Pearl Harbor: The Day the World and Farming Changed Forever

Exactly 75years ago, on 7th December 1941; the world changed forever. The following day, US President Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) declared the attack on Pearl Harbor to be “a date which will live in infamy.”

Without a doubt, Britain, Europe, and the free world as we know today, would not exist without the events inflicted by the Empire of Japan one Sunday morning on a lagoon harbor in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Perhaps, Europe would now be 75years into the one thousand year Third Reich.  The resulting mass mobilization of US forces, industrial might, innovation and technology and one million fighting men; turned the US into the world’s first superpower. The role of US farmers and growers is often overlooked; and without a doubt, the role of women who replaced men on the farm; in fields and in the factories.

After Pearl Harbor; millions enlisted in the US military. However, US farming was propelled into an agricultural revolution. Nothing like this had happened before – or since. Before that, Britain, fighting alone in Europe against Hitler’s tyranny, had strained under the U-boat threat, and with only six weeks food supply left, was being starved into submission, and was literally fighting for her life.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, in 1940, the FDR administration introduced Land-Lease, effectively; a food export program to Britain, resulting in the US government buying up surplus US food commodities and shipping by Atlantic convoy to her British Allies. However, by 1940 FDR had already stated the US to be “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

During Prime Minister Churchill’s lengthy speech to the House of Commons on 4th June 1940 after the Dunkirk evacuation, Churchill outlined the enormity of the path ahead. The peroration is perhaps the best-known part of the address to the British nation.

“We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Despite this being June 1940, 18months before Pearl Harbor, the next part of the speech is often overlooked by historians, but even then, Churchill realized the freedom of Nazi Europe depended on others. He continued: “and, if which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Churchill knew without US involvement; Britain could not defeat Hitler – or free Europe from his tyrannical regime. From September 1939 to September 1940, US food exports had fallen to 40% below the average ten-year level of the Great Depression. Due to Land-Lease, from 1940 to 1945, US net farm incomes increased from $4.4billion to $12.36billion, and average farmer income increased from $700 per annum to $2,000, albeit only 57% of an equivalent urban income.

By 1945, 16million men and women had been drafted into the US military, from a working population of 75million. The US farmers and women, who were left behind to farm the land, fed not just the entire US population – but the Allied forces as well as Britain – and subsequently aided France. At that time, Britain was only 33% self-sufficient in food production and relied on imports from the British Empire and Commonwealth countries.

 However, Britain also “Dug for Victory.” Every scrap of land was turned into a garden or allotment; town spaces were turned into makeshift gardens. Controversially, some farms were requisitioned by the British Government’s “War-Ag” department and owners forced off their farms for failing to comply with Government policy mainly, failing to plow-out land for human food production.

The rarely mentioned US Food policy produced unsung heroes and heroines of the land, and allied to an incredible 20million homespun US Victory Gardens; US citizens collectively grew 10million tons of produce, equal to all US production of fresh vegetables. Pork production increased, sales of Spam doubled to 15million cans per week, with 90% of Spam produce being destined for the armed forces.

In 1940, 21% of US labor force was employed on the land and one farmer grew enough produce to feed nine people. Within a decade, 18% were employed on the land and one farmer fed 15.5 people. By 1960, the US farm labor force was down to 8% and one farmer supplied enough food for 26 people. In 1980, 3.4% were employed on the land and one farmer fed 76 persons. Since 2000, less than 2.5% of the US population is employed on the land and one farmer feeds 100 people; a tenfold increase in 60 years.

There is no doubt that Britain would not have been able to fight on against Hitler and his deluded Nazi regime – without US military intervention. It’s also true to say the US came out of the Second World War as the winner – and a truly globally economic superpower. As a consequence of war; the US supplied the food as well as, the military hardware and equipment to execute operations.

The global scale of the Second World War damaged every major economy in the world except the US. Effectively, the war ended “The Great Depression” which had seen 11.5 million US citizens being unemployed in 1932. In 1940, 5.3million were unemployed in the US and rates dropped from 14.6% to 1.2% by 1944. The US became the center of the post-war world economy by ensuring the economic reconstruction of West Germany; France, Britain, and Japan to the US import and export needs.

Following a post-war background, Britain maintained food rationing until June 1954. Britain and Europe were effectively bankrupt; Norway had suffered severe malnutrition, and by 1945, her food consumption per person had fallen from 2,500 to 1,250 calories per day.

Severe malnutrition occurred in Occupied France as part of the surrender terms with Hitler. Massive food supplies were sent East to feed Hitler’s expanding armies, and French citizens succumbed to a 1,250 calorie per day diet. Too often, we forget lessons from history and the gratitude owed to those who ensured that freedom and democracy prevailed by the military, industrial and agri-economic means.

True political leadership was demonstrated in the 20th century; FDR policy saved the world twice; economically – through the 1930s and in the face of tyranny in the 1940s. It could be said; FDR was the greatest US President of all time. Arguably, based upon being perhaps the greatest peacetime President during the Great Depression as well as, greatest war leader or “wartime President.” Others may cite Washington or Lincoln, but FDR operated on a global war front.

All this happened as a direct consequence of the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941. Previous to Pearl Harbor, the US had a policy of isolationism. Without Pearl Harbor; and without US involvement, Europe would have undoubtedly remained in the yoke of Nazi tyranny.

 On Wednesday 11th December 1941, four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States. Japan had initiated the biggest disastrous decision of all time by attacking the US (before officially declaring war) Within days, Hitler, in the act of delusion and sheer “madness” usurped Japan, by declaring war on the US. It was the beginning of the end of Hitler. And thus… the world was changed forever.



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Bruce Jobson’s Road to The Royal

All roads may lead to Toronto in November, but perhaps the journey now starts at the Supreme Dairy Show at St-Hyacinthe, Quebec. Overseas visitors should now consider taking the time to visit the event which occurs the week prior to the Royal Winter Fair.


Bruce and Jenny present Russell Gammon with the International Friendship Award

The Supreme has developed within a few years from a Holstein Quebec event into a major all-breeds attraction. There is something unique about the show… it has a “Quebec” atmosphere; a different cultural identity – and importantly for the genetics industry; is a dairy show only. Arguably, the event is only going to develop further and grow in significance.

The Supreme Show has developed from 200 Holsteins into 750 entries from Holsteins, Red Holsteins, Jerseys, Ayrshires, Brown Swiss and Canadienne animals. There is the capacity to increase entries further according to show organizer Jenny Henchoz. “The new show ring facility and existing housing facilities will allow the show to expand further; possibly up to 950 animals.

“This year, we had cattle entries from the USA (Rivendale Farms, Pittsburgh) and in the new show ring building at the BMO Centre, we have created a dairy-hub. We can house trade exhibitor booths and kiosks close-up around the ringside. This helped create an atmosphere with lots of visitors in close attendance and clearly created a buzz of excitement throughout the event.”

