Kozak Holsteins was featured in our Winter 2019 issue, written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
‘The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.’ That’s a fabulous quote, and it really sums up the forward-thinking mentality of the Kozak family of New Sarepta, Alberta. Anyone who is down on the future of the dairy industry or negative about the younger generation coming back to the farm will find there’s no one listening at Kozak Holsteins!
The operation was started by Brenda & Henry Kozak in 1988 with a gift of 20 cows and quota from Esther & Steve Reminsky (Brenda’s parents who owned Remm Holsteins). Though their initial stake came in the form of a gift, no one can say the Kozaks took the easy route. Their first farm was affordable because it was a bank repossession, but affordable also meant run down. They moved into a mobile home on the property, fixed up the barn and started milking their 20 cows. With lots of elbow grease and help, they cleaned up the property and started their family as Katelyn and Keith were born in 1990 and 1993.
By 1995, the small barn was at capacity, and the opportunity arose to buy a larger farm just ½ mile down the road. With room for 60 cows, a large house, shop, sheds and buildings for machinery and feed storage, the Kozaks had found their new home. They transitioned the herd from a tie-stall situation to a parlor and free-stall setup and embarked on breeding the kind of cows that would be profitable for their future.
After high school, both Katelyn and Keith attended Lakeland College in Vermilion, AB. Katelyn graduated in 2011 with a diploma in Animal Health Technology. This landed her a job at the Farm Animal Hospital in Leduc, AB where she worked full time for 7 years as a Registered Veterinary Technician. She gained a tremendous amount of knowledge of all-around cattle health which has been very useful on the farm. While working off farm full-time, she still came home to the farm and help with chores everyday. Keith graduated with a diploma in Crop Technology in 2013 and returned to the farm to oversee and manage all field/cropping work. Along with Henry & Brenda, he has purchased some land of his own and farms with them.
In 2016, both Katelyn and Keith decided to make the commitment to farm alongside their parents and step into ownership roles. “That meant we needed to rent more land, buy more quota and start planning a new barn build. Our old barn was at full capacity and needing fixing up, so the most efficient move was to build an improved facility and grow the herd to accommodate all of us full-time on the farm,” says Katelyn. In August 2018, they moved 65 cows into a new 120 free-stall barn with a double-10 parabone parlor.
Currently, they are milking 85 Registered Holsteins and one Jersey. With an emphasis on longevity, the average age of the herd is approaching 5-years-old. Brenda and Katelyn like to develop big, wide deep, open framed cows that reach their full potential. BCAs for the herd are 204-219-213 and the herd classification totals are 4 ME, 3 EX, 47 VG and 43 GP.
The family handles the labor needs on the farm – no hired employees – just the help of neighbors during fieldwork season. Katelyn’s boyfriend, Scott Lawson, helps quite a bit as well. He manages a 160 cow/calf beef herd with his family. When he isn’t busy there, you can find him doing fieldwork, maintenance and helping with chores at the dairy. He also has taken quite an interest in helping Katelyn at the shows and is very meticulous on show day! Brenda tackles the bookkeeping, helps with milking and feeds calves, gives her input on herd management, and helps with other odd jobs. Henry manages field work and maintenance of equipment as well as general farm maintenance and government paperwork. Keith oversees field work, cropping inputs and harvesting. He works with the nutritionist to keep the milking herd and outside stock fed. Katelyn handles overall cattle health and daily care, milking, breeding, calf feeding/care, marketing genetics, and managing the show string. The Kozaks farm 1100 acres of land and grow all of their own hay and barley for forages, along with growing canola and malt barley as cash crops. They do all of their own fieldwork from seeding, haying, silaging, combining, dry manure and bale hauling.
From the beginning, Henry and Brenda always strove to improve both the type and production of the herd. Once Katelyn and Keith were in their 4-H years, an emphasis on breeding individuals that could be competitive in the show ring became more of a priority. “The goal of our breeding program is to try and breed an all-around complete cow. We like a heifer that can compete in the show ring and hopefully she is also competitive as a milking animal. Along with show style, she needs to be a balanced cow that efficiently converts feed into milk and has the proper conformation to make a long-lasting cow. We like to show cattle, and over the years we worked on keeping up with trends of the show ring to breed cattle that can compete at big shows with tough competition,” Katelyn elaborates.
Over the past few years, they have focused somewhat more on production and that has influenced AI sire selection. “We like to breed from proven cow families (on both sides of pedigrees), but we also have a small number of genomic animals, as well as red & white and polled cattle,” notes Katelyn.
