Marshman Farms LLC, has come a long way since its founding in 1856. Today, sixth-generation owners David and John Marshman operate the Oxford, NY dairy farm that has garnered a following for high-quality purebred Holsteins under the name of Tiger Lily Holsteins.
“Previous to my generation, we were more of a traditional 100-cow dairy in a tie-stall barn,” said John. “We moved out of the tie-stall and into a freestall barn with parlor in the early 1990s.”
Marshman explained the expansion plan included housing for 500 cows, so the current herd of 420 is comfortably housed in a 6-row freestall barn that’s adjacent to the double 12 parallel parlor.
The freestall barn includes waterbeds topped with bedding composed of a mixture of sawdust and Syracuse fiber, a recycled cardboard/lime product. Fresh cows, show cows and flush cows are maintained in a bedded pack area.
Cows are managed in four groups: fresh and show cows, two-year olds and two mature cow groups. “We have high production so we don’t really have a low group,” said Marshman, adding that the herd is on a 3x milking schedule. “For the two-year olds, it’s mostly for social grouping. They don’t do as well when they’re in with older cows that might push them around. They go into the parlor better if they’re all the same size, and milk at the same speed.”
Most of the herd is bred via A.I. to carefully selected sires. The Marshmans are also doing embryo transfers along with IFV work on some of the cow families. “Most of the virgin heifers are used for recipients for embryos,” said Marshman. “About half of our heifers carry embryos. About 75 to 100 embryo calves are born each year and fill different niches of the market, including some for show. We’re into the red and whites and polled.” Marshman added by using heifers for recipients, the breeding cycles of the regular milking string isn’t disturbed. Fresh heifers are then rebred A.I. and join the rest of the herd for the next freshening.
Marshman explains polled genetics in the Holstein breed have become quite popular over the past decade. “We ended up with one of the highest genomic polled families in the world,” he said. “Polled is a dominant trait in Holsteins, and Europeans are quite interested in the polled genetics. There’s a big push to eliminate dehorning in Europe and that’s probably coming here too.”
The red trait in Holsteins is a little more difficult to cultivate because it’s a recessive gene. “There’s quite a market for them, especially for Red and White calves,” said Marshman. “A lot of 4-Hers would rather have a red calf than a black one.” Marshman added there are more red Holsteins in Europe, which is a driver for marketing efforts by the Red and White breed association.
“We really like to show the Red and White cattle at the World Dairy Expo and All-American Dairy Show,” said Marshman. “That’s something we’ve concentrated on and done well with. We sell quite a few Red and White show cattle.”
Although the Marshmans have exported cattle in the past, the current export market is more favorable for embryos. “There were quite a few animals going into China, Russia and Turkey,” said Marshman, “but that seems to have slowed down. The main market is Europe for the red and white genetics.” Marshman says a bull from their breeding, Tiger-Lily Ladd-P, is with Select Sires and has been quite popular. “He’s a Red and White Holstein and he’s polled,” said Marshman. “He’s a good type and udder bull, and has high longevity.”
The Marshmans farm about 900 acres, primarily corn for silage and alfalfa and grass for hay. Some hay ground is used for haylage that’s ensiled in bunker silos, and some is for producing large bales for calves and dry cows. A farm team helps with crop planning, feed rations, manure management, herd health and financial aspects of the farm.
To comply with CAFO regulations, manure storage and application is carefully recorded. Manure is stored in three concrete pits with a total storage capacity of 2.5 million gallons. Most of the manure is spread in spring on corn ground, then spread on hay ground during the summer following each cutting.
Tiger Lily cattle are exhibited at local county shows, then at the New York State Fair and the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, PA.
Visit Tiger Lily Holsteins on Facebook and at www.holsteinworld.com/marshman .