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Pinehaven Jerseys: Breeding for the Longterm

This article featuring Pinehaven Jerseys of Oxford, NS first appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Cowsmopolitan. Read here about this successful Jersey herd, nestled in Canada’s Wild Blueberry region.

Two of Marmie’s four Very Good sisters at Pine Haven, Pine Haven Mack Kitty VG-86 and Pine Haven HCJ Kate VG-87 (now VG-88) both show great promise.

Two of Marmie’s four Very Good sisters at Pine Haven, Pine Haven Mack Kitty VG-86 and Pine Haven HCJ Kate VG-87 both show great promise.

A look at Pinehaven Jerseys, in 2014
-Owner Eric Thompson with succession plan in place for RJ Dillman to take over
– milk 50 Jersey cows in tie-stall barn
– Herd Average 261-254-257 BCA 7632 kgs milk
– Herd Classification 7EX, 32VG, 15GP, 1G
– Farm consists of 225 acres of crop and pasture land and another 700 acres of managed woodlot

– Calves receive whole milk for 2 months, free choice calf starter and small amount of free choice hay
– Calves from 4-6 months receive 21% pellet 2kgs/day until breeding age
-Heifers are fed a protein pellet, pasture in summer and round bale silage in the winter
– Milk cows are fed 16% texturized grain and round bale silage.  Pasture and green feed bales in the summer. Cows go out morning and afternoon after milking
-Sires currently using Ladd, Colton, Legacy, Success

Nestled in the heart of Canada’s Wild Blueberry region, Pinehaven Jerseys of Oxford, Nova Scotia, is one of Canada’s top breeding Jersey herds.

Eric Thompson and RJ Dillman seen here with Kitty and Kate, two of Marmie’s sisters.

Eric Thompson and RJ Dillman seen here with Kitty and Kate, two of Marmie’s sisters.

Eric Thompson took over his father Claude’s 24 cow Pine Crest Jersey herd in 1970. Over the years the growth of the farm has provided barn expansions leading to a 52 cow head to head tie-stall barn. Improvements including comfort stalls, a milk pipeline and pasture mats have provided improved cow comfort. Today Eric, his wife Kelly, and RJ Dillman keep the farm running at full capacity.

Heifers are fed a protein pellet, pasture in summer and round bale silage in the winter

It is quick to see Eric’s love for genetics and good cattle has not faltered, even with the introduction of genomics. With a balanced breeding philosophy, focusing primarily on pedigrees and production, Eric says, “I think there is a place for genomics but my fear is that everyone will just look at the numbers and forget the pedigrees when choosing bulls. I want something that looks good on paper – not on tail hair.” Pine Haven’s long term success continues with RJ learning from one of the best Jersey cowmen in the industry. Good udders and feet and legs along with good components allow Eric and RJ to utilize 75% artificial insemination and 25% of their own bulls, never sacrificing milk for type.

RJ has solid experience from his family farm, Musqie Valley Farms, where his parents and brother Reg continue to milk primarily Holsteins with a few Jerseys and Ayrshires. RJ admits it has been a steep but enjoyable learning curve studying the Jersey pedigrees and bloodlines since he started with Eric in 2011.  RJ’s ambition is to continue to breed and develop the same kind of cows that have given Pine Haven its solid reputation. “I hope to gain as much knowledge as possible while Eric is still active in the herd. After all, it is obvious Eric’s breeding patterns tend to work,” said RJ.

Evidence of those successful breeding patterns is Pine Haven Senior EX-90, the former #1 LPI bull and a renowned international sire marketed by Semex, with over 1626 daughters classified in Canada at 76% Good Plus (GP) or better

Evidence of those successful breeding patterns is Pine Haven Senior EX-90, the former #1 LPI bull and a renowned international sire marketed by Semex, with over 1626 daughters classified in Canada at 76% Good Plus (GP) or better

Evidence of those successful breeding patterns is Pine Haven Senior EX-90, the former #1 LPI bull and a renowned international sire marketed by Semex, with over 1626 daughters classified in Canada at 76% Good Plus (GP) or better. Always utilizing some natural service bulls, Mordale Merit Mister VG-86 had a significant impact on the breeding program at Pine Haven with 15 daughters over 100% GP or better.  His daughter Pine Haven Miss Pixie EX-94, an All-Canadian winner in her own right, provided Pine Haven with 2 Excellent (EX) and 5 Very Good (VG) daughters. Two other bulls that have had a significant impact on Eric’s breeding program were Hollylane CH Copyright VG-88, with 10 daughters classified 100% GP or better, and more recently a son of Pleasant Nook Legend Marlie Ex-91 6E, Hollylane Renaisance Mazda EX-90. Mazda has 3 EX and 10 VG daughters at Pine Haven.

Pine Haven SSM Marmie EX-95 3E, the only back to back Intermediate Champion Jersey at World Dairy Expo with her wins in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 she was Grand Champion and Reserve Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo. Marmie has claimed three All-Breeds Access All-American titles along with All-Canadian honours twice.

Pine Haven SSM Marmie EX-95 3E, the only back to back Intermediate Champion Jersey at World Dairy Expo with her wins in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 she was Grand Champion and Reserve Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo. Marmie has claimed three All-Breeds Access All-American titles along with All-Canadian honours twice.

