'Why Milking Shorthorns?'
Editor's note: John Kuszlyk of Kuszlyk Cattle Company passed away this past week. Out of respect for the legacy of John, we reprint this piece published in the 2016 Fall Issue of the Milking Shorthorn Journal. A full obituary follows at the end with service times and information. Rest in peach John!
Following is a piece written by Teri Martin in 1999 for the Kuszlyks' farm display.
Please stop and take a few minutes to look over our display and cattle. If you are serious we’d like to propose this little exercise. Just for a few seconds, stop and remember the Shorthorns of say, 20 years ago – Red, Roan, small-statured and most always poorly uddered with teats that pointed east, west, north, etc. Now, check us out, or as they say in the song, “What do you think of me now?” We’re certainly not our grandfather’s Shorthorns! Put these cows in black and white clothing and they’d look good. Put them in any other breed's colors and they’d still look good. Not only do they look good – they milk better. Let me introduce you to Kuszlyk’s Cattle Company (formerly known as J-K Acres, then Kuszmar Farm).
The farm is located in Batavia, New York. It is home to Kuszlyk Milk Hauling, John, Marjorie and their five children: JP II, Robert, Marjorie Anna, Kevin and Steven. Besides the cattle, Marjorie also raises and handles 11 registered Quarter Horses. The herd average here on 30 cows is just over 23,000 pounds of milk. The milkers range in age from a senior yearling in milk to a 14-year-old cow. (Did you notice that 23,000 lb. number?) Here are some other interesting statistics that I had to pull out of John and Marjorie. (They just won’t blow their own horn.)
The main cow family – the Alfairs, have 12 members currently living in the herd (approximately 25%). One third of the herd is scored Excellent, the rest are all scored Very Good. The first All-American was named in 1973. Since then they’ve developed 30 more All-Americans, over 20 of whom were bred here on the farm. (Editor's note: there are MANY more added since this was written in ‘99)
For 10 years running they won the 3-Year-Old class at New York State Fair but more importantly to them was the best udder rosettes that also came with the blues. Once there were 23 months when no heifer calves were born on the farm….
In their endeavor to improve the breed, they have enjoyed 11 years of being Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor at the New York State Fair. They quit showing for five years, but came back to it and have won both awards every year since.
Since 1973 there has been a total of over 130 Excellent cows in four different breeds here, about 94% of those were bred by the Kuszlyks.
“Some of the things we love about the Shorthorn cows are their longevity, superior health, good mammaries, great fertility, easy calving and good feet and legs. They are an adaptable breed, suitable to different styles, areas and types of farming. If you are breeding some of the other breeds, may we advise you to be careful in the overwhelming quest for size. In your attempts to improve efficiency and profitability, perhaps switching breeds would be the most effective measure you could take. We ask you to check out this herd with an open mind and ask yourselves…..WHY NOT A MILKING SHORTHORN???”
Today, in 2016, they still maintain that same philosophy. “We are of the strong opinion that in order to help the breed and helping our own herd – I like to look at good cattle! If we are gonna go out and milk these cows – it sure is nice to walk into a barn with cows with good udders and feet and legs!” Marjorie and John focus on two main features when breeding and they have developed a herd that classifiers, sale managers and breeders know will be full of those sound, solid, good-uddered, great feet and legged cows when they are in the herd.
Breeders of Kuszmar Alfairs Othello, Kuszmar Megadeth, Kuszmar Arkansas Mud EXP and Kuszmar Megadeth Poppy - to name just a few - these two form a partnership that is deep in history, talent and dedication. Marjorie can trace her ancestry’s affiliation with Milking Shorthorns clear back to England and early U.S. Shorthorn import history. John got his start as a young lad with a purchase from Marjorie’s uncle, a heifer, Primrose Sally 41, for $400, a hefty price in those days. The two were married in 1971. Their herd was built through the years, housed on various farms and milked by others, as they built their family of seven and developed John’s milk hauling business. Most of the cows were housed in herds that they hauled milk from. But they were very hands-on with the breeding and development of their animals. “George Forman of the Iowa State University wrote us a letter. He had been down to Roy McConnel’s and was so impressed with quality of cattle and feet and legs and mammary of them. And later, after years passed, when we showed at Harrisburg for the first time – he still remembered us. For us being small breeders, a gentleman of that caliber to remember us, it was rewarding!” said Marjorie.
The cows were eventually moved to their Batavia farm in 1980. The herd average was around 8,000 when they moved the cows under their own care. It climbed to the 20,000s until they were the first platinum herd to officially go over 23,000 milk. They have won numerous progressive breeder and production awards over the years, and this year they had the top herd increase with +1,277M along with the 2015 Cow of the Year Award with Kuszmar Naomi Alfair 2-EXP ‘5E91.’
