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Expectations high for grand champion cow

April 16, 1998|By DON AINES

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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Grand champ cowExpectations high for grand champion cow

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - She comes from a family of champions and has won national honors, but Four Winds Fayette Dee seems unimpressed with her recent acclaim.

"I just call her Dee," Lois Peckman said of the 1,100-pound 2-year-old relaxing in her barn at the Pleasant View Farm Dairy at 4685 Lincoln Way West.

She and her husband Mervin paid $10,400 for the cow that was named the 1998 Kentucky National Grand Champion at last month's Kentucky Nation-al/World Guernsey Conference Sale in Louisville.


"A good commercial cow would go for about $1,200," said Mervin Peckman.

"Her mother has been shown four years in a row at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.," he said Thursday.

According to the American Guernsey Association, Dee's mother, Westlynn Tom Dee, was grand champion each of those four years.

To whom much has been given, much is expected and Dee is no exception.

During her lifetime she won't just be producing 65 or 70 pounds of milk a day - the Peckmans hope she produces an impressive number of offspring.

"It's a hobby," Lois Peckman said.

"It's got to be a business," said her husband.

The Peckmans no longer run a herd of 700 dairy cows as they once did. About 25 animals now roam the fields of their 220-acre farm.

They sold off the herd and closed the dairy business about two years ago. They processed and sold milk from the farm for about 45 years and once ran a store in Chambersburg, Pa.

"This is what we're doing in retirement," Mervin Peckman said of breeding what he called high-index animals.

"In this business, it's promoting the best genetics in the breed to produce the best cow," he said.

In Dee's case, Mervin Peckman said that involves injecting her with fertility drugs, causing her to "super ovulate," producing more eggs than she normally would during a cycle. He said it is not unlike the process that produced the McCoy septuplets last year in Iowa.

After that, Dee is artificially inseminated with prize bull semen. The embryos are harvested and the best are frozen in liquid nitrogen to be shipped to customers later on. Earlier this week, a Hagerstown veterinarian took four embryos from Dee.

Mervin Peckman said the embryos are being stored at the vet's office awaiting buyers.

He figured Dee could produce up to six or eight embryos a month.

Farmers seeking to improve their herds could pay $500 or more for an embryo, he said, but it's not all profit.

"By the time you pay all your vet bills and the expense of freezing, packaging and shipping them, you've spent about $200 an embryo," he said.

Mervin Peckman said the success rate for implanted embryos is about 75 percent, so it's not a sure thing for the buyer. He said there's no way to predict whether the embryo will produce a heifer, a bull, or nothing at all.

When successful, the result can be an animal like Dee, who is large for her breed and the offspring of a cow that produced 26,540 pounds of milk in one year.

Paying as much as they did for Dee, the Peckmans are also taking a chance.

"At this point she's a little like the stock market. There's a potential there, but there's also a big risk," Mervin Peckman said.

"If she took a notion not to produce any embryos, she'd be a potential stock market drop of 80 percent," he said.

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