The Board of Directors have a clear vision for the future and as to how to address the needs of Quebec producers; and the advantages of hosting a six-breed event. Almost 50% of Canada’s 11,683 dairy farmers reside in the Province, and the format included a sale of top quality animals. There is undoubtedly a need for a specialist dairy event within Quebec and Canada, encompassing dairy cattle, the trade-industry and importantly, knowledge, technology, and education. (Read more: Russell Gammon Honoured with International Friendship Award at Le Supreme Laitier)

dsc01706The event also included a Friday evening Cocktail and Genetics session hosted by Sexing Technologies on the development of sexed semen and the increasing advantages Sexed Ultra technology is having on dairy programs within Canada and the USA. The comprehensive session included a panel of speakers; tested by questions from moderator Andrew Hunt of The Bullvine. (Watch recording – STgenetics Canada Present’s GENETICS INVESTMENT OR EXPENSES?)


The global dairy industry faces the same challenges; no matter the market conditions. As dairy cow milk production increases and herds continue to increase in size, this situation presents continued challenges such as animal health, nutrition, fertility, and reproduction.

St Hyacinthe-based specialist nutrition company, Jefo, hosted an excellent conference and tour aimed at international experts from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. The St-Hyacinthe conference reviewed technical and results driven data from a line-up of internationally renowned speakers, combined with practical on-farm application visits to leading herds within Canada such as Comestar; Drapeau, Gillette, and Donnandale.

helene-leclerc-jefoThe second part of the conference was held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, and it is worth focusing on a presentation on protected B vitamins by Jefo I&D ruminant manager, Helene Leclerc. The research was extensive with results from the Universities of Guelph; of British Colombia, Laval University, California-Davis and Parana (Brazil) as well as, field studies in Canada, USA, and others.

Research demonstrates that protected B vitamins provide animals health and reproduction solutions that have a wide-range economic benefit within dairy cow populations. The financial benefits of protected B vitamins start during the 21day pre-calving dry cow transition period and throughout an animal’s milking lactation.

Feeding B vitamins improves energy balance and increased dry matter intake before calving by 13% (U. of Guelph). Beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) levels were reduced by 33%, and mastitis was reduced by 87%, aligned with less metritis incidence (UK research estimates up to 40% of animals in dairy herds have metritis related conditions).

Subclinical ketosis was reduced by over 50% in problem herds and the commercial trials (herd size 800 – 1500) demonstrated that Choline alone does not provide sufficient response. There was also a 62% reduction in incidences of mastitis within large herd commercial trials (herds over 1100 cows), the Veterinary costs alone in Canada are estimated at $300 per case.

Reproduction remains a concern for dairy producers and the inclusion of protected B vitamins in 2 nutrigenomic studies demonstrated that the follicle is preparing earlier for ovulation, the oocyte is of better quality and the endometrium cell adhesion was improved– resulting in increased success in pregnancy. A trial involving a control group versus protected B vitamin group (U. of Parana, Brazil) resulted in cows being bred eight days earlier.

As cows became pregnant earlier in a California trial, this resulted in fewer services required per pregnancy. Conception rate trials (U. of California) at first service increased by 13%; more cows stay pregnant at 200 days (Figure 1.), and culling rates were reduced by 20%. In commercial trials (Mexico) conception rate increased by 19% at first service and more cows were pregnant at 120 and 150 days-in-milk.

Figure 1. Effect of a blend of protected B vitamins for Lactation1 on first service conception rate


 1Protected folic acid, B12, pyridoxine, panthothenic acid and biotin

Milk production increased by 5% with the inclusion of protected B vitamins (U. of California-Davis), and in commercial trials, milk fat and protein concentration increased by 3.4% and 2.2%, respectively. Feed efficiency also increased from 2.5% to 5.2%. The presented results demonstrated beneficial increases that help provide increases in overall production, animal health, reproduction and farm profitability.

Clearly, nutrition science will play an increasingly important role in dairy cow management and overall farm profitability. Over the past two decades, the industry has seen huge advancements in nutrition and dairy herd management; likewise with genetics. And as global population increases, animal nutrition is set to play an ever-increasing role in helping feed the world.

The global dairy industry faces the same challenges; no matter the market conditions. As dairy cow milk production increases and herds continue to increase in size, this situation presents continued challenges such as animal health, nutrition, fertility, and reproduction.



Having traveled the back roads of Quebec for the past 30 years, visiting Comestar was a regular occurrence whilst acting as a marketing consultant to Semex UK. Revisiting the modern facilities is a reminder of how far Comestar has developed. Unquestionably, Comestar and other modern Canadian herds are now much bigger, and investment has continued to increase throughout Canada. (Read more: Top Ten Most Influential Holstein Breeders of All-Time)

 The Comestar story began in 1976, when Marc Comtois and his wife, France, purchased Princeville Farm and its original cross-bred herd. Just over a decade later, the business moved to its current location at Victoriaville.

comestar-marc-comtois-bruce-jobsonBy then Marc was involved with pedigree Holsteins and his most famous home-bred cow, Comestar Laurie Sheik VG88, transformed the Canadian Holstein breed as well as international breeding programs. Born in 1986, Laurie Sheik produced a “golden cross” onto Blackstar that produced Comestar Leader as well as, three full-sisters.

The mating propelled the herd to global prominence with numerous subsequent descendants including the likes of Comestar Lee; Lheros, Outside, and Stormatic. The rest, as they say, is history. However, Marc Comtois takes immense pride in helping develop the Holstein breed in the UK, Canada and globally, through the Laurie Sheik bloodline.

He said: “Our AI bulls had a tremendous influence with over 400,000 units of Comestar semen being sold in the UK. Comestar and numerous other herds also sold embryos and live cattle sired by our bloodlines. We developed 14 Class Extra sires and four “millionaire” selling bulls and Comestar Lee produced over 1.8million units.”

The Comtois family have had several business partners including Freddie and Nicole Steen and today the family has six family member owners. The farm labor force also includes 12 employees covering various aspects of the business, which is a far cry from the origins of the herd. Overtime, Comestar has expanded by acquiring neighboring farms, to feed the herd, now totals 1,245 acres.

The herd has 350 milking cows housed in three barn locations comprising a 120 tie-stall barn; a 150 free-stall barn and a 70cow free stall barn for milking recipient animals. The herd averages 12,302kgs milk at 4.1% fat, and 3.3% protein, and today 40% of turnover comes from the sale of genetics in the form of embryos, female calves, and bulls.

The ET program is now an important cornerstone of the Comestar business with on average over 130 flushes being performed annually over the past ten years. In 2015, the herd undertook 50 ET flushes and 50 in-vitro flushes and is currently performing an in-vitro embryo flush every two weeks explains Marc. “We are using a combination of bulls for specific market criteria. Including 30% high type genomic sires and 70% proven sires.

“The embryo program is results driven, and we have to ensure our donor and recipient animals are in top condition. For the past nine years, we have been working closely with Jefo Nutrition to ensure we have high-quality embryos and high pregnancy rates. On average, we are getting 8 grade A embryos per flush.

“B vitamins play an important role in helping cows produce more embryos as well as increasing conception and pregnancy rates. On our scale of operation reproduction is important, just increasing the flush by one embryo or one pregnancy; can result in huge financial benefits. Last year alone, we had 82 Goldwyn heifers registered.

