Bruce and Brenda Long, owners and operators of B-Long Holsteins, New London were named this year's Distinguished Young Holstein Breeders by Holstein Association in Knoxville, Tenn., June 23-26.
Bruce and Brenda and their sons Bryant, 17, Bret,16, and Brandon,16, started B-Long Holsteins in 1990 with 45 cows that had a rolling herd average of 18,000 pounds of milk and a BAA of 101. Today, they milk 55 Registered Holsteins that average 32,741 pounds of milk, 1,186 pounds of butterfat and 989 pounds of protein on twice daily milking. The herd's BAA on 39 cows is 107.9.
Two factors made this major improvement in production and type possible.
"We really concentrated on improving our management and breeding programs," Bruce says.
The Longs' breeding decisions are based on a balance of production and type. The Holstein Red Book is used to help identify and sort bulls to be used as service sires. "We look at the top 100 TPI bulls," Bruce said, "and sort from them based on their pedigree, positive production and favorable type traits." The Longs also like to talk to the various AI sire analysts about what bulls are currently popular and are being used for contract matings.
Although the Longs' main breeding emphasis is on improving type and components, they are also breeding for better overall type, strength and width while protecting udder and leg traits. They also consider health traits like productive life, somatic cell score and daughter pregnancy rate. "Hopefully, this approach will improve the longevity of our cows and will help our merchandising program too," Bruce says.
Overall, the Longs have bred 15 Gold Medal Dams and nine Dams of Merit, have 15 cows with over 200,000 pounds of milk lifetime and four over 300,000 pounds.
The Longs' merchandising program consists mainly of selling breeding stock and genetics. No outside genetics have been brought into the herd for several years.
B-Long genetics have been sold to Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands, and 15 bulls have been sold to U.S. AI companies.
Bruce and Brenda, both graduates of UW-River Falls, have been members of the Outagamie County, Wisconsin Holstein and National Holstein Associations since they started dairying in 1990. They have served on numerous committees and Bruce was on the Outagamie County board of directors for nine years, including four as president.
Brenda was named the Outagamie County Dairy Woman of the Year in 1998 and both she and Bruce have been 4-H dairy leaders for ten years. In 2006, they were named the Wisconsin Holstein Association Distinguished Young Breeders.
Bruce and Brenda have chaperoned youth to the Wisconsin State Fair and State Holstein Convention and have hosted 4-H youth dairy judging workshops and contests. "These activities give us a chance to help younger members understand type traits of cows and lets us show off our cows as well," Brenda said.
They have also worked with their county dairy promotion board, assisted with the dairy breakfast on the farm, and attended career day at their local grade school, all ways to help educate and expose the public to dairy farming and the importance of dairy products. "Volunteering in these ways is essential for the next generation and to keep the community aware of what is happening in agriculture and with Registered Holsteins," Brenda says.
As for the future, the Longs have simple goals. "Basically, we want to maintain our production while improving the overall type of our herd," they say. "We also plan to continue with Registered Holsteins and breed from our main cow families. If we can choose the right sires and invest in registering, classification, advertising and showing, we should be able to continue to market our genetics and have a long, successful dairy career."