Welcome Stock Dairy: Evolving, Adapting and Succeeding
There are few farms in this country, let alone the world, that can lay claim to breeding three top-ranking bulls in the world, let alone in two different breeds. The Pecks of Welcome Stock Farm in New York have not only accomplished this, but continue to provide the quality genetics that the market demands. The Pecks have a goal to be successful enough that the next generation has the option if they so choose to continue the Welcome Stock tradition of breeding elite animals.
William Peck Sr. has passed on the legendary ability to be good stewards of the land and breed quality cattle to the next generations, despite up and down markets and curve balls thrown by life. Bill’s wife Mary Lou and daughter Kristen were killed in the Thruway bridge collapse in 1987. But Bill and his family have persevered. Two daughters, Cindy and Betsy, along with their families continue to develop exceptional cows and work within the dairy industry. His youngest son Neil is a partner in Welcome Stock managing the crops, while oldest son Bill Jr. manages the herd. Both boys are married to former Olympic champion speed skaters and Bill Jr.’s four sons are the seventh generation on the farm that began in 1836.
The farm began generations back the same as many did, with multiple species. Over time it has evolved into the current 900-head milking herd. As many dairymen did at the time, the Welcome Stock name was established with a breed other than Holstein. With wise decisions and fortitude, Bill Sr. developed his animals into an outstanding, nationally-ranked Guernsey herd. He bred Welcome Choice Admiral who topped the TPI charts for the Guernsey breed in the early 80s. Admiral had 84 Excellent and 875 Very Good daughters with a total of almost 3,900 daughters and over 350 sons. As the Holstein demand and milk volume market grew, the Guernseys’ merchandising power declined and the shift at Welcome Stock became a focus on building an elite Holstein genetic base. In 2001, Welcome Garter topped the Holstein TPI list. In 2016, Montross was the number one TPI bull and Modesty the number one Genomic bull, firmly establishing the Pecks as breeders among the most elite.
Always innovative, the Pecks dove into the genomic market full force as the science evolved and became available. They now test every female that hits the ground as well as 60-70% of the males. The high numbers are kept in the herd, or marketed selectively, with their more average counterparts merchandised to other markets. A recent high genomic heifer sold at public auction for $24,500 with an embryo contract for Japan. The genetics they have bred, animals added to the herd base and the heavy use of the genomics tool has successfully catapulted the Welcome Stock name, and their partnership of Bacon-Hill with Tom Kugler of Fly Higher, to the forefront of the world stage. Bacon-Hill Montross, former number one bull in the breed in April, dropped to second on the TPI list with the August run but still ranks as a top proven bull for protein pounds at +91. Numerous other bulls appear on the August list with either the Bacon-Hill or the Welcome prefix including Montross brothers Monty at +2951 GTPI, Mohawk, fourth for milk and fifth for protein, Maguire, who is third for fat, and Milson. Two additional bulls on the top 100 carry the Welcome prefix, Hadwin and Petrone. Welcome Tarrino 3181-ET is second on the Genomic Young Bull list for GTPI.
Montross and his brothers are Mogul sons from Unique-Style Bolton Money EX-93, GMD, DOM. She was purchased by Fly Higher, Welcome Stock and Jim Copper from Brian Campbell in the neighboring county. Petrone is a Super son of Welcome Baxter Petunia VG-88 backed by another Very Good and then Excellent dam. Hadwin is a Mogul son of Farnear Heavens Happy VG-86, a daughter of Screaming Vis R Heaven-ET EX-91, GMD, DOM.
Another cow family jumping up the charts are offspring and grandsons of Ms Welcome Uno Tarina VG-86 with two records over 32,000M. Her son Thonmaker has a GTPI of +2831 and her grandson Tarrino is second on the Genomic Young Sire list at +2901 GTPI.
The philosophy of the farm is about developing cow families and being profitable at Welcome Stock, but they are also personal contributors within the industry and their community. Bill Sr. was a national Holstein board member, active on various committees within the national association and a 2011 National Dairy Shrine honoree. Bill Jr. is a member of the Genetics Advancement Committee, a township supervisor, youth sports coach and has a keen grasp of today’s legislative happenings within the global industry from his background of experiences. He worked on “The Hill” with former Senator James Jeffords (R-VT) and legislative policy makers after college, law school and prior to returning to the farm. A variety of topics were discussed during our interview. Following are a few of the subjects and the Pecks’ thoughts on those topics.
Bill Jr. believes the correlation of stature with udder composite and foot/leg composite is still too high and needs to be more neutral. “Holsteins have made terrific progress on the DPR and overall efficiency. The general commercial dairyman does not want tall cows, but the last 40 years we have been breeding them taller. There is a distinct contrast in the desires of Holstein breeders between the show type and what commercial dairies want and need.
We keep moving the sire selection side – high DPR bulls and milk production. Positive DPR with milk production is important. With all the data available, anyone can breed a herd however they want and what’s best for them. The genomics offers great data on the type side as well. Breeders using it are seeing extreme gains. Our number one mission here is we are a milk producer and we breed high level genetics. I can send a pot load of bulls to Georgia, but they need to sire the ideal commercial cow. One of our regular customers, a local Vermont dairyman, to him it is critical to get bulls from medium-sized cows for his operation.
”He doesn’t discount the tanbark trail in the least. “Showing provides that interaction with the public. It allows us to teach that we are good stewards of the land, to show where the food product comes from and it allows us to develop, at an early age, the youth – their ethics of hard work, etc.” He went on, “A problem we have today is the misleading of the consumer. The claims made affects all of us. Honesty and integrity are critical in the proper labeling of food products.”
Value of Registering and Associations
“There is much debate on this,” Bill Jr. said, “The value of the commercial registered cow is not much better than the unregistered cow, but the data behind the registered cow should add value. It contributes in breeding better health traits, reducing inbreeding and making more profitable, efficient offspring. That’s where the value is. It helps create wiser decisions in breeding to make the genetics more valuable for the next generation.”
Bill Jr. believes this is where the breed associations come into play. “All breed associations have to show value. They need to continually evolve. Their value is recording and keeping the genetic data. Associations have to be the unbiased participants. This is needed to maintain the data with integrity. If a private or stockholder company is in charge, if the dollar return decreases they sell or leave the industry. The associations are the advocates that support the breeds.”
“The milk increase we have is because dairymen are getting too good at what they do between management and genetics. We can’t lose sight of the everyday – we need to manage the milk volume through our cows as efficiently as possible and reduce the carbon footprint. The only obligation I have,” says Bill Jr., “is to be a good steward of the land and profitable so the next generation can choose, if they want, to continue Welcome Stock Farm. We need to continue to do that with high volume milk, good components and selling genetics. Today’s current Welcome Stock is an extension of the program started by my father with Guernseys. William’s early embryo work with EmTran and his interest in genetics is what has contributed to the success of this area. We are known here in Bacon Hill as a genetic hot spot due to the several breeder herds that contribute to the international Holstein population. My father’s early interest spurred on many others.”
That genetic hot spot is indeed concentrated in the Bacon Hill area, established by the generations of Pecks at Welcome Stock that have worked the land and milked the cows for almost seven generations. Their innovative leadership and evolving and adapting along with successfully navigating the highs and lows of the industry are what will keep Welcome Stock in the forefront of not only Bacon Hill, New York, but also the world spotlight.