“We mainly use sexed-semen to increase the number of female calves born. We incorporate genomic testing as a routine part of our procedures to identify the next generation of elite male and female calves. High genomic male calves or high type male calves are sold to AI units or private breeders,” he said.

The new facilities were constructed in 1998, and almost 20 years onward, the family is in the process of considering the next stage of development. The potential to expand and incorporate the herd in one large barn that contains specialist pens for donor and show cows as well as flushing facilities will be scrutinized moving forward. The investment for construction of new facilities would run at $7,000 – $10,000 per cow place (£4,400 – £6,250)

Besides the farming operations, Marc has judged shows all over the world and is extremely proud to have judged the Holstein classes at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto in 1998. Lightening has struck twice, and 28 years on, Marc was invited to judge the 2016 Royal Winter Fair. “To judge once was fantastic, but to judge twice, is an incredible honor,” he says.



Over the past 30years, perhaps the two most frequented Canadian herds on my travels have been Comestar and Gillette; somewhat unsurprising due to the number of AI sires developed. The association with the Patenaude family began in November 1994, following a fire that destroyed the 314ft milking barn and killed 205 cattle. (Read more: Gillette Blitz 2nd Wind: 2011 Canadian Cow of the Year NomineeDr. Gilles Patenaude – “Simply the Best” and Top Ten Most Influential Holstein Breeders of All-Time)

The devastation was immense as was the human emotion involved. Understandably, the family were beyond distraught, and one could hear the raw emotion while speaking to Louis’s wife, Anne Patenaude; and subsequently wrote an article about the cataclysmic event; culminating with the following words. “Out of the embers, a ‘spark’ will grow. And like a Phoenix from the ashes – Ferme Gillette will rise again.”

ferme-gillette-louis-patenaude-bruce-jobsonAnd over the intervening years, that “spark” has seen the Patenaude family re-establish Ferme Gillette as a major force within Canadian and global genetics. Today, the family milk 600 Holstein cows at three locations on three times per day milking. The herd’s current rolling average is 11,609kgs @4.2% fat and 3.28% protein.

Amongst the many great cows and bullmothers, Gillette Blitz 2nd Wind VG88 stands out with over 100 ET registered progeny within Canada as well as being the dam of famous sires such as Gillette Stanley Cup; Windbrook, Wildthing, Willrock, and Windhammer.

Furthermore, the world-famous Gillette E Smurf Ex91, the Guinness Book of Records Lifetime Milk Production holder (214,686kgs milk) are just two of the globally renowned animals produced within the herd.

Gillette operates an intensive program to maximize reproduction and herd health. First inseminations take place between 60 – 70days in milk with 75% inseminations based upon heat activity. Approximately 25% of the milking cows are synchronized, and 50% of virgin heifers are synchronized for ET programs.

Like many of today’s progressive farmers, the Patenaude’s predominantly flush maiden heifers alongside some older elite females as part of the breeding program. Reproduction and herd health are important considerations according to Louis. He said: “We’ve been using Jefo products for the past 12 years and have had excellent results.

“The results of the cow flush program incorporating protected B vitamins produced one extra embryo per cow, at a time when we were performing over 120 flushes per year. We also incorporate Jefo Dairy Fat to increase milk component values and incorporate Transition VB pre-and-posting calving, to help eliminate ketosis and other reproductive issues such as metritis.”

The business introduced a solar panels in 2008 with the assistance of government grants – have about 1000 generating between 23 to 28000$ a month depending on the weather. Free stall use beddingmasters. Ferme Gillette has developed much over the past 22 years because of resolve. It is how Ferme Gillette has risen from the embers of adversity; that undoubtedly defines the Patenaude family.  

The Royal

marc-comtois-gives-his-reasonsMuch has been written and even more spoken about the 2016 RWF. Sometimes, but not always, its best to have a distant or even different perspective and not be involved in the controversy. Some would even say its having a subjective or an objective opinion. (Read more: The 2016 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – The show everyone will remember for all the wrong reasons)

There was a consensus from the Supreme Dairy Show at St-Hyacinthe that Wendon Dempsey Prude was not the type of Holstein cow that this year’s judge, Marc Comtois, would run with at Toronto. This was the opinion of astute cattlemen. And similar phrases were being echoed around the cattle lines at the RWF. (Read more: 2016 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show Preview)

Sometimes it’s about picking the right cow, for a judge, weeks before the show, rather than the judge picking someone else’s perception of the “right cow” on the day. Judging the Royal is not a bovine popularity contest or a reality TV program, where viewers or the audience vote for their favorite contestant. At the Royal: only one man’s opinion matters.  (Read more: Canadian National Holstein Show 2016)

A leadsman pulling that appeared to be place 16th and then deciding to pull her back in at the bottom of the class a few feet away from 2nd last animal was not in the true spirit of the Royal or of showmanship etiquette. The decision by Judge Marc Comtois not to pull this cow into his top six lineups appeared entirely justified – on the day.

Displaying, what may have been or appeared to be a “fit-of-pique” does not have any place in the show ring. Perhaps organizers should consider a temporary banning order on any leadsman doing this type of activity. The problem is, having set such a perceived example, the next time another or, perhaps a younger leadsman feels aggrieved at the judge’s placings; similar action could be repeated, not by one person, but by several leadsmen. Anarchy would rule the show ring.

The wrong message may have been sent out. And the wrong headlines written, twittered, texted or posted. But the REAL message was there for ALL who wished to see and learn. Truly, “In the land of the blind – the one-eyed man is King.”

Forty years after starting his multi-award winning herd and producing 14 Class Extra sires and twice judging the Royal Show, people should read the judge’s words over and over, and over again. Marc Comtois left a Holstein breed legacy by announcing his Grand Champion, Jacobs Gold Liann, “the cow of the future.”



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Le Tour De Quebec – Le Tour De Force

Three decades ago, touring the Province of Quebec was a completely different experience compared to today. Bruce Jobson reports from Quebec.  

Communication in the 1980s and early 90s was very different; in fact almost non-existent. There were no mobile phones, no phone-cameras, no e-mail, no texting, no Twitter, no internet, no Facebook and therefore, no Bullvine website. English was rarely spoken. Today, the modern and cultural face of Quebec has dramatically changed.

For all intents and purposes the Province remains a “country” within a country; it has its own customs and culture and its own dialect of the French language – distinct from the European versions. However, travelling the back-roads, farm-tracks and visiting Quebec milking-barns has changed unrecognisably – as has traditional milking times due to robotic machines, with Quebec now having a 4% uptake compared to 89% tie-stall and 7% free-stall.

Quebec is the power-house of Canadian genetics; a driving force that has gathered juggernaut momentum. This did not happen overnight; and did not happen by chance. This has occurred through ambition, drive, focus, “will-power” and the two “Cs” – communication and cooperation.

Supreme Dairy Show

For the past 20 years, in the week preceding the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Holstein Quebec organized a major provincial show at St Hyacinthe. The event garnered prestige owing to the sheer quality of Holstein cows turning out at the event and then moving up to Toronto to take further honours. Today, Quebec can arguably claim to have the best cows.

