Kress-Hill Dairy - Cowsmo

Kress-Hill Dairy


Story published in the Late Summer, 2023 edition of Cowsmopolitan Magazine

Remember back – World Dairy Expo 2018 – the iconic photo of a young girl crying and hugging her pretty red calf that was just named Supreme Junior Champion of the Junior Shows. The calf was Ms Kress-Hil Saphire-Red-ET bred and owned by Kress-Hill Dairy of Newton, WI. This special calf rose to the top of the junior-owned heifers, and yet, for many in the crowd, and especially those who didn’t call Wisconsin home, that prefix was unfamiliar. Little did anyone know that moment in time would forever change the course of Kress-Hill Dairy.

In 2010, Nick Kress and Amanda Knoener started Kress-Hill Dairy with 150 grade commercial cows in rented facilities. Within the first two years, it was very apparent the changes with the outdated and barn and parlor were crucial. In 2013, they purchased the buildings and 200 acres from Ziegler Dairy Farms and made improvements for cow comfort and updated the milking parlor with new units. “These changes helped the reproduction of the herd soar. Happy, healthy, comfortable cows will make happy owners!” remarked Amanda.

During this time, Nick and Amanda also purchased registered replacements from various sales. “Our investments in registered genetics for our replacements was one of the best decisions made at Kress-Hill Dairy.” Amanda continued, “It gave a higher value through solid pedigrees and made a solid base for our Kress- Hill breeding for the years to come.” Today, all the offspring from their initial “startup” has continued to be registered and about 80% of the herd is registered. The 160-cow herd averages 27,000 lbs. milk 3.8% fat 3.03% protein. “Our farm first and foremost started as a commercial, grade milking operation – so we still breed those cows to balanced bulls with good udders and feet and legs. I also watch production, components, and health traits,” commented Amanda.

Today, they own 600 acres and rent another 40. They have two full-time employees – Savanah Barts, the assistant herdsperson for the last seven years, and Gage Lisowe, who is vital to the maintenance on the farm as well as helping Nick with cropping. They have also ventured into the agri- tourism sector, opening the farm for 2 weeks during the summer for a sunflower maze and farm education days. Last year, almost 2000 people attended, and they utilized this time to bring some animals to the field to help educate the publication about farming.

While Nick and Amanda have certainly earned their “stripes” in this business, they acknowledge it wouldn’t have been possible without help along the way. “Purchasing cattle with a solid foundation gave us something to breed from and work with. Many farms have spent the last 50-80 years breeding outstanding cattle—and we want to build off their success!”

Along with registration, Nick and Amanda also classify some of the herd and have 18 Excellent cows (13 Kress-Hill bred) and 99 Very Good cows (76 homebred). In 2019, Nick and Amanda received the Younger Breeder Award at the Manitowoc County Holstein Association Annual Meeting and the Distinguished Young Breeder Award from the Wisconsin Holstein Association in 2022. Kress-Hill was also the top herd in Manitowoc County and had the top individual cow at the 2021 Breeder’s Cup.

In the spring of 2012, Nick and Amanda purchased Siemers Destry Sunny-Red-ET as the Siemers Showcase Sale held at the Great Northern. She a fall calf backed by a VG-85 Advent then four more Excellent dams. “We were ecstatic to be able to show at our county show and state fair and compete in the class – she usually stood in the middle of the pack,” recalled Amanda. “Once she calved in as a two-year-old, that’s when we realized she could be a special cow.” The following lactation, they boarded Sunny at Budjon Farms where they were introduced to IVF and flushing. “We started to look into growing our herd and adding the value of registered type show calves,” said Amanda. “Throughout the next four years, we dove head-first into an IVF program and worked Sunny more than 50 times!”

