Situated near Abbotsford in the heart of British Columbia’s Central Fraser Valley, Cedarwal Farms is a well-managed, profitable and diversified family farm. Take a look back at this story, that ran in a previous edition of Cowsmopolitan.
Tony and Nicky Vanderwal moved from Holland to Langley, BC, in 1951. Originally milking only a few cows on a small acreage, Cedarwal was born in 1960 when Tony bought his first purebred cows. In 1975 the farm was moved from Langley to the current location in Abbotsford, allowing them to milk 120 cows on 180 acres.
Over the next decade their three oldest sons, John, Rich and Dave took over management on the farm. In 2005 John and his family moved to Enderby to establish Rockledge Holsteins. Over the next few years, herd numbers grew and Cedarwal began acquiring elite genetics from cows such as Glen Drummond Splendor, Braedale Gypsy Grand and Lylehaven Lila Z. Dave managed the dairy operations, and Rich (DVM) coordinated an extensive embryo transfer program helping to improve genetics within the herd.
In 2008 another dairy was purchased. In July 2009 Cedar Valley Farms became certified organic. The Vanderwals admit the most challenging part of starting their organic dairy was managing the transition period from conventional to organic, learning ways to catch sickness faster and how to manage pasturing. Today Rich and Dave manage Cedarwal and Cedar Valley Farms together with the help of their children. Tony and Nicky are still active in the farm, managing the veal operation as well as helping out with hauling cattle and running errands.
A very diverse team of individuals, all 3 generations contribute significantly to the overall success of the farms. At Cedar Valley, Darren and wife Miranda and children Levi, Trey, Dezmon and Tyrese, along with Jolene and husband Duke, look after the day-to-day administration, operations and management. Dave continues to help manage Cedar Valley while looking after all cropping for both farms.
At Cedarwal, Rich along with daughter Jill and husband Kelwyn Hoeppner look after the cow and herd health management. Jill is responsible for replacement sales with the help of her dad as well as calf management supported by sister, Lorene. Joe, married to Marie, is the head of operations and keeps things running at Cedarwal on a day-to-day basis. Both Joe and Dave look after manure management at their respective locations as well as managing all feeding aspects with the help of employee Jim Milli and nutritionist James Colquhoun. Lorene works for Canadian Pacific Genetics focusing on China markets and her husband Mike Barnum works for Select Sires Genervations as a sales representative but both also contribute a great deal at Cedarwal. Lorene looks after the administration and accounting for Cedarwal and along with Mike continues to grow their embryo market. Mike and Jill are also responsible for all bull sales.
Kelwyn and Mike’s purebred and showing backgrounds at Southview Dairy, Manitoba, and Bardale Farms in Ontario respectively, contribute with Rich to make solid breeding decisions. “Our breeding program is focused on producing functional cows with good feet and legs, well attached udders and a will to milk. We put a high value on GLPI and GTPI when choosing sires but now find there are many bulls available that meet this criteria and also have the high type index we appreciate,” says Kelwyn. Rich comments, “Some believe that high index or genomics is correlated with ugly cows. We just focus on higher index with good type and today some of our best show animals are also high genomic individuals.”
While 90% of the breeding age heifers and 10% of the cows are used as recipient dams for their top genetics, all second plus lactation cows and first lactation cows that have proven themselves either by pedigree, classification or production are bred to carry their own calf.
Cedarwal has realized success with families like their homebred Cedarwal Rosann Rubens VG-87 7* and the Lylehaven Lila Z EX-94 20*, Glen Drummond Splendor VG-86 38* and Larcrest Cosmopolitan VG-87 8* families they have invested in. A barn favorite, Rosann has given Cedarwal 1 Excellent (EX) and 5 Very Good (VG) daughters with her two Champions, Cedarwal Rosemarie Champion EX-91 4* and Cedarwal Rosann Champion VG-87 6* the most prominent.
“Our goal has always been to purchase high LPI animals from proven marketable families that will last in a free-stall environment and have the ability to transmit,” said Jill. A testament to this philosophy is the purchase of Lila Z in 2009 with Bradner Farms and T&L Cattle Ltd. This purchase has brought them success in both the type and genomic arenas. Key family members at Cedarwal include an recently fresh Supersire granddaughter of Lila Z, Calbrett Supersire Lady with a GTPI+2977 DGV+3010 GTPI+2229 PTAT 2.42, Mapel Wood M O M Lucy VG-86 2yr, the former #5 GLPI cow in Canada from Comestar Goldwyn Lilac VG-89 15*, and O’Connors Last Hope VG-87 a Numero Uno from O’Connors Planet Lucia VG-86 1*.
Mike states, “I don’t think it is any secret that we like genomics and we look forward to our monthly lists and seeing where our heifers rank.” A Numero Uno great granddaughter of Larcrest Cosmopolitan VG-87 8*, Cedarwal Numero Uno Chrome fits this criteria with a GLPI+3043 and her Silver daughter, Cinderella at +2513 GTPI and +3255 GLPI. An Observer daughter straight from Cosmopolitan, Larcrest Chevelle VG-87 is owned with Wisselview Farms and Postma Farms. She has been worked heavily and already has calves on the ground by Mogul, Supersire, Uno, Lineman, Pure and Davinci.
