A feature article in our 2020 Fall Special issue, written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
You may not always see them, but you can hear them if you’re ringside at a big show – Carol & Diane Borba love owning good show cows and aren’t afraid to cheer for their girls if they’re doing well! It’s hard to find a group that enjoys owning and exhibiting dairy cattle more than the Borbas from California and their joy is infectious for everyone around them.
Third-generation dairy farmers, Carol & Diane came by their love of good cows through their father, George Morasci, while growing up on their family’s dairy in Modesto, CA. Their dad met their mom, Phyllis, at the local auction yard, got married and had a family of seven (six girls and one boy), while establishing their Westport Holstein herd. The girls in the family worked hard on the farm, and Carol & Diane remember milking the 350-cow herd in the six-cow parlor. “It took a long time,” laughs Diane. “We listened to a lot of 8-tracks!” Their father passed away in 1974 at only 52 years of age. It was a chaotic time, but Phyllis and the family kept the farm running, and actually thriving over the years.
The Central Valley boasts a large Portuguese-American population, so it wasn’t surprising that these Swiss-Italian girls both ended up marrying local boys with Portuguese roots. In fact, they both ended up marrying a ‘Frank Borba’, which has been the source of some amusement and much confusion over the years to people in the dairy business. Both Diane & Carol confess that it wasn’t ‘love at first sight’ for their respective Franks!
Diane met Frank ‘Chopper’ Borba on Halloween in 1974 through mutual friends. From a dairy down the road, they found they had plenty in common and were married in 1979. “He is more of a farmer – loves all the aspects of the farm and cropping. I always liked the cows more,” comments Diane. They established their MB Lucky Lady Farm on the Morasci family dairy and had two children: Stephanie (38), and her husband Louie, now run the day-to-day operations on the farm and have three children; and Frankie (36) has taken the reins at Frank Borba & Sons Chopping Service. He and his wife, Alison, have four kids.
Carol and Frank D. Borba were both in the same wedding party, as one of the Morasci employee’s sister married Frank’s cousin. After Carol misplaced her purse at the reception, Frank returned it and took the chance to ask her out to dinner, and now 45 years later, the rest is history! Frank’s family farmed on a commercial dairy in nearby Escalon, and once they were married, they started their FDB Holsteins herd at that location. They have three children: Cortney, who passed away 25 years ago; Frankie (41) who is a teacher and head football coach at Merced Junior College, and his wife, Aubrey, have three children with another on the way. They live on the dairy, and Frankie has been feeding cows while the COVID upheaval has disrupted his school schedule. Natalie (38), who along with her husband Robert and their three kids, have relocated in Terrabon, OR on a beef and alfalfa ranch.
Family is vitally important to the Borbas, and it’s fun to note that both Borba families have three generations of Franks – the fathers, sons, and grandsons. “We use a lot of nicknames!”, Carol chuckles. They’re proud that all of their kids have stayed involved in agriculture, and in touch with the dairies.
Diane & Frank milk about 1025 cows on at MB Lucky Lady Farm, mainly Holsteins with about 75% of those being registered. They also have 400 acres of almond trees and another 250 acres of farmed land. While the good show cows are housed at other locations, they have invested in a fair number of high-testing Holsteins from the genomic part of the business over the years, and Louie enjoys the genetic management of those cattle.
Carol & Frank run 1000 cows at their 420-acre operation in Escalon, CA. The herd consists of about 600 Jerseys and 400 Holsteins. Originally, the herd was completely Holstein, but their daughter Courtney always liked Jerseys and finally Frank broke down and bought her a calf. Thirty years later, the Jerseys are the majority, which makes sense as they ship their milk to a cheese plant. “I’ll always love the Holsteins, but the Jerseys are an efficient, low-maintenance cow,” comments Carol. They milk each breed group separately and put the milk from each into separate bulk tanks. Carol handles the calf chores, does the books, and manages the employees. Frank milks the show barn cows, does the AI work, and plans all the matings which focus on type and components.
