Mixed Herd – Steady Success!

This story, written by Kathleen O’Keefe, was featured in our 2019 Summer issue.

AJCA Vice President Walter Owens presented Jason, Leah & Brenlyn James with the AJCA Young Jersey Breeder Award in 2018.

It’s happened to many readers of this magazine. Maybe it’s even happened to you. You grow up loving and showing one breed of dairy cattle, when one day, a really nice heifer from another breed sneaks in the barn…then maybe another nice heifer from yet another breed, and before you know it, you’ve got more colors in the barn than in Joseph’s coat! The herd of Jason and Leah James is a colorful bunch and they wouldn’t have it any other way – the Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, and Holstein cow families they’ve developed all have their place of pride on the farm located in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

Married in 2011, the same year they took over day-to-day management of the dairy, the couple currently run 170 milking cows and raise all young stock on the 200-acre operation. The 100 Holsteins, 20 Milking Shorthorns and 50 Jersey (all Registered) are milked in a double six parallel parlor and housed in two free-stall barns.

Jason is on the farm full time, making the day to day management decisions while renting the facilities from Jason’s parents. Ralph, Jason’s dad is still active on the dairy, helping daily with general farm labor and manure hauling. Ralph and Jason’s mom Mary Jean also raise over 1,000 meat chickens yearly which they market in a CSA as well as the local farmers market. Leah works full-time off the farm as the U.S. Dairy Marketing Manager for GENEX, but still stays very active in the operation managing the calves and heifers, handling the bookwork, registrations and assisting with mating decisions. Two part-time employees help with milking, and family is always there to pitch in when necessary.

Circlehawk Kyros Rizzo of PVF EX-94, is one of the high type Jersey families that Leah and Jason James have developed.

Even with three breeds, the breeding goals remain consistent for Jason and Leah. “Our philosophy is to concentrate on building cow families that both milk well and excel in type. We’ve tried to take a modern approach to the breeding program here at Pine-Valley – all matings are made individually, and we’ve extensively utilized genomics as well as embryo work (both traditional flushing as well as IVF) to further advance the genetics in the herd,” comments Leah. “Genomics is a wonderful tool to use when selecting genetics. On the Holstein and Jersey side of the herd, we use almost exclusively genomic young sires, recognizing that we have increased accuracy in the genetic values. We still make sure to use sires that are backed by good cow families that have scored dams, granddams and milk records. On the Milking Shorthorn side, genomics is not available to use, so we make sure to select with deep pedigrees and that balanced combination of type and production. We try to utilize a group of sires that will work on our herd rather than seeking the perfect mating for each individual cow. After each proof run, we sit down and run a sort of potential sires. For the Holsteins, criteria includes +1000 pounds on Milk, +2.50 UDC and +0 DPR. On the Jersey side, we focus on +600 CM$ and positive DPR.”

While many cow families have positively influenced the herd, one Jersey cow family has lifted Pine-Valley to national prominence. Clareshoe Allstar Zoom Zoom EX-91 was purchased at the 2014 National Heifer Sale in Washington D.C. Zoom Zoom fit many criteria for an investment that the couple were looking for at the time. She was one of the top CM$ heifers on the sale, backed by a full pedigree – her dam is an EX-91% Legal daughter, and although Zoom Zoom was a bred heifer, she could still be worked with after the sale.  She also deviated considerably higher over her parent average, which was especially appealing to Leah & Jason. After she made her way from Ohio to Pine-Valley, Zoom Zoom was immediately put on an IVF program. The decision was made to use a mating sire from GENEX – JX Faria Brothers Prop Joe {3}. The IVF session resulted in four bulls and two heifers. As it would happen, JX PVF Prop Joe Zip {4}-ET a female, tested the highest of the siblings.  Zip and her

Jason & Leah with Pine-Valley P Junebug EXP, 4th Junior 2-Year-Old and Corstar PVF LoveSpell EXP, 3rd 4-Year-Old at the 2018 World Dairy Expo.

full sister JX PVF Prop Joe Zap {4}-ET are both on the 1.5% list today and Zip is a former #2 GJPI cow.

The Janes worked extensively with Zip as a heifer, running her on an IVF program. The mating to World Cup {5}, an early release sire from GENEX would prove to be a fruitful decision for the Pine-Valley breeding program. JX PVF WC ZINC {5}-ET, the resulting bull calf, is an elite young sire that is now available from GENEX. JX ZINC {5} is one of the top genomic sires in stud right now at +201 GJPI and +690 CM$. Full sister to Zip, Zap also has a World Cup {5} son, Zander, that is at stud at CRV, and the matriarch herself, Zoom Zoom, has a son at Jerseyland sires, ZUP {6}. JX PVF Zips ZIGOR {4}-ET is in waiting at ABS. The couple is excited to see what kind of impact this family can have in the breed.

