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Myron Czech is new board chairman for Select Sires

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 04/25/2013 7:03 PM

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LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — The new board chairman for Select Sires is Myron Czech of Little Falls.

His interest in dairy genetics started when he was just six years old.

The young Czech was in the family's farmhouse basement discovering the treasures of a box when he found a "bull book." Czech kept the book in his room, looked at the pictures of top cows and bulls and studied the genetic information.

The book and his father's focus on quality cows sparked enthusiasm for cattle genetics that is the basis for his commitment to Select Sires.

His parents, John and Eleanor, milked 25 cows and raised crops. Czech's father always wanted to breed cows to a purebred bull, he said.

When Czech purchased his first calf in 1969 at age 10, he bought a purebred Holstein. The calf cost him $50 plus $6.50 to transfer the registration.

When he reached high school, he discovered FFA advisor Louis Jelinski, shared his enthusiasm.

"Even though he didn't have a herd, he definitely had an interest in it," Czech said. "He would drive me to see other purebred herds, and he encouraged my interest in purebreds."

Purebred cattle was one thing, but talking his father into using artificial insemination was another matter, he said. In the late 1950s, pregnancy rates were low, most likely due to poor semen quality. But Czech kept encouraging his father to try it again. It was a tough sell, but he agreed to have 10 cows bred using A.I. Nine of them settled. The next time, 19 cows out of 20 settled.

"There was no more sales work that I needed to do for A.I. after that," Czech said.

Czech drove himself to classes to learn how to be an A.I. technician. That's when he learned about Select Sires, a company that had several leading sires in the Holstein breed.

Post-high school work

After high school, he attended the University of Minnesota where he met his wife, Debbie. Czech graduated with an animal science degree and, as he'd always planned it, returned to the farm. He took over in 1980 and married Debbie the next year.

In the first year, they doubled the herd and milked in a 27-cow stanchion barn. By the early 1990s, the Czechs looked at operations in Michigan and Wisconsin as they considered expansion. In 1997, they added a free-stall barn with mattresses and sawdust bedding. They also built a double-12 parallel parlor.

Czech used Select Sires genetics even before the firm had a territory in Minnesota, he said.

"We knew they had the best genetics available," he said.

Select Sires scheduled an organizational meeting for Minnesota in 1986, but Czech didn't attend. The family belonged to some cooperatives, he said, but going to a meeting didn't appeal to him.

He decided to attend a Select Sires informational meeting the next year.

Czech was also nominated by Dick Virnig of Pierz to be delegate to Select Sires' Minnesota board representing a region including Morrison and Benton counties. A few years later, he was elected as a director in the state's Select Sires cooperative.

"At that time, my interest was primarily in Holstein genetics," he said. "But once I was on the board, it opened me up to other opportunities."

He worked closely with board president Duane Berg, of Annandale, who was among several mentors in Czech's life.

"He had a passion for the cooperative way of doing business that I haven't seen equaled by anyone I have met," he said. "Not only was he aware of the positive things a cooperative can do, but also of the potential shortfalls that there can be."

New perspectives

Czech gained a new perspective for the cooperative model from his father-in-law, Wallace Erickson. Erickson was a Select Sires Co-op manager in Ohio.

"They create a different type of work environment than you see in many businesses," he said. "They have a family team atmosphere. When you have that kind of atmosphere where there is cooperation between the customer/owner and the employees, it leads to a high level of success."

Co-ops have had great success stories and some failures, he said. The success of the co-op model itself hinges on staying true to the needs of its customer/owners.

"Co-ops need to have a unique, high-quality products that provide a high degree of economic value to their user," he said. "Those are two of the underlying principles of a successful cooperative."

Goals

In his role as Select Sires' board chair, Czech wants to make the sure the company continues to meet customers' needs while keeping up-to-date on industry and technology trends.

The Czechs employ 13 part-time and full-time workers on their Pike Hills Dairy. They milk 550 cows and farm 1,200 acres.

In 2006, they added New Heights Dairy with their son, Brent and his wife, Callie. New Heights has 1,300 cows. The commercial herd includes 15 percent crossbreds. Montbeliards, Swedish Reds, Holsteins and Jerseys are among the breeds found at the dairy operation.

Brent manages the cattle and Czech, the crops in the two operations.