How It All Started:
The Origins of Holt Creek Jerseys
Hello, my name is Ben Gotschall, and I am the owner of Holt Creek Jerseys. I raise and market Grass-fed, A2A2, Polled Jersey cows that milk on grass only and bulls to make more of them.
I grew up on a diversified beef ranch and dairy in the Nebraska Sandhills, and Jersey cattle have been my lifelong passion. I started my herd in 1990, when I was 10 years old, with one cow, the only Jersey in my father’s milking herd of Holsteins.
Even at that young age, I was serious about developing a top-tier production herd of Jersey cattle. I set for myself the goal of having the highest-producing Jersey herd in the state of Nebraska. I bred my cows to high-production bulls and purchased cows and heifers from high-producing herds in the Midwest, and by 1997, as a senior in high school, I had the top herd in the state for milk and protein production.
Some of my cows completed lactations that were AJCA Hall of Fame Production records, and Holt Creek Jerseys was ranked in the top 10 small-size Jersey herds in the U.S. for milk and butterfat production.
At that time, we sold commodity milk to DFA, who came and picked up our bulk tank load every 3 days. We fed the milking cows a specially-designed production pellet in the parlor, we fed the heifers a heifer grower ration that included corn, and kept our calves in individual hutches where they were fed milk replacer and calf starter pellets until they were weaned, usually at 6 weeks old, when they went onto pasture. It was a high-input, high-production, LOW PROFIT scenario, even when milk prices were decent. It was not a system designed to be profitable under unfavorable economic conditions, and it was not sustainable. When milk prices dropped in 1998, our income from milk sales to DFA was not enough to cover our cost of production. We were faced with the infamous choice facing many small dairy farmers then and now: GET BIG, OR GET OUT!
We did neither.
Since we started breeding Jersey cattle 30 years ago, several genetic traits have emerged as desirable for the type of grass-fed dairy we operate. Since we sell raw milk as well as cream, butter and cheese, the components of the milk are important to the value,...
Recently, Holt Creek Jerseys owner Ben Gotschall appeared on an episode of the Working Cows podcast: For those of you that have never heard of the Working Cows podcast*, it is a great resource for grazers and ranch business owners. A variety of topics and speakers...
NOTE: This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of the Stockman Grass Farmer. At that time, Holt Creek Jerseys had been breeding for A2 Beta Casein milk for several years, and we were actively marketing A2A2 bulls and semen. Also at that time, A2 Beta...