Zoom Zoom and her daughters have made an impact in the herd at Pine-Valley as well. Zoom Zoom’s daughters, JX PVF Prop Joe Zip {4}, JX PVF Prop Joe Zap {4} and PVF Premium Zig are all milking extremely well with impressive components, and all scored Very Good as young cows. A polled daughter by Santana-P is fresh, scored VG-85% as a two-year-old and is due again to ZIZIC in August. Zoom Zoom’s granddaughters include, JX PVF World Cup Zarifa {5} (full sister to ZINC) who was recently fresh and has a natural heifer by FAMILIA {3} with genomic results pending. The hutches currently also have lots of early ZINC daughters which have tested well and are very flashy and consistent in their makeup.

A high-type Jersey family featuring back to back EX-94 point cows is also notable in the herd. Circlehawk T-bone Regina Tana was purchased as a bred heifer, went on to be scored EX-94 and has lifetime production over 100,000 milk. Her daughter, Circlehawk Kyros Rizzo of PVF, also developed at Pine-Valley is EX-94, and has multiple records over 19,000 milk and over 1000 fat. Both cows are still in the herd and have multiple daughters and granddaughters.

Jason & Leah with Jason’s parents, Mary Jean & Ralph at WDE.

Leah & Jason also enjoy keeping busy showing at local, state and national levels with notable success. They’ve bred and developed cows and heifers that have been nominated All-American in the Milking Shorthorn breed. They also enjoy sharing the herd with young show enthusiasts. Each summer, Pine-Valley welcomes multiple juniors out to the farm to lease show animals for the show season. Last year, more than a dozen junior leased animals made it to county shows in southern Wisconsin. Leah & Jason also enjoy selling ‘project’ calves to juniors, helping them to get started in the registered business.

On the Milking Shorthorn side, the focus is on type and production. Genomics are not available for the breed, so they use genetics that is backed by deep cow families with outstanding production. A standout that has carried the Pine-Valley prefix is Pine-Valley Logic Zainey-ET. This Logic daughter was scored 2E-93, records over 27,000 milk, and was nominated All-American Junior 3-Year-Old. Zainey left multiple daughters and granddaughters in the herd and her impact will be seen for generations to come.

In 2018, the couple also had success in the show ring with a couple other Milking Shorthorn families. Pine-Valley P June Bug EXP, a multiple generation home bred Junior 2-Year-Old placed 4th in an extremely competitive class at World Dairy Expo, going on to be nominated All-American. Corstar PVF Love Spell EXP-ET, purchased as an embryo, also ended up 3rd 4-Year-Old at World Dairy Expo and writes an impressive pedigree going back to Nixs Lilly Pad, who was Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo in 2008. Love Spell was also nominated All-American in 2018.

The couple has also been recognized on the national stage for elite production for the Milking Shorthorn cow – GE Fre-Way AC Dee Dee EX-90. In 2015, she was awarded the W. Arthur Simpson Memorial Award for the top Milk record in the Milking Shorthorn breed, producing in 305d 32,140 3.2% 1,034F 2.8% 911P. She has daughters in herd by Ironman-P, Anecedote-P and St. Clare. Her first three milking daughters all scored VG on their first lactation and carry impressive milk records.

“Our Philosophy is to concentrate on building cow families that both milk well and excel in type. We’ve tried to take a modern approach to the breeding program here at Pine Valley – all mating’s are made individually, and we’ve extensively utilized genomics as well as embryo work to further advance the genetics in the herd.” – Jason James

Though they are the 3rd generation on the farm, the couple believes in adapting and implanting for the future, not wishing things were the same as 20 or 30 years ago. “Our philosophy, and one that registered/purebred breeders need moving forward, is to fully embrace technology to stay relevant,” explains Leah. “We genomic test almost all of our Jersey herd and most of our Holstein herd. In turn, we use these values to select embryo donors and use the lower end genetic animals as recipients. We utilize IVF technology but with recent economic challenges we’ve also implemented a more aggressive traditional flush program.”

Leah speaks positively about the farm and the industry in the years to come, “We certainly believe that the registered cattle business will have a place going forward. Having both grown up showing cattle and taking part in Registered Holstein and Jersey activities has helped strengthen our commitment to this industry while also creating lifelong connections. We want to make sure our daughter, Brylyn, and other Juniors get that same opportunities we had.”