RF Goldwyn Hailey – 2014 Grand Champion Le Supreme Laitier

In 2014, the show format changed through cooperation and a realisation that the Province of Quebec, may, just may, produce a significant third dimension on the North American show circuit juxtapose Madison and Toronto. In simplistic form, an agreement with the city authorities; the 175 year old local Society of Agriculture and the major breed societies, resulted in the expansion from 200 Holstein animals to 750 exhibits across five dairy breeds.


Supreme Dairy Show President Norman Fontaine

President of the Agricultural Society, Mr Norman Fontaine, speaking through interpreter Marie-Claire Girod, explained the reasons for the development. “The Society owns 15 acres of land within the city and wanted to expand the event to be more inclusive and bring other breeds to the show. We also want to attract exhibitors and visitors from other parts of Canada such as Ontario as well as, neighbouring USA and international visitors.

“We have also included a symposium as there is a responsibility to educate the younger generation. There are many aspects to holding a major show such as showcasing animals, trade, an embryo sale and the potential sale of livestock. But educating the next generation plays an important part of our future vision.”

The Role of Quebec Women


Supreme Dairy Show manager Jenny Henchoz

Quebec has always involved women as part of its drive towards future development; whether in the AI industry, marketing and promotions, showing, milking, breeding or, respective breed societies and organizing committees. Tasked with delivering and managing a multi-breed show, Jenny Henchoz, is typical of the young women who play an important role within Quebec farming circles.

The entire bench of show organisers was staffed by young, professional women administrators in their 20s and 30s (as was previously with Holstein Quebec) taking on responsibility to deliver a major event. Having been at St Hyacinthe events for many years – communication is now easier as the language barrier has virtually disappeared. Commenting on the event Ms Henchoz said.

“We are delighted at the success of the first Supreme Dairy Show with over 750 animals exhibited over the course of the three day event. The show is primarily a livestock event, maintaining a strong link with dairy producers across Black and White and Red and White Holsteins; Jersey, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss animals.

“It’s been a steep learning curve and there has been immense cooperation in order to make the new format happen. The response from breeders, societies, sponsors and trade exhibitors has been tremendous. However, we have room for further expansion with facilities to host over 900 animals, if required.”

Quebec Farm Tour

Charles Darwin stated, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

There are approximately 5,000 dairy herds in Quebec compared to 3,000 in Ontario – almost as many in the Province as the rest of Canada combined. In the 2011 census the number of operators involved within Quebec was just under 11,000 – once again; the same number of operators as the rest of Canada.

Quebec also leads with the number of operators below the age of 35, with 1,800 compared to Ontario with 1,000 and the Province has 54% of the Canadian total. Between the ages of 35 – 44; and 45 -55; Quebec again leads the way with 50.5% and 50.8%, respectively. From an age group of 55 and above, the figure dips to 45.2%.

Visiting progeny test herds in Quebec in the 1980s and 90s was a challenging experience. Traditional Quebec family farmers did not speak English and the likes of Steve Laroche from St Hyacinthe-based AI stud CIAQ, acted as driver, tour guide and interpreter when viewing progeny of emerging Canadian Holstein sires.

Today, the younger generation of highly educated farmers, invariably speak English and French. Quebec children now learn English at an early age and TV and films have brought a diverse range of language and understanding into the family living-rooms. This has integrated into the Quebec milking barns.



Remi Guay translates French into English at the Supreme Dairy Show, Quebec.

A big challenge remains – getting young people involved in milk production. Remi Guay is typical of the new generation; still in his 30s, he translated the Holstein judge’s native French into English at the inaugural Supreme Dairy Show at St Hyacinthe and the following week at the Royal Winter Fair, translated English comments into French for the Jersey breed.  He started milk production in October 2009, having purchased his father’s Hillover Farm on the Quebec-Vermont border.

Purchasing milk quota for 15 animals leverages any fledgling business however; an official Canadian scheme to help new entrants donates an additional quota for five cows to help get new entrants started. Each year, over the next five years, the level is reduced by one cow – and it is hoped, the new entrant is able to replace with additional quota.

During the past year, very little quota has come onto the market by way of auction, and in some cases, the quota auction has been cancelled due to lack of supply. In order to expand his business, Remi may decide to sell his current holding and purchase a larger farm – with additional quota.

He said: “Milk quota purchase has stabilised at $25,000 per cow over the past few years; but none is available at present and a lot of people are also seeking to expand. It’s a ‘catch-22’ situation. However, I consider that if we are to expand or purchase another farm, this is a positive investment for the future.”

Owing to higher level of milk components, less required milk volume and higher milk price (around 90cents litre) it can be advantageous to milk Jersey animals within the Canadian Supply Management (quota) system. Furthermore, the traditional Quebec tie-stall milking barns do not have to be extensively renovated to accommodate Jerseys compared to the modern Holstein cow; and pedigree Jerseys can be purchased at reasonable prices compared to Holsteins.


Dave Berube of Caberoy Jerseys with FDL Minister S Blessing VG88 – August 2014 #1 Jersey Conformation Cow.


Preferring to focus on high genomic material, Remi sold four milking heifers including the August 2014 no. 1 Jersey Confirmation cow, FDL Minister S Blessing VG88. She was purchased by Dave Berube, a 32-year old breeder who had started his own Caberoy herd, six months earlier.  He was also assisted by the official quota scheme and received an additional allocation.


Dave Berube is similar – a young, ambitious, 35-year old motivated breeder, eager to get on the first steps of the farming ladder. He has a wife and young family and is also seeking to further expand his 30 milking cow herd; originally from a Holstein background, Dave also started with Jersey cows and speaks excellent English.

“The costs remain extremely high to gain a foothold within the Canadian dairy industry and the level of investment required can be off-putting for young people eager to get started. The hours are long, often working on your own, but the dairy industry is rewarding and I love working with my cows. It has always been my ambition to be a herd owner and in time, I aim to expand,” he says.

Thirty years ago, Holsteins were dominant and the Jersey breed static or, in decline. A major change during the past decade has been the emergence of Jersey herds as well as mixed herds of Holsteins and Jersey breeds. The increasing brown-cow popularity is not just confined to Quebec or Canada; with US Jersey figures predicting 20% of the US semen market by 2020.

Besides the benefits of herd health, calving-ease and animal welfare aspects, the younger generation, with limited budgets, can better afford the price of Jersey calves for 4H competitions. The high price of purchasing a Holstein show-calf; unless homebred – may have influence within participating family circles.

The Demise of the Sire Analyst

While Quebec maintains its own major AI organisation, the number of Canadian units has declined. Twenty years ago, neighbouring Ontario had three major AI units under the Semex Canada banner in the shape of WOBI, Eastern Breeders and United Breeders; today; amalgamation and “restructuring” has resulted in one Ontario-based Semex Alliance company, EastGen.

Before genomic testing, it was common to cross paths with numerous Canadian sire analysts treading the same Quebec back roads, viewing progeny or making bull contracts on cows. Comestar Holsteins, Victoriaville, was always a popular location as the Laurie Sheik family evolved into a dominant Canadian bloodline. Each AI unit was fiercely independent and with huge loyalty from its membership, procured its own bulls.

