A feature article in our 2021 Winter Issue written by Kathleen O’Keefe.
When Kingsway Alligator A Twix, the winning intermediate calf, was tapped for Junior Champion at the 2021 Canadian National Holstein Show, it marked the latest type achievement for her owners at Velthuis Farms of Osgoode, Ontario, and the second time they exhibited Junior Champion at the National Show. Paul and Steven Velthuis have invested a fair amount of time and money in the past two decades identifying and purchasing elite genetics, and have had a good share of success with their purchases both in the show and sale ring.
The origin of the Velthuis story begins like so many others across Canada and the US – with a hard-working young couple emigrating to North America for a new start on a new farm. Bert and Ann Velthuis moved from the Netherlands to Canada in 1955, and by 1959 had purchased what is now the home farm in Osgoode, about half an hour south of Ottawa in eastern Ontario. They raised a large family on the farm, and eventually sons Paul and Steven took over the operation.
With a new generation came growth and improvements, and in 2003, they built a new free-stall barn and grew the herd numbers from 85 milking cows to 250. Along with that, they’ve expanded their land base over time, and now crop and utilize about 2100 acres in the area. Along with their 27,000M herd average, the cows classify out as 8 ME, 16 EX, 95 VG, 84 GP & 16 G. Paul and Steven oversee everything on the farm, along with Steven’s son Brendan, who returned to the farm after college.
Along with the planning and construction of their new barn in the early 2000s, Paul and Steven felt that was the time to upgrade their genetics as well. Krull Broker Elegance EX-96 was the foundation of what was becoming a dominant family in the show ring in those days, and the brothers purchased a batch of embryos out of Elegance from Budjon Farms. Two Derry daughters went on to be Very Good cows – one with 10* and one with 7*. A number of high-selling descendants and show winners came from those cows over the next number of years, and the brothers realized the advantages of selling some of the best ones in order to cash flow the next genetic investment.
A couple years after their initial embryo purchase, they were in the market again at World Dairy Expo time in 2005. With the advice of Semex sire analyst, Julien Chabot, they turned their attention to MD-Delight Durham Atlee EX-92, an eye-catching Durham daughter that went on to win the senior 3-year-old class and named Reserve Intermediate Champion of the show. Backed by an impressive maternal family – VG-88 September Storm, EX-94 Chief Adeen, EX-94 Starbuck Ada – Atlee made an exceptional milk record of 38,290M 5.5% 2091F 3.1% 1177P. Since Durham semen had never been sold in Canada, she also had the appeal of being a Durham daughter.
They purchased Goldwyn embryos from Atlee, which resulted in five bulls and three heifers born in early 2007. Two of the bulls (Attic & Atticus) went to Semex, two went to Select Sires (Atlantic & Arden), and one bull stayed at the farm to be syndicated. That bull turned out to be Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood. It was the dawning days of the genomic era, and Atlee proved she was passing on fantastic genomic type numbers. Atwood tested out as one of the highest genomic type sires in the breed, and he found a home at Select Sires. “It was a great stroke of luck that he was born here,” notes Paul. “He had a lot of daughters that did good things here and went on to be great cows elsewhere too.” Two of Atwood’s full sisters were marketed for good money as yearling heifers, and the remaining heifer – Allyndale-I Goldwyn Albany – calved in at Velthuis Farms, where she became a VG-87 2-year-old, put a number of sons in AI and eventually became a 14* brood cow.
“It was a great stroke of luck that he [Atwood] was born here,” notes Paul. “He had a lot of daughters that did good things here and went on to be great cows elsewhere too.” -PAUL VELTHUIS
With genomics amping things up in the genetic world, the Velthuis brothers established an IVF site at the farm to better satisfy demand from their cattle, as well as from other breeders in eastern Ontario. They established relationships with other herds on the front edge of marketing (including Silverridge and Boldi) and kept investing in cow families that were at the forefront of the genomic game.
One of those early dominant families hailed from the Whittier-Farms Lead Mae line that had made many high sons and daughters at Crockett Farms and Wabash-Way Holsteins in Ohio. A Shottle daughter from that family – Wabash-Way Evett-ET – had made her way to Canada where she scored VG-86 as a 2-year-old and earned 27* brood cow stars over time. She sold along with her 2-month-old Planet heifer calf at the Cormdale & Partners Complete Dispersal in 2009, and Calbrett Planet Eve called Velthuis Farms home for the next few years. As a VG-87-CAN brood cow, she claimed 17* to her name, put a number of sons in AI and eventually sold along with her daughters to Silverridge Farms. Silverridge-bred sires Eugenio, Euclid, Imax, Kyrian, and Keypunch all trace back to the Planet Eve cow.
All of those brood cow stars from those various families do count for something over time. In 2015, Velthuis Farms won their second Master Breeder shield (their first came in 1991) – the highest accolade for a Canadian breeder. “We were really fortunate to work with some phenomenal cows. Even better, so many of them were cows that left here and went on to do great things in other herds,” smiles Paul.
