AVONMORE - A gathering of more than 600, including Holstein representatives, the farming community and members of the Wert family who came from far and wide, marked the 125th anniversary of the Holstein Cow in Canada at the farm of Jim and Nancy Wert east of this North Stormont community on Sun., July 16.
Vice-president of the Stormont Holstein Club Monica Kagi organized the event, with the help of the directors. Activities included a demonstration of dancing by the Couperous Irish Dancers, a parade of Holstein calves and Holstein dignitaries, speeches, and a skit starring none other than Michael Cook, the Aultsville resident who brought the first Holstein cow to Canada.
Dale Miller, a Stormont Agricultural representative for 30 years and a lifelong member of the Holstein Club portrayed Cook, with his wife Bette playing the role of Mrs. Cook. Heinz Mulitze, who was Stormont Holstein Club president in 1981, the centennial of the arrival of the breed in Canada, depicted the
Cook's son Minerd in a skit that outlined the Cook's role in bringing this important breed to Canada.
The event had its start when the Stormont County Association invited the Werts to host the celebration at their farm, since the farm has been in the family since 1864. It was originally the McLennan family farm passed on to Hattie McLennan and Stanley Wert, then to Cecil and Mavis Wert and now to Jim and Nancy Wert. The Werts have made their living from Holstein dairy cows for three generations and expect to pass the farm on to the fourth generation.
Spectators who watched the skit learned how Cook and his family fostered and developed the breed with the help of a friend called Lord who had deep pockets'. Together the two went to Holland, bringing back over 100 head of cattle and started to exhibit the breed in Toronto. That was the beginning of the first cattle shows in the Toronto region and later Cook was to become the first president of the Holstein Friesian Association of Canada.
"If you ask me what the impact has been over the last 125 years, there are two things. One is the technology of insemination and cloning. I never dreamt that would ever take place," said Miller, in his role as Cook.
Miller attributed the success of the breed not only to nature but to nurture and the leadership of the people in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry who are active in their associations and some of whom became presidents of Holstein Canada.
"It's people like Mr. Cook who brought the Holstein breed to a great height, a height that is well respected around the world," said guest speaker Keith Flaman, current general manager of Holstein Canada. Flaman noted Canada has about two per cent of the dairy population in the world, but does about 25-30 per cent of the world's business in export genetics.
"If these cows had not been imported to Canada, what a different face Canadian agriculture would have today. The Holstein cow is the most popular cow not only in Canada, but in North America," said Master of Ceremonies Paul Meldrum, herd manager at MacDonald College in St. Anne de Bellevue in P.Q.
"It is the cow that has shown the most ability to make genetic progress. They have taken that cow and have done wonderful things with her. She has become a sign of prosperity for all across rural Canada. We in turn have exported genetics back to Holland where the original cow came from. Such was the prowess of the breeders in Canada, that we sold it back to the original people we bought them from."
"I'm sure that Mr. and Mrs. Cook had challenges pertaining to refrigeration and marketing and all those things that would be prevalent in the day. Now 125 years later, we have challenges pertaining to world trade and to BSE and all the other issues. But the trend is similar that strong associations and strong communities tend to rise above their challenges," said Jim Wert.
Several years ago, the Werts and Allison and Campbell Murrays (parade organizers from Martintown) were involved in putting together a Holstein directory featuring prestigious cattle along with Kelly Fawcett from Dundas County. It evolved into an Eastern Ontario Holstein directory and the Campbells included their son Dale's wedding picture inside.
"I thought that's a stunning message about what the industry is about, because the highs and lows come and go in this business and you want to ride them out. But our priorities stay the same. It's the people you meet and the friendships you make on your journey that enrich your life and make all the difference," Wert concluded.
On display at the fair along with other Holstein memorabilia was a medallion that had once been presented to Cook and Lord in 1998 for winning a class at the Royal Winter Fair. Acquired by a rare coin collector who turned it over to Holstein Canada, the medallion now sits in their archives.
The celebration was topped off by a fine country spread to feed the large crowd.