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Lexi DeJong knows when it comes to Holsteins, P.E.I.’s cows are among the cream of the crop.
DeJong and her brother are third-generation farmers on Rosegate Dairy Farms in Abbortsford, B.C., where six robotic milkers help draw the lucrative white liquid from 300 cows.
DeJong says she chose to attend the National Holstein Convention being hosted in Prince Edward Island this week to size up some of the impressive animals.
“Well, I’ve never been to P.E.I. and I knew they had really good cows,’’ she says, adding it is “very well known’’ that many Holsteins here boast world-class genetics.
On Thursday afternoon, DeJong was making her way around Goldenflo Holsteins in Marshfield, her third Holstein farm tour during the convention, which in addition to farm tours includes a show and sale, nightly entertainment and the annual general meeting of Holstein Canada.
DeJong is impressed not only with the Holsteins but with the operators of the Island dairy farms.
“They are just really well run (operations) – passionate people,’’ she says.
Roughly 850 people are attending the four-day national convention that ends on the weekend. The turnout is the second largest ever in the country. The largest was the convention hosted for the first time in P.E.I. in 2007.
“Great hospitality, great cows,’’ says convention chairman Chris MacBeath in explaining why P.E.I. has so many people in the dairy business flowing here.
“The cows are top-notch. We are the envy of the industry.’’
MacBeath, who co-owns the Goldenflo Holsteins operation of 100 milking cows, says the Holstein industry on P.E.I. is strong.
However, he notes Holstein operations are following the trend of other P.E.I. farms by growing in size but shrinking in number.
At a glance - Holstein history
- The Holstein Association of Canada began in 1884.
- The association was incorporated nationally in 1901 and remains the only organization authorized to register Holstein cattle in Canada.
- Holstein Canada, which exists to help improve the breed of Holstein cattle across Canada, is seen as a leader in dairy genetics domestically and around the world.
There are 163 dairy producers in Prince Edward Island with all but a handful milking Holstein cows.
MacBeath says the average Holstein farm milks between 60 and 65 cows. A couple of producers, though, have more than 300 milking cows each.
While healthy, the Holstein industry in P.E.I. has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the past few years.
MacBeath notes breeding stock and production were at an all-time high three years ago, but a year or so later lower prices resulted from a glut of milk in the market.
The quota system has since corrected that costly drop in prices, but Canadian dairy farmers are now watching to see if the USMCA – the deal reached last year between the U.S. and Canada to save NAFTA – takes a big bite out of the industry.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada have voiced fear the new deal giving American farmers’ tariff-free access to 3.6 per cent of Canada’s dairy market will be punishing.
MacBeath says any potential major hit has yet to be felt, adding time will tell.
“It’s all a little premature to say how it plays out,’’ he says.
“Hopefully, our government will stand by us as they say they will.’’
The federal government has promised hefty compensation to dairy farmers following Ottawa’s concessions in striking a new tri-lateral free trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico.
MacBeath has been pleased with the strong support Canadians have shown their dairy industry by buying local in response to the USMCA.
“I don’t think there has ever been as much support for dairy products as there has been in the last six months,’’ he says.
On P.E.I., he adds, people are making a point of buying products produced by Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), which is a dairy co-operative owned by more than 160 family dairy farms.