A feature in our 2021 Fall Issue written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
At the 2018 Kash-In on Valentines Day Sale, the talk of the lineup was River Valley Excitation Flawless, the 2017 All-American Milking Yearling, who was coming off of an undefeated show season. She looked impressive in the ring and after the final bid, it was announced that she had been purchased by David Hogan of Misty Meadow Dairy in Tillamook, Oregon. More than a few people looked at each other in puzzlement – who was this new name on the scene? And not just new, but willing to bid big for the very best?
Since that day, the name Misty Meadow Dairy has been affiliated with some of the finest Jersey show cattle in the nation. Though the name may not have been familiar to the crowd at that sale, it’s well-known in the Tillamook area, as Misty Meadow Dairy milks almost 3,000 Jerseys and is a member of the world-famous, farmer-owned Tillamook County Creamery Association. The operation is owned by Dave & Rita Hogan. Their three children and their families are actively involved on the farm: Becky Heimerl, who works on the farms’ finances and records; Matt, who manages the calves, genetic and IVF programs; and Kristin Killgore, who is head of HR, payroll and employee management. Becky and Kristin’s husbands work in the areas of manure, field and equipment management.
The roots of Misty Meadow Dairy began in Orland, California where Dave Hogan grew up. His family farmed, but Dave cultivated a love for dairy cattle, and from a young age he was determined to make dairy farming his career. He gained experience relief milking for a number of farms in the area, and soon was highly-sought after and trusted – owners would schedule their vacations around when he could come milk and caretake their farms.
A hard-working, earnest young man can make a great impression, and when Dave applied for his first bank loan – for $5000 – the banker himself co-signed the loan. He rented his first dairy as a junior in high school, graduated in 1975, and then purchased his first dairy in 1977.
In the midst of all that, Dave met Rita when he was assisting with the silage harvest at a nearby farm belonging to Rita’s sister and her husband. While Rita describes herself as a ‘city girl’ from the coastal town of McKinleyville, CA, she dove right in with Dave’s dairy dream and they were married in 1978. A couple of years later, the California natives took a trip to Tillamook, OR, where they loved the climate for dairy cows, and also saw the stability and potential of becoming a part of the Tillamook Cheese co-op. In 1982, they relocated to the area, and started building their herd to 100 Holsteins.
The herd numbers continedu to grow to about 600 Holsteins, but the transition to Jerseys began when Tillamook Cheese restructured their pricing, and the higher-component brown cows became the obvious choice for the future. The farm and herd has gone through several transitions: converting to Jerseys from 1990-1994, and growing in size when they purchased two other dairies in the area. The farm is home to a million-gallon anaerobic digester, which fuels a 750-kilowatt co-generation engine that produces enough electricity to power more than 500 homes. The newest transition in the works is the construction of an 84-stall rotary parlor to be completed in the fall of 2021.
Though River Valley Excitation Flawless was the first show cow purchased recently by Misty Meadow Dairy, Dave actually got the show itch twenty years ago with a Jersey cow named Just A Few Renaissance Elisa EX-94%. He bought her in October 2001 after she was Reserve Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo. She went on that fall to be Reserve Grand Champion at the Royal Winter Fair and named All-Canadian 5-Year-Old for 2001.
The show bug went dormant for a couple of decades while the farm grew and changed, but with the purchase of Flawless, Dave & Rita have embarked on a new show herd venture. Flawless went on to be 1st senior 3-year-old, Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion at the 2019 All-American Jersey Show, and was named the 2019 All-American Senior 3-Year-Old. Since then, numerous purchases have also resulted in a great deal of success in the show ring at events across North America.
