By Brandy Harrison
CORBYVILLE Roger Ray wouldnt bother milking ordinary cows.
“Id just as soon drive a truck. Good cows are what get me up in the morning,” says the Corbyville dairy farmer, who is always looking ahead despite a string of show-ring wins as a four-time premier breeder with five grand and reserve champions at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “Its the same as winning the Stanley Cup. Once the celebration is over, the next day youre looking to see wholl cut it next year.”
The newest feather in his cap is a second Master Breeder title, awarded to one farm annually by Jersey Canada, based on points accumulated for production, classification, sires, and star brood cows.
Here is the herd and background in a nutshell:
Master Breeder: Hollylane Jerseys, milking 50 cows, owned by Roger Ray, 60, his wife, Diane Jarrell-Ray, 57, and their daughter, Courtney, 19, of Corbyville, in Hastings County
Previous title: 1996
Current herd: 6 EX, 26 VG, 16 GP, 2 G
Breeding strategy: “Weve always had a very firm idea in mind of what type of animal we wanted in our herd. We want a cow that milks well and a cow that will show well,” says Diane, adding that their barn is home to Canadas highest-producing Jersey cow.
Theyve also built on a strong foundation of their own bulls and privately-owned sires as well as a sprinkling of A.I. sires to keep it fresh.
How they got their start: The Rays started milking 40 Holsteins and 25 Jerseys in 1984 but it wasnt long before they swung the other way.
“It was going to take a lot more money to buy the kind of Holstein cows we wanted. It would have been beyond our pay scale,” says Roger, adding they also didnt have the land base to support a Holstein-only herd and earned a premium for higher-testing Jersey milk. “Everybody was going around the country looking for the next great Holstein. There wasnt as much traffic for Jerseys.”
One of those weekend scouting trips early on led them to Franken Monarch Rosel. Grand at the Royal three times, she produced sons like Hollylane Renaissance, premier sire at the World Dairy Expo nine times, and Hollylane Response, which sired a line of show-stopping cows, including the 2014 Royal Jersey champion.
Their philosophy: Roger wants to have it both ways: top producing cows that shine in the ring.
Hes on the same page as Paul Tummon, his vet for three decades and childhood friend.
“His idea is to make as much milk as you can as cheap as you can, which is right up my alley.”