There is an old proverb that says, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” For Karen and Ron Boerchers and their sons, Steven and Charles, that has proven to be true. Ron provides this update. “In 2009 Steven left the farm with his partner Ellen Gorter to start Optimal Dairy, a 100 cow free stall herd four hours away in Beausejour, Manitoba. Our son Charles who still farms with us at our 65 head tie stall dairy operation in Laurier, Manitoba did not want to continue the dairy operation so we decided it was time to sell.” (Click here for sale details and catalog) That is the emotion filled part that fathers, sons and dairy families are well acquainted with. Ron Boerchers puts a special twist however on “the same” part. “I have always said I wanted to go out at the top of my game. In early January we announced the dispersal date and place. Not even two weeks after, we received the culmination to my dairy farming career, our first Master Breeder shield.” Looks like it was an optimum opportunity shared by the whole family.
Rainyridge Reflections: Beauty Won Madison. Barbara Won Hearts.
After years dedicated to dairying, there are many special moments that Ron looks back on. “Beauty’s win at Madison” comes instantly to mind. He explains. “She became the oldest cow to win the Supreme title at 14.5 years of age. That was quite remarkable.” This dairyman and sports fan draws an analogy. “That is comparable to Wayne Gretzky’s points record in the NHL. It is hard to imagine it could ever be broken.” Yet the Boerchers’ lineup had other stars to focus on. “It was special watching Barbara work her way to fame. Barbara made people stop and remember some of her predecessors in this family line. Cows that have all made people stare and imagine. Although, it might have never been spoken, we’re sure many thought ‘Just wait till she has had a couple more calves’.” (Read more: LASTING LEGACY: A Tribute to Rainyridge Talent Barbara)
That Everyday Black and White Magic
While striving to breed the best dairy cow, Rainyridge took a two step process. “At first we bred to bulls with extreme stature and conformation. Once we had the size, we changed to breeding great udders and strong feet and legs.” Like all passionate dairy breeders the Boerchers are inspired to dream big. “It was always our belief that every animal in the barn had a magical mating cross that could result in an EX cow or even an All Canadian. Some were more obvious than others of course.”
Rainyridge Has Got Talent
Dairy breeders love to talk about their favorite cows. Ron is no different but he thinks his choice might surprise a few people. “Some might think Beauty would be the favorite but without a doubt it was Talent Barbara. Beauty might have accomplished more in the public eye but we were directly responsible for Barbara’s accomplishments leading up to her sale at Madison to Ernest Kueffner and St Jacobs. After we sold Barbara we had 3 red carrier Super daughters, 3 Shaquille daughters, 1 Dusk, and 1 Rampage daughter still at the farm as well as 2 female pregnancies to come sired by Lauthority and Vieuxsaule Lucas. It was a marketer’s paradise!”
Insights and Highlights from the Bright Lights
As the June sale approaches, Rainyridge continued to develop their inventory. “We are currently flushing the following heifers B-S-D Hunter Paris 6081, Rainyridge Epic Leisure RDC, Farner-tbr-bh Vegas and Sully Giafeeti 299. Two cows being flushed include Rainyridge Super Beauty VG RDC who sells and will make her new owner very happy as she is a good embryo producer. Rainyridge Goldwyn Caution VG-86 is a special young Jr 2 Goldwyn from 4 Ex dams thru our Lee Candice line.”
The Bull Pen at Rainyridge
Knowing your customer is almost a cliché in marketing but it is the foundation that Rainyridge was built on. “We have two very different markets and programs that we cater separately. For the most part the type program is mainly proven bulls such as Fever, Windbrook, Sid, Atwood, Aftershock and Jordan. Our customers in this market DO NOT like surprises and are very hesitant for the most part to use unproven bulls unless it is for a red mating.
In the genomic and polled market we use the most recent bulls available in order get the most attention. Anton, Ballisto and Earthquake have been used lately along with Chevrolet and Eloquent. Polled bulls include Colt 45, Pine-Tree Overtime and Wilder Kanu. We have also started to breed lines of Immunity Plus genetics. This is a trait we believe has a lot of value to every producer and will be a coded trait one day with a huge potential to market genetics from.”
Strategic Marketing Initiatives
Running a dispersal sale is a unique business proposition. The Boerchers adjust their marketing method according to the customer they want to reach. “Our experience with advertising through social media vs. traditional advertisements in magazines is that the solid type families get a better response from the traditional advertisements. The much more fast paced world of genomics follows Facebook and twitter much more closely.” The Boerchers must keep an eye on many important details and weigh the options on the many moving parts. “For the most part this dispersal sale is not filled with fast paced genomic genetics. We have some very exciting high genomic lots to sell but 90% is good solid type cows from great families that can be shown and marketed anywhere in the world.”
Looking Back and Looking Forward
Ron is very proud to see both Steven and Charles follow their dreams like he followed his: Steve in cattle breeding and Charles in hay and grain farming. Ron knows the value of good mentors too such as the ones he had in his earlier years. Martin Carrico, Glen Waldon, Ray Brown and Robert Crowe all offered opinions and advice along the uphill journey he had to make. Before son Steven moved to Optimal Dairy he was in charge of the marketing at Rainyridge and still helps out Ron to market his genetics and this dispersal sale. Steven is glad to be mentored by Ron “He taught me that you can try whatever you want to. If it works run with it. If it doesn’t work fix it or don’t do it again.” And like his father, Steven is very grateful for other mentors from the dairy industry. “In my time showing and marketing at Rainyridge, I had one mentor in particular that always helped me and challenged me to do better. Jeff Donohoe (Lakefield Farms) has taught me so much over the years. I really appreciate all of his help.”
Genomics Brings Dramatic Change
The dairy journey has many twists and turns. Genomics is one that presented itself to Rainyridge. Ron and Steve have this insight on this new tool. “Genomics affected our operations dramatically. It forced us to diversify our breeding program to accommodate the changing client base. Show type and cow families are still our passion but in order to keep embryo and genetic sales at their previous levels, we had to cross reference our good families so to speak.”
Rainyridge Afterglow. What’s Next?
After the sale Ron and Karen will take some much deserved holidays and enjoy life away from milking. Rainyridge Farms LTD. will still operate its grain and hay land and the commercial beef herd. The Rainyridge prefix will move over to what is now Optimal Dairy. Ron, with Steve and Ellen, will continue to be involved in the dairy industry. This past year Ron chaired the Cow of the Year Committee. His involvement as a Holstein Canada national director has been very fulfilling for him and he will pursue that as well.
Recommendations from Rainyridge
“Investing in good cattle is a lot like spending money on advertising. It is sometimes hard to gauge its return unless you could compare your results without the purchase.” So says Steven as he recalls a sale that he wasn’t completely “sold” on. “I remember giving Ron an extremely hard time about buying one particular heifer at a dispersal sale. He saw something in her I definitely didn’t. He paid $6200 for what became one of the matriarchs of our herd. The animals name was Hanson Broker Candace EX 90-4E 10* the dam of 4 Ex and 6 VG including Rainyridge Lee Candice EX 94-2E 8*.” Sometimes you just have to rely on a Master Breeder’s experience and good judgement.
Bullvine Bottom Line
As the Boerchers set out on a new path, their sale will provide opportunities for other breeders who invest in Rainyridge genetics. For Steve and Ellen it will be an opportunity to continue to expand their horizons as dairy cattle breeders and marketers. For Ron and Karen the sale marks a major turn in the road for their dairy journey but they leave great signposts for those who would follow the dairy dream.