Independent AI unit competition was therefore more intense – but today; that is no longer the case under the unified Semex Alliance banner. Today; generation turnover is intense. And a sire analyst “eye-balling” a second or third lactation animal, bred from three generations of VG or Excellent cows appears an antiquated concept – and bullmothers and genomic young sires are predominantly identified at birth through genomic screening. The role of the traditional sire analyst has changed – and young bulls do not need to have any milking daughters to have an evaluation.


For the past 25 years, the logo acronym, CIAQ (Centre d’insemination du Quebec) has become one of the most powerful symbols within the cattle-breeding world. Pronounced in Quebec as “see-ak” -the organisation has developed many of the greatest bulls to have emerged through the Canadian evaluation system including the legendary Hanoverhill Starbuck.

In November 2014, the organisation updated its logo and tag-line to reflect the modern identity of the company. The acronym now becomes a word in itself written as, Ciaq and a new logo promotes the company with the sun rising over the landscape horizon.  A new corporate tagline promotes the company vision and its core values with “Let’s conceive the future.”

The organisation is located in St Hyacinthe, which is effectively the agricultural-hub for businesses, education and cattle-breeding within the Province. Established in 1948, Ciaq employs 320 people across all divisions and operates over 200 qualified field technicians throughout Quebec.

Cooperation remains at the very heart of the organisation, which is owned by three groups; Quebec milk producers (PLQ) Quebec breed associations (CQRL) and Quebec breeding clubs (CPCAB) Today, Ciaq is the driving force within the Canadian AI industry accounting for 45% of the domestic market-share and supplies over 800,000 units of semen annually to Quebec breeders. Ciaq also owns 45% of Semex Alliance, with the remaining 55% in partnership with Eastgen and Westgen AI centres.

Ciaq communications director Vincent Landry wearing the new corporate logo.

CIAQ communications director Vincent Landry wearing the new corporate logo.

The launch of the new corporate identity took place as part of activities during the inaugural Supreme Dairy Show at St Hyacinthe. Attendees were also invited to visit the new CIAQ facilities at nearby Sainte-Madeleine, view some of the top sires; tour the sexed semen laboratory, semen collection facility and distribution facility. Commenting on the new company profile, CIAQ communications director Vincent Landry said:

“The previous logo of a bull’s head was introduced in 1988 and we wanted to update the image to reflect a modern and forward thinking organisation that has farming at its core-value. The consultation process has taken over a year and CIAQ conducted a large survey with its dairy and beef producers as part of the process.”

Quebec Today

The Province of Quebec remains an enigma, at times complex due to its quintessential French customs juxtapose its deep, rich cultural heritage. The ability to communicate in spoken and written English and the use of modern communication technology; has aided and brought mutual understanding; greater cooperation, integration, opportunity, focus and development of desired business goals. Quebec has, as Darwin stated: “managed change.”



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UK Milk Prices – The Twenty Years War

The old maxim, “Divide and conquer” has been the successful strategy of war lords over the centuries. The same applies today in business and a prime example of how to devalue a national business model; destroy an industry and put thousands of small business “to the sword” was the result of the abolition of the UK Milk Marketing Boards in October 1994.

Almost twenty years ago, UK producers were receiving the same price as today, 24pence-per-litre (ppl) and the industry was on an upward trend. Farmers were making a profit and this in turn allowed reinvestment, expansion and modernisation of plant and equipment. Over the past year, milk prices have dropped from 34ppl to 24ppl and below. Costs have increased for feed, labour and equipment and loans were secured on the premise of a viable return on investment.

As every dairy producer knows, stability is the key to a business model that depends on a long-term investment, requiring a three year lead-in before a unit of production (a cow) starts to repay the investment on her semen and rearing costs. The old adage that it takes three lactations for an animal to pay for her replacement (under “normal” business financial situations it takes all the profit from two lactations – that is why genetics is important) takes a “hit” as milk prices tumble due to market volatility.

Milk Marketing Board

UK dairy farming in the 1930s was extremely volatile as producers loaded milk churns on to trains without the assurance of being paid. Many producers did not receive payment, due to an unscrupulous system and if the milk was not needed, it was sent back. Farmers were at the mercy of the individual dairies. In order to establish a fair and coherent system, the British Government established the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) system for England and Wales as well as, separate Boards for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The 1933 government statute changed the fortunes of dairy farming. The MMB effectively became the first buyer of milk; but most importantly, became the buyer of last resort. The establishment of the Board guaranteed a minimum price for the dairy farmer, based on agreed price formulae. The system provided stability – in an unstable world – and the Board was heralded as the greatest commercial enterprise ever launched by British farmers.

The system proved successful and capable of withstanding the instability of the markets. The collective strength (remember: divide and conquer) provided a negotiation position and a pricing system that secured the liquid market price – from the instability of milk sold for manufacture. And the Board therefore provided a system of dealing with an extremely perishable product; especially in the days before refrigeration.

Parliamentary Business: House of Commons report. “The MMBs were established to resist downward pressure on producer incomes resulting from the increasing power of the dairy companies.”

The power of the MMB increased over the decades and employed over 7,000 people across its various sections including the establishment of an AI industry off-shoot, which subsequently evolved into Genus. However, the Board system had its detractors and although far from perfect, was seen by its critics at the time, as being monolithic, out of touch with the modern business world and the MMB being self-sustaining in terms of its own interests.

The Thatcher Years

There is an old saying, “If it isn’t broke- don’t fix it.” However, EU dogma and political ideology reared its ugly head as Thatcher doctrine decided that the system that had served the industry well for 60 years; should be abolished. The mantra of “deregulation” and privatisation was part of the Thatcher Government ideology.

Milk producers did not agreed with the political ideology and voted 99.9% to maintain the MMB system. Despite the overwhelming vote, Thatcher abolished the MMB in October 1994 in England, Wales and Scotland and in Northern Ireland in February 1995. As a result, thousands of dairy farmers were subsequently ruined and this in turn created the rise of division; and supermarket power.

At the time of the abolition of the MMB, there was an estimated 30,000 producers in England and Wales. Fast forward 20 years, and that figure is 10,000 or less. In December 2014, an estimated 16 dairy farmers per week were leaving the industry. For some, enough was enough.


Farmers supplying Arla, one of the UK and Europe’s largest food retailers, suffered a reduction of 1.63ppl for December 2014 milk production.  Arla suppliers subsequently received a generous early Christmas present on December 23rd with the further announcement of a 2.03ppl reduction effective, 5th January 2015. The timing was perfect and some cynics would consider deliberate, with the announcement aimed at limiting producer hostility and adverse press reaction over the Christmas recess.

Another UK and European retail giant, Muller, cut its price by 1.2ppl from 10th January and Dairy Crest, the UK milk processor, announced a 1.2ppl reduction from 1st February. In a game of milk price-cut poker, First Milk, a 100% UK farmer-owned cooperative played its New Year double-hand, by announcing a milk price of 20p-per-litre from February 2015; cutting 1.6ppl to 20.1ppl for liquid pool supply, and 2.43p reduction to 20.47ppl for manufacturing.

