A feature article in our 2022 Late Spring Issue written by Julie Ashton.
Illinois will host the National Milking Shorthorn Convention this coming month and we took the opportunity to visit with several breeders throughout the state to learn more about their individual operations and breeding programs.
Four generations of the Halpin family own and operate the farm, located in Cullom. William and Julia were married in 1938 and received two bred heifers as a wedding present, starting the Milking Shorthorn tradition on the farm. Today, George, along with his children Mike and Amy, and grandkids (the 4th generation) operate the farm. The operation consists of 100 head milked at two local dairies – Mackinson Dairy and Erdman Dairy – with the calves, heifers and dry cows housed at the home farm. Halpins also crop an extensive amount of acres, keeping the family busy year-round.
The breeding philosophy is straightforward – breed for type and longevity while emphasizing quality feet and legs and superior udders.
There are a few main cow families that have excelled over the years. Halpins Mona-EXP (EX-91) is an Othello daughter that was All-American Senior 2-Year-Old and Reserve Grand Champion of the International Junior Show in 2002, and Reserve All-American and Reserve Intermediate Champion of the Open Show in 2003. Mona also was Grand Champion at Harrisburg and Louisville during those years. Numerous generations of “Monas” have gone on to compete in the showring, including her daughter Melody (EX-93) who was Reserve Grand Champion at Harrisburg and All-American 4-Year-Old in 2008. Her daughter, Mona II (2E-92), followed in her dam and grandam’s steps, earning banners at Harrisburg and Louisville and Reserve Grand Champion honors at Expo in 2013. Mona II is owned with Matt Mackinson.
Another winning family is that of Halpins Ruthanne (2E-94). Ruthanne was Reserve Grand Champion at Louisville in 2014 and named Best Udder of the International Milking Shorthorn Show that year. She was also All-American 4-Year-Old in 2013 after winning Madison and named HM Grand Champion behind Mona II. Her son by Mudslinger, Halpins Muddy Rockstar, has been a very popular type sire over the last five years and was named Premier Sire of the Heifer Show at Madison in 2021.
With the impressive families they are working with, it’s no surprise the Halpins have exhibited a Grand Champion four times both at Harrisburg and Louisville and have four Reserve Grand Champion banners from Madison, and countless championships from Illinois State Fair. They have earned over 50 All-American titles and 20 Reserve All-Americans. In 2021, they had the HM All-American Junior Best 3 group along with 4 Junior All-American Nominations including Junior All-American Junior 2-Year-Old, Halpins Lapdog Misfit, owned by Mike’s sons Colt and Owen.
MIKES-DAR FARM & DREAM CHASER GENETICS
Dave and Betty Gregory bought their current farm in Harvard in 1986. The farm now has three generations involved – Dave & Betty, their sons Mike & Darrin, and Mike’s children, Colton & Danielle. The farm milks 65 cows. The farm started out being primarily registered Red & White Holsteins. Tim Baumgartner was their key mentor (and still is to this current day) on getting involved with type and showing competitively. The farm has had Red & White All-Americans in all classes.
In 2005, Dave sent Mike to purchase their first Milking Shorthorn. Mike and Dave bought a just fresh 2-year-old and her polled calf, who they thought had potential down the road. That cow was North Star Now You See Stars (2E-95), who produced over 115,000 lbs milk, 4,856 lbs fat, and 3,406 lbs protein. She became the foundation cow and helped grow the herd to what it is today. The breeding philosophy is strongly based around type and strong milking components.
Darrin married Katie Agnew of Mapleton Valley Farm, in 2018, and will move to Wisconsin to be apart of their herd.
Mike Gregory and his significant other, Michelle Upchurch, started their own farm in 2021, Dream Chaser Genetics. Mike bought a 15 acre farm in Hebron, 15 minutes from the home farm. Here, Mike-Dar Farm’s and Dream Chaser Genetic’s show cows, heifers and marketable bulls are housed. In their inaugural show year, they exhibited 4 All-Americans, 3 Reserve All-Americans, 1 HM All-American with 9 nominations total. Since 2019, they’ve had 2 Junior Champions (including in 2021), 1 Reserve Junior Champion and 1 HM Junior Champion at World Dairy Expo and Grand Champion at NAILE in 2020.
They also bred and still own the top Proven PPR bull (+111), Mikes-Dar Titan ET, who has sired several All-American nominated daughters. He also ranks #1 for Milk and Protein and #2 for Fat. His dam is Vinra CD Trilium (4E-92), who made over 150,000 lbs. milk in 9 lactations and was a 2x Reserve Junior All-American.
