It’s a rainy morning at Fern’s restaurant in Tillamook. In fact it’s been raining for about 24 hours when I catch up with Joe and Scott Rocha for coffee. The father-son duo were finished with chores and were thankful for a dry, warm break! Joe and his wife Sarah, along with their four boys – Grant, Scott, Brent and Blake, operate R&R Dairy in northwest Oregon, along with Joe’s mother Jodi and nephew Ryan. The 700-cow milking herd consists of Jerseys and Holsteins, but on this rainy fall day, it was the Jersey herd that brought us together.
The Rochas have been Select Sires customers since the 80s, using bulls like Duncan, Sooner, Berretta and Duncan Chief, who sired their best-known cow Thomas DC Micki (EX-95), who’s owned with family friend, Kara Hale. They’ve also used Action quite heavily, along with other proven favorites Dimension, Dignitary and Irwin.
When it comes to using young sires, however, they have a strong preference for the 7JE5000 series! Joe first got introduced to the River Valley Farm team when he invested in the Judge’s Verdict syndicate a few years ago.
“We probably use about 20% River Valley semen in the herd,” he explained. “I’m not sure if we’re called preferred customers or we’re on a young sire program or what it is, but whatever they have, I want to be involved with it! We believe in cow families. A good cow comes from a good cow who comes from a good cow. It doesn’t matter whether you’re breeding for numbers or for type, if they are a strong transmitting line, they’re a good cow family. You know what you’re getting, and that’s what we’re looking for. We really connected with the River Valley folks. I feel like they truly “get” what we’re trying to do here.”
For the Rochas, their beliefs line up well with the River Valley system. They choose bulls for their Combined Fat and Protein values (CFP), and those that have a good balance of production and type. Productive Life and JUI are other values they place high emphasis on. “We actually get irritated if a JUI falls below 20,” Scott joked. “We really do think we’re particular in bull selection, but we’re aiming for a good looking herd of cows…pretty cows that are productive. There’s no reason show cows won’t milk.” he said.
Joe agreed. “Let’s face it, we have a lot of things fighting against us in this world – the environment and milk prices are two big ones. For us, the uneducated “Portland consumer crowd” is another big challenge. And unfortunately, no matter where you live, we’ve all had a hand in making the gap a little larger between agriculture and consumer. At the end of the day, we still need to pay the bills and keep up the good fight, so we’re going to do that with a great looking herd of cows that are long-lasting and therefore high producing! And if we look far enough ahead to a time of more robotic milking systems, you better believe that high type is going to be important for those cows to survive in a robotic environment.”
R&R Dairy likes the fact that River Valley bulls come from strong cow families…that they come from high scoring families…and that they are a bit different pedigreed sires than what’s out there. “We admire the whole team working at River Valley sires for filling a market niche that no one else was willing to tackle. And beyond that, we respect the fact that they are dairy producers just like us. Sometimes there seems to be a disconnect between the people using bulls and the people making bulls. But not in this case. They work all year with their cows just like we do. They fight the weather just like we do. They want to see good looking cows just like we do. And because they have the means to invest in, and develop, cow families that we admire and respect, now we have the privilege to also be part of those families through the bulls they’re producing,” explained Scott.
Being involved in the River Valley program for over a year, the Rochas are just starting to see 7JE5004 Chrome, 7JE5003 MY-O-MY and 7JE5014 Navigator calves hit the ground. Joe explained that they really liked the sexed semen option with the young River Valley bulls. “A Jersey bull calf is worth nothing to me, so I’ll invest in sexed semen. And we’re starting to see better conception rates with sexed versus conventional semen, which is always a plus!”
“When I got done with school in 1992, my family and I moved from Hanford, CA to Tillamook to be close to the Tillamook Cheese plant. We have a dairy industry in this part of the state for one reason…Tillamook Cheese. It’s Oregon’s #1 iconic brand. So yes, I like the fact that River Valley has a great lineup of high CFP bulls, and high component bulls. I like the fact that they’re extremely easy to work with and can understand our challenges, but also our victories. They understand cow families and people families. They get that we’re trying to make this farm a place that our kids want to come back to. You’re never staying the same. You’re either growing or dying, and we want to continue to evolve and grow. We’re working on building the factory at R&R. Once we have the factory we can build our house around it…and by that I’m referring to genetics. We want long-lasting, profitable cows. Building a business around those cows is something we can hand over to our children. Why not do business with people who genuinely support and ‘get’ what we do?”
The Rochas are gearing up for July 2016 when their neighbor, Eric Silva of Sunset-Canyon Jerseys, will be hosting a sale. “We’re excited about the number of people who will be coming to Tillamook for Eric’s event. He’s going to put on a fantastic sale for sure. We’ll have more River Valley calves on the ground by then and hope to meet old friends and make new ones, over a good bull discussion or two. Maybe even have a cup of coffee while we’re at it!”