Nestled in the southern corner of Ontario, the Charlton family of Elm Bend Farms is celebrating their second Master Breeder shield since 2004.
Give a brief history of your operation along with how you got your start in registered dairy cattle. Who is involved on the farm now and what is their role?
Elm Bend is a family operation owned by myself, Terry Charlton, and my wife, Pam. A completely homebred herd, we started in the late 1940’s when my grandfather joined Holstein Canada and began registering. We achieved our first Master Breeder shield in 2004 with my parents, Ron and Ruth Ann, and now our second shield that I am proud to share with my wife and four daughters – Raechel, Reegan, Cailyn and Kelsey.
I run the day-to-day operations and Pam does the financial bookkeeping. Cailyn and Reegan do the Dairy Trace reporting and handle calf registrations.
Which cow families have influenced your herd the most in terms of contributing points for the Master Breeder Shield?
A large majority of the points contributing to this shield trace back through the families of Elm Bend Giselle EX-90-3E 2*(3/8) and Elm Bend Gemstone VG-87-3YR 5* (0/25). These two cows form the basis of most of the animals in the barn today.
Who are a few of your herd favorites today that represent the ‘complete cow’ in your mind?
Elm Bend Go Crazy EX-91-4E 6* (18/12) is one of our favorites because of her longevity and ability to transmit. We have also had some success showing her at the local level, winning Reserve Grand Champion at the Brant-Wentworth Holstein Show in 2017. All eight of her daughters have scored VG or EX and have contributed greatly to this shield as well. Sired by McCutchen, her production to date is over 83000 kg and she’s bred back for her seventh lactation. She is the 10th generation in her family to score VG or EX.
Elm Bend Gemcutter EX-91-4E is another 10 generation VG or EX cow that is a full sister to Elm Bend Go Crazy. After six lactations, she’s produced over 83000 kgs and is a maintenance-free, robot cow that transmits well too.
Elm Bend Go Cuckoo VG-89-3YR is a daughter of Go Crazy, sired by Benland Denver. She is the complete package in our eyes with her ideal frame, feet and legs, well-balanced udder and high fat production. She is the 11th generation VG or EX with two daughters by Skyhigh and Have it All. We are excited to see how she develops with her third calf due in April.
How has the operation and/or your goals changed overtime? What are some management strategies you’ve implemented that have had the most positive impact on your herd?
We transitioned from an old tie-stall setup to a new freestall VMS barn in 2016. We have seen an immense increase in cow comfort and air quality. The cows have shown a return on the investment as well with increased production and fewer vet calls. We also put a heavier focus on feed quality with the introduction of TMR. Our calf program also greatly benefited from the change with a dedicated calf nursery built onto the new barn.
Lastly, the use of sexed semen and genomics has allowed us to focus on progeny from our very best cow families to accelerate genetic improvements over the years.
Describe what this honor means to you. Do you have any advice you’d offer to new breeders?
Being recognized with our second Master Breeder shield is a great honor. It acknowledges the years of work put into our breeding program, affirming we are on the right path and making sound decisions! My advice for new breeders is to try not to do too much at once. Genetic improvement takes time, patience and the ability to adapt to the changing model of the ideal cow.
What’s next?! Tell us about the short- and long-term goals you have for the future of your operation and herd.
Some of our future goals will depend on our daughters’ career plans and whether any of them come home to farm. We will continue to dabble with the Red and White and polled genetics and have fun showing our favorites at local shows and Breeders Cups.
- The herd at Elm Bend Farms consists of: 55 milking, 12 dry, 25 yearlings and 20 youngstock
- Herd classification average: 11 ME 4 EX 31 VG 21 GP, none lower
- Final score avg on 2 year olds is 83 points
- Herd production average: RHA: 10636-414-353 BCA 236-246-246
- Sires you’re currently using: Zoom-Red, Sidekick, Randall and Alcove