow comfort has become one of the most important aspects of care. Over the years, the Gilbertsons have installed mattresses, more fans, aisle mats, improved neck rails, and the addition of box stalls. Grazing also gives cows the ability to exercise and get outside during the nicer parts of the year. The Gilbertsons value care of heifers, too, so in 2016 a new heifer barn was built for younger heifers and breeding age heifers.
Being active in the community is important to the family in addition to farming. Erik has served as a lieutenant at the Hollandale Volunteer Fire Department for 20-plus years and is the dairy leader for the Blue Ribbon 4-H Club. The couple also hosts farm tours for the Pecatonica Elementary School and Brenda volunteers in the classroom. Brenda’s passion for her fellow farmers led her to found the MILK 5K Run/Walk to support and create awareness around mental health in rural communities.
In addition to shows, other Wisconsin Holstein activities are critical to the success and involvement of both Erik and Brenda but also for their children. In 2017, Gildale was the site of the Wisconsin Holstein State Picnic. The couple is active with the Iowa County Holstein Association and Brenda serves on the District 3 Show committee
Installing a strong work ethic in their children is something both feel strongly about and believe that farming is one of the best ways to do so. They hope to offer their children this way of life and character building skills through the connections of the dairy industry. Erik and Brenda are looking forward to getting their daughters more involved in Junior Holsteins and 4-H as well as FFA later down the road.
— Wisconsin Holstein Association
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