Dairy’s Good Genes Come in Many Colors

6/7/2014 7:00 AM
By Philip Gruber Staff Writer

MANHEIM, Pa. — Between breeding good cows for their own herd and offering breeding services to other dairy farms, the Kulp family has put a strong emphasis on good cow genetics.

With their 15-year-old practice, Kulp Genetics, David and Bea Kulp are producing nationally recognized animals, and they offer embryo transfers and other services.

David Kulp is a fourth-generation dairy farmer on the family’s farm near the Manheim Auto Auction. He currently milks just over 100 cows representing most of the major breeds.

The family always had registered cows, which helped build the foundation for his breeding success, he said.

In high school, David Kulp and his dairy judging team won a trip to the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin. “That spurred (my) interest in the registered cattle,” he said.

Bea Kulp, meanwhile, is originally from Texas. She got her veterinary degree from Texas A&M and then worked as a vet with beef cattle before taking a job as a veterinarian in Elizabethtown, Pa. and then in Leola, Pa.

She and David Kulp got married 17 years ago and opened Kulp Genetics two years later to offer embryo transplants to other farmers.

The business was a way to make money on something besides the milk. They chose the Brown Swiss as their first non-Holstein breed because they could get the most cow for their money in that breed, David Kulp said.

Out of their originally purchased Brown Swiss came Kulp-Gen Starbuck Shania ET and about a dozen other cows judged as excellent.

These days, Bea Kulp flushes three or four of the family’s cows a week plus her clients’ animals.

The Kulps spoke at their farm while flushing embryos from Kulp-Dale Deb Alysa-Red-ET, an eighth-generation excellent Red and White with a score of 92. They own the third-lactation cow with Nick Raggi of Maryland.

The Kulps’ standout animal right now is Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red-ET, which was the No. 1 polled homozygous Red and White bull from 2012 through early last year.

Today, he is the third-highest-ranking homozygous bull and the second-best Red and White active, David Kulp said.

Golden PP is one of 50 registered offspring of his grandam, Golden-Oaks Rmn Rae 2-Red-ET, a 10th-generation excellent cow, he said.

Golden PP was the first bull to sell its first five doses of semen for $50,000 and get a three-month deal for exclusive use of the semen, Kulp said. Ri-Val-Re Holsteins of Michigan made the bid.

Two of Golden PP’s sisters have sold for $50,000 and $20,000. “I don’t think it’s over yet,” Kulp said.

The family has also sold a number of bulls for artificial insemination.

The Kulps’ biggest show cow, Kulp-Gen Legacy Tiara, an 8-year-old Brown Swiss, has a score of 93. She has won numerous show ribbons, including reserve grand champion at last year’s New York Spring Brown Swiss Show.

Tiara comes from Maryland-based Savage-Leigh’s Tippy line, which has produced more than 50 All-American nominations, according to that farm’s website.

Megan Kulp, the youngest of the couple’s six children from previous marriages, has been at the halter for some of Tiara’s more recent wins. Megan said she hopes to show the cow a little more before aging out of 4-H in the next year.

Megan got lucky, her father said. The family has kept improving the cows’ genetics, so she has gotten to show better cows than her siblings did.

Another daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps and is now a Texas A&M vet student.

The family also has bred three of the top 100 Milking Shorthorns and two of the top 50 bulls in that breed, David Kulp said.

The family also keeps black and white Holsteins, Jerseys and a Lineback. “We’re not afraid to own many different breeds,” he said.

David Kulp said he looks for animals from “really strong cow families that have actually done something,” like selling sons to AI or producing national champions.

“Would somebody else want to buy something from this animal? And why?” he said.

The Kulps’ cows are gaining an international reputation, too.

“We’ve exported to almost everywhere you can export” embryos, including England, Switzerland, France, Canada, Australia and Japan, David Kulp said.

The family also cares for and partially owns cows with people from Ireland and the United Kingdom, David Kulp said.

The Kulps offer both conventional embryo transplants and, with laboratory help from Trans Ova Genetics in Boonsboro, Md., in vitro fertilization.

Using her mobile lab, Bea Kulp will do the in-cow parts of the process on the client’s farm to save the farmer the trouble of hauling the cow to Maryland.

On top of her large-animal practice, Bea Kulp does small animal surgery — spaying, neutering, dentistry — two days a week at a clinic in Lebanon, Pa.

“I wanted to diversify” without going full time into small-animal work, she said. Staying completely with small-animal work would have meant dealing with too many emergencies.

That leaves three days a week for large-animal reproductive work. To give her time for that, the Kulps use local vets for routine work on their own cows. Including David Kulp’s father, they also employ one full-time and two part-time workers.

Thanks to the success of Golden PP, the family has been doing more with polled animals in the past year, though David Kulp said he is not sure yet how much emphasis he wants to put on that trait.

The biggest challenge in selling genetics is keeping up with the changes in what buyers want. The best cows seem to have a mix of breed and type, Kulp said.

“The bar keeps moving up on genomics,” he said.


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