A feature article from our Spring 2021 issue written by Julie Ashton.
Breeding a bull that enters stud is something that not every dairyman will do in their lifetime. Having your first sire in AI debut at #1 is almost unheard of. But, Tappenvale Holsteins of Pritchard, BC, did just that and that same sire has been #1 for GPA Conformation since he entered stud in 2020. And for Duncan Kennedy and his family, this has been an unbelievable ride, and one that they are gladly taking. Yet, this accomplishment has not made them rest on their laurels; they are continuing to develop a herd focused on their goals and their goals alone, and doing a remarkable job at that.
The Kennedy family first begin milking a commercial herd of Holsteins in Pitt Meadows, BC, in the early 1930s. Over time, the family began purchasing registered cattle from Colony Farms and in 1967, they moved to Tappen, BC, and the Tappenvale prefix was established. Bill and Jill Kennedy and their four children, Duncan, Erin, Ian, and Nolan then moved to Pritchard, BC in 2013 and built the current barn the herd is housed and milked in today.
Duncan along with his parents operate the farm with Bill and Duncan generally sharing in all the decision making and work load. At a young age, Duncan developed a keen interest in genetics. “My dad originally got me started in 4-H and most of what I know originates from him,” remarked Duncan. “My grandpa always liked to breed functional, good cows and that’s what we still focus on today.” Duncan also spent time fitting for and learning from other western breeders including Brad Carlson, Shawn Vanderwal, and Tom Degroot.
The 100% Registered Holstein herd consists of about 110 cows with a herd average of 10,971 kgs milk and BCAs of 241-240-242. Cows are housed in a freestall and milked in a double-10 herringbone parlor where grain is fed. They also pasture their cows in summer and feed them a long-stem dry hay as well as a partially mixed ration.
Duncan’s grandfather was an early proponent of AI, and found that AI provided the best access to genetics from around the world. Because of this mindset, the Tappenvale herd has been closed since Duncan’s father was about 8-years-old. “My dad has always been a bit more cautious about disease, and as such, we don’t have any foot fungus issues,” commented Duncan.
Type has always been a focal point at Tappenvale. Current herd classification is 11ME (of which 4 are EX-92), 4 EX, 61VG, 45GP and 1G. “We love to milk cows that have great udders, are mobile, and have enough strength that are going to last a long time,” commented Duncan. Currently, they have 11 cows over 8-years-old, one that’s 13 and one that’s 18 with over 150k kgs lifetime.
Over the last 50 years, the only outside female genetics introduced in the herd originate from the three-time Master Breeder herd of Sunnyhome Holsteins, BC. As payment for clipping for the Carlson family, Duncan received two sexed Let It Snow embryos from his favorite cow at the farm, Sunnyhome Shottle Marilyn (EX-91-4E 8*). “Marilyn went back to the heart of their herd and was a stand out individual in her own right,” remarked Duncan. “She had a smashed on udder as a 2-year-old, a really nice clean bone and was one of the higher LPI cows from that family.” Marilyn was backed by six VG and EX dams and had 8 VG and 2 EX daughters herself.
Sunnyhome Lis Maryjane was born in November 2014 and they genomic tested her immediately. “We genomic tested Maryjane when she was born as Sunnyhome had some animals from this family test well and her PA suggested she could be a good genetic animal,” said Duncan. She tested well, but nothing remarkable Duncan recalled. As a heifer, they bred her to Doorman and she had a heifer in October 2016. Tappenvale Doorman Missy came back at 3054 LPI and +20 Conformation, making her the #2 Conformation heifer at the time.
Duncan reached out to Dann Brady of Blondin Sires after Doorman Missy tested high. “Duncan and I had discussed what to mate Missy to many times. We finally decided that Sidekick would be the best mating,” recalled Dann. One female and two males were born in July 2018 and thus begins the story of Moment and Miss Universe.
