By Tom Collins
WALTON — A Huron County farmer says the answer is obvious when asked why his herd has claimed the top spot for Western Ontario’s highest BCA: “We have Brown Swiss.”
“They’re basically the superior breed in the world,” said Stefan Gubelmann, of Gubelmann Brown Swiss Ltd at Walton, about 40 minutes west of Listowel. “They can milk like a Holstein, test like a Jersey and last as long as a Milking Shorthorn.”
In the CanWest DHI’s 2018 Ontario Progress Report, Gubelmann Brown Swiss Ltd. — owned by Stefan and his wife Rita, and his parents, Ernst and Yolanda — had a score of 325.3, the highest score in Western Ontario and the fourth highest in Ontario. BCA (breed class average) measures milk, fat and protein. The farm also ranked seventh in Ontario for milk value per cow.
According to CanWest DHI (Dairy Herd Improvement), there were at least 17 Brown Swiss herds in Ontario last year. Among six breeds — Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn and Guernsey — the Brown Swiss herds scored second in average BCA, second in milk, second in protein and first in fat. The Milking Shorthorn herds had the top average BCA.
Ernst grew up with Brown Swiss, but when the family immigrated to Canada from Switzerland in 1991, they started with a Holstein herd. They would acquire high-end Brown Swiss through dispersals, and at one point, decided to switch to a half-and-half herd and let the better half decide which way to go. Brown Swiss won out. They now milk 63 Brown Swiss in a tie-stall and sell about 30 head each year.
Why don’t more farmers switch to Brown Swiss? “It’s just like a farmer who drives a John Deere. He will drive a John Deere no matter what,” said Stefan. “That’s just what they’re used to.”
This continues a strong year for the farm, which received a Master Breeder shield from the Canadian Brown Swiss and Braunvieh Association in March. The farm also had 10 cows finish over 80,000 kg in 2018, two of which were over 100,000 kg for lifetime production.
Here are the top-ranked dairy farms for highest BCA average in Western and Southwestern Ontario, according to the 2018 CanWest DHI progress report:
• Brant County (average BCA of 224.2); Emcrest Farm, owned by William and Jean Emmott at Brantford: 283
• Bruce County (average BCA of 242.8); Albadon Farms Ltd., owned by Mark and Josh Ireland at Teeswater: 314.7
• Dufferin County (average BCA of 235.3); Colmont, owned by Joe Oosterhof at Grand Valley: 278.3
• Elgin County (average BCA of 238.9); Silverridge Farms, owned by Charlie Dykxhoorn at Springfield: 303.3
• Essex-Kent County (average BCA of 226.7); RCAT Dairy, owned by Ridgetown College at Ridgetown: 250.3
• Grey County (average BCA of 232.1); Gamblane Farms, owned by Ian and Mark Gamble at Owen Sound: 292
• Huron County (BCA of 235.5); Gubelmann Brown Swiss Ltd., owned by Ernst Gubelmann at Walton: 325.3
• Lambton County (average BCA of 222.6); Stewardson Dairy Inc., owned by Jeff, Brenda, Dan, Nicole, Dylan and Carley Stewardson at Thedford: 296
• Middlesex County (BCA of 234); Stanton Bros Ltd., owned by Jim, Jeff and Greg Stanton at Ilderton: 308
• Norfolk County (average BCA of 240.6); Marbank Farms Ltd., owned by Wayne and Leonard Bootsma at Port Dover: 277.7
• Oxford County (average BCA of 242.7); Larenwood Farms Ltd., owned by Chris McLaren at Drumbo: 316
• Peel County (average BCA of 231.5); Armstrong Manor, owned by Philip, Peter, Richard and Lucas Armstrong at Caledon: 310
• Perth County (average BCA of 243.9); Hyden Holsteins, owned by Bryan Zehr at Milverton: 304.3
• Simcoe County (average BCA of 225.6); Sprucetone Holsteins, owned by Doug Lloyd at Bradford: 276
• Waterloo County (average BCA of 246.3); Green Acre Farms Ltd., owned by Tim, Gary, Dave and Andrew Wagler at New Hamburg: 304
• Wellington County (average BCA of 242.6); Spruce Hedge Jerseys, owned by Colin and Laura Martin at Elora: 303