Red Dirt Genetics - Big Dreams on the Great Plains! - Cowsmo

Red Dirt Genetics – Big Dreams on the Great Plains!

A feature article in our 2022 Late Spring issue written by Kathleen O’Keefe.

Abe and Katrina Cobb and their Dachshunds, Abbie & Dinnozo, probably the most extroverted and famous members of Red Dirt!

It might be a ‘road less traveled’ for most in the purebred dairy industry, but for Abe and Katrina Cobb, the wide open spaces and red dirt of Oklahoma suits them and their future plans just right. The young couple, who describe themselves as ‘two small-time dairy farmers’, have been building on their dreams in Perkins, Oklahoma. The word is getting out about the Red Dirt herd – Abe & Katrina have been named as the American Jersey Cattle Association Young Breeder award winners for 2022.

Childhood misadventures led both of them to appreciating the little brown cows. Abe Cobb is the Sooner State native, growing up in a family that is best known for fine Brown Swiss and Ayrshire cattle bred under the Cobblestone prefix. He started showing Brown Swiss, but didn’t enjoy the manhandling it took with the larger breed. As just a youngster, he bought a grade Jersey heifer at a sale barn and decided that was an easier go in the show ring.

Katrina’s path to the Jersey breed runs along similar lines. Her parents, Mike & Robbie Watson, had a Holstein herd at their dairy operation in Decatur, Texas, and she ‘hated getting run over’ by the larger heifers. Clifford Buchanan, a family friend who became a mentor, gave Katrina a Jersey calf – a twin to a bull. “She was the ugliest calf, but I dragged her to every show around,” remembers Katrina. Her mom, Robbie, actually had a background with Jerseys and loved showing, so she supported the endeavor.

Random Luck T Heather EX-95% is a back-to-back Southern National Grand Champion and is poised to do big things in 2022! Photo © Sarah Damrow.

Fast forward a few years and it seems inevitable that Abe and Katrina met each other via the show ring. He was making a living as a fitter and Katrina needed one for their string headed to the Texas State Fair. Abe actually couldn’t do it, but they kept in touch. When Katrina and her mom traveled to the All-American Show in Louisville in 2009, Abe was fitting for Ratliff Jerseys – the very year Ratliff Price Alicia EX-95% won her second of three National Grand Champion titles. They started dating after that and never looked back. “Christy [Ratliff] said we’d end up together, and she was right!,” laughs Katrina.

Abe returned home to the family farm and Katrina joined him there. In 2012, they purchased the 160-acre property from his parents, Abe and Trish Cobb. They immediately started improvements by redoing the inside of the milking barn and built a small sand pack barn for the show cows. Katrina’s father, Mike, passed away in 2015, and her mom, Robbie, moved to the area after selling the dairy in Texas. She has always loved showing, and was thrilled that Abe and Katrina established their Red Dirt prefix and were proving they could develop show cows.

In 2017, the same year they got married, they also built a show barn just the way they wanted it. Katrina elaborates, “It was kind of like an early inheritance for us. We had traveled around a lot and saw what we wanted to do and some things we didn’t.” Abe agrees about the thought that went into their new tie-stall and box-stall barn. “We really spared no expense from the insulation to the fan system. We made sure the cooling system was right for this climate. We liked a number of things we saw at River Valley, and much of it is really based off of Ratliff’s old tie-stall barn.”

Abe and Katrina Cobb and Robbie Watson, Katrina’s mom, ringside at World Dairy Expo.

The herd consists of about 25-30 pasture cows and 10-12 show cows that have access to pasture paddocks. The young stock on the farm numbers around 100 head at any given time. The cows are milked in a double-4 herringbone parlor, while the original barn has been re-purposed into a sand pack barn with headlocks and more pasture paddock for the show heifers. “When we first decided to pursue our dream with show cattle and genetics, we thought we’d have to relocate to the upper Midwest somewhere, but now we’re really happy with our set up here,” relates Abe. “It does get hot in the summer, but the cows are outside for so much of the year, the weather is actually mostly an advantage.”

