Don Schwartz is definitely a gentleman and a quiet one at that. Don opens up when talking about cows but is very humble when speaking of his own success. As the 26th recipient of the Curtis Clark Achievement Award he declares quite simply, “This is a wonderful honour.” Like Curtis Clark himself, Don does not seek the spotlight. “It was the last thing I was thinking of.” Being called to the show ring during the 2 yr old class was both “a surprise” and “a bit of a funny story.”
“It was All a Blur”
Looking back on how he learned of the award Don says, “Apparently Ari told my brother David at nine on show morning and the crew also knew. The big question was how they would get me to the ring.” Don is definitely most happy to be the guy in the barn. He goes on, “The two year old had gone out and someone called out that she was having trouble and I had to get to the ring. I grabbed an antihistamine and a needle and took off.” It’s been reported that Don could have won the running with the bulls in Pamplona he was moving so fast!” He continues the story. “When I got there I looked at her to see if she was hiving up or reacting. She seemed okay. I couldn’t understand it!” And then the conspiracy continued. “Ari said, ‘I just wanted you to be here to see her show.’ Still confused, I replied, “I’ll take her back to the barn.’ Ari said, ‘Let Manuel take her, you stay here.’ As the plot thickened, Don was still in the dark, “I thought that was really strange. Then I looked around and Steve Fraser and Gary Vanderpost were nearby.” A light went off. “I asked, ‘I didn’t win that award did I?’ Gary squeezed me so hard I couldn’t believe it! The next thing I knew I was joining that amazing lineup.” Don says he has no idea what they actually said about him over the microphone. With only 4 minutes to prepare himself, he concludes, “The rest is all a blur!”
Family Role Models and Lifelong Friends
Clearly moved by receiving this recognition from such respected peers, Don says “I never dreamed of such a thing. From day one it has always been about my passion for dairy cattle.” His admiration for his father Jim inspired his lifelong desire to be a farm manager. “At home we showed a Guernsey Herd. Hank Vanderpost was herdsman there for 15 years. Tannery Hill Farms earned 23 Breeder and Exhibitor Banners.” In his usual understated style he says, “That was quite a thing.” Indeed, for Don, it laid the foundation for what would lead him to his future career.
“I had the opportunity to be around the best showmen of all breeds. I learned from the respect that was given to these ‘guys in overalls’ that they were important people. I have always tried to learn from the best.”
He points to his 23 years with Quality Holsteins and what it means to him. (Read more – Quality Holsteins – Well-Deserved Congratulations) “The passion and dedication of Paul – the perfectionism for fine detail of Ari – they both reinforce what I believe in.” It has been a wonderful team says this modest man who feels that his role is to fill in the blanks. “I love to see the udders bag up and feed to fill the frame. I want them to eat as much as they can.” He enthusiastically expands, “I like to develop the cow. I do all the feet and trim them three or four times before showing – always planning ahead for who will be there on the day and who isn’t quite ready.”
“Keep An Open Mind”
The annual trip to “The Royal” is a never-miss-family-tradition. Although, it may seem that it’s easy, there is always something to learn. Don advises those who aspire to winning. “I think the best thing you can do is to keep an open mind. When you’re working at shows always look back afterwards at what worked and what didn’t. I model myself after others who are willing to try things. When you try new ideas some might think it’s crazy but it’s always best to keep an open mind.”
He has coped with many challenges in his years in the trenches of cattle preparation. You never know what surprises will pop up. Your window of opportunity may be only 30 days from calving to the show ring as Don reports it was with Valleyville Rae Lynn. No wonder he was pleased that they met the challenge and was second place two year old at the Royal.
“The Goldwyn Factor”
Over the years, Don could have written a veritable how-to book on cattle preparation. In that time, he has witnessed many changes. He gives one example. “There’s what I call, the Goldwyn Factor. Udders are so much better. Cows are more dairy. Commercial breeders can appreciate the cows that are winning in the show ring today.” This improvement has impacted preparation of cattle. This year’s 2 yr old, Rae Lynn is an example. “I only had 11 hours of milk in that cow. People walking by were commenting. “They’re not going to have enough milk in the cow.” He chuckles, “They were probably wondering if they should have trusted this guy to get the job done?” The show ring results support the confidence in Don, with a resounding, “Absolutely!”
