Justin and Benjamin Nieuwenhof, the owners of the Dundee-based Ferme Nieuwenhof et Associés Inc. which also goes by the prefix Lareleve, learned they had achieved a second Master Breeder shield during Holstein Canada’s live online broadcast on January 13.
The title of Master Breeder is the most prestigious accolade awarded by Holstein Canada, which recognizes cumulative breeding efforts that produce the best ratio for high production and outstanding conformation, as well as high proficiency in reproduction, health, and longevity of cows.
The award is based on a point system over a 14-year period, and not only did Lareleve earn its second shield (the first was in 2009), but they also distinguished themselves from 19 other master breeders by attaining the highest classification score ever recorded at Holstein Canada, with 40.6. points per registration.
“Receiving the shield, for us, like the first one, is a result more than it is a goal,” says Benjamin Nieuwenhof. “Our priority is to manage a profitable dairy business and the decisions we took in that regard led to the shield,” he explains. “Receiving the second shield means that we kept making the right decisions towards breeding productive, long-lasting cows.”
Nieuwenhof suggests that what sets them apart from other farms is their herd’s level of production. Typically, a cow’s production will increase the first two months after she gives birth before decreasing as she gets closer to her next calving. This is called a lactation curve. Nieuwenhof shares that in the 1990s, they noticed a few cows had much flatter curves, suggesting they maintained a higher level of production later in their lactation. This led to an increase in the overall total production. “We worked with these genetics over the years to develop the herd to be much more persistent than the national average,” he says.
Nieuwenhof’s father, Justin, started the farm in 1978 when he took over a second location on his parent’s farm. He chose the prefix Lareleve in reference to the French term “la relève,” which translates to “the next generation.” The farm has grown substantially from its earliest days when Nieuwenhof cropped 125 acres and held 11 kilograms of milk quota. The family now crops 950 acres and holds 230 kg of quota with 110 cows.
From the beginning, the family has focused on improving year after year. “We always re-evaluate ourselves, and find the weak points of the enterprise and try to eliminate them, so we can take a step forward and build on it,” Nieuwenhof says. “If we manage to take a big step forward, that’s great, but even if it ends up being a small one, it is still a step forward.”