A feature article in our 2020 Winter issue written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
A decade is a curious time frame. Ten years can feel like it went by in a blink of an eye; like it was yesterday. Yet ten years ago, no one had yet heard of Snapchat or Uber; no one had sent money via Venmo or asked Alexa about the weather. A lot can happen in ten years. In May 2011, a Jersey bull hit the ground in Quebec and in November 2020, ‘Guimo Joel’ was announced over the loudspeaker in Louisville, KY as the Premier Sire of the All-American Jersey Show.
Joel daughters stormed to the forefront of the show reports in 2020 – Musqie Joel Villetta, Grand Champion at the Western National Jersey Show; Lone Pine Joel Jugojuice, Grand Champion at the North American Open Jersey Show; Rexlea Joel Karausel, Grand Champion at the Fall Classic Jersey Show. It’s quite a list of winners from some prominent fall shows, and it shouldn’t be surprising coming from the #1 Type proven sire (tied) in Canada at +13FC.
In spite of that high type number, Joel’s early appeal wasn’t focused specifically on the show ring. His story begins when Monia Lemieux, who owns and operates Ferme Guimo along with her husband Bertrand Brisson, purchased Fermar Paramount Joy, Joel’s dam, at a spring sale in 2009. Monia remembers that Joy was 11 days fresh and though her udder still had some swelling, she thought it had nice texture. “I thought she possibly had show potential if she developed well, but I really bought her for milk production at the time,” remembers Monia. Her final bid of $3,650 CDN will go down as one of the more astute purchases in spring sale history.
Joy settled in well at Ferme Guimo, a 100-cow Jersey & Holstein herd located southeast of Quebec City in Saint Gervais de Bellechasse. She did develop, and Monia showed her locally in Quebec, where she did well enough to earn Reserve All-Quebec Junior 2-Year-Old honors in 2009. It was at the end of this first lactation that Harley Nicholson, the Jersey Program Manager at Semex, first laid eyes on Joy. “She was a dry two-year-old scored VG-87 and was due in five or six weeks to Lencrest On Time. I expressed interest in that calf if it was a bull, and if not, I’d like to contract her for a flush to make a bull or two for Semex.”
As luck would have it, that first calf was a heifer, so the mating conversation got underway. Monia’s brother, Guillaume, works part-time at the farm, and has a real enthusiasm for the genetics side of the business, so much of the discussion circled through Harley, Monia, and Guillaume. Joy looked great in her second lactation, and was really getting underway on a big record.
It was relatively early in the genomic era, and Harley had been keeping an eye on a couple of high ranking genomic cows in the US that were producing high offspring, namely: D&E Paramount Violet EX-90 (dam of Valentino) and Pearlmont Impuls Daffy EX-90 (dam of Dimension). Daffy was out of an EX-91 Paramount dam, and Harley thought bringing some of the Danish Impuls blood to Paramount Joy could hopefully repeat that genomic success. “I had seen lots of Impuls daughters while traveling in the US, and they were always dairy and milky with high components. He wasn’t used much in Canada because his type proof did not convert well in our system, but that’s what brought his son, Legal, into the discussion,” recalls Harley.
Tollenaars Impuls Legal 233-ET was one of the first proven sons of Impuls available in Canada. Monia and Guillaume appreciated his balanced production and type proof, and thought it was a good choice for Joy. “We didn’t necessarily think the cross would produce a bull like Joel – we still thought of Joy as more of a production cow at the time,” says Monia. They flushed her just once as a second calver to fulfill the mating contract to Legal. She made 16 embryos, which turned into nine pregnancies, but resulted in only one calf. As was discovered later, both Joy and Legal carried the JH1 haplotype, which causes embryos to die at some point during gestation. So, after a promising start, only one live calf hit the ground, but that calf turned out to be Guimo Joel.
Harley followed Joy’s progress after the flush and was pleased with her further development. She again won at some local shows in Quebec before making the trip to the Royal Winter Fair, where she placed 7th in the junior 3-year-old class on her way to an All-Canadian nomination in 2010.
Joel was born in May 2011 and promptly had some hair sent off in the mail. Monia exclaims, “Joel was one of the very first calves from our farm to be genomic tested and when he tested high enough to enter Semex, it felt like a Disney story come to life!”
