A feature in our Fall Special 2020 issue written by Julie Ashton.
Some operations wait a lifetime to earn their first All-American recognition, but not Jomill Farm. Established in 2006 by Jason and Melissa Heeter of Shade Gap, PA, this small herd of Ayrshires has already bred or developed seven All-American or Junior All-American nominations, with more to be added in 2020. The straight-forward thinking for their breeding program has proved effective, and the results can be seen in the show ring and the barns at home.
When Jason and Melissa first started Jomill, they were a young couple, fresh out of college, with not much extra in the funds department. “Getting on the path where we wanted was slow,” commented Jason, “but the hard work has been rewarding.” In the 14 years since, they have added two daughters, Taylor and Peyton, and have seven acres of hay ground. Jason works for Kalmbach Feeds as a nutritionist and sales rep while Melissa is a Lanco Pennland Field Representative.
Jason purchased his first Ayrshire in 2002 at the Raise To Graze sale from Plum Button Ayrshire’s in Belleville, PA. “My grandfather had Ayrshire cattle when I was younger and I had always enjoyed the quality and impressive udders of the cows throughout the 90’s,” Jason recalled. And that first purchase helped inspire the Jomill Farm name. Created by Melissa, Jomill stands for:
J – Jason
O – O’No, the first Ayrshire Jason purchased
M – Melissa
I – Iran, the first Milking Shorthorn Jason purchased as a junior
L – Luke, one of the first horses Jason & Melissa purchased together
L – Lily, one of the first horses Jason & Melissa shows together
“It’s different,” Jason joked, “but it works for us!”
For Jomill, their breeding program is designed to make correct heifers that have all the pieces to mature into excellent cows. “We strive to put heifers in the market that possess what today’s breeders are looking for: strength, power, correct feet and legs, and the potential to develop a stylish udder that will milk well,” Jason remarked. “Each breeding decision is made by evaluating the cow, researching proofs and pedigrees and selecting the bull that will compliment her,” Jason added.
“Maybe to a fault, we are not quick to use the newest, hottest bull,” Jason remarked. “With the limited number of animals we have, we tend to use bulls that have a proven history. We like to look at the trends the bulls are producing and continually talk with other breeders to see what calves they are getting out of the bulls.” Current sires include Gentleman, Burdette, B King, Kingsire, Predator, Vicking, Reagan and Perfecta, “with a splash of old school from time to time,” offered Jason. Their current “blast from the past” is a Bonnie Brae Jaye heifer from the Forever Schoon Ping (EX-95-4E 5*) family.
With all their goals in mind, the Jomill cows do have to perform at the herd average or better to keep their spot, an area which has not been a problem for them. The herd is made up of about 10 cows and 20 heifers. They raise all the heifers themselves and work with a few close herds for the milk cows. Over the last few years Dryhouse Farm, Michael and Maria Yoder, and Blessed Acres, Matt and Maria Groff, have been taking impeccable care of their milking herd.
There are two main cow families at Jomill – Oceana and Keegan. Jomill BBB Kellogg Oceana (EX-91) is a descendant of Jason’s first purchase from Plum Bottom. The 4th, 5th and 6th generations of the Oceana family are going strong, with potential for 7th generation EX cows to be developed. Oceana had one daughter, Jomill Ramius Odessa who scored EX-92 2E and had 10 daughters herself. Her first two daughters are classified EX-90 and VG-85, her Predator daughter was HM Junior All-American Summer Yearling in 2018 and her Dreamer was nominated Junior All-American Spring Yearling last year. Jason and Melissa sold Jomill Burdette Oakley-ET to Karlie Supplee of Pennsylvania earlier this year, and she has gone on to have huge success in 2020. She was named Supreme Junior Champion of the Delaware State Fair, Junior Champion at the NY Summer Spectacular and most recently 1st and HM Junior Champion at the Northeast All-Breeds Fall Show.
Jason and Melissa purchased Pocopson Meadow Brendan Katada as a springing heifer from Meredith Baily, PA. Scored GP-83, she produced over 116,000 lbs. milk lifetime and had two daughters for Jomill. Jomill Poker Keegan was born in 2009 and maxed out at EX-94 at 10 ½ years old. To date, she has 15 daughters, and is still in the herd today on an IVF program.
Her most recognizable daughter to date is Jomill Burdette Kalliope. In 2018, as an off-aged Fall Calf, Taylor showed Kalliope in Harrisburg, taking home Reserve Junior Champion honors of the Junior Show, and then Junior Champion honors of the Open Show. It was there that she caught the eyes of Gene Iager and Craig Walton of Glamourview. She sold to them and went on to be named Reserve Junior Champion at Expo. After a Junior Champion win in Louisville, she was named Unanimous All-American Fall Calf. 2019 proved to be just as exciting, with another Unanimous All-American title. “Breeding and developing Kalliope has been one of the most exciting and rewarding accomplishments for our family,” said Jason. “She has been a Junior Champion at every National Show at least once, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for Glamourview.” Kalliope had a Micro heifer in March and maxed scored VG-89 this summer.
Jason focuses mainly on marketing and breeding from the Oceana and Keegan families. “We select a few cows each year for our IVF program,” Jason said. “Our goal is to have a few heifers each for Taylor and Peyton to show as well as make several available for private or public sales.” Jason and Melissa like to support the local PA Ayrshire Breeders Spring Sale and have consigned to the National Ayrshire Breeders Sale of late as well.
They are also very active in the National Ayrshire Youth Lease Program. “We have invited local youth kids to join us along the show road and be able to show a heifer at the Premier National Junior Ayrshire Show in Harrisburg and the Junior in Louisville,” Jason said. They also have several kids involved in the local 4-H lease programs who exhibit at their county fair.
“We feel it is very important to get the younger generation involved in showing cattle and give kids opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Jason remarked. “It gives them the opportunity to network and meet people from all over the world and have experiences that will develop them into successful adults.”
Jason and Melissa’s daughters, Taylor and Peyton, have certainly had the opportunity to learn on the show circuit as well. While 2020 provided many roadblocks and uncertainties, they did have the chance to exhibit at the recent Northeast All-Breeds Fall Ayrshire Show with tremendous results. Jomill-bred cattle swept the Junior Division Junior Champion lineup with Karribean Dream (Dreamer x Keegan) named Junior Champion, Gentle Kreation (Gentleman x Dreamer x Keegan) named Reserve and Burdette Kaliente (Burdette x Keegan) received Honorable Mention honors. As stated earlier, Burdette Oakley was HM of the Open Division for Karlie Supplee and the trio of Karribean, Kreation and Oakley were the winning Junior Best Three group. Jomill was also named Premier Breeder and Exhibitor of the Heifer Show.
For Jason, Melissa, Taylor and Peyton the last few years has been an incredible journey, with more exciting times hopefully to come. “We truly appreciate all of the breeders who have been there to discuss cattle, talk about bulls, give honest advice, keep the girls healthy and walking on well-groomed feet, nudge us out of our comfort zone, and support us on this journey,” commented Jason. “It is an honor to see our animals successfully walk on in the programs of other breeders. They may leave our barn, but they will always be ‘our girls’, and we are forever their biggest fans!”