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Dairy breeding is about putting the right pairings together. It is also the formula for success that has worked more than once for photographer Han Hopman, one of the founders of Holstein International.  He explains the beginning of his dual interests. “With my parents I always went on vacation to a dairy farmer. He always took me with him for milking and feeding the cows. I loved them. Back home in town again I missed them dearly. When I became 10 years old I asked for a camera to take pictures of the cows and glue them into a book. From that time I wanted to be a cow photographer.”  Cameras and cows. Han can’t have one without the other.

Han Hopman has captured some of the great bull shots in history, including this one of Ensenada Taboo Planet

Han Hopman has captured some of the greatest bull shots in history, including this one of Ensenada Taboo Planet

Mission Possible:  Write On!  Great pics!  From Cover to Cover

Han’s passion for cows was later enhanced by collaboration with Jan Bierma. “We were already making articles for several magazines like Holstein World, Holstein Journal, Typex in France, Bianco Nero in Italy and Veeteelt in the Netherlands and a few more. In Holstein World we had the Euroworld section. We published in that section information about bulls and genetics from Europe. When we had to stop that because of political reasons, we decided to start our own international magazine.” In 1994 they founded Holstein International in the Netherlands. Because of their professions Jan Bierma took on the editorial part of the magazine while Han took over the photography. Another great pairing.

Special presentation by Han Hopman (holding camera) and Jan Bierma (left) to Barry Slack and Charlie Will of Select Sires.

Quantum of Success

Hopman and Bierma already shared the bonds of friendship and commitment to Holsteins and it soon became obvious how well their words and pictures would continue the complementary relationship. “We have made Holstein International as it is now. One of the most important and leading Holstein Magazines in the World. The only independent unbiased magazine in the world, which is published in six different languages in over 60 countries. And all the information so up to date!” They have come a long way as Han marvels, “I didn’t foresee this when we started in 1994.”

The Incredible Shrinking World – Cows Unlimited  

During the nineteen years spanned by their publication, Holstein dairy breeding has gone from primarily a country-by-country breeding focus to a global panorama where the Holstein breed is international in every way. “When we started HI, global breeding was just beginning. Every country was on its own. Now days you can use almost every bull you want and use every cow family you like – from anywhere in the world. The breeding world has become one big country. I think this is the biggest change I have seen. It has helped the industry a lot.” Han is happy with these changes and proudly affirms, “I am sure Holstein International did a good job to speed up this process!”

Han Hopman has captured some of the most iconic images in the dairy industry. Including this shot of the great Harvue Roy Frosty.

Genomics Isn’t a ‘Point and Shoot’ Solution

Han urges caution when incorporating new and exciting changes such as the ones coming about with Genomics. He advises. “Genomics is a good tool for a breeder. But only a few parts are known.” It is the unknown that concerns him. “What is the influence of linking genes? We don’t know yet but we act as if we know everything about it.” He has concerns for the future. “We have to take care that we do not destroy our breed by using genomic bulls on daughters of genomic bulls who don’t have a daughter-proof yet. It is a pity if we destroy what breeders like Pete Heffering, Frank Reagan and others like them have built up for us.” The worst case scenario for Han would be, “Mating purely on genomics (because that) has nothing to do with breeding any more. It is multiplying the ‘highest bull with the highest heifer’. A pity.”

Always catching the moment this is a great teamwork shot by Han Hopman.

The “BIG” Picture is Changing Focus

Han anticipates that other changes will also be coming into view. “In the long run I think that small farms cannot survive and that there will be more and bigger farms.” These evolving changes will be impacted by many other things as Han points out “Land will be expensive and also the costs of transporting food will increase.” He foresees major changes ahead for the cows he loves.  “Genetics technology will have a big influence on our Holstein population. Genomics in the future will have more and more reliability. If that is true, then you will see a larger difference between farms who have cows to produce milk and farms who produce the animals for the next generation. So the whole set up of the industry will change when genomics becomes more reliable.”

Han Hopman’s great passion is catching dairy cattle in their natural state.

Shooting Stars – Naturally

From the very beginning Han has enjoyed taking pictures of cows in a natural setting. “I started as a side shot photographer but my passion is to picture them as relaxed as possible. It is nice to make a natural shot of a cow. To picture her in a way that you can see from the picture that she is happy or at least fully herself. If you can catch that moment, it gives me a happy feeling. And it is nice that I have my own magazine, which is a beautiful podium to publish these kinds of pictures.”

Han Hopman always get’s his shot including this one of Eastside Lewisdale Goldwyn Missy & RF Goldwyn Hailey, Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion at Royal Winter Fair 2011.

