By Brandy Harrison
CAMBRIDGE — While some farmers hit the road to drum up sales and scout genetic potential, Ed Bos gets the most out of his three-time Master Breeder herd by being a homebody.
“I’ve always felt I’ve made the most money spending time at home looking after the herd,” says the Cambridge dairy farmer, who earned Bosdale Farms Inc.’s third Master Breeder shield this month with attention to detail from feed quality and cow comfort to quality calf- and heifer-rearing programs. “You have to make sure all the bases are covered at home and look after the small things before the big things happen.”
Canada-wide 21 farms, including 10 in Ontario, earned a Master Breeder shield, awarded annually since 1929 by Holstein Canada to recognize balanced breeding with high production, outstanding conformation, and great reproduction, health, and longevity.
Three other farms in Western and Southern Ontario also racked up enough points to earn Master Breeder shields: Feederlane Farms, owned by Donald and Linda Green and Brenda and Brent Roszell of Wainfleet; Harvdale Holsteins, owned by Kevin and Cheryel Harvey of Stayner; and Lockmar Holsteins, owned by Jim, Andrew, Scott, and Carol Lockie of Sutton West.
Here is a brief look at Bosdale’s breeding philosophy and the classification scores behind their third shield.
Master Breeder: Bosdale Farms Inc., milking 150 cows, owned by Ed Bos, 53, his brother, John, 55, and his sons, Josh, 24, Justin, 22, Peter, 20, and Ben, 18, of Cambridge, in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. Ed’s brother Gerald, 55, and his family run the 360-sow farrow-to-finish operation and his brother Peter, 51, oversees fieldwork and equipment upkeep.
Previous shields: 2001, 1993
Herd: 33 EX–3E+, 30 EX–2E, 44 EX, 158 VG, 23 GP
Breeding strategy: “For us, it’s always been about type with the number one priority on udders, feet and legs, and rumps. Those are the most important features for longevity. If a cow doesn’t have a good udder or she can’t walk, she’s out the door pretty quick. I’ve always believed in breeding a barn full of good cows,” says Bos.
How they got their start: Bos’ father emigrated from Holland in 1948, saving his pennies for 10 years to buy a farm with three partners, becoming sole owner in 1972.
Bos took over the breeding program when he was just a teenager, building on the groundwork his father laid by using quality bulls.
“I started reading the Holstein Journal and seeing these nice cows and what people could do with them. I just woke up one morning and said that’s something that I’d like to do,” says Bos.
The cows behind the shield: Five generations of EX cows in the homebred Portrait family trace back more than 20 years to Bosdale RM Portrait.
One of her offspring, Bosdale Outside Portrait, has seven EX daughters and five daughters that scored VG as two-year-olds. At 14, she’s still making embryos. “We can’t expect anything but we’ll take whatever she gives,” says Bos.
The Portrait family has also shone internationally with an embryo sale a decade ago turning out Ridgefield Dundee Portea, who’s scored 95 points, won four major shows in Ireland, and earned two nominations in Holstein International’s all-world cow competition.
Bos has also bought into great families. About 17 years ago, he spied a VG second calver by the name of Wedgewood Elise Marksman at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. She wasn’t a class winner but her dam was the fourth generation EX.
It took about half a year before he made his move, approaching the owner at a meeting.
“I got up the nerve to ask him for a price. She wasn’t Excellent yet, but he promised she would be,” says Bos, who paid $25,000 for her but made it back and more in embryo sales from her, her daughter, and even her granddaughter. “It was a win-win. Don’t be afraid to invest in genetics but do your homework. They pay for themselves if you take the time.”
The Elise family was the first to complete eight generations of Canadian EX cows and the eighth generation is already 94 points.
“We’ve been extremely blessed. I’m very thankful for every cow I’ve been given the chance to work with.”