Nestled in the scenic countryside of Victoriaville, Quebec, lays Milibro Holsteins, a two-time Master Breeder Herd where hard work is prominent and the quality of Holsteins is brought to the highest of standards.
My arrival to the farm was greeted by a picturesque countryside with rolling hills that were filled with lush green trees and dirt roads, a foundation for beautiful farms. The quiet scenery directed me to an immaculate bright red barn, lined with a pearl white fence with a small river running through the front—Milibro Holsteins.
The quiet and calm demeanor along the countryside was quickly transformed when I was enthusiastically greeted by Daniel Brochu and Isabelle Dubois, the owners of this prestigious herd. Daniel and Isabelle are two of the most hardworking, passionate and engaged people you have ever met. My warm welcome to the farm was presented by an array of coloured ribbons, banners, three young nieces all wearing matching overalls pushing each other in feed carts and an impressive tie-stall herd lined with unbelievable mammary systems.
Established in 1969 by Daniel’s parents, Michel Brochu and Lyse Girouard, the passion for breeding high type homebred cows has always been the focus at Milibro. They milked cows in the same barn which was originally built for 10 cows on one side and a hay shed on the other side. As the herd expanded, they moved cows into the hay shed and moved the hay on top of the barn until they built an addition onto the barn in 1997. This past summer, Daniel and Isabelle added 20 more stalls to accommodate their 75 purebred Holstein herd.
Michel and Lyse were two very instrumental people in forming what Milibro is today. In 1976, they bought their first purebred animal and always had the mentality to work hard in order to make the farm better for the next generation. “Growing up, my father wouldn’t sell his best cattle because he knew we wanted to farm. Even if we had a good cow that we could sell for a lot of money, he would always say “I want to keep her for my son.” When you start from nothing, you work hard and I am thankful to have learned that from him,” states Daniel.
In 1997, Milibro received their first Excellent cow with Milibro Lindy Rita EX 4E 3*, and only 3 short years later in 2000 they were awarded with what they consider their biggest accomplishment to date, their first Master Breeder Shield. “It was a huge surprise to my family,” Daniel expresses. “My dad liked good cows and to work with good families, but at that time you had to apply to get your Master Breeder Shield and we never thought we were close so we didn’t apply.”
However, Isabelle saw something in the cows that they didn’t. She knew they had good production records and that they needed to apply. She filled out the forms for them and asked Holstein Canada to send updated letters only to her so they wouldn’t find out what she was doing. “When the letter came stating Milibro was a recipient of the Master Breeder award, it was a huge surprise to them and they were so excited,” Isabelle shares while Daniel shakes his head in agreement. “After the first Master Breeder Shield, we made it a goal to work hard and receive it again in another 14 years which is the minimal amount of time required before you can get it again.”
As a true testament of achieving anything that you put your mind to, Daniel and Isabelle worked harder than ever on their breeding program which resulted in them receiving 73 first time Excellent cows from 2000 until 2014. Because of their outstanding conformation results along with high production records, they received the awaited call from Holstein Canada in 2014 stating that they had received their second Master Breeder Shield, exactly 14 years after their first.
The foundation of the Milibro herd was established with Milibro Charles Rose VG-87 19* who has a progeny of 8 EX, 9 VG and 3 GP daughters. Her daughter, Milibro Windstar Roselyne EX-94 4E 10*, had 6 lactations where she received a Longtime Production Award for producing 81,249 kgs. Roselyne has 16 daughters classified, 8 EX and 8 VG, and has gone on to perform extremely well in the show ring, resulting in her being nominated All-Canadian Junior 2 Year Old and was named Honourable Mention All-Quebec Junior 2 Year Old in 2002. Her show ring presence translated to her granddaughter, Milibro Roy Roselay EX-94, who was Reserve All-Canadian 4-H Intermediate calf in 2011 and Honourable Mention All-Quebec as an Intermediate Yearling in 2012. Additionally, Roselyne is also the dam of the Superior Type sire, Milibro Duplex Roseplex EX-95 whose semen was sold through the farm. Roseplex has 17 EX and 79 VG daughters. The oldest cow in the Milibro herd today is Roseplex’s daughter, Milibro Roseplex Kellsy EX-94 4E. She has had 6 lactations, received a Longtime Production Award for producing 76,440 kgs and was the 1st place Longtime Production Cow at the Quebec Spring Show in 2016.