And look good they do. They have had numerous All-Americans over the years and over 130 Excellent cows in multiple breeds. They currently own three of the highest-scored Linebacks. “It is important that our cows reproduce and breed,” said Marjorie. “We have shipped some 93- and 95-point cows because they wouldn’t breed back.”
They don’t treat any cow differently. “The current Cow of the Year, Naomi is milking over 100 pounds in this heat,” said Marjorie. “She goes out and does the same thing as the other cows – that speaks volumes for the type of cow she is.” The cows are on pasture from as soon as they can turn them out in the spring until they have to bring them in in the late fall. They feed a 16% grain, dry hay and baleage. They purchase their grain but grow most of their own hay. They have 71 acres, of which 20 is saved for rotational pasture grazing. They get some hay made from other farms as well.
They have a 30-head tie-stall barn and 39 freestalls. They currently milk 50-60 head. Their challenge is when they have heifers coming in due to the longevity of their herd. They have many 12 and 13 year old cows still making milk and babies. The herd is currently made up of 29 Milking Shorthorns, 17 Dutch Belted, 12 Linebacks, nine Guernseys and three Holsteins.
The Kuszlyks had the opportunity to purchase property across the road when their second son, Robert, got married. That barn had large bull pens already in it. That allowed them to keep bulls around a bit longer and collect some as they developed.
John lovingly refers to his wife as the “cow whisperer” due to her ability to know which calves will develop into the great ones, and which animals have ailments. Marjorie credits John for the beginning of their bull success, though, “because I listened to him one time on a bull calf and he was right and I didn’t ship him down the road.”
“We bred Othello and when he was born I put an ad in the Journal,” Marjorie laughed. “Our oldest grandson was just born and the ad focused on two bulls: one born June 20 and one born June 8. It listed their sires and dams and was titled: first bull unattainable - second bull can be purchased! The bull was Othello – sired by King Arthur and out of Alfair. I almost shipped him because I questioned his feet and legs but John suggested we keep him. I listened for once. Tom Landrum called us and wanted him and we settled on a price. That year at Harrisburg, we took him to catch his ride to Landrums’. Othello was standing next to the March calves (remember, he was born in June) and he was three inches taller. Tom and two others helped get Othello into Select Sires. The second bull we developed that went into stud was Bar-D Kuszmar Clay. They were strong, good cattle and his semen was used mostly in the Midwest. The first bull we drew off was Oscar, a son of Primrose Sally 41. Kuszmar Deacon Joe was the second bull we collected and he is the sire of Naomi Alfair 2.”
They no longer have anyone that comes to the farm to collect. Once they got into some of the other bulls like Vinnie and Mario, they sent them down the road to get collected at Dependabull. They now have everything collected there in Vernon. They have developed a good partnership with them as they handle it all – collection and shipping. Dave Sowder recently sold the business to Duane and Crystal Bramen and they are expanding the facility with one barn being set up for export.
Kuszmar Megadeth has his own story, just like Othello. “We were at a type conference at Jody Nus’ Gold Mine herd and she had bulls in pens,” said Marjorie. “I was looking at the bulls and kept coming back to this one bull in one of the pens. I was impressed with his width of front end, his rear rib - he had everything the breed needs, including great feet and legs and a beautiful heel. I asked Jody what they were going to do with him, and she said ‘ship them.’ I asked Dave Kendell, ‘can we get that bull registered right now?’ The bull, registered then and there, was Goldmine QD-NUC Bart. I told Jody to get him drawn off and get two canes to me as soon as possible. I said I have a cow to mate this bull to - and if turns out as I think he will, I will have the bull to follow Othello!” The resulting bull calf out of Viking Valley Megg EXP 3E94 was Megadeth. They took him to Dependabull and had him collected and the first semen was sold in Texas. That fall he was grand champion at Madison and was the All-American Yearling Bull. He was the World Dairy Expo Premier Sire in both 2014 and 2015. His son, Kuszmar Mudslinger is out of Pinesedge BT Alfair EXP 5E95 and was a result of a natural mating when Alfair wouldn’t settle to AI service.
Marjorie went on, “I had two bulls, one was a Megadeth that was Grand Champion at Harrisburg and was an All-American Yearling. I had four calves out of him that I didn’t like their attitude so I shipped him. I kept the other one, Kuszmar Shadow Raider EXP, a Kuszmar Mario out of a 2E91 Megadeth daughter out of an Othello that was EX93/93MS that came from Echo Farms. I had him collected once and we had only 425 units total. His daughters are hitting the mark and two of his daughters went Excellent at their second classification. They milk well too.”
