Sometimes when a person is presented with an award in the name of an industry icon, your mind just goes “click” with the realization that he is the perfect fit for what was intended. Such was the case when Alberta Holstein Director, Orville Schmidt, announced the 2013 winner of the Curtis Clarke Achievement Award. “Jeff Nurse of Monteith Holsteins.”  (Read more: Jeff Nurse named 2013 Curtis Clark Achievement Winner) As this quiet dairyman from Georgetown, Ontario took his place as the 27th recipient of the award, the crowd roared their approval.

Jeff Nurse receiving the 2013 Curtis Clark Achievement Award from 2012 Winner Don Schwartz and Orville Schmidt.

Jeff is A Man of Few Words and Many Talents

Although Curtis Clarke was an entertaining story teller, like Jeff Nurse, he preferred to talk about cows, friends and family much more than updated the list of awards and achievements that hard work has earned him.  The Curtis Clarke Achievement Award seeks out those dairymen who possess “the ability, sportsmanship and character necessary to be respected by fellow breeders and showmen.” It was pretty emotional at The Royal. I really didn’t expect to be considered so I was kind of in shock. I had a world of respect for Curtis Clark and for the group of men who made the selection so it made the Award really special.”  In addition to having his name added to the distinctive Clark trophy which bears a bronzed version of one of Curtis Clark’s hats, Nurse also received a gold belt buckle as a personal keepsake of the honour.

Nurse Appreciates a Great Lineup

Whether it’s Holsteins, Ayrshires, Brown Swiss or Jerseys, Jeff has enthusiastically milked, shown and judged them. In fact, his interest in the Royal Brown Swiss Show on November 8th definitely increased the difficulty his family had in getting him to Holstein ringside for the award presentation. Once focused on where he was expected to be, Jeff probably saw moments of his Holstein history playing in his memory. “I grew up with Jerseys and was reluctant to get into Holsteins at first. There were a lot of really great Jersey people in our county at that time. When Kenda and I married, she brought a few Ayrshires with her but I always admired things about Brown Swiss so was interested in working with them too.” Having said that, Jeff saves a special place for the black and white breed. “I’ve never found anything to outshine the Holstein Breed.”

Jeff and wife Kenda and son Lee accepting the 1985 Premier Breeder and Exhibitor award at the Canadian National Exhibition.

Jeff and wife Kenda and son Lee accepting the 1985 Premier Exhibitor award at the Canadian National Exhibition from Joe Snyder. Peter Christie won the Premier Breeder Banner.

Nurse Family Legacy from Rural Roots to Urban Setting

My father gave me the pick of a pen of Nurseland heifer calves when I was 16 to start my own herd and prefix.  Five decades later he milks 40 Holsteins and 4 Brown Swiss and is farming with his own son, Lee. Monteith owns 150 acres and rents another 150 to grow corn, soybeans and wheat. The circle of farm life may see further turns in the future. The time is coming when they hope to relocate to another farm further from urbanization where they can expand and grow their herd and land holdings. Nurse has bred many Excellent and Very Good cows and in 1994 was recognized with a Master Breeder Award from Holstein Canada.


Jeff Nurse and his son Lee farm on 300 acres south of Georgetown Ontario.

 “They Have a Good Mother”

Jeff and Kenda have also grown their family.  “We have four great kids that I`m really proud of.” says Jeff, who can talk much more comfortably about the achievements of Lee, Jodey, Cristy and Troy and two granddaughters then he can about himself.  Of course he credits each one with exceptional talents individually but also knows it takes more than that. In fact he points out, “Number one! They have a good mother.” From the outside looking it is also fairly obvious that both parents encourage and empowerment and utilized their unique talents to achieve their own goals. (Read more: Cristy Nurse: From Show Ring Beauty to World Class Rower and Cristy Nurse – Standing Tall) In talking together after Jeff achieved the Curtis Clarke Award, Kenda reports that some of Jeff’s reminiscences were somewhat unexpected. “He surprised even me and we have been married 33 years!” Together they make a great team with a shared philosophy on child-rearing. “We have tried to give them all a chance to try a lot of different things and support them but not do it for them.”

Jeff is a Man of Many Hats

The iconic Curtis Clarke was recognized everywhere for his hat.  Jeff Nurse also stands above the crowd with his quiet presence.  However, he prefers to wear many hats figuratively speaking. “I enjoy a variety of jobs – not in the barn all the time and not in the field for days on end.” He has seen many changes over the years and sees many of them as good. “Round up ready soybeans have been great! We can have a totally clean crop with just one spraying. We used to plow everything – now minimum tillage on some land works well. On the dairy Theracalcium treatment for fresh cows has worked miracles!!” Jeff knows that each generation faces challenges and knows that the future will have them too. “I hope the next dairy generation can enjoy working with cattle as much as I have – only in a more efficient way.  It may not be efficient but the way Jeff supports and gives back to dairy youth is definitely encouraging. Gives 110% of time effort and farm and calf resources to assist 4-Hers both farm and nonfarm as a leader and role model.  This puts him at ringside at numerous fairs which he professes to be “my idea of a great holiday!