Of course one of the most famous cows that continues to bring Pine Haven to the forefront is Pine Haven SSM Marmie EX-95 3E. The only back to back Intermediate Champion Jersey at World Dairy Expo with her wins in 2009 and 2010, Marmie was also the US National Grand Champion, 1st Senior 3 year Old at World Dairy Expo and Reserve Grand Champion at the Royal Winter Fair in 2010. In 2011 she was Grand Champion and Reserve Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo as well as first 4 Year Old at both Expo and the All-American Jersey show in Louisville. Marmie has claimed three All-Breeds Access All-American titles along with All-Canadian honours twice. Sold as a 2 Year Old in 2008 to Berlesque Jerseys (Deaver and Riddle) of Wisconsin, Marmie was purchased just prior to World Dairy Expo in 2011 by River Valley Dairy of Illinois. Marmie has over 25 progeny on the ground at River Valley and has an Impuls son, River Valley Marmie’s My-O-My, that was just released in the 07 Select code series. Both Eric and RJ admit Marmie’s success in 2011 was one of their most memorable moments. “This family consistently brings open framed cows that milk,” said Eric. Two of Marmie’s four Very Good sisters at Pine Haven, Pine Haven Mack Kitty VG-86 and Pine Haven HCJ Kate VG-87 both show great promise. Recently embryos sent to Bushlea Farms in Australia have produced 5 heifers and 2 bulls in a joint venture from Marmie’s dam, Pine Haven MMB Kitty GP 2*, with intentions to sell some of them in their November 15, 2015 sale.

River Valley now also owns two time All-Canadian, Pine Haven BRC Eva EX-93 who has over 15 females at River Valley.

River Valley now also owns two time All-Canadian, Pine Haven BRC Eva EX-93 who has over 15 females at River Valley.

Showing their confidence in Pine Haven breeding, River Valley now also owns two-time All-Canadian, Pine Haven BRC Eva EX-93 who has over 15 females at River Valley. “The history of River Valley is forever linked to the masterful breeding of Pine Haven Farms and for that we are extraordinarily grateful,” says David Jordan, General Manager River Valley Farm. “Marmie, our first U.S. National Champion, is a true icon of the breed and has definitely earned her the spot in the first boxstall at River Valley.” Eric admits letting genetics go has provided them with many opportunities. “Selling animals allows us to not only improve pedigrees but also provides some of the better ones with the opportunity to meet their utmost potential in the show ring.”

RJ and Jennifer also own a 9th generation VG or EX from Anda’s family, Pine Haven Senior Vicky VG-89. Vicky already has 3 VG daughters.

RJ and Jennifer also own a 9th generation VG or EX from Anda’s family, Pine Haven Senior Vicky VG-89. Vicky already has 3 VG daughters.

Other cows Eric and RJ feel continue to contribute to the herd through their daughters are Pine Haven Foxie EX-90 2E 2* and Norwall Castor’s Anda SUP EX-90. Foxie with lifetime production of 46,075 kilograms of milk, 2293 fat at 4.98% and 1714 protein at 3.72% over 5 lactations, has 3 EX daughters, Pine Haven Foxy Lady EX-92 3E (Mazda), Pine Haven Senior Piper EX-92 3E (Senior), Pine Haven Kobalt Toffee EX-90 (Kobalt).  Anda also has 2 VG and 2 EX daughters in the herd. RJ and his wife Jennifer also own a 9th generation VG or EX from Anda’s family, Pine Haven Senior Vicky VG-89. Vicky already has 3 VG daughters. Pine Haven also looks forward to developing the promising Colton and Casino 2 Year Olds. They also use polled sires to add to their 10% polled herd.

Even though their children Conner and Lainey (2) and Lucas (4 months) are not old enough for 4-H, RJ is a club leader with a number of calves from Pine Haven used by members in the club. Seen here Lainey, Jennifer, Conner and RJ at Cumberland County show

Even though their children Conner and Lainey (2) and Lucas (4 months) are not old enough for 4-H, RJ is a club leader with a number of calves from Pine Haven used by members in the club. Seen here Lainey, Jennifer, Conner and RJ at Cumberland County show

While Eric and RJ share in the breeding decisions as well as responsibilities around the farm, Kelly often helps out on RJ’s weekends off. RJ and Jennifer are actively involved with the 4-H club and Atlantic Jersey Club, with RJ as President and Jennifer as Secretary/Treasurer. Even though their children Conner and Lainey (2) and Lucas (4 months) are not old enough for 4-H, RJ is a club leader with a number of calves from Pine Haven used by members in the club. RJ and Jennifer are thankful for the opportunity to raise their kids in the farming community. “We are lucky to be able to afford our children the same opportunities we had growing up. Living on a farm prepares you for a lot of things in life including hard work and both life and death,” said RJ.

Eric was awarded his Master Breeder Herd award in 2012 during the Jersey Canada annual meeting. Eric is seen here with David Jordan of River Valley Farm who presented a Marmie composite during the presentation.

Eric was awarded his Master Breeder Herd award in 2012 during the Jersey Canada annual meeting. Eric is seen here with David Jordan of River Valley Farm who presented a Marmie composite during the presentation.

Eric’s accomplishment of his Master Breeder Herd award in 2012 along with the opportunity to be his own boss has provided him with a great lifestyle and many memorable moments in the last 40 years.  “The fact that Eric Thompson received a Master Breeder Award from Jersey Canada came as no surprise to those of us who have known him for a long time. Eric has retained a passion for breeding the best cows possible for decades. He is known as a master forage maker so he gets the genetics right and then feeds and manages the herd with excellence. Eric covers all the bases as he likes high type cows who milk heavily and also has a keen interest in polled genetics,” said Russell Gammon, Semex Jersey Specialist.

While both Eric and RJ admit their short term goals involve moving forward with the execution of the farm’s succession plan, RJ says long term his goal is to make Eric proud of how the farm moves into the future. “It has taken Eric a lifetime to accomplish what he has and I am fortunate to work with and continue to develop such a great herd of cows,” said RJ.

By: Lexi Wright


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