This year’s Canadian National Holstein Convention will be held in one of the oldest cities in North America: Quebec City. Rich in history and intrigue, the remains of its fortified walls were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. The surrounding area is home to some of some of the most prestigious dairy farms in the province and are sure to be excellent stops for convention participants on Farm Tour day.
About 35 minutes east of Quebec City, just south of the St. Lawrence, tour guests will find their way to Montmagny, QC, home of Ferme Pierre Boulet—where Pierre Boulet has operated at under the prefix Pierstein since 1993.
Pierre’s father Alfred purchased their family farm, Ferme Boulet, in St. Francois de la Riviere du Sud, where he and his wife Jeanette raised seven children. By 1984, Pierre was working full time at the farm, which is now operated by his older brother, Simon.
Eventually Pierre started buying and selling cows part-time to help form his own herd. In 1992, he rented a barn and land from his father in Montmagny and purchased 30 kgs of quota. Pierre moved his herd there in 1993. At that time, construction of the barn office, wash rack, feed room and two Harvestore silos was completed, and by 1998, Pierre had completed the purchase of the land and buildings from his father.
Today there are 120 to 130 cows milked at the farm at all times—about 105 Holsteins and the rest Jersey—with between 350 and 400 head kept in total. Pierre keeps show cows and the cows he’s flushing at the original farm, while another 60 more commercial type cows are milked at a rented tie-stall facility up the road.
“When mad cow disease hit, and the border was closed, we suddenly needed more space for cows,” Pierre said. “That’s when we rented the additional facility. The milk market in Quebec has allowed us to continue to sell good commercial cows to repeat buyers.”
Over 1500 head are still bought and sold from the farm each year, which was big change for Pierre, who, prior to the mad cow outbreak, shipped several hundred cows across the border regularly every week.
Across the board a 10,000 kg average is achieved, with 24 EX, 62 VG and 34 GP animals. There are eight boxstalls that are used for cows that need a little extra attention, or ones that Pierre thinks he’ll show, and two boxstalls for heifers. Cows are fed a ration of high moisture corn, a 30 to 40 per cent protein supplement, corn silage, and first cut round bale in the morning, with some second cut hay being fed in the afternoon. Dry cows receive corn silage and dry first cut hay in the winter, along with mineral and salt blocks.
In the summer, all dry cows are out on pasture. Heifer diet consists of high moisture corn, soybeans and first cut hay, while new calves receive milk replacer for two-and-a-half to three months, along with free choice, high moisture corn, soybeans and a little bit of grain. Much of the hay and corn are grown at the 300-acre farm, with high moisture corn, and both first and second cut round bales purchased from elsewhere.
Pierre employs staff to handle operations when he’s away from home judging or working with the family auction business. Maxime Hebert has been working on the main farm for the past four years, taking care of the daily tasks as well as receiving customers and visitors to the farm when Pierre is unavailable. He works alongside Gilbert Gaudreau, who began working last summer, as well as a third position to help with barn work which is often filled by interns or another full-time employee.
Benoit Gaudreau works at the commercial barn and has been employed by Pierre for 25 years. He does all the work to care for the animals, as well as being the person Pierre touches base with when it comes time to make breeding, feeding and implanting decisions.
Pierre is not always present on the farm but he assumes the management of both sites. When he’s away he keeps in close contact with the employees to make sure he is always up do date with what’s going on. The workers in the barn handle to day-to-day routines and work, and they know they can call Pierre whenever they need to. Additionally, Pierre’s father Alfred still helps out at the farm regularly, and Katie Coates, Pierre’s long-time partner, manages all of the paperwork for both farms.
A Keen Breeding Strategy
Pierre has developed his breeding strategy based on what he likes to see in the show ring. “She has to be good! Not necessarily the biggest, but the most balanced, with good bone quality and an exceptional udder,” he says.
He primarily looks at teat placement, mammary system, and feet and legs when selecting bulls, using mostly proven bulls and genomic bulls from deep families with excellent sire stacks. Currently, Holstein bulls such as Dempsey, Doorman, Avalanche, Chief, Douglas and Devour (a red Apple son) are being used, while Tequila, Joel and Premier are being used for Jerseys. Between 15 and 20 bulls are sold every year, with one from the top genetics staying behind for use in the herd.
“The best cows need to be right—they are balanced and easy to work with,” Pierre says. “That’s the type of cow I want to work with, and it’s the type of cow my clients like. Take a cow like June, she’s almost 12 years old and she’s just as good in the tie stall as she is in the box stall. Every place she goes, she’s easy to work with, that’s what I want.”
The Leading Ladies
While many type enthusiasts dream of owning or breeding a 97-point cow, three have resided in the barn at Ferme Pierre Boulet. “There are many cows that are easy to talk about,” he says, “but Rose has been the most successful. I can’t say enough about her.”
Thrulane James Rose EX-97-2E 5* was Grand Champion at the Royal in 2006, 2008 and 2009, Grand at World Dairy Expo in 2008, and Reserve the following year. She is a 3X All-Canadian and 2X All-American winner with two Superior Lactations and 3 EX & VG daughters to her credit.
Rose is a household name, a favourite for many around the globe, and her life-sized plastic replica stands on the lawn at the farm’s entrance to greet visitors.