You Only Love Once – Get It on Film

Han loves his work and has advice for others. “Do what you like and love. You only live once! I loved cows as a child and got homesick when I wasn’t with them. Now I have the best job in the world. I have my own cow magazine and travel a lot around the world to visit the most important herds of the world and see the most beautiful cows.”

Han Hopman pictured To-Mar Blackstar pictured a few weeks before Blackstar died.

Han Hopman pictured To-Mar Blackstar pictured a few weeks before Blackstar died.

Photographic memory: Once More with Feeling

Such enthusiasm and dedication has undoubtedly produced a huge portfolio of images. Han has an evolving list of favorites.  He says, “For a long time it was the picture of Blackstar. I pictured him a few weeks before he died in his box. He was my first important American bull that I pictured. I was so proud that I got the opportunity to do that. Charley Will from Select Sires made it happen for me and I am still thankful for that.” New pictures are always rising up his list. “At the moment it is the picture of Planet. In the picture you can see who he is. And such an important bull at the moment!” Han speaks emotionally of a picture he took last year at Omaha Beach. “Just a cow with a beautiful girl. It was the place where D-day started and you could still feel the atmosphere of the awful things that happened there. So many young people killed. The picture is very serene. And the interaction between the woman and the cow was so special. It looks as if they are alone in the world.  A great moment which I never will forget!”

Omaha Beach

The Bullvine Bottom Line: Aim High

Han has discovered much wisdom from his chosen breed and chosen career. “There are so many small lessons I have learned through the years. The biggest one is that it is better to cooperate with your competitors than to compete with them.” That’s a lesson we can all benefit from. However Han feels his greatest life lessons are owed to his friend. “Jan Bierma, taught me what friendship means and from him I learned the passion to make a magazine.”  As they head into their third successful decade, we thank Han for sharing with the Bullvine.  “All the best as you continue to aim HI.”


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Ebyholme – The End of an Era

Monday, September 3rd, 2012
Ebyholme Goldwyn Marcia - Ebyholme Complete Dispersal Top Seller

Ebyholme Goldwyn Marcia – Ebyholme Complete Dispersal Top Seller

It’s with sadness that I watched my first definition of a dairy breeder herd sell on Friday.  I have had the opportunity to get to know Clarence, Don, Brian as well as the many family members that have helped make Ebyholme one of the greatest homebred herds in the country.  Their passion for cattle and their talents as cattlemen are of the highest level.  It’s because of that that watching the Ebyholme prefix come to an end brought a tear to my eye.

How it all began

You cannot go far in the Kitchener, Ontario area without running into the name Eby.  That’s probably because Kitchener’s original name was Ebytown because of the number of Ebys who came there in the early 1800’s.  Starting from it’s roots as part of the Ebydale herd started by his father Edwin, Clarence started the Ebyholme herd in 1957 when he and Doris made the decision to farm on their own.

Since the very beginning, the herd has been known for its long row of tall, framey cows, rather than for any particular prima donna, just a picture of consistency from top to bottom for type and production.  Over the year, any visitors left the farm, somewhat amazed, thinking that they had just seen one of the best homebred herds in the country.

The Foundation of Ebyholme

This three time master breeder herd got it’s start from three main cow families: Ebydale Snow Peggy B (VG-2*): Braeside Benefactor May (EX-3*): and a dam-daughter pair that Clarence had purchased from his cousin, Howard Eby, Eby-Manor Duke Retainer Patsy (VG) and Eby-Manor Shamrock Patsy (EX).In 1991, Clarence’s and sons Don and Brian who had joined the farm in 1967, purchased Oak Ridges Bella (EX) for $27,000 at the Oak Ridges’ Dispersal.  From Bella came Oak Ridges Beverly (EX-2E), who would become the fifth generation member of the Ganaraska Belle (EX) family to classify Excellent in Canada (Later joined by Ebyholme Bubbles EX-92-4E, Ebyholme Leader Babe EX-2E ).  In 1999, Ebyholme Lindy Bella (EX) became the sixth generation, joined by Ebyholme Leader Beauty (EX) to become the 2nd 6th generation excellent.  Who then produced the 7th generation excellent, Ebyholme Lindy Beautiful (EX-2E) in 2006.  Not surprisingly, thirty-five descendants of the Bell family grossed over $143,000 (over 27% of the sale total) in the sale on Friday.

