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Rare breeding produces a ‘Stormy Nite’

Alice Guthrie Published on 27 February 2014
Valley Black Stormy Nite with her calf

In true Snoopy cartoon fashion, the story begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.” It was dark; the hydro went out the evening of Dec. 13, 2010, while dairyman Robert Noble was engaged in inseminating a cow.

It was stormy; hurricane winds pummeled the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia that night, resulting in part of the barn roof parting company with the rest of the structure and allowing the rain free access to its inhabitants.

Robert farms near the village of Wilmot in Nova Scotia. His grandfather was a cattle dealer. His dad produced cream in the ’70s, transitioning to dairy later. Robert took over in 1990, farming about 300 acres, growing his own forage and pasturing his herd in the summer using a field rotation system. He milks a tiestall barn.

The herd, all registered Holsteins, numbers about 45 milking cows, with 35 or so youngstock. Robert and his wife, Cindy, run the place themselves with occasional help from his brother. His father still pitches in as needed.

The heifer calf conceived that dark and stormy night was mostly black, very fitting with the conditions attending her conception. Upon her birth, Robert named her Valley Black Stormy Nite. Stormy, as she is known in the herd, looks just a bit different than the other cows.

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Lucky Seven

She is shorter and more compact than most modern Holsteins, more like the Friesian type seen in earlier years. This is not really a surprise – this heifer, now in her first lactation, is a daughter of a bull calved in December 1969.

The breed was still called Holstein-Friesian at the time, and the cows of that day were shorter and sturdier than today’s Holsteins. Robert describes her as a “pretty decent heifer.”

Stormy produced her first calf, a heifer sired by Lincoln-Hill Shot Laser, in October 2013, at 25 months old. Her production so far is average within her herd, but at the time of writing, she has not reached peak production. Robert indicates that her level of production would have been considered exceptional 30 years ago.

Stormy’s sire is Ronbeth Lucky Seven, owned by the Nova Scotia Animal Breeders Co-op Ltd. He was known in Nova Scotia as an “improver” bull.

Robert remembers daughters from this bull were quite popular in the ’70s, with 2,160 daughters registered, according to Holstein Canada’s database. The semen used to produce Stormy was drawn in 1977.

Robert and Cindy Noble and John Best

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Robert obtained it from a friend who no longer needed it, and he decided to give it a try. The cow conceived on the first service.

John Best, a friend of Noble’s and a sales representative for Genex Co-operative and Select Sires Canada, has watched this story play out with interest.

He also remembers Ronbeth Lucky Seven as a prominent bull, noted for improving both type and production. John figures that Robert has “the only (living) Lucky Seven (daughter) in the world.”

Ron Warner of Hastings, Ontario, bred Lucky Seven. Ron’s son Dean, who now runs the Ronbeth herd with his brother Wayne, remembers the bull well.

His dam, Ronbeth Telstar Bertha EX, was Dean’s 4-H calf and the first cow that classified EX for their herd. Her sire was Roybrook Telstar, a bull who was available in Ontario for a short time prior to being exported to Japan.

This cow, bred to Glenholm Alert Dean Pabst, a bull known for siring good udders on moderate-sized cows, produced Lucky Seven, the first bull from the Ronbeth herd to go to a breeder unit.

Dean thinks it will be interesting to see how this young cow develops. “Management has changed so much in 30 years,” he comments, adding that it would be interesting to see the genetic influence compared with the difference in management and feed.

His father, Ron, now 87, was “kind of surprised to hear” about Lucky Seven’s latest offspring. He explains Ronbeth Holsteins was established in 1939 and named for Ron and his sister Elizabeth.

Ron took over from his dad in 1954 and has seen a lot of changes in the dairy industry in his time. He comments that the type of animal was growing larger in size and, depending on which bulls were used, you would get more milk, but the udders might not last.

“They’ve got to be put on very well to withstand production nowadays,” he states. Ron says he doesn’t feel that the bigger animals are necessarily better. “A good sound animal … maybe not as big ... she’s probably going to do a better job.”

Lucky Seven’s dam was the only Telstar daughter they had. In addition to Lucky Seven, she produced a daughter, Ronbeth Yuletide Bertha, who rated very high in fat production and lived to be 19 years old. At that time, a number of cows from their herd lived to advanced ages.

Will Stormy live up to the longevity of her ancestors or will she struggle to compete against her modern herdmates? Only time will tell.  PD

Alice Guthrie is a freelance writer from Hagersville, Ontario.

PHOTOS
PHOTO 1: The 2-year-old Valley Black Stormy Nite pictured with her first calf.

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PHOTO 2: The only living direct descendent of Ronbeth Lucky Seven – an improver bull from the 1970s, Valley Black Stormy Nite (in front) stands just a bit shorter than her herdmate, which was bred to a modern-day bull. 

PHOTO 3: Robert and Cindy Noble (left) stand with their A.I. technician, John Best (right). Best has been watching with interest the growth and development of a special cow in the Nobles' herd. Valley Black Stormy Nite is the offspring of one of the farm's cows and semen that was drawn in the 1970s. Photos courtesy of Robert and Cindy Noble.

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