The story of Ferme Blondin is partly the history of a family farm and partly the story of dedication to a dream of showing and selling exceptional dairy cattle. Simon Lalande speaks of how both have had an impact on him and the St. Placide Quebec dairy operation. “I am the 7th generation on the farm and when I was young, the herd was entirely grade cows. I always enjoyed looking in the magazines and, seeing all those great cows, I hoped to have those same kind of cows in our barn one day!” That day has come for Simon and his partner Kim Côté.
Shared Passion Inspires New Directions at Blondin
Successful dairy operations always tell you that they have invested in the cattle and people they feel most passionate about. Many times that passion is caught from other people in the dairy industry, as Simon Lalande confirms. “When I was a teenager, I had couple friends that were passionate about cows. My parents were sending me to some sales in Western Ontario with my good friend François Paiement (Ferme Mystique) where I had a specific amount I was allowed to spend on one or two cows, depending on how much I was spending on the first cow.” Simon appreciates his parents for opportunities such as that one. “I am very thankful to my parents for the trust they put in me since from a very young age.” From that first responsibility Simon continued to travel to learn about, talk about and buy cattle. “I always enjoyed going on the road and meet with other breeders and that’s what brought me into the cattle sales business.” Because Simon loved to get together at auctions, in barns and in the show ring, it was a natural next step to develop Ferme Blondin into an elite cattle sales and show operation. “Today Ferme Blondin has 90 cows milking and the herd has a total of 550 head including dry cows, replacement heifers, recips and baby calves.” The new direction has impacted the financial picture as well says Simon. “More than 75% of our income comes from cattle and embryo sales and the rest from our 118 kg of quota and cash crop.”
Great Blondin Teamwork in the Show Ring and Behind the Scenes
With such an evolving business, the team members at Blondin also have a variety of skills that keep the multi-faceted business running smoothly. “I am in charge of all the management decisions, cattle sales and purchases.” says Simon as he outlines how everyone pulls together. “Kim does all the paperwork which involves not only accounting but also registering calves, import & exports, genomics and bull sales.” Simon emphasizes what a challenging job this is.
“Accounting is a big challenge at the farm as we have more than 225 animals owned in partnership!” He goes on. “Dann Brady is in charge of all the marketing and embryo sales and we also have Jenny Henchoz part time that updates the website and assists Kim & Dann when necessary. “ On a day to day basis there is a lot of work to do acknowledges Simon. “I have very good help with Richard Villeneuve (our herdsman for 10 years) that manages all the barn crew and the herd, and Marc Ringuette (that works with us for over 20 years) who manages the field work and keeps the machineries and buildings in good shape. We also have Chris (from Belgium) that assists Richard and Marc, Tommy (from Japan) and Jonatan & Moris (from Guatemala) that are helping with chores and cattle care. My father (Louis), Kim’s father (Guy) and my uncle Rosaire are helping part time with fixing the machineries and for the crops.” Blondin family rounds out the team. “My sons, Olivier & Nicolas, are also working with us. Nicolas is working part time at the farm and is studying at the college and Olivier is finishing his third year at McDonald College and will be with us full time early this summer!” Five year old twins, Thomas and Anthony are the youngest team members and no doubt represent a lively part of the Blondin’s love for cows, farm and family!!
Cattle Families are Important to Ferme Blondin as Well
A dairy operation such as Ferme Blondin is built on the ability to breed cows that milk, reproduce and show. Simon talks about one particular favorite. “The greatest cow I ever bred is Blondin Skychief Supra EX-93 3E 24*. She comes from one of the first purebred heifer that my father purchased as a gift for me at the 100th Anniversary of Holstein Canada Sale in 1984. Her dam is a Starbuck and for me at that time, Starbuck daughters had very good legs but average udders and Skychief had average legs with awesome udders. Ten years after this mating, Supra became the foundation cow of the Blondin herd.” Blondin success has also been impacted by cows that have been purchased “The greatest cow I ever owned is Rockymountain Talent Licorice EX-95. I bought her at the WDE in 2010 as a fresh Sr 3Y Old. I fell in love with that cow at first sight. For me, she was a total package: Red carrier from a world famous cow family (same as Lotto, Lynley and Lustre), amazing sire stack and one of the best cows I had ever seen (tremendous udder, good legs and impressing dairy strength)!!!”