Hillcroft Leader Melanie  EX-96-3E-USA      2*

Hillcroft Leader Melanie EX-96-3E-USA 2*

Another big contributor to the recent sale was Hillcroft Leader Melanie (EX-96), who Don and Brian had purchased from a somewhat reluctant seller, Robert Miller, as a bred heifer in February 2001.  I can still remember when they had purchased her.  Jeff Stephens had told me he had seen one that could be a great one, but was having troubles getting the deal done.  Well Don and Brian did get the deal done and Jeff was correct as Melanie went on to be a 2 time All-American and 2004 Madison Grand champion.  Thirteen descendants of Hillcroft Leader Melanie averaged $6938 in the sale. Including Ebyholme Goldwyn Mellow (VG-89) from a 4E-92 Gibson, then Hillcroft Leader Melanie(3E-96), then 3 VG dams. She was purchased by Yvonne Sicard, Pierre Boulet and Richardo Boulet, PQ

Is it the end of breeder herds?

For me, growing up, there were a few cornerstones when it came to breeder herds.  Fradon Holsteins of Frank and Don Donkers, Dupasquir Holsteins of Oscar and Eric Dupasquier, and Ebyholme Holsteins. The interest in cattle, some international travel, a few family romances and other community involvement provided the opportunity to get to know all of these families quite well.  Two of three now have held dispersals. What this tells The Bullvine is that times are a changing.  , There is not always a next generation to continue the legacy.

What happens next?

I am confident that the we have not heard the last of the Eby name.  Rob (son of Brian) and his wife Julie, from the great Pleasant Nook Jersey’s, purchased the sale topper  Ebyholme Goldwyn Marcia  EX 94 2E for $31,500.  Having grown up and competed against both Rob and Julie there is no denying the level of talent and passion they have for dairy breeding.  From Rob winning grand champion at Hays Classic as an intermediate showman to Julie’s perennial success showing “them Jersey’s” there is no question the Eby name has more to come.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

You will not see an Ebyholme heifer on top of the index lists or Ebyholme following the latest trend.  Don and Brian, like their father Clarence and grandfather Edwin before them, took great care to protect every mating they made.  They made sure that they focused each time on finding that perfect mate that would deliver the consistency, frame and longevity they so desired.  We may be sad at the passing of an icon we can be enthusiastic about the future. With many of the local breeders who they had supported for many years purchasing animals in the sale and Rob and Julie purchasing the sale topper, there is more than likely a 4th Master Breeder Shield destined for Ebyholme.  They have shared their legacy.

For a complete sale recap click here


It’s our pleasure to welcome Murray Hunt to the Bullvine Team. Murray brings a wealth of experience from both the dairy industry side as well as the breeder sides of the fence. Ask Murray what success is in the dairy industry and he will instantly flash a smile because he has seen it up close and from both sides of the fence. The family farm, which is approaching its 100th Anniversary, is where he first fell in love with dairying, first at the heels of his grandfather Allen Humphrey and then working with his parents Sterling and Irene Hunt.  Almost three decades with Holstein Canada and the Canadian Association of animal breeders never separated him from his hands on appreciation of cattle at Huntsdale Holsteins.

He Loves Those Cows

“There’s an advantage to spending your working career doing what is closest to your heart.” Murray reports.  As he warms to the topic he enthuses that “Look at the major advancements we have seen in milk production and conformation, especially udders in Holstein cattle.  They were known for deep udders and low butterfat. They’ve certainly come a long way.” Years of working with the Holstein Canada Classification program support his conclusions. “And there is still great potential in working on feet.”  Justifiably proud of the Master Breeder shield earned by Huntsdale, Murray continues to breed to send sires into A.I. both in Canada and one in abroad. “Developing a member of the Gypsy Grand cow family has been good for Huntsdale.”

Cow Sense Meets Cow Science

Murray earned both his B.Sc. and M.Sc. at Guelph University.  His Master’s thesis was entitled, “An A.I. Breeding Schemes” and included the “Dollar Difference Guide” which was the precursor to the Canadian LPI system.  Hunt’s Masters was implemented by A.I. organizations that went from sampling less than 50 bulls per year to over 400.

(Not) The Same Old Story

Despite his long history with farming and farmer organizations, he is not reluctant to move forward.  “Success can be directly linked to your willingness to change.” Says Murray even though he adds, “All change is not good but we have to research the possibilities and then select what appears to be the best move in a forward direction.” If he himself was stuck in the past, he might be unwilling to see genomics moving the industry away from a purely pedigree analysis of animals.  “On the contrary!” he exclaims, “It’s wonderful to move to the next stage where we don’t have the cost and delays of proving sires that don’t have a chance of coming through as plus sires!” This leads to the topic of organizations and Hunt firmly believes that the future of the cattle breeding industry will see fewer producer organizations. “This is predictable from a purely financial point of view and will evolve with the breeder priorities, provided we can move beyond the past, be objective and expand our vision for the future.”