They had a banner day at the 2020 Western National Jersey Show when Musqie Joel Villetta EX-90% was named Grand Champion; Lone Pine Joel Jugojuice EX-93% was Reserve Grand Champion; and Esperanza GA Vivian EX-94% was Honorable Mention Grand Champion for the farm on their way to taking home the Premier Exhibitor banner. At the North American Open Jersey Show later that fall, Jugojuice and Villetta swapped positions in taking home the purple rosettes for Misty Meadow. In totaling up year-end recognition, the farm’s show string had 13 All-American nominations to lead all competitors, with four All-American and four Reserve All-American winners in the Cowsmopolitan All-American contest to wrap up the year.
The start to the 2021 show season continued with a Grand Champion rosette as South Mountain Voltage Radiant topped all comers at the California State Jersey Show, and South Mountain Fizz Chablis was named Intermediate Champion and HM Grand Champion at the show. The show cattle are currently housed at Gold Star Cattle Co in Tulare, CA under the care of Dan Upchurch and Jason Starr, but plans are underway to build a show barn at the dairy in Oregon. The Hogans look to market embryos and offspring of the high-type individuals to customers around the world.
While the show ring has been an important and public part of their plans, they also are committed to investing in deep cow families and to keep building on those pedigrees. Earlier this summer, they purchased the bulk of the renowned Arethusa Jersey herd as that farm wound down operations, and those cattle will hold an important spot in upcoming mating decisions.
The Hogans have also embarked on the goal of improving the genetic level of the herd on the home dairy. Dave had resisted doing genomic testing until AJCA Representative Kristin Paul finally convinced him that he needed to start genotyping to unlock the potential of his herd. He connected with Stephanie Mack, then the AJCA Qualification Coordinator, to walk him through the logistics of testing such a large number of animals.
They started genotyping everything in the herd and after a month or so, Dave handed the reins over to his son, Matthew. In December 2019, Dave and Matt established an IVF program for their top females in order to increase their genetic gains. The whole point of genotyping was to start sorting through the calves sooner to determine which ones continued on in the herd, which ones would be sold off, and eventually, which ones would enter the IVF program or become recipients. Approximately 40 embryos are transferred a week with the hope of creating the very best production cattle without sacrificing components. The added perks of the program will be discovering any high genomic outliers or to identify bulls that can be marketed to A.I. After the August 2021 proof run, Misty Meadow counted six heifers on the Top 100 polled females list, including the #1 Dimitri-P, Urlacher, Renfrow, Fringe, and Rowan daughters.
The excellent and productive relationship between the Hogans and Stephanie Mack led to her coming on board with Misty Meadow in March 2021 to further assist Matt manage the genomic program, lead the marketing and communication efforts, as well as to help with the logistics pertaining to the show herd. The operation has also engaged the services of Declan Patten in Australia to help with the global marketing of embryos. The farm is dedicating time and finances to building highly marketable pedigrees and in September, they classified more than 1600 females over two days.
Misty Meadow Dairy has expanded their tapestry of breeds this year. More sale topper news hit the airwaves this spring when they invested in a fancy two-year-old Ayrshire, Old-Bankston-AL Wynonna-ET, at the Quest for Franchise Sale – a new public auction record for the Ayrshire breed. Wynonna was the 2020 All-American Fall Yearling and then after calving, was the Intermediate Champion of the 2021 Ohio Spring Show and is backed by EX-94 & EX-93 national show-winning dams.
The Hogans went back to their Holstein roots this summer with the private purchase of Ms Sid Blexy-ET, the EX-92 Sid daughter of Rosiers Blexy Goldwyn EX-97 3E, the 2017 Supreme Champion of World Dairy Expo. Sid Blexy was the HM All-American Junior 3-Year-Old in 2020, and will parade in the 4-year-old cow class this fall. Her June 2021 King Doc heifer is Lot 1 in the 2021 World Classic Sale to be held at Madison, and Misty Meadow is also selling a high genomic Got Jiggy Jersey heifer in the sale as they ramp up their marketing program.
As the calendar moves into 2022, Misty Meadow is moving forward on many fronts. From the show ring to embryo marketing to the sale ring, their commitment and belief in registered dairy cattle will keep their name and prefix in the public eye for years to come!