2017 Historical Master Breeder Award
Rex Mort - Mort’s Dairy
This year’s Historical Master Breeder lives in the Midwest. He took over his father’s Brown Swiss herd in 1957 when he finished school and spent the next 50 some years breeding “his kind of cow”. This year’s Historical Master Breeder is Rex Mort, Mort’s Dairy, Pierceton, Indiana. Some famous cows have passed through Rex’s gates.
The Mort Brown Swiss story began when Rex’s father, Lester, purchased his first Swiss about mid-century. Lester retired in 1976 and Rex was on his own. He had a dispersal sale in 1992 and started a brand new herd of even greater magnitude. Rex’s two successful stories follow until his retirement and second dispersal sale in 2003.
Rex was never afraid to purchase a good cow. She needed to be a big, powerful, long dairy cow, the kind that last with good feet and legs and quality udders. These cows provide that rock solid foundation for future generations. This was Rex’s philosophy, and it is evident that it was a good one.
Rex’s first herd was initially heavily influenced by West Lawn Stretch Improver who Rex rated as a bull that could make the right kind. Mort Improver Lori “3E” was one of those Improver daughters with over 209,000 pounds milk lifetime and the mother of the famous Mort Matt Tammy “3E-Superior Brood Cow”. Tammy was an impressive cow herself but she became one of the special brood cows of the breed. She is one of four brood cows on the walls at the National Office. Her son, Mort Jade Starbuck, became a worldwide phenomenon as his daughters dominated the show ring, particularly in Switzerland, for many years. Starbuck had over 26,000 daughters in Switzerland alone and over 31,000 worldwide. In the 1992 sale, there were a number of Starbuck daughters, including the top of the sale, Mort Starbuck Sandy, who sold for $12,000. A daughter of Tammy, Mort Simon Tanya “4E94/94MS-Superior Brood Cow”, who sold in the 1992 dispersal for $8500, established herself as a top brood cow. One of Tanya’s daughters, Sunnyisle Colby Twilite ET “2E93/94MS”, became Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo in 2006 for Jeffrey Boldt. Twilite was All American as a Sr. Two Year Old, Sr. Three Year Old, and Five Year Old.
After selling out in 1992, Rex went to work and started building a completely new herd. He again looked for powerful, long dairy cows to serve as foundation animals. In 1997, he purchased a group of four cows at the Ventures West Opportunity Sale. While Rex did not show much, he partnered with other breeders, particularly Blessing Farms, to showcase his cattle.
An earlier foundation cow purchase was We-Gotta Fragment Fancy Twin from Jerry Harkness in 1995. Bred to Blessing Jetway Tower, the resulting calf was Mort Tower Frisky. Partnering with Blessings in 2000, Frisky became an All American as a Sr. Three Year Old, Four Year Old, and Five Year Old. In 2001, Frisky took Madison by storm as a four year old and was declared Grand Champion. She went on to be Reserve Supreme Champion at WDE. In 2002, Frisky was awarded the cherished National Total Performance Award.
When Rex decided to retire in 2003, the herd consisted of 70 total head with 27 of the 39 classified cows scoring “Excellent”. The rolling herd average was over 24,000 pounds of milk and 1000 of fat. The Mort Dispersal set a new record for a herd dispersal with 68 head generating an average of $7,928.67.
Mort Tower Frisky “E94/E95MS” started the sale. Jerland Farms, Barron, Wisconsin, made the final bid at $78,000 making Frisky the second highest selling female ever sold at public auction. Second high seller for the sale was Mort Adidas Cream, fresh 2 year old, selling for $52,000. Cream was All American Fall Yearling Heifer in 2002. Third high was Mort Form Tassel at $27,000. Later that fall many of the sale animals were at World Dairy Expo with seven animals from the sale placing third or higher in their classes.
Mort’s Dairy herd was a combination of type, production and longevity. Rex was enrolled in the Association’s official testing and classification program for 40 years, receiving his 40 year bar in 2003. His herd was the Group 2 PTPR winner in 1994, 1998, and 2000 and in the top three four other years. In 1994, Rex won the Group 2 Progressive Genetic Herd Award.
Rex hosted type classification conferences and each fall tour groups would visit the Mort farm. Rex’s cattle were recognized for high standards both domestically and internationally. Other national awards which were Mort bred or owned included two Cow For All Seasons awards: 2000 - North Lanes Mario Celine, owned by Mort & Blessing; and 2003 - Mort Ensign Tamara, owned by Tierra Verde Dairy.
Rex bred cows to improve the next generation, cattle that will handle the work load. This is evident by the number of 94-point cows that carry the Mort prefix. The first two reaching this achievement were Mort Tower Frisky and Ventures Blueyed Maggie. During the next 10 years, 6 additional animals carrying the Mort prefix or in partnership with Blessings were scored 94 points. Rex was truly a Master Breeder of Brown Swiss.