Winning Spirit. Winning Record.
Don points with pride to previous Curtis Clark Award winners, such as Harold Patterson. “I was so honored to be in that lineup and shake his hand. I’m sad that Milking Shorthorns are out of the Royal! Think of the great ones, you’ll never see!” Like this man whom Don admires, the sheer volume of successes of the Quality show strings sets him apart as exceptional too. “I love to develop each cow.” This hands-on, 24-7 dedication has contributed to 20 Quality Breeder’s Herds and a record setting seven All-Canadian awards.” It’s no surprise to hear that his favorite thing to do on his day off is to “drop in on my neighbours and look at their cows before milking.”
“It’s always all about the cows”
Don admits that he never considered any other career. “I always admired a good cow, whether it was a good Jersey or Ayrshire.” He affirms his passion for Holsteins and then adds, “I can be happy to see a great Brown Swiss too. That’s what I love about the Royal. I get the chance to socialize as much with Jerseys as with Holsteins.” If you want to gets his enthusiasm really overflowing, talk to Don about the many, many cows that are his favourites. “Of course there is Quality BC Frantisco (Ex-96-3E-18*) and Quality Astre Felice (ex-27*). Quality Carlton Pam (Ex-97-6E-3*) and Quality Leadman Lady have also won his permanent affections, although Lady’s life was cut short when she was struck by lightning.
“Home Bred Makes Me Happy”
Don has seen many changes over his years preparing for the show ring. “I miss that you don’t see as many herds like Spring Farms and Romandale .. the homebred herds.” He respects herds like Ferme Jacob and explains,” That is what I love about Quality Holsteins. People think of you as a breeder first.” He is amazed at some aspects of the modern cattle breeding business. “Now days it’s kind of funny. You read who won Madison and two days later she’s sold to someone else.” This accepting and adaptable guy says, “That’s okay but for me I love taking care of homebred cows. From the day they are born until they are famous, I take pride in the success of our homebred herd.” He would never criticize other’s paths. “It’s great to have a good eye for a cow and I like to make great purchases” but this Curtis Clark winner admits, “I want to look back on the success of the cow and her mother and her grandmother before her. That is the true measure of what success means to me.” He proudly points out how the offspring from Frantisco and Astre Felice are making their way to the winners circle today.
Not Just Show Day But Every Day
Even though Don always sets his personal standards very high, he is humbled to be with the smart business men and cattle men who have preceded him as Curtis Clark winners. “I’m the barn guy 24-7 at the barn. I have no desire to be a leadsman but I take pride in taking show cows home after the show and having them look as good as they did at the show.” Like Gerald Coughlin who Don admires he says, “I’m happy to be in the trenches.” Regardless of what challenges face Don he feels that the cows are a blessing that will see him through. “If I have a tragedy, or people are sick … or when my Dad died when I was thirteen … I always know I can go out to the barn, where the cows are calm, and I will feel their calmness.” Unconditional love works both ways.
Gentle Man. Powerful Example.
With emotion in his voice, Don shares a family concern that the “Royal” cattle tradition could end with him and his brother David, whom he admires and respects as a mentor too. It’s been talked about by his son and daughter. Son Randy had been drafted by The Blue Jays baseball team and is now married and teaching in Florida and daughter Erin manages a marina in Parry Sound. He talks so proudly of them and concedes that “perhaps” their success is part of that 24-7 gene that he has passed on. “Oh my wife has that too!” he enthuses. “Linda works in the Quality Seed business. She is a tremendously hard worker.” He pauses to recall how happy Linda was when he came home with his award.”I never saw her cry so much ” he says with modest amazement. “It was an emotional moment for both of us.” When Don called his mother with the good news her voice was also filled with emotion when she said, “Look what my boys have done!” There may be new places and different careers, but Don and Linda needn’t doubt that the Schwartz family legacy lives on.
The Bullvine Bottom Line.
Following the example of other special men in overalls, Don Schwartz is a very special man himself. He is a fine example of how far you can go by loving what you do and doing your best every day.
It is a pleasure to extend heartfelt congratulations to Don Schwartz the 2012 Curtis Clark Achievement Award Winner!