This article was featured in our Fall 2020 issue and is written by Julie Ashton.
With a passion fueled by endless dreams, Molly Westwood traveled halfway around the world to learn from “the West” and broaden her knowledge of the Registered Holstein breed in 2007. At only 16-years-old, the trip from northern UK to Alberta, Canada was long, but looking back 13 years later, it proved to be one of the best decisions that Molly ever made. Today, Molly has developed a world-recognized herd of Red and White cattle that any breeder would be proud of.
Born and raised on a grade dairy farm that had been passed down for three generations, Molly learned about responsibility and hard work at a young age. She, along with her parents and four siblings, worked together to take care of their non-pedigree Holstein farm. “I always loved the cows,” remarked Molly, “and have many happy childhood memories of me helping dad scrape up after school from the age of 4 or 5.”
Molly caught the “show bug” in 2004 and began working with a few calves. “I was lucky enough to have some help along the way from Chris Parry, our Semex rep at the time, who lent me a pair of second-hand clippers to clip my first calf for a show,” recalled Molly. “And today, I still use those same clippers!” From there, she had the opportunity to help out at some sales and shows and learned what was all involved in the show side of the dairy industry.
Just as her passion and knowledge for the industry was expanding, her family unfortunately had no other choice than to sell the farm in 2007 while she was taking her final exams in school. She convinced her father to keep one cow from their herd, Honesberie Charles Gem
VG-86 2Y, who her father had purchased as a Christmas present for Molly as a baby calf. Molly asked some local friends to house and care for the 9th generation VG/EX cow, who would eventually become the foundation for her Panda herd.
After the herd was sold, Molly and her family moved three hours south to be closer to family. During this time, Molly was missing working with cows and the opportunity to work for Morsan Farms arose. “Despite being 16-years-old, I missed the cows within a month and knew that they needed to be part of my future and life going forward,” she recalled. “You don’t realize how much you miss something until its gone.” In the fall of 2007, she traveled over 4000 miles to the world-class Holstein operation in Ponoka, AB, to try and fill her desire to work with cows every day.
Molly planned on staying in Canada for one or two years, but quickly turned into an almost four-year stint. “Working for one of the best pedigreed show herds and commercial herds in the world was the best experience I have had in my life,” recounted Molly. “It shaped me from a young 16-year-old girl to a 21-yearold young woman who knew what she wanted in life.
Molly credits her life-changing experience to the Morsan owners and managers. “The Morsan team – the Thalen family and Chris Parry, the Pedigree/Marketing Manager and my boss – was the nicest people I could have worked for. I was given the opportunity to work with the best cows in the Holstein breed at the time, and I also learned many basic skills on the commercial side of the business too!”
During her time at Morsan, Molly had the chance to work with numerous outstanding individuals, but a highlight of her final year goes back to the Royal Winter Fair in 2011 when Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy EX-95-2E 30* and Blondin Redman Seisme-Red EX-97-2E 3* were each named Grand Champion of their respective shows for Morsan. Molly was also present when Missy sold for $1.2 million in the Road to the Royal Sale.
Despite working with some of the world’s best cattle, a void was missing for Molly. “There’s no place like home, and there’s nothing better than breeding your own cattle,” Molly stated. “I enjoyed my time in Canada, but you always put more into something that you own and have bred.”
With that thought in mind, Molly moved back to the UK in late 2011. Her parents had planned on moving to a small holding around the same time, so Molly took out a loan and built a barn on that land and started Panda Holsteins from scratch.
“My business model was to develop and sell the best pedigreed Holsteins I could,” she recalled. “I was never interested in milking 100’s of cows. I love to develop and maximize the potential of individuals, something I had learned during my time in Canada.
Molly’s dream barn was completed in 2015, which houses about 30 animals. “I don’t sell milk, therefore any animal in milk has to have it’s rightful place,” remarked Molly. “Otherwise it’s sold.” There are usually three or four milking cows in the barn and currently Molly is housing several show cows for other breeders. She also has around 20 pedigreed young stock on-hand, with the majority getting sold before breeding age, and an additional 30 females for embryo recipients.
For anyone that follows Panda Holsteins on social media, you’ve probably noticed a trend in Molly’s photos . . . Red & White Holsteins. Molly has always had an affinity for Red & White genetics over Black & White because they were just a bit different she said. “Somebody once said to me, ‘Red Holsteins are no good, they don’t give any milk and the are non-comparable to the Black & White’s,”’ she recalled. “Well, I love to prove people wrong!”
