Generations of Successful Agriculture Business
This story was featured in Cowsmo’s Spring issue on pg 34
- 75% of cattle registered all 2 year olds classified
- Herd BCA: 220-220-220
- Owners of Walker Farms- Jon Walker Jr., Linda, John (28), Scott (22), Clint (20),
- Dayna (26), Jane (15)
- Approximately 20 employees who hold milking, calf rearing or farming roles.
- Land base 3000 acres in corn, hay, soybeans, some corn with a wheat rotation
- Calves receive pasteurized milk until 7-8 weeks and free choice grain
- Heifers receive grain and then TMR is introduced
- Cows receive TMR mix of corn silage, hay silage, soybean meal distillers and a
- prepared mineral
- Current sires using:
- Tobacco was one of the Walkers original farming entities. The quota was sold and money was invested into dairy farming, swine and chickens (currently 200,000 broilers).
- John Walker Sr (now 80 years old) still runs his own 500 cow dairy however all farming is done together.
- John was inducted into the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2008
- daughter Shelley Doan is involved in chicken barns and export business
- Walker farms is a shareholder in Foundation Genetics and Jon is a board member.
- Walker Farms own 6 quarters of land in Cudworth, Saskatchewan and 200 head of commercial beef cows ran by Bryce Fisher
- Jon holds cutting and roping events on a dirt arena at the Richmond farm a good part of the year.
Often dairy farmers are able to boast generations of success it is not often they are
able to lay claim to several successful enterprises in agriculture. The Walker family of
Aylmer, Ontario has continues to branch out and continue their success in milking cows, marketing genetics and a sales and export business.
Always a passion for dairy farming John focused on commercial production rather than pedigree breeding. An early adopter of large scale dairying in Canada, he milked over 200 head in the 1970s. He helped his family to set up their own farms too, and together they milked 700 head at a separate operation. A strong believer in Supply Management, the family also keeps 200,000 broilers.
In 1996 after farming on his own closer to London, Ontario under the Futurecrest prefix Johns son Jon Walker, along with his wife Linda and children John, Dayna, Scott, Clint and Jane moved to Alymer after purchasing the farm from Jon’s parents John and Walker.
Over the course of 10 years Jon’s herd size increased to 850. In 2008 the completion of the new 50 cow rotary parlour and free-stall barn is a day Scott remembers vividly. “I think my most memorable moment was when those cows jumped off the trailer at the new dairy. It was an exciting time for us as managers,” said Scott. This expansion just around the corner from the original farm allowed Jon and his family to reach their current numbers of 1100 milk cows while improving milking time and cow comfort significantly.
The parlour with a viewing area and offices above is attached to the 790 foot free-stall facility with sand bedding obtained from their own sandpit. Using a flush system for the holding area and skidsteer the manure is pushed to a separator allowing for the sale of additional fertilizer.
The original free-stall facility with a double 10 hearing bone parlour provides a calving facility and fresh cow start up. Show or top genetic animals are also housed just off the office and parlour in the curtained box stall barn. The new calf facility built in provides temperature control through automatic curtains and added ventilation through tunnel ventilation. Each of the six rooms houses 32 calves individually until 5 weeks of age when the dividers are taken out between the calves and they run in groups of three to four. At approximately 8 weeks of age the heifers are moved to Walker’s feedlot facility about 10 minutes away at Richmond where they are grouped according to age and are raised, bred and kept until just prior to calving.
All heifers and cows are fed a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) with variation of haylage and corn silage content with a private consultants input. The genetic barn receives free choice hay along with some TMR and grain. The new barn features a robot TMR pusher and cow activity is monitored by leg transponders with all data entering Dairy Comp 305.
Looking toward the future Jon has taken his father’s example and allowed the kids to not only take part in the daily chores but have allowed them to become part of the growth of the business. This growth has allowed his focus to transition easily from the farm to the sales business and more of an overall management role.
Both John and Scott admit their hopes for future expansion on hold with the cost and shortage of quota their current goals include reproduction while stream lining operations.
“We have been very lucky, the kids have always been interested in the farm and it has allowed us to grow and build,” said Jon. Along with their dad both John and Scott admit while their mom is a big part of the operation on the financial side she is most certainly the glue that holds it all together.
