Marjorie Kuszlyk isn’t bragging when she says she was born knowing how to select good dairy cows. Marjorie was at the All American Dairy Show held recently in Harrisburg, PA, with several outstanding animals that represented her family’s dedication to improving dairy cattle.
“I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Stafford, NY,” said Marjorie between classes. “My husband John was born and raised in Churchville, NY. We met hauling milk, and we still have a milk hauling business.”
Today, the Kuszlyk’s milking herd in Batavia, NY includes 70 cows. “Milking Shorthorn is our primary breed,” said Marjorie. “We also have Guernsey, American Lineback, Dutch Belted, two Holsteins and one Jersey. We’ve had some top-notch Brown Swiss in the past.”
The Kuszlyk herd is housed in a tie stall barn with a pipeline system, and a freestall barn is used to house dry cows and young replacements. Herd replacements are raised on the farm for the first six months, then developed further off the farm. Heifers return to the farm for calving.
Marjorie comes from a long line of dairy farmers, and can trace her family’s connection with Milking Shorthorns back to England. Although Marjorie’s interest and eventual career in genetics and showing purebred livestock began with horses, she was quick to translate what she knew to dairy cattle. She’s constantly evaluating the herd to determine what’s needed to improve, and makes careful selections based on phenotype and genotype. She studies sire summaries carefully and is familiar with the bulls that will make the best contribution to the next generation. Because the herd is already genetically superior, Marjorie can focus on fine-tuning to create the complete cow. “We try to breed good cows,” she said, “and we try to put some good bulls out there.”
When it comes to why she likes Milking Shorthorns, Marjorie can’t really single out one factor. “I like everything about them,” she said, adding that their easy-going temperament is one of her favorite traits. “They’re like any other breed, with good ones and bad ones.” Marjorie noted that the herd was the first herd in the breed to achieve platinum, which is over 24,000 pounds herd average.
The Kuszlyks’ Lineback herd includes the highest scored cow in the breed, a 96-point cow with a 97 mammary score. “She’s 10, and has three daughters,” said Marjorie, adding that their Lineback herd is the highest producing Lineback herd in the country. “One daughter is eight and scored 94. The other daughter is seven and scored 95, and a two-year old daughter is at 87.”
Marjorie says the Linebacks are popular throughout rural New York and New England among those who want to keep just a few cows for their family. Linebacks are also popular with grass-based dairy farmers as both purebreds and crosses.
“The colored breeds are excellent grazers, and higher in components which is important in today’s milk market,” said Marjorie. “A lot of Guernseys produce A2 Milk®, which is a big thing coming. I think it’s even more important than organic. It’s more digestible, and people who can’t drink milk can drink A2.”
A2 milk contains only the A2 variant of the beta-casein protein rather than both A1 and A2 variants. Researchers believe that A1 beta-casein protein resulted as a mutation when cattle were domesticated, and that A2 is a more natural variant of beta casein. Some studies have shown that people who have trouble digesting milk fare better with A2 milk because of how the digestive enzymes interact with the beta casein proteins. Cattle can be genetically tested for the A2 trait and selected for that trait. Cows that are A1A2 bred have a chance of producing A2A2 offspring, but in order to guarantee an A2A2 cow, which is one that will produce A2 milk, both the sire and dam must be A2A2.
“The Mudslinger cow (Kuszmar Arkansas Mud), is an A1A2 cow,” said Marjorie, describing the nine-year old Milking Shorthorn that was named grand champion of the breed at the 2017 All American show. “I’m following more and more Guernsey bulls that are A2A2 and infusing more of those genetics.” Marjorie added that many Guernseys and Dutch Belted are A2A2, and several of her Milking Shorthorns are A1A2. Marjorie is working with several Guernsey breeders who are interested in creating an A2 Guernsey Gold herd.
Marjorie hasn’t done a lot of flushing because she follows genetics so closely that she’s able to accurately predict the outcome of mating selections. The Mudslinger cow, or ‘Mud’ is the result of a natural mating, achieved through one of Marjorie’s careful breeding selections. Mud is a 3-E, 95-point cow with over 165,000 pounds total lactation to date. “She’s a milk wagon,” said Marjorie. “She’s been fresh since February, and will have a consistent 20-some plus thousand record. She was grand champion in Syracuse last year and the year before, and she was grand champion at the All American last year.” After finishing up at the All American, Mud’s next show was the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI.
Toward the end of the All American, as Mud was being prepared for one more turn in the ring for the grand supreme pageant, Marjorie reflected on how much she enjoyed the show. She credits the other breeders she tied with during the All American for helping prepare the cattle she and her husband brought to the show. “Everything comes together because of the crew that works together so well,” she said. “They’re so well-organized and it’s a pleasure to be allowed to put a couple of Milking Shorthorns in with such a wonderful crew.”