Holstein farm extends to fifth generation

The Alberta farm had to be cleared of bush and rocks when it was homesteaded, and this clearing effort has never stopped

ATHABASCA, Alta. — Skycrest Holsteins is tucked away in north-central Alberta but has built a strong reputation across the country.

The farm is owned by Rob and Sue Crest and their adult children, Chad and Katelyn, and they can sometimes be found showing their elite Holsteins in Alberta and as far away as the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto or the World Dairy Show in Wisconsin.

The farm was homesteaded in 1913 and the land was covered with bush and rocks that had to be cleared away with horses and by hand. Keeping the land clear continues in the fifth generation.

“Most of our land was bush. We own a Cat and push the bush back and break the land,” said Rob.

Today they milk 66 purebred Holsteins and farm about 2,000 acres as well as 500 acres of hay. While some of the neighbours have tried growing corn, they have decided not to take the risk in an area with fewer heat units and unpredictable harvest weather. The last couple years have been wet at harvest time and some crop had to be left behind.

Rob and Sue met through 4-H, where they were both enthusiastic show people. They started with a commercial cow unit and began the transition to a registered herd in the early 1980s.

Rob and Sue Crest own Skycrest Holsteins. | Barbara Duckworth photo

The cows are housed in a tie-stall barn.

Everything is designed for cow comfort, says Chad.

“We breed more for type and high proofing cows. My biggest hope is if the cow comfort is good you’ll get the production,” he said.

The cows yield 39 to 42 kilograms of milk per day with 4.4 to 4.5 percent butterfat. They milk twice a day and the milk is picked up every other day.

Choosing the annual show string is a family effort.

“Everybody has their favourites and we are usually on the same page,” said Sue, who was named modern farm woman of the year by Athabasca County in 2018.

The industry has been generous with its accolades, and the office is lined with ribbons, championship banners and plaques.

Skycrest was Alberta Holstein breeder of the year in 2013, an award based on annual accomplishments of the herd including production, classification and show records. Further recognition came from their regional organization, Country Roads Holstein Club, which named Skycrest breeder of the year in 2017.

In the past Farmfair International has recognized them as an outstanding farm family. Chad and Katelyn have had 4-H champions and won showmanship awards at major events.

There are no plans to expand at this time. Land is reasonably priced in the area but buying more milk quota is expensive.

“We are comfortable right now and with the extra grain land we are doing OK,” said Rob.

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