Sunny was classified EX-93 2E @ 6-10 and had a best record over 32,000M 3.7%F 3.1%P. She was shown throughout several lactations on a local, state and national level and earned the family’s first All- American nomination as a senior 2-year- old. She was nominated the next four years as well, as was Reserve Senior & Reserve Grand Champion at the Wisconsin Championship Red & White Junior Show in 2014. The family sadly lost Sunny a few years ago, however, the daughters from her extensive flush career are carrying on her legacy.

It was these IVF sessions and those daughters that Sunny produced that brings us back to that pretty red calf. Ms Kress-Hill Saphire-Red-ET was sired by Avalanche and even as a baby calf, she stood out in the hutches and was eye-catching to everyone that saw her. Nick and Amanda’s daughter Kendyll showed her at the Midwest Spring Red & White Show in April 2018. Saphire was the winning Junior animal and named Junior Champion, while also placing 2nd in the Open Show and earning Reserve Junior Champion honors. “Saphire grew faster than Kendyll, so Savanah Barts took the reins,” commented Amanda. “Raising our kids on our farm has been the most rewarding thing we could ever offer to them as parents,” she added. “Kendyll and Savanah love working with the show animals together as well!”

Savanah, who grew up in the city, always had an interest in caring for animals. She started working at Kress-Hill during high school and then attended Lakeshore Technical College after that. Later that summer, Savanah led Saphire to Junior Champion titles at the Wisconsin District 10 Open and Junior Shows and Reserve Junior Champion of the Wisconsin State Red & White Junior Show.

When it came time for World Dairy Expo, the family was excited about exhibiting Saphire on a larger stage. Savanah admits she was nervous when it came to showing at Expo. “The first time walking on the colored shavings was the most incredible, nerve-wracking experience. Just knowing how many world-famous animals have been exhibited on the shavings in the past was an emotional feeling. After only showing for 3 years, being trusted to show an animal at this level was a lot of pressure, and I wanted to make Amanda and Nick proud.”

And Savanah did just that. Saphire stormed the ring and walked away with a whole new collection of awards. Saphire was 1st Fall Calf (Open and Junior), Junior Champion (Open and Junior), and was named the first ever Supreme Junior Champion of the Junior Show to conclude an unforgettable week. “To be able to have the opportunity to fulfill my dream of showing on the colored shavings and then to win on top of that is unbeatable,” remarked Savanah.

Saphire’s success didn’t stop there. She showed as a fall yearling, earning more Junior Champion titles in both Red & White and Holstein shows and was again named Junior All-American. Saphire calved as a senior 2-year-old and was nominated Junior All-American for the third time.

The following lactation, she maxed scored EX-92 and has been a dry, donor cow ever since. With Saphire now becoming a household name, her genetics were in demand, however, that didn’t come easy for the family. “To be completely honest, Saphire made it really hard and frustrating for a year or two,” remarked Amanda. “She hardly would IVF and make any embryos. So, as much as it was a market for us, it wasn’t one we could fulfill. But thankfully the daughters we did get kept the genetics amped up. Now that she is a dry cow, we’ve focused on her nutrition and she has responded greatly, averaging 8-16 viable embryos per session.”

While Saphire certainly has accumulated the purple ribbons over the years, her genetics are what truly makes her stand out today. She was the #1 PTAT Red & White cow from 2017-2019 and is transmitting incredibly well. With results like this, Nick and Amanda are embracing the Red & White niche market. “Our breeding criteria is first and foremost, Red and Red Carrier bulls, then followed by high type,” stated Amanda. “Through the last couple years, we have put an emphasis on milk production and components, because we as producers need to have nice, milking dairy cows.”

Saphire’s daughters are continuing the family tradition. In 2022, five of her daughters were nominated All-American/ Junior All-American. “For the farmer in me, I’m ecstatic that not only are they pretty calves, they are also making some awesome cows that can stand out in the show ring, and in the barn will put milk in the tank,”said Amanda. One of those young cows that Amanda is excited about is Kress-Hill Sci-Fi-Red-ET (VG-88), an Altitude junior 2-year-old daughter of Saphire. Sci- Fi was Junior All-American Spring Yearling in 2022 and was recently named Best Bred & Owned of the Wisconsin Championship Red & White Junior Show in 2023. Kress- Hill Shallow-Red-ET (VG-88), is a full sister who was Intermediate Champion of the Midwest Spring Red & White Junior Show in 2023.