Monteith Shows Their True Colors

Jeff Nurse clipping Nurseland Texal Rose Marie at The CNE 1971

Jeff Nurse clipping Nurseland Texal Rose Marie
at The CNE 1971

Nurse, 67, has shown cattle locally, regionally and at the Royal Winter Fair and World Dairy Expo. My mother and father were great help in getting started. My father would borrow my Uncle’s truck to get our cows to the local fairs before I started hiring a commercial trucker, goose necks were not invented at that time. Monteith Model Lana was a favorite for a lot of reasons. Shown in 71-72, she was a big bodied cow with a great udder, terrific temperament and could really milk with a high test. She was second at The Royal and Reserve All Canadian. I sold a Rowntree Northern Prince daughter to England for $10,000 (a lot of money at the time) that bred really well for David Alford; leaving one of the top bulls in England in Whipton Landlord. Unfortunately, Lana developed a problem in her reproductive tract that prevented a third calf.  Nurse was an Official Judge for many years and in 1987 judged the Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show. In addition to judging many shows across Canada, he has judged internationally in Mexico, the United States, Scotland, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina.  Many things – the level of professional preparation at the cattle shows and the quality of cattle right down to the bottom of the classes…the mixing of the different breeds within the rows….the greater expense of showing cows at the major shows. In 1983, he and his family showed the Grand Champion Ayrshire at the Canadian National Exhibition and today they have a few Brown Swiss animals in the herd, one of which was exhibited at the recent Royal.

Nurses are Always Ready with a Warm Welcome

Whether it’s the cattle business, 4-H, Christmas trees or heavy horses, there are always numerous activities taking place at Monteith and you can always be sure of a warm welcome. This generous spirit was also a character trait of Curtis Clarke who lived large, laughed often and opened his heart and his home without reservation.  If there was any chance you had not yet been bitten by a passion for dairy cattle and Holsteins, Curtis made certain that the oversight was corrected before your visit ended. Jeff Nurse is also obliging and generous with his time, feeling that he benefits the most. “It is really enjoyable because we get to work with a great group of young people. Unlike school, 4-H members are in clubs because they want to be. Their interest and enthusiasm make it fun.” No doubt the interest and enthusiasm that is reflected back from this caring and extremely hard working leader is an inspiration as well. Jeff happily shares advice learned over his career. “Try to find a good balance between getting away and seeing new systems, management styles and different philosophies; and getting things done at home! Some people are on the road too much and others don’t “get away enough”. Jeff is an observer and urges others to keep an open-mind and “Try to reference successful operations whether for nutrition, breeding philosophy or whatever management you need to improve.”

Exhibiting livestock has certainly been a big part of Jeff Nurses life, and he passed that passion on to his children.  Daughters Christi and Jodie (seen here) and son Lee showed their animals at many local and national shows.

Exhibiting livestock has certainly been a big part of Jeff Nurses life, and he passed that passion on to his children. Daughters Cristy and Jodey (seen here) and son Lee showed their animals at many local and national shows.

Great Role Models inspired Jeff’s Enthusiasm for Cattle

Of course every excellent role model will tell you that they had excellent people to learn from as well. “Joe Snyder and Henry Stanley were probably the biggest influence on my ideas about cattle. Joe Snyder was an outstanding fieldman for Holstein Canada and I was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with him on herd visits in our county, then Judging schools, and later Holstein shows. Joe was a terrific person and a wonderful role model in many ways. Henry Stanley was an exceptional Agricultural Representative in Halton County for many years. He came from Eastern Ontario and had a dairy background but was interested and knowledgeable in all types of livestock. Henry coached The Halton Judging Team when we won at The Royal and I was High Individual. Many other individuals come to mind including staff with The Holstein Association, many Holstein Directors and former Canadian President, Ross Segsworth. I was fortunate to be a neighbor of Claude Picket’s and Claude gave me a chance to show some outstanding cattle and meet a lot of Holstein people.”

Jeff Nurse winning High Individual at The Royal Judging Contest in 1967

Jeff Nurse winning High Individual at The Royal Judging Contest in 1967

Family Man – Gentleman – Man of the World

Forty years ago Curtis Clarke welcomed Murray and I to his farm and home in Carstairs Alberta.  To say he left an impression on both of us would be an understatement. Like Jeff Nurse, if you meet him once, you feel you have known him all your life. The Nurse family shares this hospitable nature with many tours for schools and other groups at their farm and have willingly participated in agricultural education days, loaning animals for displays. “It’s been a lot of fun!” acknowledges Jeff who neatly sidesteps all the hard work that makes such fun possible. The Christmas tree operation is another connection point with dairy and non-dairy friends and neighbors. “People enjoy the animals we have on display- the wagon rides to the field- the bon fires.” It isn’t the least bit surprising that his well mannered gentleman is happy with the response he and his family earn. “We get a lot of ‘Thank yous’. Sharing his passion for dairying is something that comes easily to Jeff whether at home working on numerous dairy committees or visiting or judging in other countries.  It is only slightly surprising that this quiet but respected man has a somewhat unspoken goal.” I would like to learn to speak Spanish. I often wished I could speak to all the breeders when traveling in Mexico and South America judging shows and visiting farms. It’s a beautiful language.” Jeff has happily fulfilled many roles in the dairy industry and sees the future in a positive light. “I hope our family can stay healthy – be more progressive; but most of all I hope they enjoy what they do.”

Jeff and his amazing family at son Lee's wedding.

Jeff and his amazing family at son Lee’s wedding.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Men like Curtis Clarke or Jeff Nurse are men whose actions as they say “speak louder than words”. They are positive ambassadors wherever they go. Congratulations Jeff Nurse on becoming the 2013 Curtis Clarke Award Achievement winner.  Thank you for walking the talk and leaving a country gentleman’s trail for others to follow.  

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