By Cheri Oechsle
Although not rooted in generations of dairy farmers, the Holstein breeders at Pheasant Echo’s Farm do not lack any passion for their way of life and their cows. Officially established in 1991, on a rented farm in the gentle rolling hills of Maryland, Byron and Deborah Stambaugh began their journey into the registered Holstein business with 30 head purchased from Owen Martin of Hagerstown, Maryland and five children, Tanya, Crystal, Julie, Bud and Kenny. Now, 26 years later, the Pheasant Echo’s name is synonymous with champions and a dedicated and passionate family that thrives around the Holstein cow.
Byron began the journey to establish Pheasant Echo’s from working with the herd of Peace and Plenty as a teenager. The dairy bug bit and, while working for his brother’s construction company, he and Deborah began looking for a farm. They found the current 160-acre farm nestled in the hills close to Westminster. With the help of Norman Hill they found the animals at Martins. For several years, Byron continued to both milk and work at the construction company until the herd began to thrive. The name Pheasants Echo is derived from the crowing of the pheasants that lived on the land when the Stambaughs moved there.
The farm has since been purchased and today is now operated by the Byron and his children. The oldest, Tanya Miller and her husband CJ, recently purchased the adjacent farm, Pheasant Echo’s West. Tanya and her three daughters raise the show heifers there and Tanya is also in charge of feeding all the calves. Tanya’s sister Crystal is the herd manager for the milking herd. She is responsible for the herd health, milking and breeding decisions. She and her husband Dan Edwards have two boys. Both of their husbands work off the farm. A third sister that was mentally handicapped, Julie, passed away at age 13 in 2000. The two younger brothers are also involved. Bud is an integral part of the crop raising and the custom harvesting business that they’ve done for 10 years. They farm 2,700 acres between their own and rented acreage. He and his father, Byron, recently started a fertilizer business that is rapidly growing. Kenny, the youngest, is in charge of feeding the milking herd and young stock as well as helping Crystal with any other herd duties as needed. He and his wife Nicole have a young daughter, Raelyn and a second baby on the way.
Crystal utilizes a fair amount of different bulls when making mating choices. “They’ve got to be over 2.00 points on udder and feet and legs and I don’t use anything negative on dairy form, strength or body depth. I don’t pay too much attention to milk on bull proofs because I feel it’s the cow care and feeding that determines how much milk a cow will produce,” she said. Currently they are using McCutchen and his son, Beemer along with Solomon, Cinderdoor, Jacoby and a few other Doorman sons. They use Addiction, Diamondback and Jordy for red sons.
The herd is split in two freestall groups, one being all first lactation and the other second lactation and up. “I feel that keeping the first lactation girls all together gives them the very best start. It keeps them from getting pushed back by the older, more dominant cows, and it seems like they’re all learning the ropes together,” she said. They also have a compost pack for recently fresh cows, higher scoring cows and bigger, older cows. “Our hope is to get rid of both free stall barns and have all compost packs but keep the groups the same,” Crystal stated. “We’d like to venture into boarding animals as space provides too.”
Pheasant Echo’s Farm has had 40 excellent animals with their prefix. Although there were some purchases in the early years, the herd is primarily homebred from those original 30 registered animals. Crystal believes the most influential cow was Pheasant-Echos Red Marker Tooty EX-90 with multiple records over 27,500M. She has had seven family members score excellent and is the granddam of Pheasant-Echos Turvy-Red-ET, this year’s Grand Champion of the International Red and White show at Madison and the Grand Champion of the Junior show at Harrisburg last year. Turvy 2E-95 has 31,880M 1,291F and 945P at 5-00 in 305-days. She is out of the Stambaugh’s first homebred red cow, Pheasant-Echos Temper-Red, a 2E-91 September Storm from Tooty with records to 29,980M 1,090F and 863P.
Another cow that Crystal says is making her mark at Pheasant Echo’s is Pheasant-Echos Sovereign Witley EX-93. She won the Maryland State Futurity in 2012. Her oldest milking daughter is out of a homebred Temper son and is scored EX-93. “She is a red carrier so we’ve got some exciting daughters out of her by O’Kalif-Red, Diamondback, Sid and Doorman.”
One of the first trips to Madison for the Stambaughs was with a fall calf, Pheasant-Echos Re Diego-Red who was first junior for Trinity, Tanya’s daughter, in 2012. “Donna Myer of Windsor Manor was here and saw that calf and said ‘That calf is going to be something!’ and sure enough she was nominated All-American that year. We took her back to Madison as a yearling and as a two-year-old. She’s now 92 points.”
Tanya’s daughters, Trinity, Ately and Jaycey have been the junior show women to date but Crystal’s young sons, Blaine and Jarrett are close behind to enter the show ring at nine and seven. Kenny was still a junior when Tanya’s daughter, Trinity began her showing career. “We’ve always enjoyed the showing,” said Crystal. “It has been fun; my sisters, myself and brothers were in 4-H and now it’s the nieces who are 15, 14 and 13 and my boys at nine and seven and they are just getting started.”
Despite not purchasing many, they have started marketing some from their animals. “Kenny sold some embryos overseas out of Turvy,” Crystal said. “One of Tooty’s daughters, Pheasant Echo’s Satchel P Twerk, was second-high seller in the National Sale last year and went on to be first Senior Two and Honorable Mention Intermediate Champion at the New York Spring Show. We had a June daughter of Turvy sell in the Quest for Success this month as well. If we had more to offer we would do more.”
Crystal says that they plan to remain at the current herd size, with family being the work force. “We do have one employee that has been with us for 10 years that does a tremendous job and is really part of the family. That’s how we like it, doing it with family. That way we do it the way we want it done.” From the winner’s circle at Madison to the RHA of 24,500M on 150 cows, the Stambaughs of Pheasant Echo’s Farm, like the birds that roam their ground, have something to crow about.