27 years ago I stood videotaping the sale of our family’s Master Breeder herd, crying the whole time. It was especially heart wrenching when my first 4-H project (and the only one to carry our Huntsdale prefix) sold, I cried even more, but the heifer sold for twice as much as she was worth. The sale would become the highest herd sale of the year. I told myself that one day I would rebuild that herd and make my grandfather and father proud. Today, as the Huntsdale animals once again leave our farm for the last time, I find myself feeling very disappointed for not fulfilling the promise I made.
When we sold in’88, we knew there would be animals coming back to the farm. My older brother had already made arrangements to purchase some in the sale and keep them on our family farm. We knew then that it was not the official end of Huntsdale, as there were three young children (brother, sister and myself) that were so passionate about dairy cattle that we would rebuild and make our grandfather and parents proud.
To get an understanding of why I feel that I have failed my father and grandfather, you first need to understand why there is Huntsdale Farms exists in the first place. You see my grandfather was not a livestock farmer. His passion was never the cows. It was the passion of his young son who loved visiting his grandfather’s mixed breed herd that led my grandfather to purchase his in-law’s farm and start a new career as a dairy farmer. My father would visit his grandparent’s dairy farm so often s that he ended up spending more time there than he did on their own market garden operation. Upon moving to the farm, they transitioned to Holsteins and Huntsdale Holstein was started. While in University, and later when dad graduated, it was always dad who had the passion for the dairy cows and my grandfather for the crops. At university his Masters thesis was entitled, “A.I. Breeding Schemes”. It included “The Dollar Difference Guide”, which was the precursor to the Canadian LPI system. Dad’s Masters was implemented by Canadian A.I. organizations that went from sampling less than 50 bulls per year to over 400.
Like so many talented youth, my father was recruited by the dairy industry side and dad started his career, working for the Ontario Government in a division that would become the Ontario Dairy Herd Improvement organization. He then joined Holstein Canada where he managed type classification and breed improvement for 18 years, Dad certainly was making changes in the dairy industry. But that did not cause him to lose track of his first passion which remained the dairy cow. In partnership with my grandparents, and some great hired help, Huntsdale Farms, had many great achievements, including Master Breeder status, class extra sires, many superior production awards and star brood cows. But when the time came for my grandfather to retire in the late 80’s my father was traveling the world helping implement the Canadian Classification system in many countries, including Cuba Australia, Argentina, and other regions. He had to make the tough call to either leave that and start farming full time or sell the herd. Though my parents did purchase the family farm and the Huntsdale prefix, the milking herd was dispersed. Thus was born my dream that maybe one day, one of us children would continue the legacy.
My brother, who was about to start university, had big plans for building on the base that was provided by Huntsdale. He started with 10+ animals that were purchased during the sale. But once again plans changed. Upon graduating from University, Paul was offered the incredible opportunity to work with Dr. David Chalack and Doug Blair at Alta Genetics. An opportunity he could not refuse. Twenty years later, Paul is still with Alta Genetics serving as their Chief Operating Officer with key focus on projects in Russia and the Peak female program, very similar to the work that was my father’s Masters work. He certainly continues Murray’s Dairy Industry Legacy. My sister and I like to call him Murray and Karen’s “Golden Boy” who can walk on water. Perhaps that frozen water will melt someday….
My sister, also the princess of the family, in true princess style started out for 3 years of university with the goal of becoming an animal geneticist. Then in a last minute non-princess move, she threw her father a curve ball and ended up becoming an animal nutritionist. Nevertheless, like all good princesses, she retained her shine and has developed a very successful career in a challenging and sometimes gender biased industry. (Read more: IS THE DAIRY BREEDING INDUSTRY SEXIST?)
As the third and last hope, the dream of being the 3rd generation Master Breeder at Huntsdale was certainly one that I have had over my lifetime. As a teenager, I worked as a fitter, with the dream of one day showing a homebred Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion. However, once again life threw us a curveball, and I developed such severe allergies that my eyes would swell shut and start to puss every time I was fitting cattle. This quickly ended my fitting career, although I did continue to fit for 4-H shows until I was done. It was at that time that a new opportunity presented itself, I was contracted to do the marketing for GenerVations and their soon to be #1 LPI sire, Calbrett-I HH Champion. From the start that I got with David Eastman and Albert Cormier, I was able to build my first company. Side note: it is for this reason it is fitting that the last Huntsdale cattle will sell as part of the final sale for Albert Cormier and his Cormdale herd. It was also the lessons I learned from Albert during those days that helped me develop many companies over the years. In my corporate presentations, I like to credit Albert for helping me lose my inhibitions about starting a business. I would say, “Albert Cormier taught me that if you can make a $1, start a business. If you can make $2, start two”. It is the motto that has helped me launch many successful companies. (Read more: Cormdale Genetics Legacy Sale 2015) Then, it seemed like my dairy career was over, when I found the love of my life and we moved to Toronto, where I started doing demand generation for Fortune 500 companies. (Read more: HOW I USED EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT ANIMAL BREEDING TO CHOOSE MY WIFE, THE OTHER WOMAN, THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTNERSHIP IN THE WORLD, THINKING ABOUT ENDING IT ALL…)It is the success that I found there that has provided me with the opportunity to launch The Bullvine and do my share in continuing the legacy my father started. Ironically, it is also this legacy that has contributed to the end of Huntsdale Holsteins , as Murray is now a key member of our team here and that keeping the cattle on the home farm is actually very challenging, considering the amount of travel required by The Bullvine. (Read more: THE BULLVINE – COMFORTABLE MAKING OTHERS UNCOMFORTABLE)
The Bullvine Bottom Line
And so, it is with mixed emotions that I will watch as the final Huntsdale bred cattle will sell once again at Brubacher’s Sales Arena. While I am certainly very proud of the impact our family has had on the dairy industry around the world, a little piece of my dreams are going to die. . As I reflect on this, I see this occurring on many farms these days. Often the best and brightest get called to careers off the family farm, draining the dairy breeding industry of some of its greatest talent. While there are certainly those that don’t answer that call and carry on the passion on their family farm, for our family, the calling was too strong and thus the Huntsdale prefix will end shy of its next Master Breeder award. Regardless of this turning point, the impact that Huntsdale will have is far greater than any top sire or great brood dam could ever have provided
Murray loves to talk about impact and change. How many “industry” executives can say that they were also Master Breeders and produced class extra sires and many sires into AI? Often in his career he has had to make the tough choice that meant forgoing his own personal success and doing what was best for the industry as a whole. While Huntsdale Holsteins will end, the legacy and impact on the industry will continue stronger and better than ever, with children living their dairy passion through AI, nutrition and the media industry.
This Saturday, at the Cormdale Genetics Legacy Sale 2015, there will definitely be teardrops on my work boots once again as the last Huntsdale cattle are sold…but .I can promise you this, “The legacy has only just begun.”