Undeniably one of their all-time herd favourites and most well-known great-granddaughter of Rose is Milibro Goldwyn Roselilace EX-94 2*. “Roselilace was an extremely special cow to us,” expressed Isabelle. “The year we showed her was the same year we took over the farm from Daniel’s parents. We had a lot of interest in her and we could have used the money at that time, but we remembered how Daniel’s dad told him when he was a young boy the importance to build upon cow families and we wanted to respect his philosophy and build the future upon her. She was a dream to us.” Roselilace truly did become an animal that every farmer dreams of breeding. Not only did she do well in the show ring as a heifer resulting in the 1st place Senior Yearling at the Royal in 2010, she came back to make a great cow and was 2nd Senior 2 Year Old at the Royal in 2011. Since then, she has gone onto make lots of embryos and daughters with bright futures in the Milibro herd.
A current star of the herd today is another great granddaughter of Rose, Milibro Sid Roselia, who completes 3 generations of Excellent cows with a score of EX-93. She is one of the anchor cows in their show string and has been named the Honourable Mention Intermediate Champion at the Quebec Spring Show in 2016 and was 2nd 4 Year Old at the Victoriaville Show in 2017. She was defeated at Victoriaville by another homebred cow, Milibro Dempsey Priska VG-89, who also won the Quebec Spring Show this year. The Milibro show string also consists of many impressive heifers which captured a 5th place finish in the Junior Breeders Herd class at the Royal Winter Fair this year.
This kind of success is not accidental; it takes deep pedigrees, good management and smart breeding decisions. When selecting mating sires, Daniel and Isabelle focus on high type traits that will make a good show cow. “I like a good show calf, but that is only good for up to two years,” Daniel shares. “A good cow lasts for a lot longer so I want to cross analyze my mating’s to pick a sire that will give a good udder, frame and legs that will last a long time in the herd.”
Although they currently use a combination of proven and genomic sires, they say this is not one of their goals and have their reservations about genomic bulls. “The first time you pick a genomic sire with a deep pedigree, it might be okay but I am afraid that it will show up after multiple generations,” Daniel expresses. “We are scared to use a sire with no pedigree behind it because we like deep, classified families,” Isabelle adds.
At Milibro, they believe that management is extremely important in the beginning stages of life. They create their own calf ration with a lot of protein to ensure maximum growth and health. They believe a key to success is clipping their calves every 5 to 6 weeks after they are weaned off milk if the weather is not to cold so they are able to analyze the calf and modify their feed if necessary. They believe in making gradual changes so they don’t shock their animals and that if you take time to keep your animals comfortable, the animals will always give back to you.
The extra details that they do every single day on the farm resulted in Milibro receiving 2nd place overall in the Silver Division for l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole, a provincial competition for all sectors of farming combined based on facilities, management, financials and involvement within the community.
Not only are Isabelle and Daniel active within their community, they have expanded their involvement internationally. This year Isabelle was elected to be the Quebec Representative on the Holstein Canada National Board of Directors and is on the Young Leader Advisory Committee. “Before I took on this role, I made sure we discussed at home because I believe that if you take on a role, you must do it right,” states Isabelle. “My goal is to work with farmers, support farmers and make money for farmers. If someone asks me a question and I do not know the answer, I promise that I will do whatever is required to find it for them.”
Daniel’s cow knowledge is respected amongst exhibitors and breeders all over the world, giving him the opportunity to judge many breeds worldwide since 2013. Some highlights of his judging career have been officiating many shows throughout Quebec, the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition, the European Young Breeders School in Belgium, a farming tour in France and Le Sommet de L’élevage in Colmar, France.
As a team, Daniel and Isabelle love helping out young dairy enthusiasts with showing and clipping. “It is important to remember that if you stay in your corner you will never learn anything,” shares Daniel. “You will always find someone that wants to teach you. Stand up, go talk to someone that you want to learn from and you will be taught.”
Although Daniel and Isabelle do not have any kids and still see themselves farming for a while longer, the next generation is already bright for Milibro. Their nephew, Maxime Montplaisir has been full-time at the farm and recently bought into the partnership with plans on taking it over in the future. Furthermore, there is room for another nephew if he wishes to dairy farm. Maxime is an extremely talented show person, resulting in winning the TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic Show as a Junior, Intermediate and Senior and then being named the Reserve Champion show person in 2015. In 2016, Maxime represented Team Canada at the European Young Breeders School in Belgium where he claimed victory as the Grand Champion show person. Furthermore, he has lead animals that became Champions throughout the world including the 2015 Royal Winter Fair Red and White Junior Champion, the 2015 Honourable Mention Grand Champion Jersey at World Dairy Expo and the 2017 Junior Champion at Nuit de La Holstein Show in Belgium. When Maxime is not in the ring, you will often find him in the barns clipping throughout Quebec and around the world for reputable breeders such as Kueffner Holsteins and Jerseys.
Impressive cows aren’t made in the ring, they are the cumulation of years of hard work, passion and dedication. With all these traits being prominent at Milibro on a daily basis, it is inevitable that the future is bright for this well-respected herd.