“We had kept in contact the whole time and when the calf was finally born and then genomic tested we made a deal to bring him to Blondin Sires,” said Dann. “For me it was a whole new family, a new deep pedigree.” Tappenvale Moment has been #1 GPA Conformation Bull in the World since he was tested in 2018. Sidekick also jumped to the #1 Proven Conformation sire in April 2021, boosting Moment’s popularity even more. “Moment offers a new family, with tons of power! He is a +9 Chest Width and a +13 Body Depth, two traits that are hard to find in today’s world,” commented Dann. “When you look at the calves, that is what you see, tremendous power and width all the way through!”
Moment is the first bull that Tappenvale has sold to AI. “We never thought we’d sell a bull to stud,” remarked Duncan. “But ecstatic is an understatement. It takes a lot of luck with the numbers, but it’s been awesome.”
And the numbers certainly don’t lie. One of the first Moment daughters was tied for #1 Conformation Female in the World in March 2021. “Breeders are telling us exactly what we were expecting from Moment,” said Dann. “The calves are powerful, strong calves right from the day they are born! Beautiful wide muzzles all the way back to their wide rumps. This is Moment, he will make those powerful kind! He can be used on so many different bloodlines that need to add some strength!” Duncan added, “It’s really humbling to see farms you’ve looked up to your entire life use a bull we bred.”
While Moment has certainly garnered plenty of attention, he isn’t alone in the spotlight. Aptly named, Tappenvale Miss Universe, is a flushmate of Moment and making her own headlines. Scored VG-85 VG-MS at 2Y, she is currently tied for #3 Conformation Cow in Canada at +16. She has been IVF’d heavily and they have already IVF’d or flushed four of her daughters. Tappenvale Rozume
Mia is the current favorite. At +14 Conformation and +3349 LPI she provides a strong genomic profile. “We really like her linears and feel like she can make really well rounded and versatile progeny,” commented Duncan. Rozume Mia is a full sister to Medalist (+13 Conf +3386 LPI), owned by Semex.
Drifter Merlot is another standout at +16 Conformation. “We love the look of her and are excited for what we hope will be some high scoring daughters!” added Duncan. “We currently have over 20 pregnancies in the next 9 months from these animals as we focus on this outstanding cow family.”
The Doorman Missy family is most prominent at Tappenvale, but they do flush a few other cows throughout the year. “The market for good pedigreed animals is fairly small in western Canada, so often it’s just for our own personal satisfaction,” said Duncan. Tappenvale Chief Crisis (VG-2Y) is a 7th generation VG/EX homebred tracing back to the farm’s first Excellent cow and was recently flushed to Medalist. Tappenvale Aftershock Mabel (VG-88) has been flushed before and is a 5th generation VG/EX homebred out of an EX-92 Fever from the 18-year-old Blitz with 150,000 kgs lifetime. Out of her VG High Octane daughter is Bomba Molly, who is +12 Conformation and who they have considered flushing.
As for the sires they are using, it’s about a 50/50 ratio of proven to genomic. “We like using proven bulls on the milking herd to maintain the pedigrees we’ve built and produce nice replacement animals,” Duncan said. Every heifer and the occasional 2-year-old gets implanted with an embryo, which are almost 100% genomic young sires. “With genomic bulls changing from flush to flush, we try to keep that volume lower to spread the risk,” Duncan said. Current bulls in their tank include: Proven – Alligator, Delta-Lambda, Bomba, Sidekick, and some Fuel and Chief; Genomic – Medalist, Avenger, Barolo, and some Destiny, Legend and Moment.
“We pick bulls that are not solely focused on numbers,” remarked Duncan. “Our goal is to breed animals we want to work with every day. We are trying to increase the consistency and efficiency in herd. The milk check is how we make our living and it’s nice to milk cows that you actually enjoy milking! We focus on making animals that, whether they’re high enough to market or not, we can see them as being beneficial in our herd. The Doorman Missy family has shown to be an outlier and we think continuing to work with them will be beneficial for us for many years to come.”
With a clear focus in mind, the possibilities are endless for the Kennedy family. As more interest is raised for the Tappenvale herd, Moment and Miss Universe are just the beginning. “It’s been a dream come true and something we never thought would happen,” Duncan remarked. “Dad takes a lot of pride in our homebred herd and loves seeing the families develop like they have and is excited about the future that lies ahead.”