Island set to roll out the red carpet for Holstein breeders

by Joan LeBlanc

Some members of the 2019 National Holstein Convention planning committee, from left, Chris MacBeath, Amy Bysterveldt, Deanna Remond, Jon Raymond Dykstra, Rayanne Frizzell, and Lora Bender. (Contributed photos)

Some members of the 2019 National Holstein Convention planning committee, from left, Chris MacBeath, Amy Bysterveldt, Deanna Remond, Jon Raymond Dykstra, Rayanne Frizzell, and Lora Bender. (Contributed photos)

A large number of dairy producers and Holstein breeders are expected to take part in the National Holstein Convention in Charlottetown, April 24-27.

“We’ve got more than 470 people already registered for the Master Breeders gala evening and we’re expecting it will top 500,” said event chair Chris MacBeath in late March.

A sixth-generation producer, MacBeath works with his father and uncle at Goldenflo Holsteins, a 100-cow dairy operation in Marshfield near Charlottetown. MacBeath actually met his wife Maureen for the first time at the National Holstein Convention in Saskatoon in 2005. The couple later married and now have four young daughters, all of whom live on the farm.

Dairy producers from across Canada will be on hand for the four-day convention, which has the appropriate slogan “Come From Away.” The convention includes open farm tours, a welcome reception, a Holstein show and sale, a tour of P.E.I., a Master Breeders gala ceremony and ball, and, finally, the annual general meeting.

The annual event has been going on for many years, MacBeath noted, with the first Maritime event taking place in 1986 in Moncton.

“Every four years, the convention is held in Atlantic Canada,” said MacBeath. “The first time it was held in P.E.I. marked the highest attendance of any previous conventions, and we’re hoping to break that record at this year’s event here in Charlottetown.”

He noted that attendees can take in any or all of the four drop-in open barn tours available on Wednesday, April 24. On Thursday, April 25, three organized farm tours will take place at dairy operations in the Charlottetown area.

Operating at the same time as the National Holstein Convention will be Holstein Canada’s Young Leaders Convention, which will also tour area farms on April 25, with participants aged 19-30 attending from across the country.

An elite Holstein sale will be held on April 25, and some of the best Holsteins from across Eastern Canada will be on display at the Holstein show on Friday, April 26. “P.E.I. breeders are known for producing a good many national show winners and we know that high-quality animals will be on display this year as well,” he added.

“A highlight of the four-day event is the Master Breeders ceremony and gala ball where we recognize those 20 or 21 Master Breeders every year,” said MacBeath.

In a news release from earlier this year, the Holstein Canada association stated, “Since its beginning in 1929, the Master Breeder program has become the most coveted Holstein Canada award. Including this year’s winners, 1,069 Master Breeder shields have been handed out in the award’s 89-year existence. These breeders are recognized for having mastered the art of breeding balanced cattle – high production and outstanding conformation with great reproduction, health, and longevity.”

An alternate tour, featuring some of the best of P.E.I.’s tourism treasures, is also available.

“Many family members attending the convention with Holstein producers will choose to take this tour of the Island,” said MacBeath. “It gives us a chance to showcase some of the wonderful people, places, and things we have here on P.E.I.”

Maureen and Dave Jenkins of Belmont, Ont., have been taking part in the National Holstein Convention for many years, and, along with their son Evan, will be in P.E.I. for this year’s event. The Jenkins were longtime dairy farmers until just a few years ago.

“We had purebred Holsteins until our herd was sold in 2015, and currently we cash-crop some land here and Dave still has about 12 cows that are kept at two other farms here in the area,” said Maureen Jenkins. “But we were dairy farmers for a lot of years and we made a lot of friends and acquaintances from all over Canada and who we still stay in touch with. That’s a big part of the annual convention, too, getting to see all the people you know through being a Holstein breeder.”

In addition to attending the annual event in various locations across Canada, the Jenkins both chaired the national convention when it was held in London, Ont., in 2008, and worked on the World Holstein Convention when it was held in Toronto in 2012. Maureen Jenkins said they’ve always found it important and enjoyable to be part of these types of events, along with other Holstein producers.

She added that the most important aspect of the conventions is the opportunity to talk to fellow Holstein breeders. “That’s how you improve anything that you’re doing is to see what everyone else is doing,” said Jenkins. “The Holstein industry is very collegial. People talk to each other about the many aspects of the industry. This is very important, and I believe that the connections we have made by being part of many annual conventions have been invaluable to us both professionally and personally.”

This year, while her husband takes part in the farm tour, Jenkins will take in some Island hospitality on the alternate tour. “I want to see some of the Island, while Dave will be doing the farm tour,” she said.

Jenkins said she looks forward to the Master Breeders ceremony.

“These awards are important,” she said. “It rewards your philosophy behind your herd. You’ve bred animals that produce well, their type classification is high on a consistent basis, and it’s less than two percent of Holstein breeders in Canada who actually achieve that.” She added that her late father-in-law, along with her husband and brother-in-law, achieved the Master Breeder designation for their dairy herd in 1996.

“We know what it means to get that award, so it’s nice to go and support other people and cheer them on,” said Jenkins. “Holstein breeders are Holstein breeders anywhere around the world. Even if you’re out of it, you can still have a keen interest in it, like the advances in technology and breeding.”

For more information, check out the Holstein Canada website at