“While we can talk about Rose a lot,” says Pierre, “today we talk about June. She’s
tremendous.” Loyalyn Goldwyn June EX-97-4E 1*, was Honorable Mention (HM) Grand at the Royal in 2015, earning her All-Canadian Longtime Production Cow honours. Although Pierre doesn’t want to jinx it, if all goes well June should make an appearance at this year’s Convention show, having come fresh with a heifer calf by Aladdin (Alana x Windbrook son), only a few short weeks ago. Scoring 97-points almost across the board, June has earned 2 Superior Lactations in addition to her show accolades.
Pierre admits Bruynland Storm Kendra EX-97-3E 2*, and Beaverbrock Magic Petunia EX-96-2E 2* were also a lot of fun to have in the show string in their day. Kendra was HM All-Canadian Mature Cow in 2008, and was also nominated in 2006, 2007 and 2009. Petunia could easily be dubbed always the bridesmaid, never the bride, and the almost entirely white cow certainly looked the part! Petunia claimed Reserve Intermediate and Reserve Grand at the Royal in 2003 and repeated again as Reserve Grand in 2005. She earned 2X All-Canadian, 2X Reserve All-Canadian, 1X HM All-Canadian and 1X HM All-American during her illustrious show career.
Ms Goldwyn Alana EX-96-1* is a cow Pierre knew would be special. He saw her for the first time in 2011, when she was about to go into the ring as a Junior 3-Year Old. After a failed attempt to buy Shoremar S Alicia, he wasn’t about to let Alana get away. “I had her bought in four minutes tops,” Pierre said. “I love Alicia, so what could be better than getting a daughter out of her clone?” Alana went on to claim Reserve Grand at the Royal in 2015 and HM Grand in 2013. She earned All-Canadian honours in those same years, as well as Reserve All-American in 2013 and HM All-American in 2015. Owned with partners Ferme Fortale and Isabelle Verville, Alana’s daughters are still very popular at sales.
Pierstein Goldwyn Sunshine EX-96-3E is the highest scored homebred cow at Ferme Pierre Boulet. A cow whose pedigree needs no introduction, her grand dam is Blondin Skychief Supra EX-93-3E 35*, Canadian Cow of the Year in 2009. Sunshine has been nominated All-Canadian and All-American twice and was Reserve Intermediate Champion at the Royal in 2010.
Passion for Cows, Passion for Family
Pierre has always had a keen eye for cattle, which has made him a very respected and sought-after judge in Canada and around the world. Since becoming an official judge in 2005, Pierre has worked in almost every province in Canada, and at IDW in Australia, France and Ecuador.
He’ll be the first to stand behind the classification system: “It’s very important to learn what is needed in the breed, and that is what the classification system is for. People need to see and learn what is best to breed the most functional cow. When I’m judging, I’m looking for the same things as I do when I’m at home in my own barn.”
Pierre says his biggest honour so far has been to judge the Royal Winter Fair and be at the centre of the ring with his sister Melanie. “It was incredible to be able to judge with my sister, and to have the support of my family in the stands.” That was evident with the 30-strong contingent of Boulet family members that came to watch.
While the achievements have been many—over 100 All-Canadian and All-American
nominations, eight wins of Premier Exhibitor at the Royal, and winning Grand and Supreme at both the Royal and Madison—Pierre says one of the greatest pleasures of all of it has been working with family. Starting with his father Alfred, fuelling the passion for the dairy breed, “it’s a privilege to now be able to raise my own children on the farm and continue that passion.”
There is no doubt that, ignited by excitement for great cows, we will continue to see many more leading ladies come from the barn at Ferme Pierre Boulet, and maybe even another 97- point cow, this time with the Pierstein prefix!
Les Encans Boulet Inc.
The Boulet family auction business came into existence in 1986. It started when Alfred Boulet was asked to help organize the local Holstein Club sale. He was responsible for getting the cattle prepped, finding people to help, and organizing the auction itself. From there, he was asked to prepare animals for a herd dispersal sale. When he agreed to that, the rest was history: Les Encans Boulet was born.
Les Encans Boulet is currently owned by Alfred and Pierre, along Pierre’s with sister Joanne. On February 23, 1993, Pierre auctioned his first sale, a herd dispersal, and today he handles all of the auctioneering duties required. Joanne is the main manager of the business, and is in charge of sales, advertising, contracts and seeking out people to help with clipping and washing. Joanne’s daughters, Cynthia and Jessica, also work at the sale business full-time and take care of clerking and taking bids.
Today the business operates approximately 25 sales per year, with up to 10 outside Quebec, and has the capacity for roughly 30 sales contracts per year. It offers a comprehensive, on-farm sale service, which sometimes can take two days to auction off the herd, as well as all the farm machinery and other equipment.
“In recent years, we did a lot more sales that [were the] result of a farm split,” Pierre said. “You don’t see many farms going out of business voluntarily, there is usually a specific cause.” Years ago the auction business handled about 90 sales per year. “There is certainly less sales now then there were.”
Busy with the amount of sales they’re doing each year, there are no plans to grow the auction business further. Les Encans Boulet Inc. will be managing this year’s National Holstein Convention sale, which Pierre is doing all the selections for along with Dominic Fortier. A quality event with a lot of excellent consignments can certainly be expected.