So much about dairying in North America is in a state flux, that it is reassuring when people are willing to take leadership roles. Glen McNeil, the Immediate Past President of Holstein Canada, demonstrated his commitment to Holsteins and leaves the position still committed to continuous improvement of the industry and hopeful for changes ahead. “There will be speed bumps that give us a reality check and that is called balance and experience.” But overall he is positive. “People seek, adapt and embrace change at different stages. Developing proactive policies and direction on an ongoing basis is the responsibility of the Board of Directors as is due diligence…” This doesn’t mean he sees the world through rose-coloured glasses. “The constant degree and speed of change, and the methods of communication that are being used today mean that everything becomes super fast paced.” Adapting to the times and respect for the people on all sides of an issue has worked well for Glen.
Barn to the Board Room – Respect for the Roots
Glen has great respect for people in the barn and in the Board Room. It has served him well and been returned to him. He highlights his experiences while at the Holstein Canada Board table. “This enriching experience at the Board table has helped me develop an attitude of respect towards people and their opinions. People remember how you treat them and how you make them feel, longer than what you said. The most important ingredient of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
Getting the basics right about people and developing cow knowledge skills has been important to Glen. He looks to those who influenced him early on. ” My parents taught me work ethic, morals, respect and care of livestock. Dave Houck (Romandale Farms) taught me the art of breeding including aAa. Dave introduced me to Bill Weeks from Vermont, Frank Phister of Mexico, and many great Holstein enthusiasts worldwide. Earl Osborne, Bill Grieve and Pascal Lemire, all Past Presidents of Holstein Canada, were great leaders that inspired me.”
The Triple Excellent Heather Holme Team
The team of Glen and Vanda took over ownership of Heather Holme in 1977 and they have always focused on “the vital importance of developing positive relationships with family, employees, clients, and suppliers to our business.” Attention to detail has helped the McNeils to bring out the best in their cows. Having won three Master Breeder Shields is a unique and rare achievement. It is always amazing that those who reach these heights make the success sound simple. Glen has a four point philosophy. “Sire selection and animal care on a day to day basis is paramount! Consistently using elite breed improving sires in complimentary matings for generations is vital. We use our classification information and aAa in every mating. We avoid incorporating inferior genetics. “ Simple but true. And yet it goes beyond genetics to the people involved. The McNeils praise each team member on-farm at Heather Holme or through their service suppliers for the expertise that they contribute to the overall success.
The World Wide Excellence of Canadian Holsteins
Glen is equally emphatic about his commitment to Canadian Holsteins and their role. “There is not a country in the developed world that is short of milk or we would not have the milk price issues that are as evident as they are today in so many countries. Canada needs to continue to breed a balanced dairy cow that can sustain the high production to enable them to express their genetic potential over a lifetime to increase profitability. Every dairyman in the world wants trouble free, profitable cows, with the correct conformation to withstand the high production that today’s dairy cow is capable of producing.” A big order but one Glen is confident can be achieved.
Achieving More Close to Home Too
With the pressures on all organizations to provide relevant and needed services to its members, The Bullvine asked for Glen’s thoughts on Holstein Field Services “Field Service is just that, an extension service to our members to communicate to and educate our dairies on the profitability opportunities with registration, classification, milk recording, genome testing, etc. The pricing model for services must be flexible and will evolve as more dairies see the advantages of these services. Communications in different forms is paramount today.”
The Next Turn in the Road
Having seen the Holstein industry from various viewpoints, Glen shares his perspective. “I have tremendous respect and faith in our youth involved in the dairy business at many different levels. In having the opportunity to travel worldwide I have great appreciation for supply management in Canada.” New opportunities will present themselves with all the hills and valleys that progress demands. McNeil knows it will take willingness to change. “We would never consider using the same sires that we used 20 years ago, or farm the same way, feed or manage our cows the way we did 20 years ago. Common sense and understanding what Genomics can and cannot do will be very revealing in the next 2-3 years.”
“One Door Closes. Another Opens.”
History will continue to be written at Heather Holme where one theme they have built on is that “challenges are also opportunities”. Glen welcomes the changes opening up in his schedule. “I am fortunate to be able to return to our farm on a more regular basis than I have for a few years to assist Curtis and Vanda as required and spend more valuable time with our family”. No doubt there will be new evolutions ahead. It is noteworthy that the McNeils are using Facebook to share their ideas and to market their cattle by almost daily updates. Look for the McNeils to have and sell healthy cattle as they have maintained their CHAH (disease free) Herd status when others found it an expense rather than an investment.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
The McNeils at Heather Holme believe in taking good stock and best practices, making them better and getting results. Adapting to and changing with the times has built their success. Glen looks to the future with the same equanimity that has served both Heather Holme and Holstein Canada well. “Change is inevitable and desirable. Adapt and harness new technologies to continue to be profitable and competitive and learn how to adapt to change. “We applaud McNeil for his dedication, vision and commitment. It smoothes out the speed bumps so that Glen can confidently declare. “The future is bright for Holstein Canada and the Canadian dairy industry!”