Every breeder’s dream is to have a brood cow that transmits her best qualities to her offspring time and again. While investment in cow families, study of matings and strong sire stacks are certainly important, many would say a fair amount of luck also enters the equation. At Luck-E Holsteins, Hampshire, Illinois, this dream has become a reality with the “A” family. A family whose transmitting ability is as precise as it is consistent. Stamping out generations of great cows with unique traits this family appeals to all markets.
The “A” family began at Luck-E with Matt Engel’s purchase of Hart-Lyn Starbuck Ashley, a fancy 2 Year Old with a lot of potential. Ashley would go on to be 1st Senior 3 Year Old and Grand Champion at the Illinois State Show, and would eventually score EX-94 GMD DOM. Early flushes to Skychief and Charles were important and started many branches that still have an impact in the herd today. Ashley’s daughter, Luck-E Skychief Arizona EX GMD DOM, was flushed to Blitz, producing Luck-E Blitz Australia VG-87 GMD DOM, a cow that would put Luck-E on the map internationally.
When the Engels decided to use Advent, an up and coming Kite son out of Kamps-Hollow Altitude EX-95 DOM, as a flush sire with Australia, many people thought they were crazy. The semen was hand delivered to Luck-E and the flush proved successful in many ways, resulting in Advent Asia EX-94, Advent Atlanta EX-94 and Advent Africa EX-93. Although there are many successful branches of the “A” family, Advent Asia was a cow that would change things dramatically for the Engel family, pushing them to ramp up their IVF program and genomic testing.
“Asia was incredibly balanced with depth of rib and an amazing udder,” says Joe Engel. “She was big enough, but not huge, and had a ton of chest width.” Each of Asia’s first seven daughters scored EX as 3 Year Olds and averaged 91 points. Asia’s second calf, Luck-E Adonis-Red, a Larson son marketed by the Semex Alliance, was interesting and performed well, but when her third calf hit the ground, a son sired by Absolute, the Engels knew they had something special. “Even as a calf he was impressive, so I knew Awesome was the perfect name for him,” says Joe. “His preliminary numbers came back off the charts and at that point we knew we had to go all in IVF’ing Asia and genomic testing everything.” Embryos that performed well and made a lot of pregnancies produced 70 daughters from Asia alone. Now half of the milking herd at Luck-E has the “A” family on the bottom side of the pedigree and three quarters have “A” genetics on either the top or the bottom.
Both Asia and Atlanta were sold to Allan & Erica Lundberg Ber-Mar Farms, WI, who echo the Engels when it comes to the transmitting ability of this family. “Both cows are incredible type transmitters and have flushed extremely well; we have close to 100 calves and pregnancies between them including a Red Avalanche daughter from Atlanta who is the #2 Red Holstein type heifer in the world. The breeding philosophy at Luck-E fits ours to a ‘T’ and we couldn’t be more thankful to have these genetics as the foundation of our herd,” says Erica.
“What’s really unique about the Asia family is that at 9 years old she still had daughters topping charts,” says Joe. “It really makes you a believer out of genomics on the type side, when you see the numbers and then see the cows in person it all makes sense.” Additionally, there hasn’t been a mating on Asia that looked like the “wrong choice” due to the strength of the maternal line. “There have been lots of cows out of Asia from well-known type sires that have made the show ring,” says Joe. “But she has a Powerball daughter that’s good enough to be at Madison! He’s a more unexpected sire for a show of this caliber, but the maternal line is just that good and we’ve been able to use almost any bull on this family and have success.” Luck-E Powerball Addict-ET finished 10th in the Junior 3 Year Old class on the colored shavings this year.
The “Awesome” Effect
In his debut in the milking classes at this year’s World Dairy Expo, Luck-E Awesome-Red sired the 1st and 2nd Red and White Senior 2 Year Olds, the 2nd and 3rd Red and White Junior 2 Year Olds, and the 2nd and 5th place finishers in the Black and White Junior 2 Year Old class.
