I have seen men who once screamed EBI green turn to the dark side. Men who used to bleed WOBI blue now openly criticize the organization that was the epitome, half a century ago, of everything Dairy in Canada. The Semex Alliance that once dominated, no longer owns the Canadian marketplace. There is criticism from within. How did the organization that once defined the Canadian marketplace lose control of it?
I’ll establish my personal allegiances before the hate mail commences. I grew up with the belief that the Canadian cow was the best in the world and that the Canadian dairy cattle improvement system was second to none. This was so heartfelt for me that I have the Holstein Canada logo tattooed on my chest. I believed that the likes of Moe Freeman, Roy Snyder and George Clemons were super heroes who could leap tall buildings in a single bound. At that time, there was leadership, teamwork and cooperation that pulled differences together for the common good. Today? Not so much. (Read more – Select Sires vs. Semex – A contrast in cooperatives) The reason for this decline and fall has gradually kicked in for me. When Doug Blair and Alta Genetics decided to purchase Landmark Genetics, the foundation of what was Semex and the partnership and cooperation that made Canada great, started to crumble. That was the first crack in the cooperation and teamwork that had lead Semex and Canada to global prominence. Later, when GenerVations, a stud other than Semex, had produced the #1 sire (Calbertt-I H H Champion) in Canada that further ate away at what was the core of Semex.
Canadiens vs. Nordiques
As I was thinking about this a situation came to my mind. Like most Canadians, I am a huge hockey fan and I am reminded of what has been the downfall of the once mighty Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens once had it all. They had hockey dominance all to themselves, just as Semex had controlled the Canadian marketplace. However, in hockey, when the WHA launched, one of the first steps made by the Nordiques was the hiring of the Canadiens legend, Maurice Richard, as their coach. It didn’t work out – the Rocket’s personality was no fit at all for the job and he lasted a couple of games. However, the strategic move of his signing was a golden one that set a precedent, much like Blair’s and the leadership team at Alta Genetics. There was now another option in Canada. Hockey fans had a choice.
The other part that I think is even more telling for the Semex fall from dominance is that they no longer always had the best Canadian product. This compares to the Canadiens having to give up their territorial exemption in 1970. You see in the days of the Original Six, the Canadiens had all but exclusive rights to any junior player in Quebec. That singular grasp over one of the greatest sources of talent gave the Canadiens a significant advantage in assembling talent. It was as if they were starting every poker game with an ace in hand. Semex had a similar success story. But when GenerVations had the #1 LPI sire, there was a clear message that Semex was not the only option. Even today GenerVations works at showing breeders there are other options (Read more –$750 Dollar Semen! Are you crazy?). Even in Quebec with the great work Trans America Genetics (TAG) is doing they are not even the only option in the hockey and genetic heartland of Canada.
Furthermore, today’s generation of active breeders hasn`t grown up with Semex as the impenetrable force. There was a time when merely uttering a negative thought about Semex was considered high treason. But think about how things have changed. Through MACE, Genomics, social media and a globalizing of the marketplace, today’s generation of breeders has not known Semex Sires as the only super stars. This is the same as today`s Quebecois growing up with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Luc Robitaille, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis or Martin Brodeur not wearing a Canadien’s jersey. Even one Canadien who did rank among them, Patrick Roy, demanded a trade out of Montreal.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Semex’s superior place in Canadian and global dairy cattle breeding history remains almost unequaled. However, that position is less secure today than many would like to admit. I am not saying they can’t regain prominence or even be a major global player. What I am saying is that we all need to remember that cooperation is what made Canada great in the first place. All players working together will build a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is what made Canada great and that is what will help Canada rise back to the top of the genetic empire.