While Bill Troup may be relatively new to farming on Canadian soil, his passion and sharp eye for dairy cows travelled overseas with him and helped establish his top quality herd of today known as Vale-O-Skene Holsteins. Bill, along with his wife and three children emigrated from Scotland six years go back in 2004 and took up residence on a preexisting beef farm just outside Lindsay, Ontario.
In the beginning Bill explains that “it was a risky move at the time, but we have been fortunate enough that everything has worked itself out and we could not be happier with our outcome here in Canada.”
The home farm back in Scotland, was first established in the late 1950’s when Bill’s grandfather and grandmother began milking a variety of different dairy breeds. Although Bill’s father, Bill originally planned to go through school to become a veterinarian like his older brother, he was called back to run the family farm when Bill’s grandfather passed away. Upon returning to the farm Bill senior proudly carried on his father’s dairy operation where Bill, his brother and two sisters were first introduced to the “diary way of living”.
Growing up in Scotland on his family’s large dairy operation, Bill always knew that dairy farming was a lifestyle he loved and wanted to pursue as his future career. “Like many farm kids, I got my start feeding calves before school in the mornings and helping with other chores on the farm,” Bill explains. He attended a two year agricultural diploma program in Scotland, similar to the program offered at Kemptville College here in Ontario.
Upon returning to the farm Bill went into partnership with his brother, Gordon and father with a stronger focus on incorporating purebred Holsteins to their herd. They farmed 850 acres in the UK which was split between a cash crop operation and the 100 head milking herd which was comprised of two owned farms and another two rented properties. Due to increasing regulations and a limiting land base, Bill knew the farm could no longer last at its current size and expansion was quite simply out of the question. So he went in search of other options that would allow him to continue his eagerness and fondness for milking dairy cows.
And thus the decision to move to Canada presented itself rather appealing to Bill and his wife, Wendy. Although some may think that Bill’s decision was rather drastic he explained that “we moved to Canada for a lot of different reasons. The farm in Scotland was in need of many costly repairs and with talks of a crumbling milk market in the UK; we wanted something that offered more stability.”
Before moving Bill was no stranger to Canadian dairy cows as he made regular visits to Canada beginning in the early 1990’s. Typically around the time of the Royal Winter Fair, he would meet up with Jim Phoenix and look for one or two Holsteins to buy and have shipped back to Scotland. “I always liked the cows over in Canada, so I had no reservations about starting up my own herd overseas,” says Bill. “Also at the time my son, Gary was 13 and already expressed a keen interest in showing and fitting cattle and we wanted to let him pursue his passion in the industry.”
Arriving in Canada in 2004 with only one cow, Bill and his family got right to work on getting their farm prepared to ship milk. Within two years all renovations had been made and the first load of milk was trucked off the farm in February of 2006.
Currently Bill and Wendy along with help from their two daughters, Laura (24) and Gemma (22) and their son Gary (19), milk 31 cows in their tie stall barn and tend to a herd size of 80 purebred Holsteins. While Laura was married last year, her husband (Ryan) and her still help out on the farm when needed and house half a dozen or so Holsteins on the farm with their own prefix of Ryla Holsteins. Gemma currently attends Flemming College in an accounting program and is able to find time to come home and help on the farm in between school and part time work at a local accounting firm. The youngest Gary also remains involved on the farm part-time when he is not running the show circuit fitting cows in the summer months.
“Both Gary and Laura were involved in 4-H for a number of years and we are very proud of their accomplishments, both at the Royal and many county shows,” says Bill. Laura and Gary both brought home ribbons from the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto for 5th place senior showmanship (Laura) and 1st place heifer conformation last year with the astounding Vintage Dollman Milly (Gary).
In terms of his perspective on farming Bill says that he likes to “keep thing simple and keep his cows producing high quality milk.” Currently his practices involve feeding wet wrapped hay, dry hay, cracked corn and distiller’s grains. Bill says that “we like to try and be as self-sufficient as possible and maintain a good work and life balance as well.”