As the AI studs became more involved with their own female programs and their own in-house sires, Paul and Steven moved away from trying to compete in the high-testing genomic young sire market. “It really is a numbers game, and it became financially untenable to keep trying to make bull calves for AI, as the studs purchased fewer and fewer from the breeders,” comments Paul. “We always enjoy looking at good cows with well-attached udders in our herd, so we made the move to select more donors based on type. We also have returned to using more proven sires in our program as we really appreciate the consistency in the resulting daughters.”
In recent years, they’ve purchased outstanding type individuals that have the chance to excel in the show ring. Paul explains their decision-making process when it comes to adding a female to their herd or show string. “She has to be better than the ones we have at home. Anything with elite show ring type has to also be backed up by a fantastic pedigree so that we can sell embryos from her. We consider the show ring to be a really fun hobby and sideline for us that also hopefully pays its own way.”
“We’ve had some great success with a number of heifers and cows in the show ring and in the All-Canadian and All-
American contests. Marianne Janssen and her crew at Mary Inn have always looked after our show string and they do such a tremendous job. She is really passionate about showing. It is
her #1 priority everyday, and in a way that we could not commit to here with 250 cows to milk and lots of land to crop,” praises Paul.
One of their favorite elite type individuals in recent years was an Atwood daughter purchased in the US from a Wisconsin breeder. Willows-Edge Atwod Faith-ET EX-94-CAN was nominated All-Canadian and All-American Junior 3-Year-Old in 2017. In 2018, she was Grand Champion as a 4-year-old at the Maxville Spring Show and Ontario Summer Show on her way to HM All-Canadian 4-Year-Old honors. They lost her in 2019, but they have a number of stylish heifers on the ground from her, including Velthuis Doorman Fanta, who was 3rd place Intermediate Calf at the National Show and 4th at the International Holstein Show in Madison, WI. Fanta anchored their Junior Breeder Herd that was named All-Ontario 2021
and placed 2nd at World Dairy Expo.
A former member of their show string that years later has returned to the farm is R-E-W Happy Go Lucky-ET EX-90. They showed her as a senior calf and she was Reserve All-Canadian and Reserve All-American in 2011. Fresh as a milking yearling in 2012, she sold to Butlerview Farm for who she went on to be All-American and All-Canadian Milking Yearling. She returned to Velthuis Farms in 2019 and has continued to make fancy calves, including a King Doc daughter that was the winning senior calf at the Supreme Dairy Show and 4th at the National Show this year.
A summer yearling heifer purchased with Claire Swale from the Avonlea Summer Showcase Sale in 2021 yielded more notable results in the Jersey breed last fall. Charlyn Black Apple Extract was 1st summer yearling and Reserve Junior Champion at the Canadian National Jersey Show. From the same maternal family that produced Jaspar Renaissance’s Evening EX-91 3E 20*, they have high hopes for her when she calves.
While they have cut their IVF work back to a minimum, they are still producing conventional embryos mainly for the Japan and EU markets. “Being at the shows keeps us in mind for those clients we have abroad. We don’t utilize social media, but we continue to do some print ads to support our efforts. Shows give you a chance in ‘real time’ to make connections,” comments Paul.
Sires currently seeing use in the herd and on the flush program include Ranger-Red (a high GLPI young red sire); Velthuis Collision (a Crushabull son at +3.90T and +13 Conf); Velthuis Cognac (+3018 GTPI from the Planet Eve family); Woodcrest King Doc (+3.54T back to the Roxy family); Boldi V Gymnast (+3532 GLPI back to Albany – the full sister to Atwood). “We aren’t using nearly as many high-index young sires as we used to, but I’m not afraid to use some that come from cow families we’ve worked with,” explains Paul. “Cognac and Gymnast go back to cows that did great things for us. We owned King Doc’s third dam for a time (Co-Vista Atwood Desire-ET EX-CAN 16*). She impressed us and we weren’t afraid to use him extensively. The same with Farnear Delta-Lambda – we’re not surprised he has made such nice heifers with more style than people maybe initially thought. We bred his 2nd dam and worked with his 3rd & 4th dams here at the farm. They had such silky udders and the 5th dam is Lila Z, so we use him with full confidence!”
“Marianne Janssen and her crew at Mary Inn have always looked after our show string and they do such a tremendous job. She is really passionate about showing. It is her #1 priority everyday, and in a way that we could not commit to here with 250 cows to milk and lots of land to crop.” -PAUL VELTHUIS
The farm operation keeps evolving along with the continuing changes in the dairy business and agriculture at large. They keep an eye on the future of the quota system in Canada, acknowledging that it’s always a political football in trade deals and market access concerns. The farm is now home to 30 head of full-blood Wagyu cattle, which are being used for both genetic bloodstock and for slaughter. “It’s a whole different genetic ballgame, and much closer to the consumer end-user, so we’ve enjoyed the diversification and the education involved,” says Paul.
That diversification doesn’t mean they are turning away from high-end Holsteins any time soon according to Paul. “We haven’t sold many high-index ones recently, but it’s a very gratifying feeling to look around the industry at some of the top sires and see our fingerprints back in their pedigrees. Whether index or type, we’re always on the lookout for those females that can do great things here and then go on and do great things for other people in the business.”