Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Iowa farm has been breeding Jerseys since 1920s

By Renae Vander Schaaf
agripen@live.com

Date Modified: 07/02/2013 11:04 AM

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ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa — Jerseys have been a mainstay on the Metzger farm since the 1920s when Fred Metzger brought the breed to his Lyon County farm.

Almost 90 years later, Fred's grandson, Marv Metzger, and his wife, Joleen, have 1,550 registered Jersey cows and operate Multi-Rose Jerseys with their four sons — Dana, Reed, Evan and Brett.

"Dana is our herdsman," said Marv. "He knows the cows, building our herd choosing the genetics needed. We use a fair amount of genomics and embryo transplants."

Some of their bulls are listed as studs with several semen companies. With the advent of genomics, a bull calf's potential can be determined as young as two months.

General managerial duties fall on son Reed's shoulders. He does a little bit of everything. Son Brett's mechanical skills make him perfect for the troubleshooter role. He also spearheads the hog operation. The Metzgers finish 7,000 pigs annually.

Evan makes sure the animals receive the best nutrition. Multi-Rose Jerseys has 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans. All the hay is purchased.

"Rainy weather often made it hard to get hay put up properly," said Marv. "We do cut plenty of corn silage."

The Metzgers have grown Brown Mid-rib corn for silage for more than a decade. The lower lignin content of the corn increases digestibility. With an increase in digestible fiber, the cows need less corn, he said.

The Jersey breed's small size makes cows efficient milk producers with high butterfat and protein numbers. The milk is sold to Dean Foods in LeMars.

Cows are milked three times per day on a 40-cow carousel. It takes about 10 minutes for the carousel to make a full circuit. Each cow's number is read from the pedometer she wears. It records the pounds of milk produced and number of steps taken. This number has significance, said Marv. When a cow is in heat, her number of steps spikes and milk production declines.

The ID pedometer is manufactured by Afimilk, an Israeli company. The Metzgers have worked with the firm for many years. When they expanded the dairy and installed the Genex Westfalia carousel, they insisted on keeping the Afimilk management system.

A manure press separates liquid from manure solids. The solids are used as bedding.

Heifers are fed from automatic calf feeders.

"The technology out there is plentiful and great," Metzger said. "But you got to use it. It makes a difference at the end of the year.''

The National Dairy Shrine last month selected Dana Metzger as their Progressive Dairy Producer for the large herd division.

Dana has been active in the Northwest Iowa DHIA, the Farm Bureau, Western Iowa Dairy Alliance and the American Jersey Cattle Association.

Multi-Rose Jerseys has been named for the wild roses that bloom in the area, is used to welcoming visitors to their farm.