Hague, Saskatchewan, is located about 45 minutes north east of Saskatoon and is home to the Hylkema family at Hyljon Holsteins. Hyljon is proud to be receiving their second Master Breeder Shield, especially since their big move from British Columbia 3 ½ years ago.
Give a brief History of your operation. How did you get started in purebred cattle? How have the facilities changed over the years?
Hyljon Holsteins began in 1981 when John started with 26 cows on the BC Quota Building program. Both John and Susan had grown up on their family’s dairies and were married in 1985. They purchased their own farm in Chilliwack, BC, in 1986. Through the years they have focused on building a quality herd with superior genetics and top production and they were very happy to receive their first Master Breeder shield in 2002. All eight of their children participated in the 4-H program and several of them also participated in the Western Canadian Classic with tremendous success. With several of the kids keenly interested in dairy farming, John and Susan decided to move to Saskatchewan to expand their operation. Today they milk over 600 cows in a freestall barn.
Who is currently involved in the operation? What are their roles?
John and Susan oversee the whole operation. Our son, Patrick, takes care of the scheduling of all employees and handles the herd health. Son Hans takes care of the equipment, feeding and bedding, while Hans’ wife, Melissa, helps with feeding calves. Theresa, our youngest daughter, works full time on the farm at the moment, but will be attending the University of Saskatchewan in the fall to pursue a degree in Ag Business. Our youngest child, Benjamin, helps Hans with maintenance and clean up and does some milking when he’s not busy playing sports. Our daughters, Wendy, Nicole, Richelle and Leah, are all married and pursuing other paths outside of Hyljon Holsteins.
In addition, 8 full time employees work at Hyljon and are responsible for milking, working with the cows and feeding calves.
How many cows do you milk? What is your current herd classification and herd production average?
Currently we are milking 620 Holsteins, 3X/day, in a double 12 herringbone parlour. Our rolling herd BCA is 258-276-266 and our current herd classification is 5 EX, 82 VG and 132 GP and 10 lower. We register all of our calves and are very happy that everything is now registered on the farm because the herd that we bought here in Hague was largely unidentified when we arrived.
What bulls are you currently using? Do you do any embryo transfer or IVF?
We use a range of genomic and proven sires, largely from Semex. We’ll use 120 doses of one genomic bull and then move on to the next one, carrying only 4 bulls at a time usually. We select bulls mainly on LPI and health traits, with no more the +7 for Stature. We’re trying to reduce that stature and select for great feed and legs and mammary systems. Most recently we’ve used bulls like Useful, Padawan, Butterfly, Bloomfield, Alcove, Columbia and Persues.
How many acres do you manage? Do you grow all the crops you need or do you buy and sell feed as well?
We crop 1400 acres of land, raising corn for silage, barley for silage and alfalfa for silage and hay. We grow everything we need and do not sell any feed. The cows receive a TMR ration that includes corn silage, barley silage, alfalfa silage, supplement and some straw. Heifers are fed barley and corn silage, alfalfa hay and some grain. Calves are fed whole pasteurized milk 3 times daily and are weaned at 60 days. The calves are raised in hutches and then weaned in super hutches in groups of 5-6. At 6 months of age the heifers go 20 minutes down the road to a heifer farm and they come home 4 months prior to calving.
What cow families have most impacted your herd and contributed points to this shield?
There have really been no major or famous cow families as of late! We have had 5 or 6 families that have contributed points to this shield, and other contributors that are 13 or 14 generations of VG dams, but there really hasn’t been a big standout family. We rely on the strength of top bulls to carry the maternal lines and just continue to breed them well. There are points contributed that go back to three families I worked with when I first started in the 1981: Grahamfarm Maximus Rea, Korwest Star Sally and Kew Farm Bonita Admiral. Later on, daughter of a Sunnyhome cow that I bought, Hyljon Morty Cazy EX-92 4E 7*, has been a big contributor of points to this shield.
Describe your thoughts on winning this award! Is this something you’ve always had as a main goal for your breeding program?
We didn’t think we had a chance for a second shield after dispersing our herd in 2014! We felt the dispersal was kind of the end of that kind of excitement for us. We only took 162 head of young stock with us when we moved, it would have been harder to move them all. We’ve maintained our goals of breeding strong and balanced cows and so hearing that we’d be receiving another shield was an unbelievable feeling! This one is almost more satisfying because the whole family has been a part of this one and we are all planning to go to Quebec together! The support from the Saskatchewan Holstein community has been amazing and it seems like many of them will be heading to Quebec with us!
Our future plans include the next generation taking over – we are currently succession planning. Expansion is on-going, our newest barn is almost complete, and we will then have room for 850 cows. Our sons are already planning where to put a new parlour, but they’ll have to wait until the new barn is paid off first! We plan to continue what we’ve always done: breeding balanced cows and enjoy the industry we love.