When asked why he chose to farm dairy cows Bill says that he grew up with the farming lifestyle and had an eager interest in showing top notch cows. Cows were what he loved and there was never a doubt in his mind that farming was his destined career path. On the home farm in Scotland Bill says that “we had two or three full-time hired hands working for us right around the time we sold the farm and near the end I found myself doing a lot of the paper work and sitting behind a desk.” Since being in Canada Bill has been able to manage his own cows and balance paper work in a much better manner.
Before making his way onto the Ontario show circuit, Bill showed in the UK and achieved numerous awards including the prestigious Scottish Herd of the Year. Since then Bill has accumulated numerous ribbons and banners in Ontario including 2008-2009 Premier Exhibitor at Kawartha Lakes County show, Premier Breeder in Kawartha Lakes and numerous All Ontario nominations as well as Gary’s first place 4-H heifer at the Royal Winter Fair.
When asked what he looks for in a good purebred Holstein Bill says that he likes to walk into the barn and see great looking cows with lots of stature and rib who are also able to produce lots of milk. He focuses on both high production and type in his breeding program and loves to see large framey 2 years olds in his barn.
He uses a variety of various bulls on the farm in his breeding program including some of the Goldwyn sons, Spirt, Dundee and Champion to name a few. Bill says “I have never been one of those guys who hops on the latest trend in terms of bulls. You’ve got to know your cow families and look at the daughters and have an understanding of what is truly out there.”
Over the years Bill says he has had the chance to work with a lot of great Holstein cows and hopes to continue to breed better and better pedigree lines in his barn. Bill says that some of his most prized Holsteins in the barn today include his original first cow on the farm, Ballcrest Heidi who gave him two daughters who went on the have pedigrees of very goods and excellents, Kallanda Factor Heather who was bought in 2005 from the Phoenix’s and flushed, Kagize Gibson Juice currently 4-E has given five heifer calves and done very well in the herd and Tiny Acres Dundee Cathleen who was nominated all Ontario as a 3 year old at 88 points.
“One of our greatest achievements on the farm has been last November when Gary did so well at the 4-H show with Vintage Dollman Milly. She had done well all summer long throughout the show season taking junior champion at the Lindsey show and doing very well at the autumn opportunity show as well. She was a delight to have on the farm and we got a lot of interest in her from other farmers,” says Bill. Although Milly is no longer on the farm, Bill says that she is one heifer that he will never forget.
Although Bill does not yet have a master breeder award, he is very determined at working towards this as one of his future goals. “I really look up to those guys who have bred cows for years and have achieved two or three master breeder awards; it’s something that I only dream about doing one day.”
With his positive outlook on the Canadian dairy industry Bill says that he is currently happy with the way his farm has turned out. “We don’t have any plans to expand the farm right now; it’s just the right amount of work for us,” says Bill. Current future plans for the farm are for Gary to eventually take over the operation and continue to in his father footsteps of breeding superior cows with excellent production.
Over the last six years Bill says he has learned a lot about Canadian dairy and has enjoyed his experiences with other farmers. Being involved in the farming community is something that Bill says he enjoys and he believes is important for many farmers. When he moved to Ontario knowing only a handful of people from buying cows here and there he says his friend base has grown quite a bit.
“Just from having Gary’s 4-H heifer do so well last year at the Royal, people come up to me, who I don’t even know and congratulate me on our success with her,” says Bill. Bill happily welcomes visitors to his farm to have a look at the cows that he has poured his blood, sweat and tears into and could not be happier for it.
Above all Bill is a firm believer in the mentality that hard work and dedication have been the key factors to where his farm and cows are today. He could not be happier with the current management of his farm and thoroughly enjoys any time that he is able to spend at shows. Bill jokes that “I consider my holidays the time when we are off getting ready for and showing the cows, and to me that’s the best holiday I could ask for.”