by Sally Colby
Most purebred dairy cattle aficionados know something about the history of their breed, but not every family can trace their cattle — and their own family — back to the original breed founders.
Marjorie Kuszlyk comes from a long line of dairy farmers, and has an especially long connection with Milking Shorthorns. Her family can trace their affiliation with the breed directly back to the original Milking Shorthorns, which were first known as Durham cattle. “My family, the Acombs, were part of the clan that helped originate Milking Shorthorn cattle in England,” she said.
Kuszlyk started her career as a showman early, with horses at the age of eight. When she married her husband John, she stepped right into showing dairy cattle. Over the years, the Kuszlyk family started building their Milking Shorthorn herd by purchasing high quality animals. In 1973, at the AADS, Kuszlyk met Sam Yoder and his family of Pinesedge Farm.
“He’s one of the founding fathers of the All-American,” said Kuszlyk as she talked about first meeting Yoder. “He and my uncle Bob (Brew) were my mentors with the Milking Shorthorns.”
The Kuszlyk family has had multiple wins with their cattle, and can trace a lot of their winning stock to a heifer calf they purchased from Yoder. That animal, Pinesedge BT Alfair EXP, made a clean sweep when she was named grand champion at the All-American in 1995, 1996 and 1997. “Her grand-dam was born at the Allentown Fair,” Kuszlyk explained. “That’s where the ‘Alfair’ comes from. Then the year she won at Madison (World Dairy Expo), her son, Kuszmar Alfair’s Othello, was the grand champion bull at Madison. That bull has been the premier sire at all of the major national shows for nine years in a row.”
Several other of the Kuszlyks’ bulls are at stud, helping to spread improved genetics throughout the breed. Because the family has worked so hard to develop top-notch genetics in the breed, they’ve developed a reputation as suppliers of semen for several breeds. When Kuszlyk travels to shows, she has a semen tank with the genetics of Milking Shorthorn, Lineback and Dutch Belted bulls for sale.
The Kuszlyks were consistently named premier breeder and exhibitor at the New York State Fair from the early 1970s to the 1990s. They didn’t show for a few years, but when they returned in 1996, they regained premier breed and exhibitor titles. The family has garnered numerous premier exhibitor awards at the AADS, and is especially proud of Pinesedge BT Alfair – EXP being named to the All-American Hall of Fame.
After a 20-year hiatus from showing both horses and cows, Kuszlyk found herself back in it. The family’s recent trip to the 2013 All-American Dairy Show marked 39 years for Kuszlyk family showing Milking Shorthorns.
The Kuszlyks’ 71-acre farm is in Batavia, NY. Although their primary breed is Milking Shorthorns, there are several other breeds represented, including Dutch Belted, some Red & Whites, and a few Ayshires and Holsteins. The Milking Shorthorn herd is number one nationally for conformation and production and carries a 24,000 average.
The 70 head milking herd is housed in a tie stall barn with a pipeline milking system. A freestall barn provides space for additional cattle and young replacements. One hired man and daughter Marjorie handle the milking.
The Kuszlyks raise their own replacements up until six months, at which time they are sent for further development off the farm. Heifers return to the farm in time for calving. The herd is maintained primarily on hay and grain, although the ration has recently included corn silage because hay crop wasn’t sufficient.
Kuszlyk has been looking at genetics since she was 13 years old, and studied genetic lines when she was working with Appaloosa horses. Today, she selects sires for the cow herd based on several factors with a focus on power, strength and longevity. The herd includes several cow families, including an individual that traces back to the origin of the breed. “I evaluate my animals,” said Kuszlyk. “I know what they need, and I know which bulls are going to work on them. We breed for the complete cow. If the feet and legs and mammary are good, the rest of it’s going to come along.” Marjorie keeps a close eye on every calf that’s born, watching for potential show quality.
Although the Kuszlyk family is heavily involved in developing their Milking Shorthorn herd, their main business is milk hauling. “We started hauling milk cans in the late 1950s,” said Kuszlyk. “We currently have six trucks on the road.” The family hauls milk from 18 farms, although at one time they hauled for 45 farms. However, the total volume from fewer farms is the same or more.
Kuszlyk says her husband John handles scheduling for the drivers as well as doing a significant amount of driving himself. All but one of the Kuszlyks’ five children hold class I CDLs, which allows flexibility for hauling milk or cattle.
“All of the children grew up showing cattle,” said Kuszlyk. “They learned a lot from that. We thought that after the children were through with 4-H, we’d let the cattle go. But my youngest son is 28, and we’re still showing cows.” In addition to working with their own children, the Kuszlyk family provided a means by which other youngsters could keep cattle on their farm. Kuszlyk hosted many youth over the years, and always made it clear that they would contribute to the workload on the farm.
Kuszlyk believes strongly in Milking Shorthorns, and won’t compare them to other breed. “They’re just as good as any other breed,” she said. “If you feed them like a dairy cow, they’re going to milk like a dairy cow. If you breed them to work, they’re going to milk for you.”
by Sally Colby