The Kuszlyks don’t breed by the numbers, they breed by conformation and the bulls are bred that way too. “I breed by the eye. What’s gonna improve the cow and help her have a better calf. At the end of the day, it’s our prefix on that bull so it depends on how they look. Othello almost got beefed because he wasn’t quite what I wanted but John said to wait,” she laughed. But the rest is history for Othello. Othello was the Premier Sire at all major national shows for about nine years running. “There is no other bull that has done that to my knowledge,” said Marjorie.
They have three young bulls that they are looking forward to releasing soon. One is sired by Spungold-R Powerstroke EXP ET; a Megadeth out of a Mudslinger; and one out of the Cow of the Year, Naomi, is called Kuszmar Whole Dam Package “because he combines all the bulls,” said Marjorie.
The Kuszlyks also believe in linebreeding. They have a young cow coming on that is currently 87 points, but Marjorie is sure she will be Excellent her next score. She is a Mudslinger out of a 95-point Megadeth daughter. Kuszmar Arkansas Mud-EXP ‘2E93,’ the 2015 Total Performance Winner and Res. Sr. Champion at Madison, is a Mudslinger out of an EX91/91MS Megadeth.
Proponents of youth, they have raised five children with the belief that raising them in the farming atmosphere and show ring was best for their family. They are now encouraging the next generation of eight grandchildren to show as well as many other local youth. “Our intent was to quit showing once the kids were out of 4-H but our youngest is 31 and we are still at it!” laughed Marjorie. They have worked with local youth in the area for years as well as leading a 4-H club for 13 years. They have transferred animals into
youngsters’ names for showing privileges and they take pride in developing those youths’ showmanship abilities and teaching them to care for cattle.
John and Marjorie have retired from the daily milking, but they stay busy. John still manages six trucks hauling milk from the Carolinas up the east coast – three trucks are dedicated for farm-to-plant and three dedicated for plant-to-plant. He is also an AMSS and was a American Lineback Cattle Registry Director. Marjorie worked with the American Lineback Cattle Registry over the past few years, helping develop their herdbook. Their daughter Marjorie Anna now manages the herd and oversees two young lads who handle the physical labor and chores. Their son Steven is working into the genetics end of the business. “He is developing a good understanding on how we cross genetics and breed families,” said Marjorie. Marjorie and John still walk the barns and check on the herd regularly. Marjorie Anna is trying to learn from her “cow whisperer” mother - who can still smell a ketotic cow before the vet, tell when one is in heat by the eyes and which ones are going to make the great ones. Marjorie Anna and Steven have some large shoes to fill following their parents – but if the success of their cattle are any indication, the skills and genes John and Marjorie have passed on to their children will continue the legacy that is becoming legendary in the Milking Shorthorn breed and dairy industry.
John Paul Kuszlyk, I, age 69, proprietor of Kuszlyk Milk Haulers in Batavia, passed away on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at Rochester General Hospital.
He was born February 21, 1948 in Rochester, the son of the late John H. Kuszlyk and Catherine H. Kyrk Kuszlyk.
John started driving milk truck for his father when he turned 18 years old but was teaching drivers the milk truck route long before that. He took over the business in 1972, when his father moved to Florida. He and his wife developed Kuszlyk Cattle Co., where they have bred and promoted a lot of great cows and bulls in the Milking Shorthorn Breed. Their family had a feature article in the Fall 2016 edition of the American Milking Shorthorn Society magazine.
The former president of the Western New York Milk Carriers Association, Mr. Kuszlyk served as a past director for both the American Milking Shorthorn Society and American Lineback Dairy Cattle Association. He was very involved in promoting the dairy cattle industry throughout the country. They have worked with the local youth in the area for years as well as leading a 4-H Club for several years.
He loved attending cattle shows with his family and collecting model trucks and hats. He enjoyed antiques, attending auctions and socializing with friends and family.
He is survived by his wife, Marjorie Acomb Kuszlyk, whom he married July 31, 1971; his children, John Paul (Jeanette) Kuszlyk, II of Naples, Florida, Robert Henry (Rachael) Kuszlyk of Batavia, Marjorie Anna Kuszlyk, III (Brett P. Hill) of Byron, Kevin Michael (Brooke) Kuszlyk of Stafford and Steven William (Susan) Kuszlyk of Bergen; nine grandchildren, John Paul Kuszlyk, III and Jeanna Kuszlyk, Kristofer, Kameron, Kaden and Colton Kuszlyk, Porter John Hill and Alexander and Anastasia Kuszlyk and several cousins.
Friends may call on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, 403 East Main Street, Batavia where services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to American Diabetes Association, 315 Alberta Drive, Amherst, New York 14226, American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, Maryland 20852, American Heart Association of WNY, 5488 Sheridan Drive, #300, Williamsville, New York 14231.