Boonsboro farmer sells show cattle, frozen embryos

June 26, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

BOONSBORO - Melody and Dorie are used to being pampered.

They receive the best food, are constantly groomed and have spacious grazing pastures.

In return, they have provided cattle developer Ernie Kueffner with some rather large trophies and valuable frozen embryos.

Now Kueffner, 48, of 431 Potomac St., is preparing to sell them and about 38 other cows, heifers and calves on July 3 at an auction that is expected to draw 300 to 500 people to the Washington County Agricultural Education Center off Sharpsburg Pike.

Kueffner also will sell 29 frozen embryos and, through consignment, about 20 cows, heifers and calves belonging to other people.

Bidders are expected from Japan, Canada, Central America and South America at the 11 a.m. auction Kueffner is calling the "Parade of Stars."

Kueffner finds parting with Melody particularly tough, since he just bought the 4-year-old in February in eastern Ontario, Canada.

Melody had twins in March and showed at the Eastern Spring National show in Syracuse, N.Y., during the second week of April, where she was declared grand champion among 319 Holstein entrants.


"She's not one I want to sell, but it's important to sell all your cows so people don't think you're holding back," Kueffner said.

Only three of Kueffner's cows aren't for sale. One is too old, one has health issues and the third has contracts for embryos to be sold to Japanese buyers.

"We sell quite a few embryos to Japan," Kueffner said.

Because Japan has relatively little land, its farms and herds are small, so Japanese dairy farmers often improve the genetics of their herds by buying embryos from overseas, Kueffner said.

Selling frozen embryos is one of the main sources of income in cattle developing, said Kueffner, who doesn't sell his cows' milk. A cattle developer buys cows and develops them to market offspring to the point someone wants to invest in, or buy, them.

Kueffner said he is the only dairy farmer in Washington County whose main livelihood is cattle development.

Many local farmers have show cows as supplemental income, but few use them as a major income source, said Don Schwartz, agricultural extension agent with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

"It's a little like a Miss America contest," said Kueffner, who used to show cows when he was a youth in a Wisconsin 4-H Club.

"You want (the cows) to produce a lot of milk and look good doing it," said Kueffner, who spends 80 to 100 hours a week with the cows.

Cows are judged based on size, style, breed character and their mammary system, Kueffner said. The mammary system should have a lot of veining with good teat size and placement.

Good breed characteristics for Holsteins are a long neck, size, strength, milk production and flat, clean bones, he said.

Most of Kueffner's cows are Holsteins, which are more popular. He also has some prized jerseys.

Dorie, a jersey, was declared grand champion at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto in November 1997 and the supreme champion of the World Dairy Expo '97 junior show.

Kueffner's son, Elliott, then 14, became the youngest exhibitor in the Royal Winter Fair's 75-year history to win grand champion.

Kueffner said he expects Dorie will fetch more than $40,000 and Melody should sell for more.

Of the six embryos Kueffner had harvested from Dorie, four are still frozen. The other two, Duke and Duchess, were born by surrogate Holstein mothers.

Many people think surrogates affect the outcome or pedigree of the calf, but they don't, Kueffner said.

Breeders often will have Holstein show cows act as a surrogate mother for a jersey calf for their first birth because jerseys are about half the size of Holstein calves, Kueffner said. Giving birth to a smaller calf can prevent a show Holstein from stressing out, he said.

If the mother is of high quality, a daughter can sell for $1,500 to $5,000, he said.

Some Holstein embryos sell for $800 to $2,000 a piece, he said.

Kueffner said he could get $1,000 each for Dorie's embryos.

Marketing is extremely important when it comes to show cows because the livelihood comes from selling live cows or embryos, said Kueffner and his girlfriend, Terri Packard.

"Having won, you have more opportunities to market," Packard said.

"It's a very gossipy business," Kueffner said. Breeders communicate often by phone and fax, even sending professionally taken photographs of their cows to prospective buyers via e-mail or posting them on Web sites.

After the sale, Kueffner anticipates buying another cow and starting over again, selling her embryos and building up a new herd.

The Herald-Mail Articles