A few days later, First Milk declared it was delaying milk cheque payments to producers by a further two weeks – the delay expecting to cause further producer chaos. The company cited a cash-flow problem for the delay albeit farmers suffering more financial pain. First Milk suppliers have incurred a minimum 12ppl drop in ten months from April 2014.

After 80 years, UK dairy farmers are once again at the mercy of dairies, processors and the supermarkets; the latter discounting milk as a “loss-leader” in order to entice consumers into their shopping aisles. The ongoing supermarket price war continues to undermine the dairy industry rather than underpin its stability, structure and long-term future.

The MMB pricing structure provided a simple solution to milk pricing and included increases for milk quality and hygiene. The dilemma facing farmers today is confounded by having approximately 50 different milk price payment structures and tied-in contracts to their buyers. Furthermore, if a farmer leaves his current buyer; there is no guarantee another buyer will purchase the milk.

According to official UK Government sources (Defra) post deregulation: “There are 130 milk purchasers and 100 processors. 65% of household consumption of liquid milk and 80% of dairy products are sold primarily through the major supermarkets.”


Many farmers considered the “bad old days” of the 1930s had long surpassed but that has not been the case. Volatility returned in 2012, when Rock Dairies went into administration leaving 22 regional milk producers without an outlet for their future daily production. The business had supplied thousands of shops, super-markets and businesses throughout the north of England.

Rock Dairies financial collapse caused a furore amongst its former suppliers that were left without payment for milk produced in January and February 2012. Today, the furore extends to thousands of milk producers who are suffering a collapse in prices without a positive end in sight.


Michael Howie from the award winning Morwick herd in Northumberland, England

Like many, Michael Howie from the award winning Morwick herd in Northumberland, England, is currently receiving a January milk price of 24.9ppl – well below the cost of winter production. Twenty years on from deregulation he says, “None of this would have happened if the MMB had remained functional. We no longer have a safety-net. There is too much milk being produced – and quotas are set to be abolished in April 2015.”

The UK has produced 10% more milk over the past year and this has not helped the situation. Although the UK remains 80% self-sufficient in milk production, the dairies blame the global-market for the price decline. The old “supply and demand” rule of economics has reared its ugly head with devastating consequences. China, the world’s largest importer of milk reduced imports by over 50% in the first six months of 2014.

Russia, the third largest importer banned dairy imports from the EU in August 2014 in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the EU following Russian involvement in the Ukraine and Crimea. UK dairy farmers are clearly facing tough challenges according to Andrew Suddes, Senior Consultant with Promar International.

In an exclusive interview for The Bullvine, he said: “Promar expect this trend to continue into autumn 2015. In addition, the Russian ban on imported dairy products is due to end in August 2015 and this may release some of the pressure in the market. Dairy farmers currently face prices that are below the cost of production and long-term, this is unsustainable. The situation will have an inevitable impact on farm businesses and associated supply industries.”

However, Mr Suddes advises farmers to plan ahead. “Farm businesses need to plan carefully to manage in the short and medium term. This will involve a detailed understanding of their cost structure and potentially, a proposal to their business bankers. So far, banks have expressed sympathy with businesses in the dairy sector, but producers will require a detailed and coherent plan to get through what will inevitably be a testing period,” he states.


During the past 20 years, due to quotas and the MMB being abolished, the number of milk producers in England and Wales has declined by over two-thirds; although due to herd expansion, cow numbers have remained fairly stable. This global trend is set to continue – although those dairy farmers that have recently increased herd size and invested in the long-term future, face severe challenges.

Businesses will encounter, possibly for the first time in a generation, increasing losses due to economies of scale. Huge investment and large-scale expansion coupled with calls for greater levels of efficiency; have therefore perpetuated small profits on a pence-per-litre basis multiplied by volume production; and became the de-facto business model. The reverse has happened with ever increasing pence-per-litre losses multiplied by large volumes of production.

Several UK producers, who voluntarily terminated their supply contracts during 2014 with their existing dairies, at a time when the milk price dropped from 34ppl to 28ppl, have subsequently not found a new “home” for their milk with alternate dairy companies. These farmers are currently receiving 20ppl on the “spot” market with some producers rumoured to be receiving spot prices of 16ppl.

Political ideology is legitimised by actions of the state; and in a democratic world the wishes of 99.9% of UK farmers not to abolish the MMB system would, and should have, prevailed. Canada currently provides domestic food security, consumer price affordability and milk production business investment, through its provincial Milk Boards and Federal Regulation supply management system.

Inevitably, one day – calls and policies will be aired regarding the dismantling of a system, considered by some within the production community as well as, international exporters of dairy products, as being far from perfect, but a system that provides – and balances, price stability and market supply – within an unstable global marketplace.

There are many lessons to be learned for milk producers around the world from what is occurring in the UK. Within Canada, such dissension will lead to yet another “Divide and conquer” scenario. Beware: “The enemy is at the farm gate” as well as, from within.


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Kelloe Mains – Good heifer rearing leads to strong milking performance

The McDonald family recently invested in a new housing facility for an additional 330 cows at Kelloe Mains Farm, near Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Bruce Jobson reports from the Scottish Borders.

The McDonald family milk 720 Holstein cows at Kelloe Mains Farm, Duns, Scotland, 10 miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The farmland totals 2,500 acres (1,000ha) stretching over a distance of 10 miles and incorporates two farms.

Robert McDonald and his son, also named Robert, are the driving force behind the family farming business with 27-year old Robert, managing the day to day management of the dairy herd. His father continues his role at the forefront of the business and also manages the arable side of the enterprise.

Kelloe Mains has undergone a continued expansion programme and recently added a new 330 high-spec free-stall housing facility, which was completed in January 2014. The housing unit cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300)  (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000) and includes automatic scrapers and rubber matting as well as incorporating “green bedding.”

The building is high, with lots of light and ventilation and cow comfort has been a strong feature of the design according to Robert Jnr. “Animal health and welfare is a priority at Kelloe Mains and we continue to focus on management and cow comfort.

“We are currently milking over 700 cows and place strong emphasis on best management practise from the day a calf is born, through to milking. We have incorporated the Alta Advantage Programme into our management structure and this provides essential data and benchmarking of the business,” he said.

An new housing unit for an additional 330 cows cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300)  (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000)

An new housing unit for an additional 330 cows cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300) (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000)

Imports from Holland

The McDonalds increased their herd numbers in 2014 by purchasing 138 in-milk heifers and 140 in-calf heifers from Holland. The imported animals have now settled into their new environment and Robert is pleased with their performance.

Robert said. “The herd has been averaging around 10,500 – 10,700 litres at 3.8% fat and 3.3% protein, however, with the additional influx, the herd currently containing 65% heifers, and this year, we expect the yield average will be lower.

“It takes time for new animals to adjust but overall, we are pleased with the performance of the herd. We use the Alta Advantage programme as part of our overall herd management system in order to benchmark our performance data. The herd is running at 23% pregnancy rate with 45% of the cows currently pregnant at 75 days.

“Calving interval, which is based on the milking cows, rather than the latest influx, is around the 377 days with days open at 99 days. The herd is averaging 24 months at age of first-calving and in due course, we are aiming to reduce the figure to 23 months. The cows are milked through a 40-point Alfa-Laval rotary parlour on a three times per-day milking routine, averaging 34litres per day with a through-put of 125 cows-per-hour.”

