Awards pile up for dairy farm

Recognition for producing quality cattle 
is the norm for Continental Holsteins

RED DEER — The accolades for Continental Holsteins are numerous, but every award has been gratefully received.

Long-time Holstein breeders Norm and Marj Atkins of Leduc, Alta., won the grand champion rosette at the recent Westerner Dairy Showcase with a mature cow born in 2007.

Named Lakefield Dundee Janice, this Canadian born and bred cow has had six calves and also won the honour at last year’s show.

It has an excellent rating under the Holstein classification system.

“It is a great day, but we have done this for years and years and years. We are not new at this business,” Norm Atkins said after the show, which was held in Red Deer Oct. 31.

The name Continental is synonymous across North America for high quality cattle. Accepting each award has been a pleasure.

“You never think because you have got somebody ready to go right now that this will carry on through the fall because you have to work at it,” Atkins said.

A lifelong dairyman, he came from the Springbank area west of Calgary, once a strong dairy region. His wife, Marjorie, is from DeWinton, west of the city.

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They moved to the Leduc area in the fall of 1973 and remain active in the business, milking 150 cows and running a successful breeding stock business.

“I think we are really lucky to carry on in this business,” he said.

They received the master breeder award in 1988, which is one of the highest honours in the Holstein business, as well as other tributes for their cattle and contributions to agriculture.

Marj was the inaugural recipient of the Marj Atkins Achievement Award, which the Alberta Holstein Association created in 2013. Both are past presidents of the association.

For young breeders such as Mar-kus and Amanda Hehli of Rimbey, Alta., doing well at shows like this promotes what they are trying to accomplish for the next generation of dairy farmers.

Their 2013 female, Mosnang Saloon Liquor, which was shown for the first time, won the futurity class and stood first in the junior two-year- old class, one of the largest at the show.

That young female was also named best bred and owned in that class and received the honourable mention in the intermediate champion class.

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They milk 90 cows with Markus’s parents, Heini and Ruth, Swiss immigrants who established the farm in 1980.

The younger side of the family has been quick to adopt social media to promote their genetics and achievements.

They show across Western Canada, and Markus has worked as a professional fitter and judged extensively, including the United States and Mexico this year.

They also use genomics and practical selection techniques to develop their breeding program.

“I use genomics to make my breeding decisions, but I don’t breed strictly for the index,” Markus said. “You can’t breed a cow on a computer. You never could and you still can’t,” he said.

Markus would like to expand, but the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its potential effects on supply management may affect his future decisions.

“Whatever they do, it might not be ideal, but somehow it’s got to work, as long as you’re progressive enough in your thinking to be able to adapt,” he said.

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“But if you are set in the ways you are doing things, you probably won’t make it,” he said.

  • Junior champion: Mosnang Nitro Zoom Zoom-Markus Hehli, Rimbey, Alta.
  • Reserve: WC Madman Leola-Marv Vanmersbergen, Washington and Shady Nook Jerseys, Enderby, B.C.
  • Intermediate champion: Lookout Grand Trinket-Marv Vanmersbergen and Shady Nook Jerseys.
  • Reserve: Arethusa Vaudeville Excitement, Westcoast Holsteins, Chilliwack, B.C.
  • Grand champion: Lookout Grand Trinket, Marv Vanmersbergen and Shady Nook
  • Reserve: Clanman Celebrity Status, Steve and Marie Smith
  • Junior champion: Cerpolait Atwood Anoel, Westcoast Holsteins
  • Reserve: Westcoast Brokaw Trisha, Westcoast Holsteins
  • Intermediate champion: Wendon Dempsey Prude, B. Eaton, New York; Murphy, Borba Holsteins, Hillmar, California, and Pat Conroy, Indiana
  • Reserve: A&M Bushman Sunbeam, Morinville Hutterite Colony and Continental Holsteins, Leduc, Alta.
  • Grand champion: Lakefield Dundee Janice, Continental Holsteins
  • Reserve: Wendon Dempsey Prude, B. Eaton, Murphy, Borba Holsteins, Pat Conroy