By Tom Collins
RUSSELL — Show success can double or triple the price of an animal, says a Jersey breeder who relies on those sales and dominated the Eastern Ontario-Western Quebec Jersey Championship Show in Navan, east of Ottawa, last month.
Mike and Monique Bols, of Drentex Jerseys at Russell, bred and own the top three cows in the competition. A Drentex jersey was named grand champion, reserve champion, and honourable mention. It was the first time the farm had ever swept the three top spots in any competition. Drentex Farm was also named junior breeder’s herd, premier breeder and premier exhibitor, while co-owning the junior champion and solely owning the reserve and honourable mention junior champion. There were 17 exhibitors and 66 head at the show.
The average Jersey calf sells for about $3,000, Bols said. He figured that by winning at a local show, a winning Jersey could double in price. But winning at the Toronto Royal in November or at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, could pump up the price five-fold, he said.
As Bols milks 36 cows, he relies on calf, cow and embryo sales to pay his hired hand. Show successes get the word out and boosts the farm profile. T
he hottest commodity is show calves, he said. Bols has sold eight show calves this year, mostly for 4-H projects. His calf, Drentex Getaway Bella, that he bred and co-owned with Russell’s Jenna James, was named the East-West junior champion at Navan. He sold it after the win.
Breeding plays a crucial role in getting a champion but “to perfect them, it’s the guy who knows what he’s doing after that.” Bols gave much credit to his hired hand, Mike Black, who also co-owns a few Jerseys with Bols. Black starts getting the animals ready for a show months ahead of time, washing and clipping them a few times and watching their diets.
“The animal has to be dead on,” said Bols. “We breed her right and Mike does his best to get her in her wedding dress at the time of the show. You can have a really nice animal, but if she’s not in perfect shape at the time of the show, she won’t win.”
Bols’s operation is bolstered by increasing interest in the Jersey breed. In Canada, registered Jerseys steadily increased from 7,308 to 10,642 between 2008 and 2017. Memberships in Jersey Canada have doubled from 553 in 2000 to 1,146 in 2017.
Bols chalked up the interest to several factors. Smaller 4-H kids lean toward Jersey calves as the animals don’t grow as quickly as Holsteins and Jerseys are still small for September and October shows. A 2014 University of Guelph study concluded that Jersey cows give the highest return on investment. Jerseys have the highest butterfat content of all dairy breeds, and have lower feed costs. The cow has a smaller frame and is known for being extremely docile.
One Nova Scotian cow has also created some new excitement for Jerseys. That cow, now co-owned by American and Guatemala farmers, was named the supreme champion at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair the last three years.
“Right now, (Jerseys are) a hot commodity,” said Bols. “We had a sale in the spring, and we could have sold every Jersey we had here.”