When Jersey breeder Jim Huffard mated one of his top cow family’s daughters (Schultz Sooner Harmony) to Molly BROOK Brass Major, he thought he’d get an animal with excellent type and milk production. Yet the offspring from the mating, Schultz Brook HALLMARK, exceeded even his own expectations. “The bulls that are at the top of the list are even better than you might have expected with a mating,” says Huffard. “They have everything in the right place when you make a mating. That is why they’re up there.”
HALLMARK has and continues to be a top-of-the-list A.I. Jersey bull. In 2002, he was the number one sire of sons, and he currently has 10 sons born of nine different cows in active A.I. service. Only one U.S.-bred bull currently has more sons in active A.I. service, and no bull has more active A.I. sons by different dams.
“We call him a big-time milk bull. He could sire the 100-pound cow,” says Dick Smith, an ABS sire analyst.
Smith says in the late 1960s and early 1970s Jersey breeders were breeding for milk production in hopes of increasing the breed’s competitiveness. While Jersey breeders saw significant increases in milk yields, a trend toward deeper udders was developing. In the early 1990s, when Huffard began researching matings for one of his high-producing cow families, he says he saw an opportunity to create a cow with not only high milk production but excellent type. The height and strength Huffard saw in BROOK daughters convinced him that BROOK was a good mating.
While at first he didn’t have any extra expectations for the mating, Huffard says he started to get excited about HALLMARK after sampling him in his own herd.
“We sampled him in our herd a little more than we normally would because he was a useable sire on our cows,” Huffard says. “When they started calving, they had beautiful udders, and they were tall.”
Huffard says his HALLMARK daughters were exceptional cows that produced more than 20,000 pounds of milk per year. He considered HALLMARK a top bull in his own herd. However, when other breeders started to report similar results, Huffard thought, “He might be the real deal.”
“He has had show daughters, production daughters and has now proven to be a good sire of sons,” Huffard says. “He fulfilled the deal.”
HALLMARK daughters, Smith says, helped reverse the Jersey breed’s trend toward deeper udders.
“He made them tall, he made them milk and he distinctly improved udder clearance,” says Smith. “He added length of leg, but he also sired a firmness of udder. And then the breed had a Jersey cow that could not only milk 100 pounds a day but was built to do that for more years.” Both Huffard and Smith agree the ingredient for this bull’s success was depth of pedigree.
“His pedigree simply put together four of the five best bulls of the 80s and 90s (BROOK, TOP BRASS, SOONER, DUNCAN),” Smith says. “It’s no surprise that if you get the best daughters of the best bulls and breed them to the best bulls you have a fundamentally sound recipe for success. It worked extremely well.”
Evidence of the bull’s strength of pedigree was HALLMARK’s maternal brother, HAMMER, a sampled bull that died in progeny testing. Huffard says other breeders liked what they saw from HAMMER, too.
“It did show that HALLMARK wasn’t a one-time wonder,” Huffard says. “Schultz Sooner Harmony could produce other good sons by other sires. That’s a real trademark of a good breeding cow.”
Huffard advises young breeders to study their pedigrees and ensure that the bulls they select for mating complement the cows being mated.
“See what your cows need, and mate your cows with a little more scrutiny than just putting a number with a number,” Huffard says. “With all the numbers we have now, I think that scrutiny gets lost sometimes.”
According to May’s sire summaries, HALLMARK has sired more than 7,000 daughters. Smith says during the last 18 months breeders have begun using HALLMARK’s sons.
“His sons are being used rather broadly now as sires of sons. And, therefore, the paternal grandsons of HALLMARK will probably be influential over the next decade. His influence is by no means concluded,” Smith says. “Obviously, that’s how you know you’ve got a great bull – when he can influence things by the decade rather than just one year or two.”
Huffard, who manages a 330-cow Jersey dairy in Crockett, Virginia, says that breeding is the fun end of dairying, but only if he’s making money. That’s why he says he continues to breed cows that will have productivity and longevity.
“It’s nice to have a bull like HALLMARK. You hope to have another one or two, Hopefully, we can keep some bulls coming to keep the Jersey cow profitable,” Huffard says. PD