In June 2011, Harley Nicholson was about to move on to ABS, but made a visit to the farm with the man who would be succeeding him in his role at Semex, Russell Gammon. “I first saw Joel when he was a month old. When his genomics came back, he was an exciting combination of production and type,” recalls Russell. “When he entered stud, he was fairly popular even as a young bull and Semex marketed him as a Genomax and Immunity Plus sire. He had an interesting pedigree, and was used quite a lot in the US because those breeders were familiar with the bloodlines.”
Russell Gammon loves to talk pedigrees, and he expounds on how much there is to like about the maternal line behind Joel. “Joy’s dam – Early Rise First Prize Jessie SUP-EX 92-8E 2* – is a Bovi-Lact First Prize, who is a prominent brood cow sire. First Prize is by Gemini, yet another sire of great brood cows, and out of the legendary Glenamore Gold Prize EX-97-6E 8* – the three-time Royal Grand Champion who was known for her remarkable udder. Obviously, as an EX-8E cow, there was plenty of longevity there with Jessie. Paramount, also known for making outstanding brood cows, brings milk to the pedigree, and that mating seemed to click as it resulted in Joy.”
By that time, First Prize Jessie resided in Quebec at Ferme Fermar owned by Mario Leblanc, but the Early Rise prefix behind Joy originates in the Elmira, Ontario herd of Neil & Keith Wideman. Russell recalls a visit to the farm in August 1981, when the herd was being classified. “The Widemans were one of the earlier free-stall herds in Ontario. It was a larger herd with a commercial focus, but it was a good-uddered bunch of cows. It may have been their first classification that day. I remember an EX-91 scored cow, and as it turns out, she is back in the pedigree behind Joy (her sixth dam).”
Joy would eventually be scored EX-94 in Canada with an EX-96 mammary system. It soon became evident that she was a prolific transmitter with 14 VG or EX daughters by eight different sires at Ferme Guimo. “It was obvious on later visits to the herd which cows were the descendants of Joy. All of Joel’s sisters had great udders and they resembled Joy. They had tight udders and carried their milk high. They weren’t super deep as young cows, but they fill out and drop down that barrel with subsequent calvings,” observes Russell. “Joy developed into an impressive mature cow with lots of frame, open rib, and a deep barrel.”
In that regard, the early first lactation daughters of Joel that Russell saw fit the same pattern. “The Joel calves and heifers were good – straight-lined and uniform, but not earthshattering. You didn’t see a lot of them in the show ring. Once they started to calve, they really put on wonderful mammary systems and he started to be known as an udder bull. They’re not massively capacious udders in the first lactation. Joy was a slower maturing cow and the Legal daughters I saw in various countries also had that ‘heiferish’ look to them as two-year-olds, so that slower maturing trait comes from both sides of the pedigree, I think. The Joels really blossom when they calve again a second time,” he notes.
While the first-crop of Joels were still calves and heifers, Joy had some interested visitors stop in to see her at the farm in June of 2014. Michael Heath and David Jordan had been at a sale in New York when they decided to hit the road and see a few promising Jerseys in Canada. David Jordan had recently taken on the General Manager position at River Valley Jerseys in Tremont, IL, and he admits that he wasn’t very familiar with Joy at that time. “She wasn’t a household name at the time. Joel was in AI, but was not yet the sensation he is today. I have to give credit to Michael Heath for making a point to go see her. We arrived at Ferme Guimo and I was astounded by her rear udder, and by the daughters next to her in the barn – they all had great udders. It was obvious that she was transmitting well.”
Michael Heath remembers, “I had judged her once at a show as a young cow and she didn’t place real high that day. But I kept seeing pictures of her online and loved how she was developing. I knew she also had some genomic numbers and seemed to be passing those along, so I kept track of her.” By that time, Monia and Guillaume had mated Joy to a number of different bulls, including Gabys Arrow. One of those Arrow daughters, Guimo Arrow Jackie-ET, was an attractive yearling, and was also a top 20 GLPI heifer at the time.
