Spencroft Holsteins is located 20 minutes north of Barrie, ON, and is home to Roger, Janice, Michelle, Allison, Emily and Robert Spence. The Spence family is thrilled to be receiving their second Master Breeder Shield from Holstein Canada this year.
Give a brief History of your operation. How did you get started in purebred cattle? How have the facilities changed over the years?
Roger is the 3rd generation of Spence’s to farm, starting on his own in 1979 with 15 cows in a 40-stall tie stall facility. Spencroft is located only a mile from the original family farm that his grandfather started, which is now operated by Roger’s older brother. Roger got interested in purebred cattle at 15 years old when the neighbour invited him to come and help out at a show. After that, Roger figured if he was going to milk cows they might as well be good ones! The Spence family milked in the 40-cow tie stall until January 2014, when 2 Lely robots were installed.
Who is currently involved in the operation? What are their roles?
Roger oversees most of the aspects of the operation. His wife Janice takes care of the calves and helps with other chores. Daughters Michelle and Emily are both school teachers but do make it home to help out when they can. Daughter Allison, who works full time at Eastgen, shares the bulk of the breeding decisions and sire selections with her dad, while son Robert works at the farm full time and takes care of the feeding, bedding and young stock.
How many cows do you milk? What is your current herd classification and herd production average?
Currently we milk 85 cows, all Holstein, and plan to grow to 100 as quota becomes available. Our current herd classification is 11 ME, 9 EX, 47 VG and 30 GP. We maintain a BCA average of 260-285-265.
What bulls are you currently using? Do you do any embryo transfer or IVF?
We are currently using Control, Doorman, Cinderdoor, Unix, Jacoby, Atwood and Impression.
In the beginning we did more flushing to really get our numbers up, but not as much in the last 5 years, now we mostly use sexed semen.
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 3000 acres along with 2000 acres of custom work. We grow hay, wheat soybeans, edible beans & corn. Two of Roger’s brothers and a nephew help with all the cropping.
Cows are fed a TMR ration of haylage, corn, mineral concentrate & straw, top-dressed with balage. Dry cows and heifers receive mixes of dry hay, oats & corn, while calves receive whole milk, calf starter and dry hay.
What cow families have most impacted your herd and contributed points to this shield?
Three families have most impacted our herd. Boltonia S C Liza VG-86 9*, was well known for her dairy strength and longevity, always providing late maturing daughters. With extensive embryo transfer work, Liza left 39 daughters (3 EX, 12 VG, 10 GP) by a wide variety of sires and earned one Superior Production award.
The Spencroft M A Kassi VG-87 8* family is a large contributor of points to this shield and was known for offspring that were high in both production and type. One of her daughters, Spencroft Rudolph Kally EX-91-3E, earned 2 Superior Production awards and was a herd favourite for many years.
Spencroft Skychief Isabel EX-3E 6* left lots of high scoring cows and lots of heifer calves and many descendents of her are still at Spencroft. Isabel was sold to Pierre Boulet & Ferme Blondin and went on to be Nominated All-Canadian (3X) and All-American (1X) while doing consistently well in county and provincial shows in Quebec.
Describe your thoughts on winning this award! Is this something you’ve always had as a main goal for your breeding program?
It’s crazy how much things have changed since we got our first shield. In 2001 when we received the first one we got a few calls of congratulations, now it’s all over social media and so many more people seem to know – I was congratulated by several people at the curling club after it happened and I couldn’t figure out how they found out!
It’s great to see the next generation taking over and doing most of the work now, so our future goal is to get the barn full and go for #3!