Just before the province-wide lockdown last year, producers from coast to coast gathered at the Hotel Plaza Valleyfield as the Howick-Huntingdon Ayrshire Club hosted the federal and provincial annual general meeting from Feb. 27 to 29, 2020. At 105 years old, we are the oldest Ayrshire Club in Canada, and we focused the weekend’s theme on our history. Meetings were held during the day, while evenings were for social events.
During the first evening, participants gathered at the Riverfield Curling Club in Howick and enjoyed a fun night of curling and “goldfish races.” For many it was their first experience curling. The second night included a banquet held at the hotel in the Salle Verrière, which was decorated with articles dating back to the early 1900s that were pulled from the archives and highlighted the endless achievements of past and present members. The night ended with an auction of items generously donated by local artisans and club members. The auction and fish race money will support the club’s youth at events such as Havelock Fair and the TD Classic at the Royal Winter Fair.
The final day was reserved for farm tours, which started in Beauharnois at Ferme St-Clement owned by Pascale Daoust and Julien Lepage and their family. This farm started in the early 1800s and is well-known for its high production levels. Ferme St-Clement is a Master Breeder herd, currently milking 58 cows with 500 acres of land.
The second farm visited was Money Making Ayrshires, located in Howick and owned by Andrew Scoble and Mélissa Sylvestre. Having both grown up on farms, they began their start-up operation in 2012 by renting a barn, and have since acquired their own property and are milking 45 cows. It was clear from comments that visitors were impressed by how much they have accomplished in a few short years, including a first-place win at the 2019 Royal Winter Fair with a junior two-year-old cow.
The final stop of the day was at Les Entreprises Marbrae, also in Howick, and owned by Brian and Holly MacFarlane and their family. Beginning in 1911 with 100 acres of land, the farm has since grown to include 590 acres, 80 milking cows and a 3500-tap maple bush. Their breeder’s prefix is well known in the Ayrshire world for both production and genetics, which is why they are a four-time Master Breeder herd. This final visit was an excellent way to conclude the February 2020 annual general meeting.
Then, March and COVID-19 lockdowns arrived.
Classifier visits continued, with many farms gaining new Excellent cows. Congratulations to all of them.
With fairs cancelled, Ayrshire Canada created a spring and fall virtual show. Many of our members entered at least one animal. This was wonderful as it gave an opportunity to producers who do not typically participate in fairs to showcase their animals.
In December we had to cancel our annual awards banquet. Rachel MacFarlane and I drove to each farm to present trophies to the deserving winners. It was the best the club could do considering the circumstances, but we could tell by the smiles it was much appreciated!
The year 2021 started off as a successful one for some members. February began with the announcement that Mapleburn Farms, owned by the McOuat family of Lachute, were named Master Breeder for the second time. As well, Andrew Scoble and Mélissa Sylvestre were semi-finalists in the Sollio Coopératif Farm Establishment prize. The month finished with the announcement of the “Ayrshire de Rêve” contest winner: Marbrae Peru-EX94-5E-2*, who truly is a favourite in the MacFarlane herd. As Ayrshire Canada is set to announce more production and conformation awards during the coming month, I’m sure more local farms will be named!
Jacques Daoust announced he will be stepping down as club director. We would all like to thank him for his many years of commitment, and we welcome Keesha Ness as our new director. She will join the executive of the club, which includes president Carrie Simpson, vice-president Mélissa Sylvestre, treasurer Rachel MacFarlane, and secretary Cecile Antink.
Despite the past year’s challenges, the success of our local farmers continues to shine. Since they couldn’t be celebrated at a traditional banquet, this article allows all readers to celebrate with them! You can follow our page on Facebook @howickhuntingdonayrshire.