Although retired, 10-year-old Ammon-Peachy Shauna is still a celebrity in the Holstein world.
The top genomic brood cow contentedly munches hay at Seagull Bay Dairy in southeastern Idaho, oblivious to her fame and the fact that her genetics have spread worldwide.
“We’ve had farmers from Japan, Italy, Russia, Poland and Canada come here to take a look at her,” said Greg Andersen, manager and an owner of the family dairy near American Falls, Idaho, where their high-protein milk is sold for cheese.
When Andersen, 39, began managing the dairy in 2006, his goal was to keep it at the forefront of breeding trends. Since then the dairy has won Holstein Association USA’s Progressive Breeders Registry and Progressive Genetic Herd awards. In 2014, Andersen was named Distinguished Young Holstein Breeder.
The dairy’s cows and bulls are bred and sold for use in embryo transfers, in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination to improve the Holstein breed worldwide.
Before Shauna was born in April 2009, Andersen bought her for $21,000 in Pennsylvania, where she was named for the dairy owners who bred her. He hoped his investment would pay off.
“Her genetic profile caught my eye,” Andersen said, “but I didn’t know if she would pass on her positive traits. Some cows and bulls have great pedigrees, but for reasons we don’t understand don’t pass on those traits.”
Shauna exceeded his expectations.
In 2012, the Holstein Association USA ranked her as the world’s third best Holstein cow based on several factors including productivity, high-protein milk, fertility, conformation and hardiness. Since then, she has passed on her positive genetic traits.
Before retiring Shauna in April, “she produced 5,000 pounds of milk annually above her herd-mates,” Andersen said.
For several years, she lived at Sunshine Genetics in Wisconsin, where her embryos were harvested to create other genetically superior Holsteins.
Among her more than 150 sons and daughters and countless progeny is a son, Supersire.
“His daughters on average out-produce their peers by 2,000 pounds of milk annually,” Andersen said.
Born in April 2011, Supersire is renowned for being in the Millionaire Club, sires with semen sales exceeding 1 million units. The Holstein Association USA ranked him as its top bull in 2015 based on his Total Performance Index, a multi-trait index.
“He’s in an elite club with only about 50 other bulls achieving that milestone,” Andersen said.
Shauna’s grandson, Silver, was born in 2013 and would likely have hit the million-unit mark, too, but injured himself in his stall and was euthanized last year. About 750,000 of his semen units had been sold.
Wanting to improve Holstein genetics, Andersen, his brother John, who owns Triple Crown Genetics, and Cannon Dairy Farms formed a partnership, WinStar Genetics in January 2017.
“Out of the top 200 Holsteins in the U.S., we have three,” he said, of WinStar based about 60 miles north in Shelley, Idaho.
Andersen is carrying on the progressive attitude of his father, Alan, who started the dairy in 1980 and is semi-retired.
“He was an early adaptor of embryo transfer to increase the genetic potential of each generation,” Andersen said. “In the early ’70s, he had a Holstein calf born from a beef cow.”
Andersen said it is exciting to see recent genetic advancements in the dairy industry. As superior cows and bulls are developed at Seagull Bay, he said he hopes the dairy continues being a relevant source of Holstein genetics worldwide.
As for Shauna, he said her embryos could be harvested a few more years.
“But considering how special and outstanding she’s been, she deserves a break,” he said. “I hope she keeps on living a long and healthy life until she’s 15 or older.”