The herd is fed a TMR ration using a Keenan mixer-wagon, with a separate ration to the in-calf heifers and dry cows. The milking herd ration contains 20kg of DM of forage; 2kg of whole crop; 6.5kgs grass silage, 0.5kg straw and a protein blend. The herd receives its first feed at 5.30am and is supplemented at around 10am.

Dry cows receive a close-up and far-off ration and bedding is kept clean and dry due to the availability of straw. The new 340 cow free-stall facility and older unit for 368 cows, link into a 1.9million gallon slurry tower and 2.8million lagoon incorporating an umbilical system.


Kelloe Mains Open Day

Alta Genetics recently hosted an open day at Kelloe Mains, and the event included presentations from several Alta staff as well as Robert McDonald Jnr. Over 200 visitors attended the event including 60 farmers from Holland and 16 from Italy.

Farmers seeking to breed the next generation of profitable, animal welfare friendly cattle were treated to a demonstration line-up of milking Holstein heifers using the Alta Advantage programme. Visitors could inspect the animals and were provided with milk recording details and yield projections.

Alta programme manager Drew Wilson used hand held technology to assess the type characteristics of an animal and the programme provides a list of suitable matings; based upon the type and production criteria for each individual herd requirement. The line-up of animals on display demonstrated the success of the Alta Advantage Programme Mr Wilson stated.

Mutual Benefits

Paul De Goojier, global marketing manager for Alta Genetics, led a group of 60 plus farmers from The Netherlands, as part of a UK tour and emphasised an open business philosophy. He explained: “Farmers are looking for ways to improve and learn from each other. The openday will bring value to UK farmers, the Dutch as well as Italian group, who have also attended the event.

“Everyone can discuss their needs on a full strategy basis and breeders are able to apply the genetic tools in order to select the right bulls. We have a focus on the progressive farmer in order to help with the direction of their business goals. Our programmes add value and help bring better results, breed better animals and increase genetic results,” he concluded.

Calf Rearing Trial

Calf rearing is an essential part of the Kelloe Mains philosophy based upon management and animal health and welfare aspects. New born calves are given four litres of colostrum within the first few hours of birth, followed by an additional two litres, two hours after the initial feed. After the first week, the calves receive 5 litres per day increasing to 6 litres per day after the 10th day.

Robert Jnr commented that milking cow performance starts with good heifer rearing practise. He said: “Calves can be easily overlooked but good milking herd performance and animal health and welfare issues start with quality calf management.

“We aim to wean calves at 60 days and by that time, they are receiving adlib feeding, taking onboard approximately 3kgs of 18% protein pellet and straw. Pellet feed and fresh water is introduced early in order to increase growth rates. We aim for heifers to calve-down at 24 months of age and we manage their inputs accordingly in order to achieve the required weight and growth-rates, prior to insemination.”

The farm operates a strict system with one person feeding the calves 12 out of every 14 days in order to maintain consistency of feeding, hygiene, observation and overall management. The calves are fed on waste milk, which is pasteurised on-farm after each milking, and calves are fed at 8 hourly intervals.

Kelloe Mains has traditionally reared calves in crates and the McDonald family recently purchased calf hutches as an alternative method. Calves are currently undergoing a trial to see if there are any benefits by switching to 100% rearing in calf hutches. Both sets of heifers are being weighed at 60 days, and the early results indicate a 10 – 11kg increase in weight using a calf-hutch.

Robert McDonald (left) and Alta Genetics' Regional Manager Billy Campbell

Robert McDonald (left) and Alta Genetics’ Regional Manager Billy Campbell

Kelloe Mains is now using 100% genomic sires across the board according to Alta Genetics Regional Manager Billy Campbell, who has worked closely with the McDonalds for the past 25 years. “Kelloe Mains operates on a commercial-basis and animals are mated to provide profitable, long-lasting, healthy and animal welfare friendly cattle.

“The first group of genomic heifers demonstrated the reliability of the programme and the latest group of 18 heifers by 10 young genomic bulls is averaging 34 litres per day and are currently 118 days in-milk. The group is predicted to yield over 11,500kgs with two heifers projected to produce over 14,000kgs.”

All the cows are bred to Holstein bulls and in the past; sexed-semen has been used to help increase replacement heifer numbers. According to Mr Campbell, the Kelloe Mains herd demonstrates the benefits of using a large number of genomic young sires across the herd and by using a professional evaluator, has achieved positive results on type, production, herd health and animal welfare.

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

Roybrook Revisited

Legendary Holstein breeder Roy Ormiston celebrates his 100th Birthday in a few weeks hence. Bruce Jobson and Roy recount the legacy of Roybrook in an exclusive interview. In this unique conversation, Bruce included some additional datelines for reader clarity and understanding.

Roy Ormiston, of Robrook fame, will celebrate his 100th Birthday in February.  Photo Patty Jones

Roy Ormiston, of Robrook fame, will celebrate his 100th Birthday in February. Photo Patty Jones

There are very few cattle breeders held in the same esteem as Roy Ormiston. He is one of an elite group globally known by a single name; “Roy” (Roybrook) “Wally” (Linskoog: Arlinda) “Pete” (Heffering: Hanoverhill) and in the UK “Moff” (John Moffitt: Hunday) As time has marched forward; only Roy remains with us from what is considered the halcyon era of cattle breeding.

The story really began 70 years ago; when Roy, a young Holstein breeder, joined the Canadian Holstein Association as an Ontario fieldman in 1944; where he worked for seven years as extension officer, including some classifying duties. He had already started farming at 21, taking over his father’s farm (Ormsdale) at Brooklin, Ontario and owning five cows. He later farmed with his brother before establishing his own Roybrook prefix.


BJ “Roy, you purchased a cow bred by Ben Brown, of Bowmanville, Ontario; Balsam Brae Pluto Sovereign Ex. This animal became universally known as “the white cow. How did you find her?

Roy: “I heard about this “white cow” and decided to visit Ben and first saw her as a Very Good five-year-old in 1956. I really liked the look of this cow, despite her being dry; and her age. Ben had turned down $700 that morning from a US dealer; I made an offer of $700, but she had not been on “test” recording and we did not known what her butterfat percent would be – so I offered another $50 bonus – provided she tested at 3.6% or higher.

“The offer was accepted and after she calved-out, Sovereign, known as “the white cow” was judged winner of the All Aged Cow Class at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto and also Best Uddered Cow. She had come from nowhere to win the most prestigious of shows. Albert Seiling of Seiling Holsteins offered $10,000 – a large sum of money at the time – but I refused to sell.”

BJ “There are many people who consider you as the greatest exponent of “line-breeding” owing to the success of the Roybrook bloodlines. Some consider line-breeding; when it does not work is, “inbreeding.” You are the man – what is your take on the subject?”

Roy: “It was line-breeding – not inbreeding. We never inbred. But I owned a remarkable cow family and wanted to capitalise on these immense qualities. It’s a case of wanting to increase or intensify the best traits or qualities such as size and strength. Inbreeding can result in lack of size and strength and vigour. The white cow was strong, more than the average cow – she was dominant and “controlled” the matings.