Best Barbie Forward
Every passionate dairyman loves to talk about cow families and the difference developing a strong female line can make to developing a strong herd that is attractive to buyers and herd builders. “I always have been a big fan of the Barbie family, that’s why I bought with François Paiement a full sister to Chassity: Regancrest S Celebrity EX-94-9. She is one of the most popular cows in the barn when we have international visitors as she catches the eye with her impressive dairy strength and udder. We are also working with Blondin Talent Salena-Red EX-93, which is a maternal sister of the famous Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96 and her Destry daughter, Blondin Destry Sally TB-87 2Y Old (owned with Dupasquier). She was 2nd Sr 2Y Old at the Royal and 4th at WDE in the R&W. We have a lot of expectations for this young cow in the future! One of our best cows right now is Aingers Advent Bambi *RDC EX-91 3rd calf, 3Y Old (one of the youngest cow to classify EX in Canada). She was Intermediate Champion at the Qc Fall show and the Royal! She will be flushed this winter and already has many embryos sold but we are also excited to make some calves out of her!”
Going Once … Going Twice … Going for Many Years
We all love the excitement of the auction ring and the show ring but having success in the spotlight must be built on breeding success in the barn. “We want to breed good balanced type cows that can produce a lot of milk for many years because we think this is what every dairy producer wants to have in their barn every day.” Simon talks about his philosophy on sire selection. “When possible, we are still using Goldwyn a much as we can. He is the best bull that the breed ever had and we still can see it in the show ring and everyone barns… The only problem we have is that we already have a lot of Goldwyn daughters or granddaughters!!! We are also using Windbrook, Aftershock, Sid and Cancun as proven sires and some of the best genomic bulls available (different ones every month) on our genomic cattle. “
Blondin Marketing Stands Out Inside the Show Ring
One of the unique strategies used by Ferme Blondin is that they see the showring as a marketing tool. “For us, one of the best ways to market our herd is the shows. This is the best way to show everyone what you have special in your herd type wise. We like to consign some high caliber animals in some sales (which gives a lot of visibility to the farm). We are also very active on Facebook and it is important for us to keep our website updated weekly. We advertise in the most popular magazines in Canada and United States but also like to advertise in other countries.” Regardless of the method, Blondin wants their customers to get lasting value.
Expert Advisors for Everyday Challenges
It’s hard to point to a single person or event that has had the most impact on growing this great dairy or sales operation. Simon feels fortunate to have several role models that have influenced him. “François Paiement, my brother-in-law (Ferme Mystique) was AI technician and was coming at the farm when I was a young teenager. He transmitted his passion every time he was coming to breed a cow by talking to me about the bulls and cow families. Charles Ménard (Ferme Rubis) taught me what a good young cow was and how the udder and dairyness were the most important parts of the cows. When I was 17 years old, I went to learn my English at Don Johnston (Cherry Crest Holsteins). He taught me a lot on cow families, how to keep your cows and how important it is to enjoy what you do every day. These three good friends are still very close to me and if I need any advice, I still contact them to have their opinions.”
Success is Golden for Blondin
Many of us in the Canadian dairy industry are familiar with the growing achievements of Ferme Blondin. Kim and Simon are justifiably proud of their progress toward the goals. “Two of the best successes are the Master Breeder Shield we won in 2002 and Canada’s cow of the year in 2009 with Blondin Skychief Supra because this is a breeder’s dream. I am also very proud of the 6 Premier Exhibitor title won at the Royal and/or the WDE and the three Intermediate Champions at the Royal in the last 7 years with Blondin Lyster Beauty EX-93 in 2007 (as a Jr 2Y Old), Rockymountain Talent Licorice EX-95 in 2010 and Aingers Advent Bambi EX-91-3Y in 2013.”
Growing with Goldwyn and Genomics
Of course as the years add up, so do the changes that affect the dairy industry. “The biggest change I have seen since the last 10 years is the dairyness and the udder qualities of the cows. For sure, a bull like Goldwyn helped a lot for that!” Change has also been affected by technology such as genomics and Ferme Blondin has moved quickly with those changes too! “We have decided to invest in the genomic cattle because we think this will help us to breed better cows for the dairy producers to work with every day (lower ccs, temperament, fertility, calving ease…). This is also a good marketing tool for us as there is a good market for these animals and their embryos but cow families have to be there first.”
Facing Future Challenges
Today Ferme Blondin is comfortable at the leading edge and always seeks to share that passion with others who dream the dairy dream. It isn’t without its challenges admits Simon. With herds that are getting bigger and bigger, we will have to breed cows that will be able to live in big groups. That’s why we think health traits will be more and more important in the next few years. Although, we think there will still be a market for exceptional individuals (genomics, show or cow families).”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Simon is proud of previous generations and he and Kim are working hard to shape how the future will unfold at Blondin. At the Bullvine we wish Ferme Blondin all the best as they continue to leave their legacy on the dairy industry by using the philosophy that Simon and Kim share. “Success is built on three simple things: passion, hard work and perseverance!!”
Check out the details of their upcoming Vente Blondin-Sicard sale on February 20th.