Creative Genetics has added its own unique spin to Oakdale’s famous title as “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Earlier this month the Oakdale-based business welcomed over 160 dairymen, their families, as well as agriculture professionals and journalists as they hosted the annual ProCross Open House.
While the local company hasn’t earned its market share from cowboy boots and men on horseback, it has made its mark as a leader in crossbreed genetics for dairy cows.
According to Owner/Founder Mike Osmundson, the company hosts the Open House event each February offering customers as well as interested professionals a tour and education in the ProCross System.
“It brings a lot of different things into our community,” Osmundson said of the two-day event, noting that this year’s gathering brought visitors from throughout the United States as well as 30 countries.
The draw? The ProCross System founded by Osmundson in 1999 thanks largely in part to the help of local dairies he refers to as the ‘ProCross Pioneer herds.’ It’s a system that cross breeds Montbeliarde’s from France, Vikingred’s from Denmark, Sweden and Finland and Holstein cows to a superior dairy cow with a production life close to one year longer than the average dairy cow. The trifecta breed also produces a cow, which is viable as a beef cow once surpassing its milk life.
“There’s an increase in butterfat content of the milk and protein content. They are way better at making cheese milk,” the founder said. “The health traits have just been hugely improved.”
The ProCross system, however, was not one which was welcomed by the industry, when Osmundson first began pondering the idea two decades ago. He himself even admits to subscribing to the purest mindset early in his career. Both passionate and curious about genetics, the self-taught geneticist began examining the idea further.
“It had quite a bad name, cross breeding dairy cattle, because it didn’t work,” he shared. “It was a process of elimination. We started with 20 breeds, went down to three and they have been very successful.”
Early on people laughed at the idea, the creator shared. Many predicted that Creative Genetics would be out of business rather quickly. Today there are over nine million dairy cows in the US alone and of that number 12 percent are ProCross cows.
“The ProCross breeding system has grown to be worldwide now,” Osmundson stated. “It is the largest breeding program in the world and the most widely accepted. Now all our competitors are trying to find their own cross breeding system.”
A humble man, who feels he simply fell into success by living his passion and curiosity for genetics, Osmundson gives the bulk of the credit to his ‘pioneers.’
“They helped us develop it,” he said of the nine pioneer herds. “They also helped us prove that it worked. Because of them the University of Minnesota did a five-year study to prove the system works.
“At a time when people thought we were crazy, they stuck with us. Now one hundred percent of those herds are ProCross cows.”
Today, Creative Genetics operates out of Oakdale, as well as employs distributors throughout the United States, also referred to as the “boots on the ground.” Osmundson shared he felt it important that the company have representatives to aid the dairymen with their investment in the system, be it through reassurance or education.
Development of the ProCross system is a combination of semen imported from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and France to Oakdale, where it is broken down and then redistributed. But don’t look to Osmundson to take credit or expect kudos for the growth and worldwide effects of this cross breeding system.
The founder credits his love and curiosity for genetics, as well as God for the ultimate outcome, sharing it was as if God dropped “an acorn from the sky and I just picked it up to examine it.”
Ultimately he feels proud and fortunate to have spent his life doing what he loves.
“I guess I’m humbled,” he said, choking back emotion. “I think it’s neat that it worked out the way it did. The neatest feeling for me, isn’t about me or anything like that. It’s about the success we’ve had.”
Through trial and error and refusing to quit trying, success was the eventual outcome.
“This wasn’t about me being a genius and figuring this out, because I had no clue,” he continued. “I had no clue I was going to figure this out. I was just put here and I was willing to do the work. The key to anything is what you put in it, you’re going to get out of it.”
It’s also a case where Osmundson feels blessed to be involved in something so close to his heart.
“I haven’t worked a day in my life,” he summarized, as he reflected on his passion for cracking the genetics code. “I’ve had fun every day.”