Another full sister to Sci-Fi and Shallow is Kress-Hill Spicy-Red-ET (VG-88) who sold to Arizona Dairy Company in the 2021 Rock the Ledge Sale hosted by Cattle Club. “I absolutely love watching animals that we sell do well for others and continue to develop,” remarked Amanda. Spicy was Reserve Junior Champion of the International Red & White Junior Show in 2022 and earned Junior All-American and Reserve All-American honors. She has continued her winning ways in 2023, as she was tapped as Intermediate Champion of the Junior Show at the Wisconsin Championship Red & White Show.

Saphire is not Sunny’s only exciting daughter. To date, she has 6 EX and 13 VG daughters. “I really admire the Defiant line of Sunny’s family,” added Amanda. Ms Kresshill Sunkiss-Red-ET (EX-90) has several daughters that are eye-catching as calves. Several of the animals that Kress-Hill sold privately and publicly were from this maternal line. Another Sunny daughter, Kress-Hill MS Sundance-Red (EX-92) is sired by Barbwire and was HHM Junior All-American Aged Cow in 2020.

In total, about 50% of the herd traces back to Sunny, and they have bred 27 Open and/or Junior All-American individual nominations with seven group classes. It also comes as no surprise that the Kress-Hill prefix is earning some banners of their own. Their biggest win yet – Premier Breeder and Exhibitor at the 2022 International Red & White Heifer Show – something Amanda could never dream of. Amanda fondly recalls attending Expo as a little girl, “Our family would tour World Dairy Expo and watch the show. Ever since going to Madison on those fall, crisp days, it was always a dream to just show something on those shavings. I never thought then, that as a farmer, we would own the animals that have such great success!”

Nick and Amanda are excited about the future of their herd and how their lives have changed since that one purchase more than 10 years ago. “Hands down, our kids are the reason we are continuing in this crazy industry,” Amanda said. Their oldest son Owen, 15, is ‘tractor crazy’ and loves anything with an engine. Kendyll, 11, is the true ‘cow girl’ and is seen on the halter the majority of the time. “She loves the farm, the cows, the showing and all the things that come with it. She has been milking in our parlor with a 5-gallon bucket to reach the cows since she was 5-years- old,” recalled Amanda. “She has the work ethic that could rival many adults!”

With their children having a keen interest in the farm, and the demand for their Red & White genetics, Nick and Amanda are looking to slowly downsize their “commercial” herd to focus more on the type genetics and embryo market. Their flush cow program is soaring, and with the assistance of genomic testing every “show-type” calf, they can identify future potential donors that much faster. “It is a privilege to be able to compete and show with some of the best people, best farms, and best cows in the registered dairy business,” concluded Amanda. “When selling cattle with our Kress-Hill prefix, it is an honor that others in our business, or potentially new people, believe in our genetics and breeding philosophy.”

While the Kress-Hill prefix may have not been well known a few short years ago, it’s rare to attend a show in the Midwest, and even beyond, where it’s not heard over the loudspeakers today. “We believe in living in the moment and making a difference everyday,”remarkedAmanda.“Every day is a new day to write a new page for your life book.”They are passing on this philosophy to their children and look forward to what the future holds. “We are very grateful and have been blessed by mentors in the registered Holstein business. Being able to buy the ‘right’ cattle and develop them to make show ring potential heifers or great milking cows – all was possible because people shared their genetics and advice. So that is something that Kress-Hill is very passionate about. We sell calves and cows publicly and privately to help others further develop their own herds, and help chase dreams!”

By Julie Ashton

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