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 Organic, 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.
You will notice that the same animals appear more than once on the pedigrees of many of our bulls. You may have been told that this is “inbreeding,” a practice to be avoided; however, we intentionally practice line breeding at Holt Creek Jerseys for several,...
One of the most common questions we get about our bulls is: “Do you have New Zealand genetics?” The answer is Yes, and No. Most accurately, our genetics could be described as “Native-ized American” genetics.In the late 1990’s we began using New Zealand sires from LIC....
WHAT IS GRAZING ABILITY? What is “grazing ability,” and how can our cows obtain it? More interestingly--is it hereditary? In his book Grass Productivity, which Allan Savory calls "the best basic pasture management book available" Andre Voisin discusses grazing...