This article was a feature story in our 2020 Summer Issue, written by Julie Ashton.
While multi-generation dairy farms are certainly the norm, that hasn’t stopped first generation dairy farmers Ron and Renee Michalovich and their son, Kevin, from making RNR Swiss a household name. Located in Lakeville, OH, RNR has built a herd of beautiful Brown Swiss cows that can compete in the show ring, make milk, and improve the next generation through their thoughtful sire selections.
After falling in love with the Brown Swiss breed at a local dairy show, Ron and Renee purchased their first two heifers in 1979 using money from their recent wedding.Since then, the herd, located in Lakeville,OH, has expanded to 160 Registered Brown Swiss and 20 Registered Holstein cows, with an equal number of young stock. Their current RHA on 205 head is 24,200M 1050F 905P.
For the Michalovich family, the breeding philosophy is simple. “First and foremost,we want our Brown Swiss to look like Brown Swiss should,” remarked Ron. They breed for cows with a wide muzzle, width and depth of chest, wide rumps and great legs, while also focusing on balanced cows with dairy quality. According to Kevin, “when breeding a cow for strength it makes it easier to come back and use a high milk bull for the next generation. We breed cows to have strength and capacity so producing milk is easier.” Their keen eye for cattle and thoughtful breeding goals earned them the title of Young Breeder in 1995 and Active Master Breeder in 2017 from the Brown Swiss Association.
“When we compare our cows to other breeders, we may not have as much style but we like the balance that our cows emphasize along with their ability to milk along with a more youthful udder,” Ron said. Their herd has 24 Excellent cows with another 90+ scored Very Good and they have had 41 All-American Nominations.And when walking through the barns,you can easily see the consistency that the family strives for.
Located at their present location for the last 33 years, the farm has grown to their current numbers for various reasons. In the mid-2000s, they had an extensive flush program and the herd expanded rapidly. Combined with the use of sexed semen, RNR outgrew their original barns,and another free stall barn was built.Through all this, they stayed committed to their breeding goals, and now the Swiss herd is nearly 100% home bred,except for two animals that are housed at RNR for their respective owners.
“During the mid-90s, we made some key purchases, and like many breeders, some turned out while others did not meet our expectations,” Ron commented. Snells DeLaurie (GP-84) was Ron and Renee’s first purchase and seven generations later, RNR Brookings Vera (EX-91) was Nominated All-American twice and made nearly 130,000M lifetime with a best record of 35,110M 4.4F 3.4P at 3-11 in 365 days.
Another key purchase made in 1992 was Towpath Emory Jasmine-ET (EX-90 4E),whose dam was Arnola Louie Jessie (EX-925E). Her best record at 4-11 was 38,230M4.6F 3.9P and she had over 210,000M lifetime. Today, 1/3 of the milking herd at RNR traces back to Jasmine through her 25 daughters. RNR Emergency Jera-ET (EX-942E 94-MS) is an 8th generation Excellent and was Nominated All-American Senior 3-Year-Old in 2014. RNR Supreme Janna(EX-90 2E) had over 200,000M lifetime and won the HR Searles & JP Eves Awards in 2014 for high butterfat and milk with a record of 50,830M 7.1F 3613 3.2P 1632. She was also on the Honor Roll for Milk,Fat and Protein in 2014 as well and is still currently the #1 Butterfat cow in the breed.
In 1995, Kevin purchased R Hart Aytola Cassidy as a fall calf and she would turn into another foundation family for RNR. She is a daughter of 1987 All-American 4-Year-Old Gentle Breeze Mat Christine(3E-90) that was a popular cow in the 90s. “This family was a super transmitting family for production and type,”commented Kevin. Cassidy eventually scored 2E-90 91-MS and produced over 124,000M lifetime. Her daughter RNR Dynasty Camille-ET was 2E-92 93-MS and was Reserve Grand Champion at the Ohio State Fair in 2011. RNR Supreme Candy Corn (2E-92) is a daughter of Camille and was Reserve All-American Senior 3-Year-Old in 2012.
Bulls used 20 and 30 years ago also set the foundation for some of their favorite cows today. Towpath Telstar Aytola sired cows that produced a lot of milk and had tremendous high, wide rear udders. RNR Aytola Reba (VG-88) won both the National Youth Production and Cheese Yield awards for Kevin in 1998.
R Hart TC Denmark sired their first home bred EX-94 cow in 2007. RNR Denmark Brooke had a best 365-day record of 35,440M 4.0F 3.2Pand made nearly 190,000M lifetime. Nominated All-American 4-Year-Old in 2003, Brooke is the dam of RNR Payoff Brookings-ET *TM, a sire that really propelled the RNR prefix into international status. Brookings sired balanced cows that milked well, had high protein components and was positive DPR. When he came into the market in 2010, he was an out cross sire (Payoff x Denmark x Prophet) that could be used on Wonderment and Vigor daughters.
