By Connor Lynch
DALKEITH — Recently-retired dairy farmer Donald McCrimmon, well-known in both the breeding business and the show circuit, died last month at age 59 after a house fire at his Dalkeith-area home.
Local OPP and fire services responded to an early morning call to the property on County Road 34. As of April 2, the fire was still under investigation by the Ontario Coroner’s Office and the Office of the Fire Marshal.
McCrimmon was the fifth-generation to run the dairy farm. A purebred cattle breeder, he took over what was once an Ayrshire farm, bred and milked Holsteins, then tried his hand at Jerseys shortly before he retired, buying his first one at a community consignment sale about four years ago.
His cousin Stephanie Anderson said that McCrimmon was a big personality. “He would talk to anybody about anything and hold that conversation for five hours,” he said. “His favourite quote was, ‘To make a long story short . . .’”
He knew cows as well as people. He bred for type, Anderson said, and spent a lot of time on the road, hunting the next animal. “He visited farms all over Ontario, the States, Quebec, trying to find the best animals to breed from.” He’d work the phones too. “Calling people, asking what’s new in the industry, what’s the next bull he should be using to make his cows better,” said Anderson.
Breeding, buying and selling show cattle (as well as cash cropping) kept him busy, but it nearly all got cut short 12 years ago. In 2008 McCrimmon collapsed on the farm and was rushed to hospital, where he spent eight days in intensive care. He suffered from pancreatitis. His mother said he would never farm again, but he did. He also held a fundraiser for the Ottawa and Hawkesbury hospitals the next year, and raised $20,000.
Single and with no kids, McCrimmon had an idea on how he could keep farming, said Anderson. He went to Washington, D.C. two years ago and bought a milking parlour and trucked it home. “But then he was thinking that by himself, on a farm, a robot would be the way to go,” Anderson said. “So he never installed the parlour.”
And about a year ago, a health complication put an end to those plans. McCrimmon had open-heart surgery, which stopped him from milking. He lent out his quota and most of his cows, Anderson said.
EASTERN ONTARIO: Former Dalkeith dairy farmer Don McCrimmon dead at 59
By Connor Lynch