The show barn at FDB currently has about 16-20 of the better ‘west coast’ cows owned with Diane & Chopper. Frank milks this group, and either Frank or Carol rinse them every day and do the extra things that it takes to get a cow show ring ready. “I still love to do those daily details,” says Carol. “It’s a passion, and you have to love it to do what we do every day.”
The cows from this barn took home Grand Champion titles from the California State Shows three years in a row – GoldenOaks Hero Chane VG-87 in 2016, Aldora Attra Dempsey EX-93 in 2017 and 2018. Additionally, Cleland RB AdmirnglyRed-ET was named Senior Champion at the 2020 Western National Red & White Show & Reserve Senior Champion of the Holstein Show. With cows like this in their barn, the Borbas are excited about the future and the young cows coming up through the BBM (Borba-Borba-Morasci) partnership.
Diane & Carol talk often and definitely every Monday during herd check to keep apprised of what’s happening with the cows. It was during one of those phone calls ten years ago that Diane, leaving on a family trip, asked Carol to bid over the phone for her on a nice red heifer – in fact, a Talent daughter of KHW Regiment Apple-Red – that was selling in a sale. Though she was anxious as the bids got higher and higher, Carol made the final bid on Ms Candy Apple-Red. Frank D. was listening to her bidding – “What the hell are you doing?” – but in the end, when Frank saw Candy Apple, he fell in love and they entered a partnership with Diane & Chopper. “We had showed a lot of cows, but she was the one that really hit the big time in the national spotlight,” remembers Carol. The big-time is right. Candy Apple EX-94 was the Unanimous All-American R&W 5-Year-Old, and was the HM Grand Champion at the International R&W Show in 2013, as well as the Reserve Grand Champion at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair R&W Show the same year.
Diane and Chopper have never been afraid to invest in good cattle, either show-type or the high genomic kind. “We were part of the syndicate that bought Regancrest S Chassity at the International Intrigue Sale in 2009. Of course, she came with numerous sons and daughters, and we benefited from the success of her son, Gold Chip, who was a very popular sire,” mentions Diane.
Chopper spotted what would become another genomic giant while they were visiting at Lookout Holsteins in Quebec before the 2011 International Intrigue sale hosted by Ferme Blondin. “I remember he said ‘What’s that heifer?’ while looking at her separated out from the others”, notes Diane. That heifer turned out to be Miss OCD Robst Delicious-ET, and they struck a deal to buy half of her privately that day. “I couldn’t even guess how many bulls are in stud from her and her daughters. It was really happenstance that day. Sometimes you stumble into the right thing, and sometimes you just stumble!”, laughs Diane when commenting on this astute purchase.
Another smart purchase involving Lookout was the purchase of the Jersey cow, Marlau Comerica Fabienne in 2012. From her, Diane bred the 2018 International Jersey Show Grand Champion, MB Lucky Lady Feliz NavidadET, who had sold to Rivendale Farms. The 2011 All Canadian Milking Yearling, Fabienne is still at Lookout at 11 years of age, and is still making babies. From breeding a Jersey champion to owning a Jersey champion, Diane & Chopper became partners with Jeff and Alta Mae Core on Hirds Colton Dream EX-94 during the summer of 2018. They were delighted to see her named National Grand Champion at the All American Jersey Show and eventual Supreme
Champion in Louisville, KY that fall.
It was on that same trip to the International Intrigue in 2011 that Diane & Chopper also bought into RockyMountain Talent Licorice EX95, who went on to be Reserve Senior Champion at Expo that year and named All-American & All-Canadian 4-Year-Old in 2011. “You meet a lot of people in this business, and you get to know some class act people that you enjoy doing business with and being in partnership with,” says Diane.