Look to the Horizon

“We need to forge our path to the horizon and not just to the end of our own laneway!” insists Murray who notes that “The ones who move forward with change are the ones who stay with the (cattle) industry and those who don’t will exit the industry.” He is not upset about this but does add, “Every generation that survives on the farm moves ahead with technology. It could be in your fully equipped office or the method you use for milking. For some it’s new ways to grow crops and mechanized ways to feed them.”  He strongly feels that it is “up to dairy breeders and industry leaders to trust the system, improve the system and use the system to produce a continually better product.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For Murray Hunt there is no final one-size-fits-all answer.  “If it was that easy, there would be no challenge and no opportunity. We all want to use what we know to prove our faith in the potential of Holstein cattle.  These are exciting times for genetics, technology and the future of the dairy business. It’s no time to find yourself sitting on the fence!”

Join us in welcoming Murray to the Bullvine team and we are excited about the great insights he will bring to the Bullvine.


Before the recent Kueffner Kows at Cowtown Sale Horace Backus, commented that he had never seen anything like it in all his years!  “The quality of every animal and the homebred breeding was just so good.  Just before the sale started, I took a moment to walk through one of the lines of cows while it was quiet and everyone was already gathered in the tent.  I stood looking at a line of maybe 40 animals, and thought I was standing at Madison seeing that many great cows all together.”  These comments reminded me of the ones he made before the 1998 Hanover Hill Dispersal where Horace said, “In the history of the Holstein Breed, there have only been four or five herds that have created a distinct blood herd.  Today we are selling a distinct bloodline herd.”  This got me think will there ever be another distinct bloodline herd?

Over the years, the marketplace has changed greatly.  The improvements in technology have been incredible.  It is now easier than ever to market, compare and transport your genetics to anywhere in the world.  To get a better understanding how each of these will play into the potential of having another distinct bloodline, we decided to take a closer look at each one.

Marketing to the World

In the era of Hanover Hill era buyers did come in person from around the world.  The world has changed greatly with the Internet.  I often wonder what a great marketer like Peter Heffering would have done in today’s time.  The ability to market to a much larger audience through the internet and Facebook is expanding the marketplace.  You are no longer just selling to the person next door or in the same country or the few who are able to travel to buy.  You are often selling to people half way around the world.  And more importantly than where they are, is how quickly and easily you can reach them.  You no longer have to run magazine ads in each country’s major breed magazine.  Today you simply post a quick smartphone picture, or better yet video, on your Facebook page and share it with the world.

Cross Country Comparisons

One of the things that contributed greatly to each country or region having its own distinct bloodlines was that the ability to compare performance data on in each country presented challenges.  In previous generations, it was hard enough getting everyone to talk in the same units (ex. Lbs. vs. kgs.) let alone the fact that they had different methods of evaluating things.  Then came Interbull and MACE proofs. That started to open up the marketplace, but for some the confidence in the MACE system was not there and for the most part most countries still had regionalized breeding and evaluating systems.  Then came genomics that has given breeders around the world the confidence no matter where the bull was proven to use him on their cattle.  We now see that there is no longer a negative stigma in North America on foreign proven bulls.  Moreover, many of the great international cow families are gaining significant respect in the North American marketplace, especially as sons of these cattle have proven themselves well on the North American genetic base.

Transportation of Genetics

All the great marketing and evaluation systems in the world mean nothing if you cannot get the genetics to the consumers.  Artificial insemination had a drastic impact on the ability of breeders to develop distinct bloodlines.  Instead of just running your own breeding program where you sell the odd breeding bull, artificial insemination meant that when you sold that bull to an AI center, he would now be able to reach the world market.  With AI companies also becoming less regional or country focused and more world focused, that meant you could sell a bull in Chicoutimi Quebec and his semen could be used in Kamifurano Japan.  Breeders no longer had to develop their own bloodlines and could draw on the best bloodlines from around the world.  Furthermore, as embryo transfer technology advanced you could also import and export embryos and further accelerate your breeding programs.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Today breeding herds like De-Su limit the amount of genetics they sell and AI organizations like Select Sires are entering the female animal ownership side in order to develop a distinct product in the marketplace.  Nevertheless, I truly feel that with the overall changes in the global marketplace we have a much more level playing field through evaluation systems and technology and, therefore, it is highly unlikely that we will see the achievement of a distinct bloodline at the level reached by Hanover Hill.


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