“Two of her daughters were Roybrook Model Lady and Royal Delight, and both scored Excellent. The latter cow produced the most famous daughter; Roybrook Model Lass Ex, she was bred from Roybrook Ace, a son of the white cow, from a mating to Lakefield Fond Hope.

“We therefore had the white cow as the bull dam on the top side, and the third dam on the bottom line. The resulting bull calf was Telstar, (born December 1963) Telstar was sold at the National Holstein Sale in the following May to the Telstar Syndicate for $25,000. A few weeks later, having sold the bull, I bought into the syndicate.”

BJ “The bull was named after the world’s first satellite, Telstar; which was launched on July 10th, 1962; the date is recognised as the day that “information went global.” Roybrook Telstar arguably did the same in the bovine world; as the first global Holstein superstar?”

Roy “He certainly had an impact in Canada and Japan. Cattle photographer, Jim Rose, suggested the name. The syndicate sold Telstar to Japan in June 1967; his Canadian progeny were outstanding and all the talk was about Telstar. His daughters were show winners, became brood cows and outstanding bullmothers. Due to widespread AI, and export of progeny, his proofs and influence became global.

“Telstar was designated as a Class Extra sire (in 1971, Canada’s highest accolade on the basis of simultaneous improvements in type and production)  In Japan, he was equally admired and in 1978, I was privileged to unveil a bronze statue of Telstar at the All-Hokkaido Show; at the opening of the Dairy Shrine.”

BJ “OK, Telstar paved the way for another bull that arguably had an even greater global impact; Roybrook Starlite. As you stated, the bull was line-bred and only carried 0.93 inbreeding levels. Roy, what was the thinking on that mating?”

Roy “Seiling Rockman was known as the “Genetic Giant” and his daughters had prolific milk production. Starlite was a mating that truly encompassed the best traits of his sire and his dam. For many years the Canadian production Honour List was dominated by Rockman, his son, Starlite and Starlite’s maternal brother, Telstar.  Therefore, Rockman was a very powerful mating.

BJ “I will just mention; the University of Guelph Top Transmitter List contained the top 600 cows throughout Canada. When Starlite died (in 1981) 376 cows ranked on this list were from Ontario – and 103 were Starlite daughters; almost 30% of the top cows in Ontario were related to Starlite.

“Starlite semen was exported all over the world. In 1982, three Starlite daughters at Mowry Farms, Pennsylvania, were rated in the top three positions in the USDA Cow Index. At that time, the chances of one daughter being the No.1 cow USDA milk and butterfat producer were rated above 8 million: 1.  In fact, Starlite had the top three USDA cows – all bred in one herd.

“The bull came to prominence in the UK when 25 Starlite heifers were imported into the UK by the late Harold Nicholson, herd manager for Sam Noble, owner of the Deehaven Herd in Cheshire. The Starlite daughters were an outstanding success. His global influence was immense as well as, through his sons.  Roy, I now want to move on to the next era and will you explain the mating of the third Roybrook superstar; Tempo?”

Roy “I judged the Ontario Show and first two-year-old was Briarwood Melissa. She was an immense Telstar daughter; almost twice the size of others, she had such power and strength. After the show, I went to the barn and asked if she was for sale and they wanted $25,000. I said I wanted to buy the cow; not the farm.

“She was subsequently shown and won at Toronto; and I purchased her at The Sale of The Stars for $14,000. The next day, I went to the bank to borrow the money. Melissa was bred to Starlite; therefore “the white cow” influence was close-up on both sides of pedigree. Tempo had a type proof with the qualities of both bulls.”

BJ “Roy, I will interject, Tempo was born in 1973 and like Telstar and Starlite, he was awarded Class Extra Sire status. Tempo had over 15,000 Canadian scored daughters (29,000 in total) and averaged 70% Good Plus and Better on classification. His sire, Starlite had over 8,000 scored daughters (13,000) that averaged 55%.

“His maternal-sire, Telstar, had 611 Canadian daughters (863) that averaged 86% Good Plus. Tempo came out with an identical average of 70% Good Plus and Better; the exact “mean average” figure between the proofs of both Starlite and Telstar.  Tempo – bred “true.” The legacy was a remarkable achievement, all line-bred from a single cow family, housed in a traditional 30 stall Canadian barn. So, which of the three bulls is your favourite?”


Roybrook Telster

Roybrook Starlite

Roybrook Starlite

Roy brook Tempo

Roy brook Tempo


Roy “I do not have a favourite. All three bulls achieved Class Extra status and all three were different and each bull transmitted different things. Starlite daughters transmitted higher levels of production and were slower to mature as two-year olds – and therefore did not classify as high.

BJ “Roy, 40 years ago you said “Life is too short to start with poor stock.” You are now approaching 100 years old, what advice would you give to someone starting out today?”

Roy “That is still true. Start with the best you can afford. But it is extremely hard for any young person to get involved in farming today. It is even harder in Canada owing to having to buy milk quota, the farm and cows. Everything is bigger and unless your parents are involved or are extremely wealthy, it is almost impossible to get started in dairying.

“Today, many farms have 200, 400 cows or more. That takes a lot of funding with Canadian milk quota at around $25,000 per cow. We kicked the trend even back in the 70s and 80s, we were a small 30-odd cow dairy and the farm was 100 acres; yet I sold cattle to every continent on the globe.

“Things were rapidly changing in the late 80s, with bigger commercial herds and several high profile pedigree breeder herds; (Comstar, Dupasquier, Gillette) these were exciting times; great days, and I remember sitting next to your wife, Helen, at the 1987 Hanoverhill Sale. I sold the Roybrook herd in 1990 – I was getting on in years although, I had a few cows around the farm for another 12 months.

BJ “With all the indices, sexed semen, ET and genomic information available, is it easier to be a breeder in 2014, than in 1944?”

Roy “Bruce, there is more information available today – and maybe there is too much information. It was easier in the past; and breeding goals have changed. We now have genomics and this has changed the bull breeding game and the industry. I have concerns about the level of inbreeding and the possibility of losing, size, capacity, vigour and strength.

“We are also asking two-year-old heifers to produce 120lbs of milk or 50litres per day; and I wonder how long these young cows will last? I still believe in the value of cow families, longevity and a common-sense approach to cattle breeding. Today, everything is faster; everything is bigger.”

BJ “Roy, besides your influence within the global cattle breeding industry, you have, and will continue to have, a strong influence within the local community. How did that happen?”

Roy “Well, I believe in putting back into the local community and since the sale, have done that. I sold land for development and have made donations to local charities. Brooklin has now expanded over the farm and the barn has made way for a new highway. The streets are named in our honour such as Roybrook Avenue, Telstar Avenue, Tempo and Delight.

“I still live on my own, in a bungalow built on the farm – and keep myself busy and active. I have donated 25 acres of land and $2million in order to build a new hospital. It’s something I want to do for the local community; one that I was brought up amongst, and where I have lived my whole life. That will be a true and lasting, Roybrook legacy.”

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

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