From each contented cow comes 19, two-litre jugs of milk per day. Just imagine, then, the production from an operation the size of Morsan Farms, which routinely milks 1,300 cows on its two farms: 850 at Ponoka and 450 more in Saskatchewan.
But size isn’t everything, says marketing manager Chris Parry, whose work as head of the purebred program includes selecting and supervising the preparation of purebred Holstein cows for showing at world-class events, including the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair currently underway in Toronto, and the World Dairy Expo held recently in Madison, Wisc.
Much of Morsan’s business plan includes the sale of bloodstock and embryos, which requires ongoing development of its gene pool. The farm’s progress is routinely tested at the five dairy shows to which animals from of its top lines are hauled every year.
Two Morsan Farms females recently helped Canada win 12 of the Wisconsin show’s 16 individual classes. Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy was best junior three-year-old and reserve intermediate champion, while Liberty PGA Damion Lazzie was the best of 29 spring heifers in the show.
That’s more than bragging rights, said Parry.
Morsan Farms, established in the Fraser Valley in 1981 by Morris and Sandra Thalen and moved to Ponoka in 1996, now has genetics from 300 cow families, providing bloodstock to dairy farms in 21 countries. Taking samples of that herd to the big shows is the farm’s opportunity to show off its best animals and generate new sales.
Morsan generally attends five shows a year. This year, Parry sent 17 cows to Wisconsin and 20 to Toronto.
It’s a long and expensive journey from which the cows must emerge in ship shape if they’re going to look good for the judges, he said.
To accomplish that feat, the cows are loaded into a trailer that could easily haul more than twice the number of animals.
Deep bedding, along with the extra space, helps them stay as safe and comfortable as possible during the eight to 10 hours per day that they travel. Each night, the cows are unloaded at a farm and allowed to rest for at least 12 hours before they’re loaded up for the next leg of their journey.
“It takes us five days to get to Toronto.”
It’s all planned so the cows will arrive a week before the show starts, giving them time to recover from the trip while cattle fitters primp them up for the show.
Along with milk production and sales of its genetics, the farm markets 1,000 to 1,500 live animals and entertains, on average, 2,000 visitors per year, said Parry.
It’s a testament to the Thalens’ skill as producers and business managers that the farm has managed to take its place among the top Holstein producers in the world, he said.
The Thalens first entered the dairy industry from a small farm near Chilliwack, milking 17 cows. Like so many others in the Fraser Valley, the price of land and increasingly restrictive environmental rules were making it virtually impossible to expand.
Morsan Farms was able to significantly expand its dairy herd and quota after moving to Alberta, said Parry. In 1998, the Thalens decided to become more involved in purebred genetics.
Since then, they have developed what Parry believes is now the largest gene pool of pedigreed Holstein cows in the world, gaining international recognition for the high quality of their stock and attention to detail on the farm.
Red Deer’s Westerner Park hosts the Morsan Mountain High sale every two years, with its next sale set for July of 2010.