She won’t bring home a gold medal from the 2012 Olympics but Gillette Emperor Smurf EX-91 like her human counterparts proudly represents the best in a record setting achievement. She too has been globally recognized for surpassing all her peers.
Even though everyone at Ferme Gillette would gladly spoil this star who is recognized by the dairy industry and The Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific milk producer in the history of dairy cows Eric Patanaude describes how she quietly sets herself apart in attitude as well. “Smurf is a trouble free cow who looks after herself. She has character.” The Patenaude’s really enjoy spending special time with their animals says Eric and learn their individual traits. “Most of our show cows love to get petted.” He goes on to describe another unique characteristic of Smurf, “Even though she’s very approachable, she just shakes her head at you if you try to pet her.”
Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved accidentally or by doing what everyone else does. This holds true with exceptional dairy cows as well. “Smurf loves to eat.” Big output requires big input and her energy consumption is one of the keys to her incredible story. “She’s always the first one at the manger during chores just waiting for us to give her TMR.” Another key is her ability to calmly manage the day-to-day schedule. “When milking time comes she knows the routine. She gets up in her box stall and walks right over to where she has to get milked. We don’t even need to tie her up. She just stays there until she’s finished eats a bit more and then goes to lay down.”
The Motto of the Olympic Games is “citius, altius, fortius”, which translates to “faster, higher, stronger”. We thrill to the stories behind Olympic athletes who strive to fulfill this dream, especially those who achieve success in more than one area, over more events than any others and throughout longer careers. We all have our favourites. Clara Hughes is mine! For Eric Patenaude, of course, it’s Smurf. “She’s unbelievable! At almost 16 years old and now fresh 2 and a half months she is milking more than ever!” Could he be biased and looking through rose coloured glasses? Not at all. “To be more precise she’s producing 70 kgs a day! She just keeps adding to her record” and becoming a legend.
If there’s anything that informed observers understand it is the basic truth that the greatest performers don’t achieve the pinnacle of success without the right support around them. “Of course at this point, just like an Olympic athlete, she has everything she needs to perform.” Years of working with dairy cattle at three generations of Ferme Gillette have produced many insights into the best treatment. “Smurf has a private box stall, her own fan, ample straw and TMR and just recently we’ve added peat moss to the bottom part of the box stall where she walks. This makes it a little softer and comfortable for her to walk on.” That’s the physical side but there is a human factor too. “It is not possible without the efforts of our 24 hour knowledgeable staff. “says Eric and then specifically adds more names that have had an impact on Smurf’s specific achievements “I would like to give a special thanks to Amanda Cowan, Christina Crowley and Crystal McKay for their support and advice.”
As so often happens when athletes, dairy farmers or cows excel in ways that seem almost impossible it often comes back to an entire family that have special attributes. Eric feels that “Smurf’s longevity makes her special” and then goes on to give what he thinks are the reasons this has been possible. “She is a 6th generation VG or EX. Her dam, 2nd, 3rd and 4th dam all lived to be at least 10 years old. Her only daughter at the farm an EX Champion, Gillette Champion Sally, is now fresh at 9 years old and she looks like she will reach the 10 yr milestone as well. Sally has been in a freestall pretty much her whole life.” Exceptional history. Exceptional care. Exceptional results for Ferme Gillette. “Smurf traces back to Maeford Starbuck Chrissy EX 17*, who has played a big part in us getting our Master Breeder Shield back in 2005.” And nothing stops at the podium. “Since getting this recognition, we have brought Sally over to our tie stall barn where we do our flushes and she has been in demand constantly.” But decisions are made on an individual basis, “Smurf is not a cow that we intend to flush at this point.”
The story of Smurf has reach out to people outside the dairy industry. Media attention has been both positive and negative. Eric is philosophical. “That’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.” Statistics show that a very small percentage of the population works to provide food and that means there can be a disconnect between producers and consumers. “I don’t expect everyone to understand or like what we do. I mean how can you? Some of these people who criticize may have never stepped out of their downtown apartment or office to visit a farm or take the scenic route outside the city.” Farming can fall into a storybook world populated by villains. Eric admits, “To certain people we are obviously the bad guys and the only ones that don’t see it is us!” He doesn’t expect to change the world but he knows the facts. “I can probably name you at least 20 farms right off the top of my head, including ours, where the cows are better treated than some humans!”
The story of Gillette Emperor Smurf EX-91 is far from reaching the final chapter. Eric enthuses, “I am happy about all the positive feedback that we have received from our community and surrounding region.” Like Smurf’s achievements, it continues to grow. Eric acknowledges that the support is amazing “Including some from Ottawa, our nation’s capital.” Canadians supporting Canadians. “People in our amazing dairy industry truly understand what we do and how hard we work for our cows.”
Even though she won’t bring home a gold medal from the Summer Olympics, Smurf has definitely earned her special place in the sun. Loved and admired, she is simply, “The World’s Best!” Incredible!