The 100% registered Jersey herd has a rolling herd average of 19,000 pounds of milk, 5.3% butterfat, and 3.7% protein at Strack-View Farms near Random Lake, Wisconsin. The herd contains nearly 40 cows milking over 100 pounds per day and 21 Excellent cows.
The 100% registered Jersey herd has a rolling herd average of 19,000 pounds of milk, 5.3% butterfat, and 3.7% protein at Strack-View Farms near Random Lake, Wisconsin. The herd contains nearly 40 cows milking over 100 pounds per day and 21 Excellent cows. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
RANDOM LAKE, Wis. – When the Strack family bought its first purebred Jersey four years ago, little did they know it would be the start of a complete changeover in breeds. They filled a pen with Jerseys by the winter of 2018 and, after seeing the benefits, thought seriously about replacing their Holsteins with the colored cow.
“We noticed how much more feed efficient the Jerseys were, and we also spent less money on vet expenses,” said Kenny Strack Jr., who farms with his wife, Jenny, and his parents, Ken Sr. and Margie. “Conception rates are so much higher, so we spend less money on semen as well.”
The Stracks liked the economics of Jerseys and that less inputs were required – benefits that have resulted in greater profitability for the family that milks 470 cows and farms 1,200 acres near Random Lake.
Ken started farming 50 years ago and bought the farm in 1977. Starting out with 13 springing Jersey heifers and 13 Holstein heifers, it was a foreshadowing of the future. But as time went on, Holsteins overtook the Jerseys, and Ken chose to go with the black and white breed. He and Margie raised six kids on the farm, and their son, Dustin, also works with them serving as the farm’s mechanic and doing trucking for the operation.
In the spring of 2019, the Stracks purchased more Jerseys at a sale in Iowa, and the following month, they bought an entire herd of 165 Jerseys from the Sunray farm in Winsted, Minnesota. By December of that year, Strack-View Farms was home entirely to Jerseys.
“The transition went way faster than we ever thought it would,” Kenny said. “We thought it would take years, not months. Going in, we handpicked our genetics and the quality we wanted.”
The farm’s rolling herd average is 19,000 pounds of milk with a 5.3% butterfat and 3.7% protein content. Cows average 66 pounds of milk per day, but the herd also contains nearly 40 cows milking over 100 pounds. The Stracks also classify twice a year and have 21 Excellent cows in the herd.
“The Jerseys have higher components by far than our Holsteins had,” Kenny said. “We’re really happy with what the Jerseys are doing for us. We have a little less milk volume but better premiums than we had with Holsteins.”
The Stracks milk twice a day in a double-12 parallel parlor. They revamped their double-10 parabone parlor the Holsteins were milked in to accommodate the smaller Jersey and gained two stalls on each side. In the barn, they moved the brisket and neck rail back on the stall but kept the width the same.
“Those are the only changes we had to make to our facilities,” Kenny said. “Our feed storage and manure storage got bigger when the cows got smaller without adding to either one because Jerseys eat less and have less manure. Our feed inventory lasts longer.”
The Stracks find their cows do well on a diet of corn silage and grass and are planting a variety of forage grasses, including Italian ryegrass, orchard grass, meadow fescue, red clover, white clover, festulolium, birdsfoot trefoil, chicory and plantain.
“Jerseys really like this mix which also contains a little alfalfa,” Kenny said. “We feed a lot of grass and do a lot of green chopping. We make grass nice and young which really cuts down on the amount of protein and corn that we feed. As long as we make the grass early, the sugar level is higher, so we don’t need as much corn.”
The Stracks try to cut their grass every 18 to 25 days, and last year, they cut their fields an average of seven times.
The next transition that occurred at Strack-View Farms was breeding for solid A2 cows in their 100% registered Jersey herd. Currently, 70% of the milking herd is A2A2, producing milk free of the A1 casein, and about 90% of the farm’s heifers are A2A2. Animals that are A1A2 or A1A1 are bred to Angus.
The Stracks genomic test every animal and keep only the highest genomic calves. Higher genetic value cows, which make up the top 25%-30% of the herd, are bred to sexed Jersey semen. The Stracks use only A2 bulls with Chrome being one of their favorites. The rest of the herd is crossed with Angus or implanted with Angus embryos.
“Jersey bull calves are not worth much since they’re so light, so when we crossbreed or put embryos in, it adds value to the calf,” Kenny said.  
In March, the Stracks launched Jersey Valley Cheese when they began making cheese from the milk of their A2 cows. The Stracks are specializing in cheddar cheese curds and blocks which are custom made by Gibbsville Cheese in Sheboygan Falls every two weeks.
“We weren’t sure if we could have a market for A2 milk at first, so then we decided to make cheese,” Ken said. “It’s another niche to try and stay profitable. Selling A2 milk is still a potential goal, but we haven’t found an A2 processor to sell to yet.”
The pen of 130 A2 cows is milked first on cheese day with their milk traveling to a separate bulk tank the Stracks installed in February.
“A2 milk is supposed to be easier on digestion and offers other health benefits,” Kenny said. “When we made our first cheese curds, we had people coming back to us saying they can eat cheese again. Jenny and I also feel less discomfort when we consume our A2 milk and cheese.”
Mild cheddars are aged for 90 days, and the Stracks are almost to the point of offering their first batch of aged cheese.
“We have a lot of interest in our aged mild cheddar, and in time, we want to offer medium and sharp aged cheeses also,” Kenny said.
The Stracks have contacted local gas stations and cheese stores about carrying Jersey
Valley Cheese and are also working on a website with hopes of doing online cheese orders in the future. The Stracks are hosting the Sheboygan County Breakfast on the Farm June 18 and will be handing out samples of their cheese with help from the local FFA chapter.
Jenny is proud of their creations.
“Our cheese is really good on grilled cheese sandwiches,” Jenny said. “We’re going to enter it into a contest next year.”
Kenny agreed.
“The cheese has such a different flavor and vivid color too,” he said. “The curds are very dense, and at 2-3 weeks old, they still taste very cheddar and have the squeak at room temperature.”
Tightly focused on genetics and breeding for the A2 gene, the Stracks embraced a new breed and are having great success. Their herd of Jerseys took off, excelling in production, performance and health, and the family has no regrets about making the switch.