Two Red Carrier Snowman sisters, Gen-I-Beq Snowman Spring *RC VG-85 2yr and Gen-I-Beq Snowman Summer *RC VG-85 2yr, are from Gen-I-Beq Bolton Secretly VG-87 3*and then 9 more generations VG or EX back to Splendor VG-86 38*. Summer’s Kingboy granddaughter, Cedarwal Kingboy Skittles *RC is currently the top ranking Cedarwal female for GTPI at +2542, while Spring’s Joyridge daughter Sugarplum sits at +3256 GLPI and +14 for type. An exciting recent addition is, Calbrett Brewmaster Sassy VG-86 2yr. Cedarwal’s top genomic cow, Sassy is an A2A2 female with a GPA LPI+3179 DGV+3243 GTPI+2284. She is from the #1 GLPI sire Brewmaster and Misty Springs M O M Santana VG then 10 more generations VG or EX dams back Splendor.
Also worthy of donor status is a group of Mogul 2 Year Olds from top genomic families. Full sisters, EDG Claire Carolina NC at +3.08 PTAT and EDG Claire Mogul Caron-ET NC at +2346 GTPI, are daughters of Pine Shelter Claire Wood VG-87 who is backed by 11 more VG or EX Dams from the Cheyenne family. Also generating a lot of interest is the granddaughter of UFM Dubs Sheray EX-90 DOM, Jolicap Mogul Whisky VG-87 2yr, who is projected for 14,419 kilograms of milk. Together the Cedarwal team comments, “We love to raise great genetics that work hard! Our cows are not spoiled and do not receive preferential treatment. They live and work with the herd.”
A team of great marketers, Cedarwal pictures animals, advertises online through their website and Facebook as well as placing regular “branded” in-print adverts. Jill admits, “A picture is a great “pull” to get interest but a milk record and a good classification score is just as important to back it up.” Utilizing shows has also proved successful in highlighting the main families and their transmitting abilities. This year at the BC Spring show Cedarwal showed a great granddaughter of Idee Rudolph Liberty, Cedarwal McCutchen Limelight, and claimed first place in the Senior Calf class. They also showed two daughters of Calbrett Goldwyn Liza VG-88, Cedarwal McCutchen LOL and Cedarwal Doorman Letmein, who garnered third and fourth ribbons in the Junior Yearling class. The team comments, “I think we all love the shows. It is not only a great social gathering but also plays an important part in our marketing.”
While genetics play a big role at Cedarwal Farms, Lorene is quick to point out that in order to grow the herd and build equity for future generations ‘cash flow is king’. “You can have the nicest genetics around the world but if you are not managing debt and paying bills, it is hard to stay profitable in an unpredictable embryo market or pedigreed cattle sales.”
They all agree that it is still a business even though it is a family business. They remain focused on keeping costs low, maximizing production and looking for different revenue streams to remain profitable. “It was good timing for us to get into Organics. The added premium was not the incentive. It was the opportunity to grow the market while we grow our herd that makes the enterprise profitable,” said Lorene.
Management is also a key aspect in farm profitability. Processes, systems and facilities are upgraded on an as needed basis. A very useful tool for nutrition management has been the TMR tracker software on the feed wagon providing valuable information that is passed on to their nutritionist. “This software allows us to closely monitor the Dry Matter Intake of each group as well as our ingredient usage, feed inventories and costs,” says Joe.
The composter installed three years ago has allowed them to cut bedding costs while making better use of their manure solids. The installation of large fans at the end of the barn has provided more air circulation, helping optimize milk production in the summer months. Last fall they also installed new electronic milk meters and the GEA Cow Scout program along with neck bands to monitor activity and eating time. “This system has changed the way we run the breeding program, allowing us to rely largely on natural heats and increasing reliability and efficiency of heat detection, thus lowering synchronization costs,” said Kelwyn.
While two Master Breeder Shields are a no doubt one of the farms greatest accomplishments, what the Vanderwals are most proud of is the fact they are able to farm with family and have been able to successfully grow the herd from 250 milk cows to 700 in 10 years.
Looking to the future, succession plans remain a priority so the next generation is able to farm. “It gives us great pride to be farming with our sons, daughters and, sons in law. When it comes to succession planning, sometimes the smaller items paralyze any movement forward. Utilizing third party consultants brought a different perspective and good advice to the table. It is important to stay open about all goals and what it will take to achieve those goals long term,” say Rich and Dave.
Kelwyn comments, “I think what makes this situation work is we complement one another. We all have certain strengths and have our places. ” Jill says, “We are all glad to have the opportunity to work in an industry we have a passion for and when it comes to breeding dairy cattle I don’t think there is one “right” way. We have made goals as a family and our neighbours may not have the same goals as us but that doesn’t make them wrong. Whether a farm decides to focus on showing, genomics, organics or production, they can set goals and continue to celebrate their successes together.”
By: Lexi Wright
Herd & Farm Facts:
Milk 450 purebred Holsteins at Cedarwal Farm
Milk 220 grade Holsteins and 50 grade Jerseys at Cedar Valley Organic farm
Double 8 herringbone parlour with free-stall barn
15 employees at Cedarwal and 6 at Cedar Valley
Herd average 36.2 kgs of Milk, 3.75%Fat & 3.32% Protein BCA: 255-246-262
110-115 Elite 2 year olds and 2+ lactation cows are milked 3X/day and the rest of the herd is 2X
4 EX, 176 VG & 222 GP
Total acres farmed 570 acres (200 rented)
Consists of 210 organic acres (170 acres grass and 40 corn) and 360 acres conventional (220 corn and 140 grass)
Feeding protocols: Milk Cows fed TMR 1X/day, 50% Corn & Grass Silage and 50% purchased hay and grain. Heifers fed TMR once every 2 days, each group gets mostly grass silage & hay with some grain & mineral supplement depending on group energy requirements. Dry Cows are fed a TMR once every 2 days, mostly grass and hay with dry cow mineral supplement.
Using 90% Genomic Young Sires (GYS)