Their most influential matriarch, Remm Fancy Paul Mila EX-5E-CAN 4*, accounted for the initial base of the show herd. “She lived to be 14 years old, was flushed heavily, and we sold her bulls as they were often requested by local breeders who admired her. We used some of her sons in the herd and their resulting daughters often rose to the top of our herd. She produced 13 daughters which still influence the herd today,” notes Katelyn.
The most well-known descendant of Mila is Kozak Reg Macy, a Regancrest Reginald daughter who was Reserve All-Western Junior Yearling in 2016. An off-age April heifer, she was purchased by Kenton Lindenbach of Robella Holsteins, and he showed her at WDE where she placed 13th in a strong yearling class. That week she was resold to Esteban Posada of Mexico where he helped Macy reach her full potential, as later that year she was Reserve Junior Champion of the Mexico National Holstein Show. She calved in with an amazing udder and is a regular in the Posada show string.
An STBVQ Rubens calf purchased in 2010 from Wendon Holsteins continues to influence the herd a decade later. Wendon Rube Debbie calved in and went on to score VG-85. Her Bluechip Mr Aussie Apple great granddaughter – Kozak Aussie Destiny Red VG-87-2YR – was Intermediate Champion at AB Dairy Congress and Reserve Grand Champion Red & White at Westerner Dairy Showcase this year, and she was just named HM All-West Senior 2-Year-Old for 2019.
In 2013, Katelyn purchased a great granddaughter of Larcrest Cosmopolitan at the Morsan 300 Sale. Morsan Oak Cinergy VG-86 boosted the genomic profile of the the herd and produced a daughter, Kozak Daft Punk Cassia VG-85-2YR-USA, who entered the ST Genetics IVF program. Cassia’s daughter, Kozak Worth Carmella-ET, was subsequently purchased by ST Genetics, and the family is currently working with some of Cassia’s other daughters.
The polled segment of their breeding program stems from a calf purchased by Katelyn and her former employer at the vet clinic, Dr. Dana Somers. Together they purchased Rietben Colt Madonna VG-85, a polled Colt45 daughter out of Rietben Sterling Miley EX-90 who is backed by 11 generations of VG or EX cows. Madonna was flushed as a heifer to Aussie Apple and produced two outstanding red daughters: Kozak Aussie Red Robin P VG-87-2YR and Kozak Aussie Red Ribbon P VG-85-2YR – both now owned by Westcoast Holsteins. Red Robin was the 2nd place Junior 2-Year-Old at the Royal Red & White Show in 2018.
With an eye to various genetic markets, the Kozaks select a range of bulls to use in the herd. There are a few genomic bulls in the tank to use on the Larcrest Cinergy line to keep the numbers moving ahead, but they also pay attention to popular type sires at the shows to produce the next generation of fancy heifers. They prefer to choose sires based on proven cow families and production/functional traits for use across the herd. Current bulls in the semen tank include Stantons Alligator, Walnutlawn Skyhigh, Solomon, Sandstorm, Brenland Denver, Lindenright Apps, Siemers Overwing, and Crasdale Chill to name a few. With a good group of red cows in the herd, they also look to make more red ones with Dulet Amazon Red, Westcoast Swingman Red, Riverdown Unstopabull and Incredibull Red, Blondin Warrior, Mirand PP, Awesome Red, Ruti Appleboy Red, Vogue Never Again PP, Ammo P, Diamondback, and Aussie Apple.
They raise breeding bulls to market to other dairymen but will use these bulls at time on some of the herd. “Over the years we have been lucky and gotten some exceptional daughters out of our homebred bulls, so if we favor a particular bull in our pen, we’ll use him heavily on our lower end heifers,” explains Katelyn.
It’s not always easy to market cattle from the prairie provinces, but the Kozaks are stepping up their efforts on that front. Showing and local connections always inform some clients, including breeding bull customers. They consign to the sale at Alberta Dairy Congress and will occasionally utilize print ads in breed journals. Katelyn uses Facebook as an advertising/promotional tool for marketing and joined the Cowsmopolitan Breeder Tour to help grow their audience. “We have used professional photography at the shows more in the last few years so we can promote our cattle better and get great pictures when they’re looking their best,” Katelyn enthuses.
“Our biggest challenge as purebred breeders is to keep up with the demands of our buyers,” comments Katelyn. At Kozak Holsteins, they look forward to tackling that future challenge with as much determination as they’ve brought to growing their operation in the past. If you doubt they can do it, don’t tell them – just stay out of their way!