Ben Gotschall’s great-grandparents began raising commercial Hereford and Angus cattle in 1936 in Holt County, Nebraska. The ranch was eventually passed to his father and Ben was born and raised on land his family had been farming for three generations. When Ben was 10 years old, he started helping with milking and immediately fell in love with Belle, the only Jersey in his father’s herd of Holsteins. “She stood out to me as the little brown cow who was quite capable of holding her own with her bigger black and white herdmates,” Ben remembers. After a year of milking, his father let him choose one calf to care for and start his own herd and, of course, he chose Belle’s first calf. A year later, Ben used the money he’d saved from milking to buy her second calf and, through the American Jersey Cattle Association’s Genetic Recovery program, soon had a small herd of registered Jersey cattle. In 1997, as a high school senior, Ben had the top-performing Jersey herd in the state of Nebraska for milk and protein production, with just 14 cows.
Ben has continued to raise cattle for milk and beef ever since, focusing on pasture-based management and genetic improvements in his 30-head Jersey herd at Davey Road Ranch in Lancaster County, Nebraska. Ben describes his ranch as a “20-acre postage stamp in a sea of corn and soybeans in southeast Nebraska.” Allowing his cattle to live in as natural a setting as possible, on pasture, as a herd, is central to his management practices. Ben explains that raising grassfed dairy cattle is an old, though unusual way of producing milk today. As a result, American dairy cattle aren’t generally being selected and evaluated for suitability to grass-based production. Ben is focusing his efforts on improving the genetics of his herd for utility on pasture, longevity and fertility, and he markets his pasture-raised Jersey genetics through this website: www.holtcreekjerseys.com.
“I believe that cattle, as ruminants, are natural grazers and produce the healthiest, best-tasting milk on forage,” Ben says. His grassfed Jersey cows produce high-quality milk, which is used to produce cheese, and pasture-raised veal, which he calls Bistro Beef. Having AWA certification shows his customers that he is following the highest standards for animal welfare and sustainability: “I pursued Animal Welfare Approved certification to distinguish myself in the marketplace and to send a clear message to my customers about my commitment to humane treatment of livestock,” Ben explains. “I hope to see an increase in sales and customer loyalty.”
Ben still maintains close connections with the Gotschall family’s 1,300-acre ranch in north-central Nebraska, where he raises and breeds some cattle alongside his father’s pasture-based dairy herd.
Davey Road Ranch’s AWA-certified pastured beef and cheese is available direct from the farm at www.daveyroadranch.com. Contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 783-0377 to make an appointment or to receive delivery to the Omaha or Lincoln areas. To learn more about Davey Road Ranch, visit www.facebook.com/DaveyRoadRanch.