Vicky Tremblay of Peddie Farm in Howick has a newspaper clipping from 1822, describing the arrival to the area of James Peddie and his wife Isabel Logan from Logiealmond, Perthshire, Scotland. The family cleared the land at the entrance to Fertile Creek Road and began milking and breeding Ayrshire cattle. They were not alone.
Farms in Howick were among the first in Canada to import purebred Ayrshire cows from Scotland, and the long tradition of breeding cattle has meant the area is known for its rich genetics and proud heritage. The area also has a strong connection to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, as the Howick-born breeder turned politician, Robert R. Ness, served as director of the fair from 1923 to 1935.
Now, skip forward a century to this year’s centennial edition of the Royal, which saw 14-year-old Madison Peddie walk the red carpet to the ring with her winter heifer, Smithburn Peanut, as part of the National Ayrshire Show. “I’m pretty happy to be showing Ayrshires still,” says Peddie, who admits the tradition is something she feels fortunate to be carrying on. Tremblay, her mother, explains that her children have grown up surrounded by trophies, pictures of family with their cows, and countless stories about the Royal.
Peddie was hired by Smithburn Farm and the Ness family as part of their team in Toronto. “It was pretty fun, but it was long,” she laughs. “You spend the whole day with the cows, leave late at night and come back early,” she says. Despite this, she says she may already be hooked on the Royal.
Grant Roy still remembers his first trip to the event. “You look forward to it like you look forward to Christmas,” he says. “It’s the big show,” he adds, noting that even though he sold his herd in 2011, “it just gets in your blood.” Roy’s daughters, Lindsay and Shannon, have continued to show cattle through 4-H with Money Making Ayrshires (Ferme M&A Scoble). “I’m there as technical advisor,” Roy laughs. “I am very proud to watch them showing,” he continues, noting this will be his youngest daughter’s last year participating in the TD 4-H Dairy Classic. The cow she showed, Money Making Amazing Monsoon, won first Ayrshire in the TD Classic, and third in the summer yearling class during the national show.
Similarly, Kevin MacFarlane of Marbrae Farm in Howick will age out of 4-H at the end of this season. He has qualified to represent Southwest Quebec in the TD Classic a total of seven times, and this year marked another milestone as his first experience showing in the national Ayrshire show. “It has been about 30 years since our herd, Marbrae, has been shown there, when my dad used to take cattle to the Royal,” he says. “I thought it was pretty special to have taken three cows and a heifer for the 100th anniversary,” he adds, noting it takes a lot of preparation to organize a team for Toronto, and that without the support of sponsors, 4-H leaders, and parents, it would not be possible.
Roy says the Chateauguay Valley has always been a strong area for dairy genetics and that the best way to promote this is by showing. The results from this year’s winter fair suggest that local Ayrshires, and the family heritages behind them, will continue to be part of the Royal as it enters its second century.