While David’s first intention may have been to purchase Arrow Jackie for the River Valley genetic program, he couldn’t tear himself away from Joy. “She wasn’t in show shape, but there was something incredibly special about her,” says David. The River Valley team made the decision to try to buy Joy and Jackie together as a package. Monia was reluctant to sell the pair, so the negotiation stretched on for a few weeks as David remembers. “I woke up every morning thinking about Joy. I believed the world needed to see her, and that she could show everyone what a genomic cow could do in the type side of the business. She brought the two worlds together.”
The crew at Ferme Guimo still hesitated to sell their foundation cow and what was possibly their best heifer, so David knew he had to share his dream for Joy with them. “We cleaned out the first box stall at River Valley and shot a video that had the point of view of arriving at River Valley, moving through the open doors and showing the big, bedded box stall. We sent them the video and said ‘This is where Joy will live. We promise you we will help make her offspring more valuable, and that will bring more attention to your farm.’ It helped reassure them and we made a deal.”
Joy & Jackie arrived at River Valley in early August 2014, and Joy immediately went on the show program at River Valley in preparation for the trip to Madison for World Dairy Expo in a couple of months. It turned out to be a successful trip, and David was delighted to be on the halter as she won the Lifetime Production Cow class. “I believe she may be the cow with the fewest lactations to ever win that class at Madison. She was only partway through her fourth lactation when we purchased her and she already qualified for that class,” he recalls. Her win at Expo, and also in the Lifetime Production class at the All-American Jersey Show in Louisville a month later, certainly gave a boost to Joel’s popularity at the time.
After her successful show campaign, Joy returned to River Valley to make some babies, and specifically, to make another prominent son. As a pure Jersey, her US index lagged behind some of the individuals with JX blood, so they decided to focus on something they knew she excelled at – udders. They mated her with a high genomic young sire from a tremendous production pedigree that also ranked extremely high on the udder composite trait, GJUI – Ahlem Topeka Rufus-ET, a Topeka son out of an EX-93 Legal dam. The resulting bull, River Valley Joyride-ET, was born in November 2015, shortly before Joy scored EX-95 at River Valley. Joyride’s genomic number included an outstanding GJUI, and he entered stud at Semex, who first marketed his semen at the end of 2017.
In 2019, Joyride sired the Junior Champion at the Royal Winter Fair, Golden Joyride Louisa. Louisa recently won the Milking Yearling class at both the 2020 Ontario Fall Invitational Jersey Show and the 2020 Fall Classic Jersey Show. Joyride also sired the Junior Champion & Reserve Junior Champion at the 2020 Westerner Championship Jersey Show. These wins have sparked a surge of interest in the bull.
Joy’s impact keeps spreading on both sides of the border. As a 14* brood cow, she left a good number of descendants behind in Canada and at Ferme Guimo. About half of their Jersey herd traces back to Joy, which is now ranked #2 LPI herd in Canada. They have marketed males, females and embryos around the globe. Her influence keeps strengthening on the GLPI list, and following the recent December 2020 proof run, she had seven daughters or granddaughters on the top 50 GLPI list, including four in the top 15. Her grandson, Guimo Journey, is the #11 bull on the top 50 Jersey GLPI list.
As Harley Nicholson noted, ‘it’s been a great success story for everyone involved.” Russell Gammon concurs, “Being at Semex as Joel established his career was one of the fun parts of the job!” Michael Heath returned to the family when he purchased a high testing Chrome daughter out of Arrow Jackie. Now owned with Kevin Ehrhardt, River Valley 1701 Josie-ET has developed into an EX-91 cow that Michael continues to mate aggressively and market from.
Though David Jordan is no longer at River Valley, Paramount Joy still holds a piece of his heart. “She probably was in the top two or three of my favorite cows ever at River Valley, which is saying something. For me, she represented the superb combination of production, longevity, and overall beauty of the Jersey breed,” he muses. “It seems like almost every cow I tried to buy in the past year was a Joel daughter, and that made me an even greater believer. With Joy and her sons, you get a little bit of the best of all things!”
Very shortly before this issue went to press, the American Jersey Cattle Company announced that a new undesirable genetic factor known as Jersey Neuropathy with Splayed Forelimbs (JNS) had been identified in the breed. Guimo Joel is listed as a carrier, apparently tracing through his sire line.