Between both farms, they currently have cow families that hold bloodlines going back to Stars, Palm Pixie, Cabernet, Rubens Roxy, Trilium, Christina, Clarification, Mix-P, Peri, Lady Luck, Zues Lala, Oakleigh, Caliente, O’Royce, O’Raely, Lime, Sahara, Stella 905, and many many more!
Most importantly, they would like to dedicate this and everything to Dave & Betty Gregory. The next generations are living out their dreams and continue to build on solid cow families.
They would also like to thank Jerry King, Kingsdale Farm, and all of their partners for trusting them and trusting the process.
NEV’R IDLE FARM
George Isom Baxter moved to a farm in south-central Illinois near Newman in 1908. His son Stanley started the current milking shorthorn herd in 1935. Continuing the herd was Stanley’s son, George, and in the 1950s milked up to 25 head .
Today, the next two generations manage the farm: George’s son Mark, and Mark’s son, Matt, and Matt’s wife, Kristen. They have a cow-calf operation and milk their top show animals during show season. “Our breeding philosophy is to raise the best show quality animals and also excellent meat quality when processed with our feeder calves,” said Matt.
The Baxter’s favorite cow family is the Fairy’s Maid family. “My grandpa had almost a 100 animals from that family before he retired and we have continued with many more,” commented Matt. For the last 20 years since Matt has been involved, he has aimed for the best framed animals to continue building and breeding high quality show animals. And this philosophy has paid dividends. Numerous animals from the Fairy’s Maid family have been show winners at the state and national level. In 2017, B&B Fairy’s Magic, sired by Rockstar, was named Reserve All-American Winter Yearling. The following year, she was Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion at the Illinois State Fair, and placed second at World Dairy Expo, earning her another Reserve All-American title. In 2019, she earned yet another All-American Nomination after placing 4th at Expo and winning the Illinois State Fair. After an abbreviated show season in 2020, Magic still came away with an HM All-American title as well as a max score.
One of Magic’s most promising daughters is Nevr Idle TikTok, sired by Triple Crown. She was HM Junior Champion at Louisville in and was Nominated All-American Winter Yearling in 2021. There are two other daughters and one granddaughter of Magic as well on the farm.
TRIPLE S GENETICS
Triple S Genetics started in 2001 as a 4-H project for Samantha, Savannah, Sadie, and Darren Ropp of Strawn. Originally, they started with Jerseys and in 2006, they branched out into the Milking Shorthorn breed with the help of George and Mike Halpin. When Samantha was in college and dating Josh Fairbanks, they also become involved with Holsteins and Red & Whites. In 2016, Samantha and Josh were married and the Fairholm prefix was created. In May 2021, Josh and Samantha welcomed their first child, Knox.
In total, there are 25 cows in the milking herd. The cows are milked in Iowa at Josh’s aunt and uncle’s, Doug and Jody Fairbanks, Wapsi-Ana Dairy. There are currently four Milking Shorthorns consisting of 3 VG 2-year-olds and one max score 4-year-old Triple S Lad Laidbacknlazy-EXP.
“Our goal with the Milking Shorthorns is showing, so we try to select bulls from cow families that have been successful in the show ring. This is also true for the Jersey, Holstein, and Red & Whites, however we also use genomics to help make those breeding decisions as well,” commented Samantha.
Halpins America was Triple S’s very first taste of success in the show ring. In 2006, she was Junior Champion of the Illinois State Fair Junior Show and went on to be 4th in the Open Show and 1st Junior at Madison. Since then, they have had numerous All-American nominations with 2021 being a highlight: 6 total nominations including 2 Reserve All-Americans, and the Unanimous All-American Junior Best 3 Females.
The entire Triple-S Milking Shorthorn herd except for the one purchased animal goes back to Halpins Angel. She had four daughters, three of which they owned or showed.
One of the current favorites is Triple S Lad Laidbacknlazy-EXP (EX-92 93-MS), who was their very first Grand Champion at Illinois State Fair and is a 2x All-American Nominee who is just fresh again with her 4th calf.
As for the other breeds they are working with, cow families include: Silvermaple Damion Camomile (EX-95); All-American Ms-Aol Cntndr Revive-Red (EX-94); Big Guns Jamacia Vanilla (EX-95); and, Lochdale Shaquille Missy-Red (EX-93).