Over the last few years, Reds have increased in popularity around the world. “I feel this is because many R&W animals have been giving the B&Ws a run for their money at the shows and seem to be obtaining higher sale prices within elite pedigree sales,” Molly stated. “And I feel my first cow family I developed, Fools Gold, had a unique edge to the breed, using the best B&W genetics to still produce a Red animal.” With the development of that family, along with a few other prominent Red additions, 95% of the Panda herd are either Red or RC.
While that stat alone is noteworthy, what’s even more impressive is that Molly has bred and developed 9 Excellent and 41 Very Good females under the Panda prefix that have been sold in the past eight years.
Panda Herd Foundation
Molly’s most valuable takeaway from Canada wasn’t necessarily a lesson learned, but a genetic acquisition. Molly purchased a flush of Alexander eggs from her favorite cow at the farm, Stoneden Fools Gold Red VG-88-3Y 9*. “That was my ‘piece of Morsan’ I wanted to take home, and those embryos in turn helped formed what I have built at Panda today,” according to Molly.
Fools Gold was a Variant Red Goldwyn, and her mating to Alexander produced several Red offspring, including Panda Redfactor Red, which at the time of his AI release, was the only Red & White Alexander son in the world.
Additionally, three heifers were born from those embryos: Panda Lexander Fools Gold Red ET EX-93-2E, Panda Allyander Fools Gold ET EX-90 and Panda Alexa Fools Gold ET RC VG-88. From those three females, 23 animals have classified VG or Excellent under the Panda prefix.
Undoubtedly Molly’s best brood cow to date has been Lexander Fools Gold Red. “Lexy” earned numerous show recognitions as a young cow including HM R&W Champion at UK Dairy Day in 2016 and is currently the highest classified VRC cow in the breed. As a brood cow, she already has eight Very Good daughters. One such daughter is Panda Heart Of Gold Red ET VG-88, sired by Brokaw, who was UK Dairy Day R&W Champion 2019 and All-Britain Intermediate Calf in 2016. Additionally, all five of her Emilio daughters have scored VG 86-2Y. Molly sold a Red Darlingo daughter of Lexy to a syndicate in Switzerland who is now fresh. Molly has high hopes of watching her compete at Swiss Expo in 2021 for her new owners.
The current generation from this family has continued the winning ways. Exceptional Fools Gold Red is an August 2018 Emilio that was 1st and Reserve R&W Junior Champion at the UK Dairy Expo in 2020. Fresh this summer, Exceptional just classified VG-87 and was the former #25 R&W PTAT female in Europe in December 2019. Pure Gold Red is a 5/19 Crushabull daughter of Heart of Gold that was flushed recently and has been serviced for next year’s show season.
While the Fools Gold maternal line has certainly been the most prolific for Molly, the Gem heifer that her father kept for her after the herd was sold left behind a lasting legacy as well. She had a heifer calf while Molly was in Canada, which she then brought to Panda upon her return. Since then, there have been three Excellent and nine Very Good females from this line.
Breeding for the Future
Although the Panda herd is not large, its genetic profile could be considered one of the most elite in the world. Each year, Molly aims to purchase 4-5 embryos from a specific up-and-coming female that she has followed. “I love following shows and sales, certain cows that catch my eye and AI companies along with watching the breeding patterns, pedigrees and sire stacks,” remarked Molly. “There are numerous tools out there to do the research, such as Facebook and websites, along with seeing the animals at shows and sales. I spend a lot of time looking information up, and follow some animals for a few years before I purchase something from them.” Once Molly makes a purchase, she focuses on developing the individuals to the best of her ability. She also recognizes that you always need to have something fresh, new or unique if you’re looking to market your animals. But she also thinks it is extremely important to keep developing what you already have at the same time.
The top cow at Panda today is Panda Autumn O Kalibra Red, an Awesome granddaughter of World Champion Decrausaz Iron OKalibra EX-97. Now in her second lactation, she recently maxed out at VG-89-3Y EX-MS. She was the winning R&W 2-Year-Old at the UK Dairy Expo in 2019, and Molly had high hopes for her at their National Show this year, but unfortunately all shows in the UK were canceled due to COVID-19. She was flushed once this summer to Ameretto Red with pregnancies coming, and is bred back for next year and UK Dairy Day in September ‘21. Molly hopes to breed her back quickly in 2021, with dreams to exhibit her as a Mature Cow at the European Championship in 2022. She has exciting daughters by Jordy, Dice, Attraction and Unstopabull.
