In the first of our Spotlight on Dairy features, we head to the States to take a look behind the scenes of the exceptional Sandy Valley herd, notorious for the great Eternity family, as well as many more.
Sandy-Valley Farms in Wisconsin, United States, was established in 1963 and is owned by brothers David, Patrick and Frank Bauer. These third-generation dairy farmers bought the farm from their father, Frank Sr., in the early 1990’s. The trio of brothers is joined by yet another brother, Greg, who manages the farm’s breeding and marketing programs.
“We’re passionate about more than numbers,” Greg says. “Cows also have to look the part and thrive in a free stall environment.”
The Bauers have bred two No. 1 daughter proven bulls; Sandy-Valley Bolton and Sandy-Valley Saloon. Bolton has sold more than 1 million units of semen and in August 2006 he became America’s first bull to achieve a TPI of more than 2000. A third No. 1 proven bull from Sandy-Valley breeding is EDG Rubicon, whose dam the Bauers sold as a maiden female.
Notable young sires from Sandy-Valley currently being marketed include such bulls as Batman, Pharaoh, Challenger, Creamer, Fullmarks and Eisaku. “All of these bulls have Excellent dams,” Greg said. “We like the dam of a widely used bull to look the part.”
Sandy-Valley has bred many Excellent, Gold Medal Dam and Dam of Merit cows. Producing quality milk is also high on this farm’s list of priorities. Somatic cell count hovers between 30,000-50,000 on a rolling herd average of 28,000 pounds of milk, 4.1% butterfat and 3.3% protein. Cows average 90 pounds of milk per day.
One of the farm’s most special cows is Sandy-Valley Eternity – a former No. 1 CTPI cow and third place cow in the 2019 Global Cow of the Year contest. Scored EX-91 with a 92-point udder and Excellent feet and legs, she is the dam of several popular young sires, including Eisaku, Emerald, Fullmarks and Embellish.
Wide and strong, with great mobility and picture-perfect udder attachments, Eternity epitomizes the type of cow the Bauers strive to breed.
The farm began its venture into high-end Holsteins in 1987 when they purchased a yearling from Pennsylvania for $27,000. Unfortunately, her time with the Bauers was short-lived as she died promptly after her first calving. “It was incredibly disheartening,” Greg adds. “However, her death did not restrict our desire to work with genetically elite animals.”
Over the next 15 years the Bauers have aggressively pursued top genetics, buying into many high-end families – a total of 30 bloodlines.
The Sapphire, Cosmopolitan and Rudy Missy families have thrived at Sandy-Valley. The Sapphires run deep at the farm with eight generations of homebred dams. Eternity and Saloon are members of this family which Greg says is Sandy-Valley’s best for production and type. The Cosmopolitan family, or Cosmos as they are also called, goes back four generations at Sandy-Valley and the Rudy Missy, five generations.
“The Cosmo family has worked well here,” he adds. “They are strong, hardy cows with good confirmation and high fat test. The Rudy Missy family consistently turns out uniformly nice animals with good health traits.”
Sandy-Valley Cokisncream comes from the Cosmo family and scored EX-91 with a 93-point udder as a second-calf cow and is the dam of Challenger and Creamer. Sandy-Valley BL Paradise is a member of the Rudy Missy family. This EX-93 cow with a 93-point udder is the dam of Pharaoh and granddam of Batman. Known as Sandy-Valley’s components queen, Paradise produced 33,430 pounds of milk with a 5.7% butterfat test for 1,908 pounds and 3.9% protein for 1,306 pounds in her second lactation.
The Bauers prefer functional correctness over show-type fancy; therefore, it is unlikely you will find these breeders in the show ring. “We like cattle that the commercial breeder can respect and the type enthusiast can admire,” Greg explains. “Strong, correct, functional cows with good feet and legs, and great udders are what we love. All of our cows are housed together. We do not have separate housing for certain cows, so show animals don’t work for our farm. They do not do well in our free stall situation.”
Sandy-Valley transitioned from a tiestall barn to a freestall facility in 2002. In recent years, they added a recipient heifer barn as well as an on-farm in vitro fertilisation facility. The farm’s newest addition is a heating room for newborn calves.
The farm’s main focus is producing high-level bulls to sell to AI stud and developing high-level females to work with. While the family send about 60 bulls to stud each year, they choose not to sell many females, preferring to develop and enhance their own breeding from home.
But Greg says there are still goals to be hit. “An outstanding goal we still have is to breed the No. 1 genomic (GTPI) male some day. The highest we have had so far is No. 3 – a son of Eternity named Supercharge.”
The farm has also bred the first animal to obtain a GTPI of more than 3000 – Sandy-Valley Modesty Highlight – who achieved this record in 2013. Greg says they have to work the youngest animals in order to stay current and competitive in selling genetics. Therefore, the majority of the farm’s IVF work is conducted on virgin heifers.
The Bauers transfer embryos into both maiden females and their milking herd. Sexed semen and their own young sires are used on their highest-level cows. When doing IVF, they use conventional semen with the goal of producing top-end males and females.