Matt and Joe’s brothers, Keith and Dennis, exhibited the Schluter Shelby Lee-Red VG-89, who placed 2nd in the Red and White Senior 2 Year Old class. Earlier this summer, she was Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion at the 2018 Illinois Championship Holstein Show for breeder’s Jim and Marvin Schluter. “The Awesome daughters aren’t bred to be great show heifers,” says Joe. “They are bred to be great cows. They keep getting better with age.” Awesome-Red was the highest bull in the breed for Udder Composite at +3.89 (8/18) and his first 28 daughters at Luck-E currently average 86 points as 2 Year Olds, including four EX Senior 2 Year Olds and one VG-89. “There has never been an udder bull that has proven out so well and the impact of Awesome on the breed is just beginning,” says Joe. With the extremely consistent udders that he has been stamping out so far, it might not be long before Awesome-Red takes over as the Premier Sire of the Red and White show at Expo.
Garay Awesome Beauty VG-88 2yr won the Junior 2yr Old class at the recent Royal Winter Fair, coming off her 2nd place finish at Expo. Her owner, Callum McKinven of Lookout Holsteins says, “I’ve been super impressed with the Awesome daughters, they aren’t really flashy as calves, but they make good young cows. Beauty is a great example of what Awesome can do and what kind of incredible udders he can leave. I think he’s the best udder bull out there right now!”
The Next Generation: Afro
Luck-E McGucci Afro EX-92 is one of the highest type Red and White milking females in the breed. Ideal in stature that is big enough to win shows, but not so extreme that she can’t fit into a free-stall or tie-stall facility, Afro has lots of width throughout and beautiful bone quality, which makes her incredibly appealing to A.I. Units. She also runs extremely high butter fat which is great for foreign markets. Calving for the first time at 1-11, Afro scored VG-89 and was bred right back and IVF’d extensively. “Afro scored EX-92 (max score), a day before she turned 3 Years Old after calving for the second time at 2-10,” says Joe. Her daughter, Luck-E Doc Azacaboom is the highest type Red Carrier in the breed at +4.41T (8/18).
Afro’s Apprentice son, Luck-E Artisan-Red, is at Select Sires and will be released in December. His August 2018 numbers showed +3.19T and 77lbs of fat, which could be the highest R&W fat bull upon his release. “Artisan is moderate in stature, high in fat and + for all Health traits so he has extreme appeal globally and really checks a lot of boxes,” says Joe.
Although they had to do a fair bit of hounding for early Ammo-P semen, the mating to Afro has already produced some exciting sons. “We like cows to look a certain way, but we always try to keep adding unique things to the family to keep them relevant,” says Joe. “Polled genetics was on our radar, but we want you to like the cow first before you know she’s polled.” Sons produced from the Ammo-P *RC mating include Aristocrat-Red, who is +3.37T and marketed by ABS, and Asteroid-Red who is +3.27T and who Luck-E is selling privately. A sister to Aristocrat and Asteroid, Luck-E Ammo Artillery *RC is +4.0T and is polled.
Focused on the “A” Family
Despite having other great bloodlines at the farm including the Bred and Owned Reserve Grand Champion of the 2014 World Dairy Expo Red Holstein show, Luck-E Advent Kandie Red EX-95, the Engels remain focused on the “A” family and where the next generations of Asia could take them. “Our breeding goal is ‘how good can we make our bottom-end’ and this family doesn’t make throw-outs – even the bottom end is scored 84/85 points as 2 Year Olds.” Matt Engel adds, “as the herd gets more consistent, we use a smaller number of bulls because each generation gets easier to mate.”
Driven by the challenge of making the best cows possible and then selling them, Joe says, “Luck-E cows do well in other herds because they are healthy. They are used to overcrowding! If you look in our pens there are way more cows than stalls. We have 19 milking units, no automatic take-off’s and one person milking, so you have to have low-maintenance cows with trouble-free udders. The Asia family is so consistent and transmits exceptional udders and chest width every time.”
With a pattern that is transmitted as precise as it is consistent, there is no doubt that the influence of Asia, who was Illinois’ Cow of the Year in 2016, will continue to flourish through her daughters and high type sons like Awesome-Red. The impact of this family on R&W genetics also earned Joe and Matt recognition as “2018 Young Breeder” by the Red & White Dairy Cattle Association. And on March 30, in typical Luck-E fashion, there will be something for everyone as some of the top genetics in the herd are sold in the Best of Luck-E Sale, celebrating 50 years of quality breeding at Luck-E Holsteins.