One of those people they specifically mention is Tom DeGroot of T&L Cattle Ltd. The sisters call him a straight shooter, and always pay attention when Tom says he’s found a nice cow. He’s been the source of some of their most recent fun in the show ring. “Diane gets lots of cow pictures sent her way, and it’s not unusual that she will text me the photo of one that really catches her eye. That was the case with
Darby. We saw the picture of her and thought, Wow!”, exclaimed Carol. Diane & Chopper bought into Oakfield GC Darby EX-95 during the summer of 2019, and Carol & Frank joined them in the partnership a couple months later. They were quickly rewarded with plenty of show ring accolades that fall – Darby was the winning 5-yearold at the International Holstein Show and Reserve Grand Champion, which brought lots of cheering from the Borba group at Madison. “She looked incredible in the string all week, so we were hoping she would do well, and it was really gratifying to see her succeed,” says Carol.
She traveled to the Royal to continue her campaign, and Carol reported back to Diane, who stayed home in CA. Diane was a primary owner of another accomplished cow in the class, Idee Windbrook Lynzi, so she was interested in how both cows looked. Carol recalls, “I told her that looking at Lynzi in the string, she looked a bit too fresh yet, but by the time she got to the ring on Friday, she looked like a million bucks!” Lynzi went on to win the 5-year-old class and Darby was 2nd. The pair went on to be Grand & Reserve Grand Champions at the show, with Darby being named the All-American 5-Year-Old and Reserve All-Canadian 5-Year-Old. Now housed at Duckett Holsteins in WI, the Borbas recently sold part interest in her to Mike & Julie Duckett.
Another cow in the mix last fall for the two Borba couples was Alfinch Zelgodis Taci EX-95, the winning 4-year-old at World Dairy Expo, and the 2019 Reserve All-American and Reserve All-Canadian 4-Year-Old. “She was another one that was brought to our attention by Tom. We loved the picture of her and committed to purchase her, but didn’t see her in person until we were at Expo. That’s when we got really excited about her!,” says Carol. Taci also went on to the Royal and finished 2nd to Mapleley Goldwyn Julia, another cow partially owned by Diane.
Housed at Triple-T in Ohio, Taci is a barnmate of Meadow Green Absolute Fanny-Red EX-95, who has been a past WDE Grand Champion and just named Holstein International Red & White World Champion 2020. She won the Lifetime Production Cow class at the Royal last year for the Borbas and their partners. When it came time for the Grand Champion parade at the end of the Royal show, the Borba/Morasci family connection had five cows lead out in contention – Lynzi, Darby, Julia, Fanny and Wild Thing (2nd Mature Cow) – in what must be a historic group of ownership.
It might seem overwhelming to keep all of the partnerships and cattle management organized, but Carol and Diane stay on top of things. “Diane has more partnerships and cattle than we do,” says Carol. “She’s got a whole filing cabinet to keep track of them all!” Diane agrees, “I’m in deep! I’m lucky to have people willing to do the extra day-to-day work with these cattle. Fanny is a good example of having great partners, though. We discuss matings, and we all have a chance to buy each other out on offspring through public sales. They communicate well and that’s the key to staying satisfied with a partnership.
The Borbas get full enjoyment out of their ‘expensive hobby’ says Carol. “I like to sit and watch the whole show. I like to study the sires. Diane likes move around a bit more and to be more social. But anyone that sits by us at Expo or other shows – we always have fun and we always make friends! Our passion for this will never go away. As long as God is willing, we’ll be buying good cows!” Diane is in total agreement. “I don’t know how anyone in this business keeps on without have something extra, something special to enjoy. And we make a point to really enjoy it!”
Both Darby and Taci had a good day at the recent North American Open Dairy Show in Ohio. Darby was 2nd place Aged Cow and was named Reserve Grand Champion, while Taci won the 5-YearOld class, and was HM Grand Champion. The Borbas contagious enthusiasm was evident, and you could hear the cheers ringing from the bleachers. Carol exclaims, “Frank always tells me ‘Don’t scream’, but if I’ve got a cow out there that’s getting a rosette, I’m going to scream!”