WHAT’S YOUR MOTTO?
Len Vis, owner of Mapel Wood Farms, says his motto has always been: “Invest in the best and forget the rest”. It was the driving force behind his first investment in 1991 in Mark Diamonds who became the brood mare of Mapel Wood Farms and it is what led him and his partners to invest in Bombi and Lilac. “Investing in top cow families never lets you down. You may not get it this generation or the next generation but those genetics always breed through eventually.” On any measurement scale, records, show ring, progeny or the bottom line these two families represent where Len sees his farm going in the future!
TO THE TOP BABY!
Len points to the dramatic changes happening in the dairy industry not only in the past five years, but in the last year. He says, “The biggest change is that 90% of people coming to Mapel Wood are interested in heifers.” This was not previously the case when people wanted to look at cows. “I have never flushed so many virgin heifers as I have in the last year and we are getting big money for their embryo’s.” Knowing what the market wants and providing it for them is another part of aiming for the best!
YOU’VE GOT TO “DO YOUR HOMEWORK”
In every area of running the Mapel Wood operation, Len relies on getting his homework done right. This means investing in the right people to work with. He speaks with pride about his full-time employees, Chris Naves and brother Harold Vis and that he can rely on them 100% to keep things running smoothly and sale or show ready every day. Choosing the right investing partners is more homework done right that pays off. Len says it is important for partners “to have the same philosophy, goals and commitment.” For him it has been a great experience. “My two best partners have been GenerVations, Dave Eastman, and the O’Connor Brothers, Sean and Kelly.”
DON’T DO ANYTHING ON A WHIM
When you get to the real homework behind success in the cattle business Len is emphatic. “I never go to a sale on a whim. If I’m in the market I have animals that I’ve got premarked in my catalogue.” This is only the start of the decision-making process. For him the next thing is conformation. “I look at the ones I’m interested in. If they don’t make it on conformation, they’re scratched!” He has the steps clearly prioritized. “Cow families first. Then sire stack. Then I start doing history on flush history.” Vis says there is nothing worse than buying something that doesn’t flush. You can be sure he always asks the seller about the flush history of the family. He looks at records. He thinks Holstein Canada’s free service is great. “A lot of times you just go on Holstein Canada. If you see 10 daughters from one mating, you know the family flushes.” Homework isn’t finished until he has checked out pictures. “For marketability, I like to see the dam and granddam all pictured.” Having said all that, the real test of getting your homework right is that final decision, to buy or not to buy. Len cautions, “Remember the Calf in the sales ring has to look the part. Conformation is still the most important thing when it comes down to the final bid. If she’s in the ring and you gut says something isn’t exactly right. Pull back. You’ve got to love that calf 100%!”
MAPEL WOOD MATH
Success for Len Vis and Mapel Wood Farms means making sure that all the numbers add up! Years of experience have given him some benchmarks for investing. Investment benchmarks have changed pretty dramatically. “It used to take 1 kilo of quota to buy a good animal. Today it takes 3 or 4 kilos of quota.” He feels the right animal will pay for your quota. “When I started out in the business, if the right animal came across I would be willing to sell a kilo of quota to buy her.” He explains, “Your investment can triple in one year. A lot of guys don’t know that. Quota takes forever to pay off but buy into the right cow family you can have it paid off in no time.” That’s MapelWood math.
GENOMICS! THE NEW MATH!
For better or worse, Genomics is on everybody’s page these days. “You can’t be in the dairy business without genomics affecting you.” Regardless of all the controversy Len hears and wonders about he says, “Genomics have helped every farmer because hopefully Semex or your semen company is not buying those bulls that don’t have a chance ever to make it.” That’s the good news. He goes on, “Five years ago I did not sense Genomics was going to be this big. I don’t think anybody did. What studs thought they would be selling young sire semen for $100?” He knows it is the ongoing debate. “There are so many different army camps of people… some are all for it …. Some are sitting on the fence waiting to see.” Waiting is not a key part of Len’s goal setting.
ONE STOP TO SHOP
Len’s goal is that people will come to Mapel Wood Farms as the “one stop to shop”. He aims to be the “Wal-Mart of the cattle investing world.” The aim is to offer the best in several areas. “We want to have high genomic cows and heifers, show cows, red and white genetics, and polled genetics.” Aiming to have the best he is very enthusiastic. ”Currently we’re buying embryos from Europe and still buying heifers and cows. Just recently we just sold a six year old cow for big money.” It pays to do your homework!
STICK TO THE GAME PLAN
Len is looking forward but he points to his own history. “Diamonds was a good investment but it was three generations later that I realized what a great investment that was. Sometimes when you invest you don’t reap the benefits the next day. That doesn’t mean you just sit and wait.” Obviously Len feels you must have a timeline like he and his partners did with Bombi and Lilac. “Five years ago we had a game plan. Today we are up to 300 head. We have been buying recipients. We’re constantly flushing.” From the beginning there was a target. “We are gearing up for a sale in November 2012. Nothing has been done on a whim. We are going to see the results of our five-year game plan.”
BOTTOM LINE: Aim to be the Best!
“When you invest in the best – cow families, embryos, and heifers – your farm will rise to the top.” Len Vis, Mapel Wood Farms.
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