Vriesdale Holsteins, located in Mountain Ontario, is operated by Robert and Katherine
along with their children; Emily (12), Ethan (11) and Liam (7). The family milks 150 cows with 3 Lely robots in a sand bedded free-stall barn, built in 2014. Robert’s parents, Henry and Rita, bought the farm in 1979 taking over the Vriesdale prefix from Rita’s parents, Alphonse and Marie Vriezen, who started the farm in 1957. The farm has truly been a family affair with each generation working collectively to make it a success. For ten years, the family milked in two barns to set themselves up for a successful growth period later on.
Joining the operation in 2000, Robert’s passion for cows and pedigrees propped purchases of new genetics from strong, proven cow families over the years. Vriesdale Holsteins has been the top managed herd in Dundas county for five of the last six years.
Which cow families have influenced your herd the most in terms of contributing points for the Master Breeder Shield?
Our herd has a lot of variety and diversity with over 20 full pedigree families contributing points to this Master Breeder shield. Purchasing the neighbor’s farm, along with their top-quality herd in 2003, also helped with 37 percent of the points. One of those cows, Lenmyr Juror Barb VG-88, has two descendants with 4 generations of EX cows, making up 12 percent of the points. Her great-granddaughter, Vriesdale Shottle Budweiser EX-93 7E 3*, put up the maximum of 14 points.
Two purchases made at the Sunnylodge dispersal from Prelude Spottie VG-87 18* equated to 12 percent on the Shield points. A current star from that family is Vriesdale Victor Lustre EX (1 SP). Maeford Starbuck Crissy EX 17* descendants contributed over six percent of the points.
Who are a few of your herd favorites today that represent the ‘complete cow’ in your mind?
A few of our herd favorites include:
- Vriesdale Wickham Claire EX-90 3E (super 5 and 88,608 kg) and her daughter, Vriesdale Lautrust Camilla EX-91 (2 superior production) with 40* in the family. (Goes back to Crissy)
- Vriesdale Duke Boxing Day VG-86 2yr old (1 SP) with 20* in her family. She goes back to Budweiser.
- Vriesdale Ateam Darcy EX-92 (1 SP) with 53* in her pedigree going back to Ginary Bolton Sonia EX 13* family.
- Vriesdale Dude Arcadia EX 90 3E 4* (121,241 kg) is our oldest cow and has 4 generations milking including granddaughters: Vriesdale Fuel Andrea VG-87 3yr (2 SP) 41,146 kg in 2 lactation, Vriesdale Mirand Azlia P VG-85 2yr and Vriesdale Bardo Azalea VG-85 2yr.
- Vriesdale Alcove Love Is Blind GP-83 2yr (1SP) is another herd favorite. She made 19,560 kg in 361 days in her 1st lactation. Her family member, Vriesdale Expander Lady Lizzy EX-91 2E, completes 4 generations EX with 28* from the Vriesdale Hero Lady Gaga EX 90 3E 5* family.
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?
I (Robert) wanted good cows with full pedigrees. I also wanted them to last a long time. With time, we realized a balanced cow can have it all – functionality, production and type. Since our first EX cow in 2008, there have been 62 more EX cows bred and 17 homebred animals reaching over 100,000 kg’s lifetime production.
The new barn really helped with both. We strive to provide an environment where the cows can thrive and achieve their fullest potential. The herd size tripled, from 40 cows to 150, and so did our appreciation for problem-free cows that just do their job everyday.
Feeding a high forage diet has resulted in not only healthier cows but also cows that are more profitable and breed back easier. By achieving high conception rates we are always progressing the herd forward with real in herd data while also building reliability in each animal through multiple lactations and progeny.
Describe what this honor means to you. Do you have any advice you’d offer to new breeders?
Pure happiness and joy! It’s nice to receive recognition for breeding a herd of high-producing, high-scoring, long-lived functional cows. As for advice, we recommend getting really good at managing the cows. Cows with high genetic potential are like an elite athlete who excels when provided with consistent high quality ration and an optimal environment in which to easily perform to their highest level. The little details make the difference! Every cow has something to offer – you just have to take the time and notice it.
What’s next?! Tell us about the short- and long-term goals you have for the future of your operation and herd.
We look forward to continuing to breed impactful cows within our herd and, hopefully, the holstein breed. We’ll carry on with logical matings while adding some interesting traits and genetics to the mix. We are excited to foster the love of farming within our children as they grow older, teaching them to become great cow people along the way!
- 147 youngstock, 150 cows milking, 24 dry
- 36% – 1st lactation, 25% – 2nd lactation, 40% – 3rd+ lactations
- Herd classification average: 12 ME, 17 EX, 67 VG, 57 GP, 2 G
- Herd production average: 13,147 kg 557 kg F 437 kg P
- Sires you’re currently using: Alcove, Duke, Delta Lambda, King Doc, Renegade, Victor, Lemagic, Distefano, Illustrator