Bons-Holsteins: Blazing a Trail of Success

It has been a busy and successful winter for Bons-Holsteins of the Netherlands. From selling Lot 1 at the Sale of Stars and getting a bull into stud at CRV, to winning Grand Champion and top Breeder’s Group at the HHH Show in Zwolle (NL), the Bons’ family has been busy to say the least! Now, with the new year right around the corner, owner Nico Bons has one focus: the European Championship show in Belgium in April.

Bons-Holsteins is located in Ottoland, Netherlands, which is approximately an hour south of Amsterdam. Nico and Lianne Bons, along with their two children, milk 60 cows that have an average score of 89.5 pts. The classification breakdown of the herd is currently 30 EX and the rest are scored VG. Nico says the main breeding goal for the farm has been to win the European Championship show once, hopefully with a homebred cow, a goal he’s worked towards for the past 10 years. “The goal is hard to catch because there’s a lot of crazy European breeders who are chasing the same thing,” says Nico, “but this is the first year I really feel like we might have a chance!”

The cow to provide this chance is none other than Bons-Holsteins Koba 219, the recent Intermediate & Grand Champion of the recent HHH Show in Zwolle, NL, and Lot 1 of this year’s Sale of Stars at the Royal Winter Fair. Now fresh with her third calf, the 4 Year Old Lauthority daughter was described by HHH Judge Barclay Phoenix as “really good! A cow that could easily compete with the best cows in North America.”

Cowsmo had a chance to chat with Nico about the excitement over the past couple months, the new bull from the Koba family that is now in stud at CRV, and his hopes for the European version of “the big dance” in April.

What has been the highlight of the past couple months for you?
Nico:
I would say the Sale of Stars in November. We didn’t show a lot this year, just at our county show at HHH, where we had Grand both times and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but the Sale of Stars was an incredible moment for me and our breeding program.

Nico (center) is all smiles as Koba 219 sells for $46,000 for a half interest, to Westcoast Holsteins of BC, at this year’s Sale of Stars.

I was really afraid of putting Koba in the sale because I thought “what are the chances that a Canadian or US breeder would be interested?” The Koba family is a very Dutch cow family, the line didn’t originate from anything that was linked back to North America. I didn’t sleep well the last two days before the sale, but when I showed up in Toronto many people were asking questions about the cow so then I started to settle down a little bit. The way the sale staff introduced the Koba family and me was very special and an incredible honor!  

Talk about the impact of selling Koba at the Sale of Stars.
Nico:
The impact is huge! People are already asking about flushing the cow, which we won’t do until after the European Championship show. This is the start of a new way of marketing for me because previously I was focused on selling our genetics in Korea, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Belgium at the US and I knew how to work with these countries. We’ve sent a few embryo’s to Canada but never to the US. Selling half interest of Koba to Westcoast Holsteins could really be the key to breaking into the North American Market in a big way. I think this could be bigger than just selling part of the cow herself because as soon as there’s a good one in Canada or the US this cow family will take off.

I was surprised that Westcoast was interested. I had a really good chat with Darren at the Sale and they are all really excited about the potential of Koba as well. The plan is to flush her a couple times after the European show and then get her back in calf again right away. I hope she and I don’t disappoint!

What is the most impressive thing about the Koba family?
The Koba family produces one we can show each year. Her grandmother by Stormatic was very successful at shows, as was her great grandmother by Integrity. We have shown several members from this family, they transmit very well.

1st Place Breeders group with all home-bred cows.

Koba 219 has two natural Solomon calves that look great! We will likely select one for the European Sale in April. There is nothing from Koba anywhere in the world other than my barn, so this could be a unique opportunity for buyers.

How are you preparing for the Euoprean Show?
The Netherlands will get to send 15 animals to Belgium, 10 Black & White and 5 Red & White. I hope that 5-6 of those will come from my barn, but the selection commission will make that decision. To prepare I lined up 40 cows to calve at this time. It’s crazy! We have fresh cows and calves everywhere! We’ve calved in 30 so far and have 10 more to go. The rest is just keeping the cows in shape that are ready now and getting the fresh cows in shape so we have options when the selection time happens.

You had a tremendously successful HHH in Zwolle, what was the highlight for you?
Nico:
There were three highlights actually! Obviously winning Grand with Koba was amazing. You always hope that your cows will get ready, but you can never be sure because there are so many factors that go into it. I had two mature cows that weren’t ready enough for the show. This year the quality was so high, the competition level was higher, and I had a couple cows along that just weren’t good enough so that really teaches me to be selective. It’s really amazing to see how far the quality of the Dutch cattle have come, especially in the last four years, and the future looks good as well. The Dutch team is very excited about the upcoming European Show.

The second highlight was winning the herd group. There were a lot of good and deserving groups and winning with an all home-bred group is a great feeling.

The third thing, and maybe my most proud moment, was watching my daughter Anouk (13) show on a National level for the first time. She has done a lot of work with the heifers and she came to the decision to show at this show on her own. I didn’t want to push her and my only advice was “don’t cry in the ring!” It’s nice to see her and other youth get really excited about the show. There are a ton of keen young breeders here in the Netherlands, which really showed in the numbers of kids that showed in the Young Breeders show, it’s really great to see.

The other excitement for you this fall was getting your bull BOOST into stud at CRV! What is his pedigree and what are his best traits?
Nico:
Boost is a Goldwyn out of an EX-94 Jasper who has won a lot of shows, including HHH, Libramont and the Dutch National show. The dam of the Jasper is Koba 152 (Integrity), who is the great grandmother of Koba 219. Usually I sell my bull calves by 3 months of age, but Boost was very stylish as a calf so I didn’t want to part with him quickly. Boost has extremely high numbers for rump, feet & legs and udders, especially the fore udder, based on the genomic Dutch numbers. CRV was previously never selecting type bulls, but they already have interest from Spain, Italy and Canada. He jumped 5.7 points for type during the last genetic evaluation and he’s A2A2 as well. We are excited to see what will happen with him!