A large number of their homebred herd traces back to Abe’s original sale barn Jersey. Those early Jerseys kept having heifers and Abe kept showing them. Clifford Buchanan – the same man who gave Katrina her first Jersey – kept an eye on Abe’s progress and then gave him some semen by Nabdon Master Patrick and Diamond B Arons Hugh David under the conditions that Abe used the semen right away to improve his growing herd. One of the resulting calves was Cobblestone David Flyer who eventually scored EX-91% and was the dam of Abe’s first Junior All-American – Cobblestone Waiting To Fly {6}-ET EX-91% by Rapid Bay Just Wait. Abe flushed her to Elliotts Renaissance Deluxe and one of those daughters, Cobblestone Deluxe Foundation-ET EX-92% also had a fine career in the show ring being Reserve Junior All-American in 2008. Her EX-92% Tequila daughter, Red Dirt Tequila Frosted Glass-ET has a Premier daughter that is continuing the family tradition. Red Dirt Premier Frosting was Reserve All-American Spring Calf in 2017 and is now Excellent. She has a Lolalala daughter, Red Dirt Lolalala Frosty VG-88% that placed third in her show ring debut in a nice junior 2-year-old class at the Southern Spring National Jersey Show in April. Frosty was also the Junior Champion at Southern National in 2021. A Chrome winter calf out of Frosted Glass herself, Red Dirt Chrome Fancy-ET, won the winter calf class at the 2022 Southern National.

Barn bck
“When we first decided to pursue our dream with show cattle and genetics, we thought we’d have to relocate to the upper Midwest somewhere, but now we’re really happy with our set up here.” ABE COBB

“That whole family has flushed great and they really throw a pattern – pretty heads and beautiful frames. They’re big calves and aggressive eaters their whole life,” comments Abe. “Every generation of that family was a great reproductive cow, which is just so important. We have a Trans Ova satellite center only three miles from us, but if they can’t get pregnant or flush, it’s so hard to build your herd. We have a full sister to Frosted Glass who is also EX-92% that had four natural heifer calves from four total units of semen – that’s the kind of cow that helps you get ahead.”

While the ‘F’ family keeps forging ahead, it’s two Wisconsin-bred cows with the Random Luck prefix that have brought home a big load of rosettes for the couple recently. Random Luck T Heather EX-95% was Grand Champion at the 2022 Southern Spring National Show after winning the Lifetime Production Cow class. It was a repeat win for the eight-year-old Tequila daughter who has had six calves, as she also wore the Grand Champion sash in 2021 which kicked off a big year for Heather. 2021 culminated in a 2nd place finish in the Lifetime Production Cow class at Louisville on her way to Reserve All-American honors.

Random Luck Surprise Me EX-94%, a Valentino daughter, won the aged cow class at the 2021 Southern National Show and placed third in the class at the All-American Show, which led to her All-American Aged Cow nomination last year. Bred by Lisa Caya, both cows originally stood in Rick ‘RT’ Thompson’s barn in Darlington, WI and the pair made up two-thirds of a senior best three group that was second at Louisville and also nominated for All-American last year.

“Heather and Surprise Me are just true RT cows – they just keep doing what they’re supposed to do,” praises Abe. Heather was the first one to make it to Red Dirt as RT sent her down with the “if you don’t like her send her back” guarantee, needless to say, Heather never left. Abe fell for Surprise Me when he stopped at the farm before Expo in 2017. “She was a late calving junior 2-year-old fresh one day and I knew I wanted to buy her,” recalls Abe. They ended up taking her home and had her on their program for three years prior to taking her to a show. “She looked nice last year at Louisville and we’re really excited about her returning there this year again as an aged cow,” says Abe. The latest cow to move south to Oklahoma is Random Luck Joel Applause VG-88%, purchased as a springer from the Spotlight Selections Online Sale in 2021. She calved in with a fancy Joel udder and stood 8th as a junior 2-year-old at Louisville, and the couple look forward to her future. “RT is awesome – he’s always been so supportive of us,” says Katrina with appreciation.

