By: Katie Henson for the Spring 2017 Milking Shorthorn Journal
Nestled in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, lies Hard Core Farm, the home of 80 Milking Shorthorns, Jerseys and Guernseys. Hard Core is owned and operated by Keith and Donnette Fisher. Together, they have been breeding high-caliber Milking Shorthorns for 20 years.
Keith was raised in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, while Donnette hails from the state of Washington. The two met at World Dairy Expo in 1999 and were married in 2001. When Donnette made the move across the country, she brought along her Guernseys, some Jerseys as well as her “Sunshine” prefixed “F” family that has produced Fireball and Firemaid and the “D” family with offspring Dottie and Dorothy. Keith’s brother, Mark, and niece, Chriselle, are always on hand to help with the show string and operations at the farm if needed.
The tie stall barn holds 46 cows; 42 tie stalls and four boxstalls that house older cows. Cows and bred heifers are fed hay, grain and silage and have access to pasture each day. Calves are raised on whole milk and in hutches until three months old and then transferred to a super hutch and fed dry hay and grain.
“Being in a tie-stall barn, we can work with the cows individually. Our operation is labor intensive, but our cows live longer,” says Keith. Currently, the average age of the cows is 8 years and 4 months!
The Hard Core breeding philosophy is simple and easy: “breed for type, manage for production.” Keith does all the mating decisions and is looking for solid pedigreed bulls with type. All of the breeding is done by AI with bulls such as Lad, Premium, Ironman and Perfection.
Breeding or implanting embryos is done every three months, since their primary focus is making show-aged calves. The conception rate on first service is 82%! Hard Core IVFs at least 15 cows per year with great success. Last summer, they exported embryos to Japan.
No outside genetics have been purchased recently, although some of the purchases from many years ago have proven to be great investments. Viking Valley Megg ‘4E94’ is the dam of well-known Horizon-Tudor Margarita ‘4E95.’ Margarita was Nominated All-American five times and still has many offspring in the herd today. Hard Core MRB (Margarita’s Rebel Bull) has been a popular sire for many Milking Shorthorns.
Innisfail BDF Stella 905 ‘4E96,’ the two-time World Dairy Expo Grand Champion, has over 238,000M in her lifetime. When Stella was Grand Champion in 2006, Keith and Donnette earned both the Premier Breeder & Exhibitor banners.
The Milking Shorthorn breed has had four 96-point cows. Two of those four are currently in the Fisher’s barn: Stella and Tudor Hall Rubens Roxy ‘2E96.’ Roxy is the dam of Hard Core Ace Roxy ‘4E95,’ a 10-time All-American nominee.
Sunshine Dittos Dottie ‘4E93,’ with over 200,000M lifetime, is a prolific cow for Donnette and Keith. Dottie topped the Production Class at the Eastern National and then came in second two years later. Her daughter, Sunshine Frolic Dorothy ‘3E95 97MS,’ is a two-time Reserve All-American and Total Performance Winner at the Eastern National and International Show.
Another farm favorite, Hard Core O’ Royce ‘4E95,’ is an All-American, two-time Reserve All-American and Honorable Mention. Her full sister, Hard Core O’Raely ‘EX-92’ was named HM All-American Four-Year-Old this past year after placing first at Harrisburg and Louisville.
In 2010, Hard Core held the “Hard Core Select Sale.” One of the high sellers that day was Hard Core Rebel Rockette ‘2E94.’ Rockette sold to the Cor Bloo Syndicate of Indiana. She went on be tapped Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo in 2014.
The show ring is almost like a second home for Hard Core. Since 1993, the farm has bred and owned 85 All-American Nominations. Sixteen have been voted All-American, 14 Reserve and 22 Honorable Mention. Keith and Donnette recognize the importance of picturing cows so that they can be used for advertising to other Milking Shorthorn breeders and promoting to others outside of the breed.
An impressive classification breakdown on the 29 scored Milking Shorthorns currently on the farm include 21 above 90 points and eight cows scored 86-88 points.
April 21 and 22, 2017 will mark their fourth annual Tag Sale. Hard Core offers every heifer on the farm and have offered a select few cows. Last year, a handful of consignments were taken, but each animal had to be a daughter of Hard Core breeding. This year, only females under two years of age will have a tag sale price. Five of the animals that sold in 2016 were Nominated All-American! The tag sale has been a great chance to expand the breed into non-Milking Shorthorn herds.
Keith and Donnette hold nothing back for the tag sale. Alumnus of the 2014 sale, Hard Core Premium Fire Maid ‘VG88,’ has put the spotlight on the Milking Shorthorn breed after being named Supreme Champion Heifer at the All-American Dairy Show for her owners, Vail, Hillpoint and Borba. She’s continued to dominate each year in the show ring, including Junior and Intermediate Champion at World Dairy Expo.
It’s not all just breeding and milking cows for Keith and Donnette. Keith is involved with the Milking Shorthorn Sale Committee while Donnette is active on the Credential Committee and her off-the-farm job. Keith has two daughters and three grandchildren and says his most memorable moments have been getting to walk his daughters down the aisle at their weddings.Type, longevity and deep-pedigrees are the kind of cattle that have put Hard Core in the fore front of the Milking Shorthorn breed. The Fishers’ passion and hard work are shown in each calf, heifer and cow that steps foot off the farm, whether it is to a new owner, a sale consignment or gracing the colored shavings.