As a former #1 PPR sire, Brookings has over 1900 registered daughters in the U.S., with nearly 1000 classified. Of those classified, 614 are Very Good or Excellent,with eight classified at EX-92. Brookings has sired daughters around the world,including Pedrini Brookings Bookie, named Best Udder at the Italian National Show in 2018, and Tandara Brookings Annarbor 29, HM Champion at IDW 2018.
Denmark Brooke is also the grandam of RNR Supreme LeBron *TM, another popular sire for breeders around North America.“LeBron has been the most consistent and overall best udder bull we have ever used.He stamps out high, wide rear udders and welded on fore udders with veins and silk texture to space,” remarked Kevin. And his numbers support this statement. Of his 213 registered daughters in the U.S.,107 are classified, with 22 scored EX and 51 scored VG, and all of those cows have either VG or EX udders.
One of two EX-94 LeBron daughters is RNR LeBron Emily (EX-94 2E 96-MS), nominated All-American for the last 5 years. In 2017, she was the winning 5-year-old at World Dairy Expo and walked herself to a Reserve Senior and HM Grand Champion title. The following year, she stood second and still captured the HM Grand Champion award. Emily is due in March 2021 for the 7th time in 8 years and Kevin has high hopes that she will once again walk the colored shavings and possibly earn her sixth All-American nomination.
Another key cow family is RNR Formula Peanut (EX-93 4E). She was the All American Futurity Winner and became the family’s first Bred & Owned All-American as a Senior 2-Year-Old in 1999. Peanut would go on to make over 188,000 lbs. milk lifetime, and she became a cornerstone family at RNR. She had 10 Excellent daughters by eight different sires, and four daughters nominated All-American all by different sires. RNR Primetime Pistachio (EX-92 2E) followed in her mother’s footsteps, capturing Reserve All-American honors in 2005 and being nominated as a Junior 3-Year-Old the following year. RNR Jack Perfection-ET (EX-92 2E), another daughter of Peanut, won the HR Searles Award for Butterfat in 2015, was a 2X Fat Honor Roll cow and was Nominated All-American Senior 2-Year-Old in 2012.
Another star for the Michalovich family is RNR Prelude Dusty (EX-94 5E). She was the 2018 Living Lifetime Award Winner for Energy Corrected Milk with a lifetime of 337,557M 13,558F 11,210P (371,720 ECM).Her dam was an EX-91 Challenge that had over 160,000M lifetime.She has daughters and granddaughters in the herd that are standouts and making impressive records themselves.
Like many breeders, RNR uses a combination of genomics and proven performance in their breeding program. “Genomics is a very important part to the blue print of breeding cows today,” commented Ron. “Using bulls free of halo types, health and fitness traits are what we like to use. We also want to sample a genomic bull from a proven cow family, sired by a proven bull, and has a full pedigree with high classification scores.We look for bulls that have sires in their pedigree that we like and have used on our farm with success.” Current sires in the tank include Carter, Winning Formula, Cadence,Huge, Nello, First Choice and Trek.
RNR also uses many home bred bulls in their breeding program. In order to keep a bull it must be from one of our favorite cow families, be free of halo types and be an out cross. They use them on select groups of heifers during the summer months, and over the years, they have kept bulls from six of their best cow families. Currently, they are using three of their own bulls on the farm.
A Fast&Furious out of RNR Emergency Jera (EX-94) has zero Wonderment, Brookings, Vigor or Biver in his pedigree, so he can be used on nearly any cow. Jera was Nominated All-American and is a 9th generation Excellent. EX-94 Lebron Emily has a Calvin son they are very excited about. “His sire is noted as one of the best udder bulls in the breed and combined with Emily’s 96 point udder makes him special,” remarked Kevin. And from the Peanut family comes a Glenwood from a Bold, who was a Nemo son from EX Vigor Broadway x Denmark Brooke.
The Michalovich family are great supporters of the Brown Swiss breed. Ron served as a National Director from 2006 to 2012 and Renee was the co-chairman of the 2017 National Convention. They have hosted classification conferences,judging teams and participated in the Leasing Program through BSA. Kevin won the National Youth Achievement Contest in 1999 and has judged at the local, state and national level.
For Ron, Renee and Kevin, the success of the RNR herd has been built from years of hard work, determination and unwavering breeding goals. While the herd may only be 40 years old, the love of the “big Brown cow” has given the RNR herd the foundation for success for years and generations to come.