JFL21610 Random Luck Surprise Me
Random Luck Surprise Me EX-94% was Nominated All-American Aged Cow in 2021 after a win at the Southern National and 3rd place finish in Louisville.

One more young cow with lots of promise is Red-Dirt Comerica Boobers, a VG-89% junior 2-year-old that won her class at the recent Southern Spring National Show. Her dam, Billing Colton Bongo-ET EX-91%, is a maternal sister to Billings Impression of Booboo-ET EX-92%, who was the ABA All-American Junior 2-Year-Old in 2017, was purchased by Robbie and a 5-year-old has had three natural heifers calves.

All of these cows and their families exemplify the kind of Jerseys the Cobbs like – cows with uphill run, open rib, proper rumps with great udders and correct feet and legs. They don’t worry too much about breeding for production. “If they’re the right kind, we can make them milk,” remarks Abe.

Robbie, who has more limited mobility after a stroke in 2017, still plays an active role on the farm with heat detection and she keeps an eye on all the cows and heifers that are getting close to calving. Abe and Katrina appreciate her help as there is always plenty to be done on the farm. They usually have one full-time person working on the farm, but have been without an employee so far in 2022.

A herd with small numbers needs to market genetics in order to make it, and that’s the rule at Red Dirt. “Heather will die here, but other than that, everything is for sale – especially heifers. They’re not our main focus here – we both like the cows – so if someone asks a price on a heifer, they get a price,” emphasizes Katrina. They merchandise through Facebook and put animals on consignment sales, but also have developed a good private market for junior project animals – about five or six calves a year.

Abe and Katrina with On The Go Vindication IAmSoGood, their first EX-95% cow.

They also have a good nurse cow and family cow market in their region. “It’s a very niche market, but when you can sell a cow that isn’t going to make it into the show string for $2,000-$2,500, that’s pretty good. Everything on the farm is broke to lead right out of the calf hutch, so we know those junior project animals and those cows going elsewhere are easy to handle,” explains Katrina. They’ve also developed an extensive herd bull market in Texas, so they keep all of the bulls at a 20-acre property about two miles from the home farm. “We can sell about every bull out of every show cow, so it’s worthwhile for us,” notes Abe.

In addition to marketing from their herd, they also make extra income by boarding cattle. Their main customer is Melinda Rushing of the famed Lily Lane Guernseys in Yukon, OK, for whom they house about 25-30 head of Guernseys. “Melinda is good friends with my mom, Trish, and she comes to visit about once a week. She is fantastic to work with and lets us totally run the management aspect for her cattle,” says Abe. One other long-time boarding customer is Dustin Coppenbarger of Joplin, MO, who owns half of Random Luck Joel Applause. “Dustin has always been there – he helped us get established. I think we’ve boarded animals for him for about ten years. Even though he owns his own landscaping business, he always comes to the shows to help and hang out,” smiles Katrina.

And hanging out at the shows is still the ‘vacation’ of choice for the couple. “It’s the only time we get off the farm,” according to Katrina. Their show circuit consists of the Southern National Show at Stillwater, OK; the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, KY; World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI; and the All-American Show at Louisville. They always have an attractive display and lineup of cattle, and though they are well-known, the most famous members of the crew may be their pair of extroverted Dachshunds, Abbie & Dinnozo!

IMG_5533_editAbe and Katrina volunteer their time to give dairy kids opportunities in the region. Abe attended Oklahoma State University and was a member of the judging team there, so they support OSU Dairy Club activities. They also help organize and run the Sooner State Dairy Show, an all-breeds junior show held in July each year. A bigger plan for down the line is to host a sale that would bring people to Oklahoma. “We’d love to have a sale, and we have a goal to have one in the next couple of years that will have an emphasis on the Jerseys in this region. It’ll be a nice event – we’ll have a party!,” promises Katrina.

They aspire to have a National Grand Champion hail from the farm, and are striving everyday to better their herd. They both are looking forward to their upcoming trip to Portland, Oregon to accept the Young Breeders award at the National Jersey Convention – a wonderful honor recognizing the first decade spent building their dreams in the red dirt of Oklahoma!!

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