Panda Holsteins is also home to potentially the world’s first 21st generation Excellent, Panda Glory Halleulah Red ET. This January 2020 calf is an Unstopabull from Golden-Rose Ladd Glory Red ET VG-86-2Y who hails from the same family as Golden-Rose Barbritzi B-Red EX-90, who was the first 20th generation EX. “This is an extremely exciting calf for us here at Panda,” commented Molly. “She combines a deep pedigree, balanced sire stack and is one of the best-looking heifers we have on the farm!” Molly plans on flushing her this winter and calve her in with high hopes as a 2-year-old.
Molly also owns in partnership in the US Ms Goldenrose J Rita-Red-ET, a Jordy Red daughter from Golden-Rose Barbritzi B-Red, the World’s first 20th generation Excellent. “We decided to purchase her to cover all angles from this family – in case the dam of Glory Helleujah didn’t make EX or had an accident before being scored again – as I really want to make it another key cow family to develop here at Panda,” Molly commented. “We will be importing Rita’s eggs shortly to develop that line of the pedigree and also potentially breed the first 22nd Excellent in the Europe or the World!”
Another unique pair at Panda is Panda Unique Cheerio Red ET and Panda Unique Cheerleader Red ET, the only Red Cheers descendants in the world! Their dam is Blondin Unstopabull Cheers who is fresh and entered in the Ontario Fall Invitational Show in October. Their next dam is Unique Dempsey Cheers EX-95. “For me purchasing embryos directly from Cheers was unfordable. So I looked at her offspring and Blondin Unstopabull Cheers was, for me, the spitting image of Cheers herself as a calf – balanced, black and silky- not too big either. She was also a Red Carrier, which attracted me even more! I spoke with Dann Brady at Blondin and we mutually agreed on a sire to flush her too. Amaretto-Red was a bull I had been watching for sometime, as he has an incredible dam and is by Jordy Red. The mating was formed, and worked out really well for us! We plan to sell one of these Red Cheers this year and work with the other one!” Molly stated.
Show style is not Molly’s only focus at Panda. Panda Tango Red combines a show winning pedigree with high Type. An Unstopabull granddaughter of All-American Miss Pottsdale Dfi Tang-Red EX94-2E, she was not only Junior Champion in the National Online Spotlight Show in 2020, but is currently the #1 R&W PTAT (+3.36) and Conformation (+15) Female in the UK and top 3 in Europe. Tango was recently flushed to a bull that Molly bred in AI, Panda Titanium RC, a Tatoo son hailing from the Apples. He is currently the #1 RC PTAT bull available in Europe with no Avalanche or Jordy in his pedigree.
Tango Red’s dam, GoldenOaks Dbk Twilight VG-86-2Y 87-MS, was Molly’s first international purchase and still resides at Golden Oaks Farm in Illinois. Molly first became interested in the Diamondback daughter of Tang, who is a 6th generation VG/EX from the EX-95 Inspiration Tina family, when she tested at +3.65 PTAT in late 2017. Twilight is due in 2021 and was recently on an IVF program. “We look forward to watching this special young cow develop and are excited with the daughters and offspring she has had to date,” remarked Molly.
For Molly, these few special individuals have made the last few years all worth it. “You don’t need a big pocket,” she said. “Do your research and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to breed something special. I always try to look for something I can develop and add value too rather than looking at something that is already at the top of its game! When I first started, I watched and followed several people I looked up to within the breed and I still do today. I think it is hugely important to keep to your ‘stamp of animal.’ I never buy or breed for fashion. You’ve got to follow your dreams, not those of others!”
Along with extreme type and style, Molly also focused on high health status, which allows her to sell any animal anywhere in Europe. Recently, two animals she sold maxed out as 2-year-olds in Germany and Denmark, which is a huge achievement for her breeding program.
Looking to the future, Molly’s dream is to work full-time on the farm. Currently, she works for Mastergen, an AI company in the UK. In order for that dream to become a reality, she knows that she needs to keep improving and pushing the boundaries even further, bettering herself and her cattle. “Having lost foundation cow last year and arguably my best brood cow, Lexander Fools Gold Red, I realized the lows can be big blows when you have a barn full of high value animals, especially when you are attached to them all,” Molly stated. “However, it’s important to pick yourself back up. When you get the good days, whether that’s a good flush, high classification, a top-sale price or show winner, you want to do more! It’s so important to have dreams and I will keep striving and working towards them.”