This story was featured in our Fall issue and is written by Sherry Bunting.
Holstein history was made in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on June 27th, 2019 when Golden-Rose Barbritzi B-Red classified EX-90 with an EX-93 mammary system. The senior 3-year-old is the first in the world to become a 20th-generation Excellent cow in the Holstein breed. It happened one day before she and her herdmates were auctioned, along with the farm and equipment at the Legacy of Golden Rose Sale June 28th.
“Barbritzi going Excellent is the highlight of my career at the end of this chapter,” says her breeder, Rusty Herr. “It’s something that has been a goal of mine. But to do it with a cow that we bred and that my father owns and to have it be a Red, makes it so special.”
An estimated 1000 people came to the sale at Golden Rose in Christiana, PA. Fraley Auction Co. registered 253 buyers on-site and Cowbuyer.com registered 187 online. The sale of 123 lots included 50 descendants of Oakfield Pronto Ritzi EX-93 2E, but the 11-year-old matriarch herself is the one Herr kept.
“I purchased her as a heifer, and that’s one thing I promised myself, I would never sell Pronto Ritzi,” he says of the 16th-generation EX cow he worked with over the past decade to add four more EX generations, including Barbritzi making the 20th.
Seeing the cows go is tough, but Herr is comforted by having lived the dream and continuing on with embryo transfer and ultrasound work he began doing off the farm to support the dairy these past four trying years, along with a semen distribution company that is being formed.
In fact, he kept an A2/A2 breeding age son out of Barbritzi by Reality – Mr Goldenrose Real Ritzi-Red is being collected and the first straws became available in August.
As for Barbritzi? She went to the highest bidder, Ferme Blondin, St. Placide, Quebec, and they are wasting no time in working with her.
“This is one of the best outcomes that could have been,” says Herr. “Ferme Blondin does an incredible job with their cattle and their marketing, and they have the bull stud. I couldn’t ask for a better home for her. It will also be great for the people who bought into the family.”
Erica Lundberg of Bert-Mar Farms, Osseo, Wisconsin was contending bidder. Lundberg says she was glad to see her go to Blondin. She is among the many who have watched this family over the generations and is expecting great things as Blondin continues the pedigree that goes back to the 1930s Audrey Posch cow.
“The history wrapped up in this cow and her pedigree is amazing.” says Dann Brady of Ferme Blondin, noting they own another member of the family backed by 18 generations EX.
“We have been watching this family for years. Then we saw ‘Britzi’ become the 20th generation, and she is Red. That really caught our attention. We look for amazing pedigrees, and I’m not sure it is possible to find a deeper one than this. On top of that, we saw her photos with her EX-93 mammary system, and that she is a young cow we can work with for many years to come,” Brady notes.
He credits Herr for “an outstanding job of not only continuing this pedigree, but also adding in the red color, which makes it even more impressive. And, she isn’t too bad for genomic type at +2.48 PTAT. If we use the right mix of bulls, in a few generations, we could continue to build on that, and potentially put a son into our AI program.”
In short, Brady says, “Our plan with ‘Britzi’ is to make the 21st generation of EX cows and keep this pedigree going.”
When Barbritzi stepped into the sale tent, Norman Nabholz talked about her pedigree and the great cows throughout the dam side.
At the beginning of the 20 generations EX was Audry Posch. Born in 1937 on the Yates Farm, she sold to Mallary Farms in Vermont where she produced a national record as a 14-year-old and two Gold Medal Sons.
Nabholz told the crowd that David Bachmann, Sr. should be there to read Barbritzi’s pedigree because his Pinehurst Farm from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin figured prominently in many of the generations that preceded her. Bachmann was honored earlier that week as 2019 Elite Breeder at the Holstein USA Convention in Appleton, WI.
A notable 12-generation descendant of Audrey Posch was Pinehurst Royal Rosa EX-91, who had 14 EX daughters. Both Bachmann and Audrey Posch were inducted into the Wisconsin Holstein Association Wall of Fame in March 2019.
