Daysland, AB, located approximately an hour and half southeast of Edmonton, is home to Zimmer Holsteins and the Zimmer family. Duane Zimmer, largely in charge of the milking herd, became the youngest person ever to be recognized with a Master Breeder award from Holstein Canada at this year’s National Convention in April.
Give a brief History of your operation. How did you get started in purebred cattle? How have the facilities changed over the years?
The farm was started by Duane’s parents, Bob and Pat, and the family has been milking cows in Daysland since 1952. The move to purebred cattle happened in 1997 with the purchase of 19 purebred heifers. With the encouragement of his parents, Duane joined the Holstein Association and purchased his first bit of quota. He continued to buy into some deep pedigrees after that, and in 2005 his brother Brad also purchased quota, becoming part owner in the dairy operation as well. The original barn was a 24-cow flat top barn, with 5 milking units. In 2016, the Zimmer family completed construction on their new barn, which features 2 Lely robots.
Who is currently involved in the operation? What are their roles?
Duane manages the cows and is responsible for all breeding decisions and genetic marketing. His brother Brad is in charge of all of the cropping aspects of the farm and equipment maintenance. Brad’s wife Shawna helps with the calf program, and dad Bob still does most of the feeding on a daily basis.
How many cows do you milk? What is your current herd classification and herd production average?
Currently we milk 83 cows with two Lely robots. We have a 44kg/average and the cows visit the robots an average of 3.2 times/day. Our current herd classification is 6 ME, 6 EX, 55 VG & 20 GP
What bulls are you currently using? Do you do any embryo transfer or IVF?
We are currently using Callen, Douglas, Pharoh, Unix, Impression, Midnight, Chief and Tatoo. We do approximately 20-30 flushes per year, which has helped us quickly increase our genetic base. 90% of the embryos are implanted into our own animals or into recipients in cooperator herds that we are very lucky to be in partnership with.
How many acres do you manage? Do you grow all the crops you need or do you buy and sell feed as well?
We operate 2000 acres of land which is seeded to barley, wheat and canola, and we sell 1/3 end product each year. Cows are fed a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) comprised of barley, protein supplement, 1st cut alfalfa hay and a 3rd cut bayleage. Calves, housed in individual pens, are a 23% pellet and free choice water after 14 days. They are weaned at 75 days, and 4 months of age they move to the heifer barn where they receive dry hay, grain and a Built In Roughage (BIR) pellet as well. Heifers 10 months of age an older receive TMR silage, rolled grain, mineral and free choice hay.
What cow families have most impacted your herd and contributed points to this shield?
Smithden Bolton Alexandria was purchased as a 10-month old calf at the Sale of Stars in Toronto in 2008, she was a game changer for us. Alexandria, backed by an EX-94 20* Goldwyn and then Smithden Allen Alison VG-88 32*, would go on to be VG-88 19* herself and has 6 EX and 10 VG daughters to her credit. One of her most prominent daughters, Zimmer Krusader Ava EX-94, was 1st Mature Cow at the Westerner Dairy Championship in 2017 and was Nominated All-Canadian Mature Cow as well. Ava is owned with Benbie Holsteins and Robella Holsteins. Another daughter, Zimmer Mural Autumn EX-91, is owned by Scott Brethet, ON, was recently 2nd place 5 Year Old at the Ontario Spring Discovery Show this year.
Another big contributing line stems from one our first big purchases, Sunnylodge Jennifer VG-85 17*, a Gilbrook Grand daughter from the famous Sunnylodge Prelude Spottie VG-87 18*. Jennifer contributed 1 EX, 17 VG and 13 GP daughters to our herd. Additional purchases like Glenridge Jed Madonna VG-87 5*, Mapelwood Bolton Bombi VG-85 3*, and more recently Ms Planet Cheri VG-86 4* and Pine Shelter Claire Wood VG-87 3* have also contributed to our herd’s success.
Describe your thoughts on winning this award! Is this something you’ve always had as a main goal for your breeding program?
It has been very humbling to win this award so early in my career. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have had a huge bank of people to draw on for advice and I’m very grateful for that. Having great friends in this business and to be able to share this award with them has made it truly special for me.