Nabholz also noted the impact of Apple on the sire side of Barbritzi’s dam, and the power of that mating in producing a Red in two generations able to accomplish the 20th generation EX milestone.
The Red Barbwire was born just 10 days before Herr’s 2015 dispersal to downsize his herd into the newly constructed Canadian-style tiestall barn, where his dream was to focus on and showcase genetics.
Herr explains that being just a calf, with her dam unclassified and her third dam still at 88, the potential was there, but who knew how it would blossom? The little Barbwire calf was the first Red in the Pronto Ritzi family. Herr’s father, Karl, purchased her with Warren Buckman at the 2015 dispersal, so she stayed on the farm.
Herr explains his strategy, putting emphasis on some luck along the way. He chose good proven bulls that complemented the dams to better odds in breeding that next generation of Excellent. Barbritzi’s EX-94 Absolute dam was a big part of the equation. Golden-Rose Abs Ginger-ET had been purchased by Mike Garrow in the 2015 downsizing as a just-fresh unclassified two-year-old. Her Goldwyn dam, Goldrush, was EX-91 (EX-93 today), but her second dam, Shottle Royal, was VG-88 at that time (EX-91 2E today).
Ginger scored VG-89 as a two-year-old, EX-92 as a three-year-old. She was then sold to Dick Witter and Ridgedale Holsteins, Sharon Springs, New York, where she went right to EX-94 after her third calf.
“When we used Absolute (on Goldrush as a virgin heifer), it was intentional. We wanted to use a red bull with good type,” Herr explains. We had four Absolute daughters from that IVF round. Ginger was one of them.
“All we did was breed Ginger to Barbwire sexed-semen as a virgin heifer, and her natural first calf was Barbritzi,” he recalls.
Herr used high-type genomic bulls, but he points out that proven bulls Shottle, Goldwyn, Absolute and Barbwire were a big part of this accomplishment.
“Things fell into place as they have all gone EX as three-year-olds in that line after Royal, and each one on a mating in the previous generation on a virgin heifer,” Herr explains. “That’s how we had to do it to expedite things.”
This illustrates the strength of the cow families in this deep pedigree that goes back through top breeders in various states adding to it along the way.
On the day before the sale, Holstein USA classifier Brian Sparling was thoroughly impressed with Barbritzi’s udder. “You don’t often see them this good,” said Sparling, praising her level udder floor and superior teat size, shape and placement. She was fresh in March with her second calf, milking over 100 pounds with a 5.7% fat test.
When Sparling broke down her scores, the sale crew had begun to assemble, along with Herr’s parents and four children. There were plenty of smiles to carry the work into sale day.
“The crowd we had for our sale — and the number of buyers taking animals home — shows us that good cows are still appreciated, and through all the numbers, indexes, genomics, good cows always rise to the top,” says Herr. “The number one thing in my mind is gratitude for support in the journey and lessons learned. In these hard times, we learn the most about ourselves, and I think about how this can make us be better and become stronger and how we have each-others’ backs. I have no regrets.”
While Barbritzi went to Ferme Blondin at $15,500, her yearling Avalanche heifer and Goldwyn granddam both went to new homes in Lebanon, Pa. — the yearling to Joel Krall, Furnace Hills Holsteins, at $7700 and the granddam to Travis Zuck at $4200. Barbritzi’s Jordy calf was gaveled to James Hoffman of Slippery Rock, Pa. at $3900.
Second-high seller Golden-Rose Ladd Glory-Red VG-86, a Red Polled three-year-old backed by 19 generations EX, brought $12,000 to Glory Syndicate, Smithsburg, Maryland. Third-high seller was MS Apple All-In-ET EX-91 selling for $8400 to Sweet Peas Holsteins, Susquehanna, Pa.
The sale of 123 live lots totaled $219,555 for an average $1785 per head with the top 12 averaging $6446. Many were purchased by individual breeders in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and some went as far as Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas and Canada.
In addition, 13 embryo lots averaged $825 per embryo with Barbritzi’s embryos fetching $950 each and embryos from Glory going for $900 each.
All photos provided by Sherry Bunting.