While family continues to be key at Walker Farms so do the outside employees. “Good people make the days go by easier, we have always been fortunate to have good people,” said Jon. While Jon admits all employees are integral key members include; book keeper Brenda and herdsman Grant Hansford who runs the dairy barns with ease and has been employed with the Walkers for 18 years. “Grant has always treated our farm like his own. He is in the barn before anyone else and is the last to leave,” said John.
Herd management a key factor the Walker’s have always focused on good functional cows for both their sales business and their own genetic pool. When it comes to a successful breeding program Jon admits, “We have always like pretty cows and do use higher type bulls so we can compete at shows but we have also used high milk bulls.”
Utilizing 90% genomic young sires with bulls used for cleanup after two consecutive
unsuccessful services the Walkers continue to use bulls from all AI units. “We believe
genomics is just another tool to utilize in our breeding program. Of course it is important to use common sense just like when the LPI formula came but I think it will continue to eliminate the bigger disasters when calving out 2 year olds,” said Jon. A strong believer in genetics and advancing the breed the Walkers are also shareholders in Foundation Genetics. “The AI business has allowed us to diversify into a different area while reinforcing the value of registration, classification and milk recording,” said Jon.
While flushing is not a main focus Futurecrest has utilized it to sell approximately 30
embryos a year while implanting around 60 embryos for their own genetic program. The majority of their flushing program focused all All-Canadian winner, Salem Goldwyn Theresa EX-94. Purchased by John for a 4-H project Theresa quickly became everyone’s favorite. Backed by a Reserve All-Canadian dam, Veazland R Bstar Tabby EX 2E 2*, Theresa went onto make her own mark in the show ring. Her success as a Junior yearling with 1st 2007 was followed with Johns most memorable moment in 2009 when she was 1st 3 Year Old and Intermediate Champion at the Royal securing her All-Canadian title.
After finishing outstanding records providing her with 3 Superior lactations and 1 Super 3 Award Theresa is now on an extensive flush program continuing her legacy through her outstanding daughters. A total of 7 VG 2 yr olds include milking daughters by Aftershock, Duplex and Windhammer with more calves on the ground by Let it Snow, Braxton & Aftershock. Her most notable daughters to date include Futurecrest Aftershock Tahlia VG-88 2yr sold in the 2013 Sale of Stars to Gene Iager and Dupasquier Holsteins for $60,000, Futurecrest Windhammer Talita VG-86 and Aftershock Tricia VG-85 who both reside at Walkers with several other VG daughters.
Also marketed through Foundation Genetics are two sons, Futurecrest TNT VG-89, and Aftershock with GLPI+2244 with +13 for Type and Futurecest Tenacious EX-90 a place and Grand Champion Calf at the Scotiabank Classic in Duplex son with +14 Type who already has daughters classified with 74% GP or better.
Even though Theresa holds a special place in everyone’s heart other cows that continue to contribute to the success of their genetic program include Jons favorite, Stanhope Jordan Trixie EX-92 2E. Trixie already has one promising daughter Futurecrest Goldwyn Trixie VG-88 2yr and she is backed by the Wedgwood Trixie Gibson EX-96 2E 6* family. Lindenright Dundee Laural EX-93 2E 3* an 11th generation EX 2X All-Canadian nominee owned with Stanhope Wedgwood has a Goldwyn son Futurecrest London VG-86 at Foundation. London already has 131 daughters scored 72% GP or better. A daughter of Laurels VG-88 full sister, Futurecrest Aftershock Linda VG-89 who was 1st Senior 2 Year Old at Elgin County show in 2013 also has a bright future ahead of her.
Some other favorites include Gleneil Carisma Bo Lark EX-94 3E a 6th or EX nominated All-Canadian Junior 3 Year Old in 2007 and Philmardo Watch Out Im Here VG-89 the honorable Mention Junior Champion from the 2009 Royal Winter Fair. Owned with Rob Heffernan, Pat Conroy and Esteban Pasado Im Here was also 2nd Junior 3 Year Old at the 2011 Ontario Summer Show.
The Export and Sales Business
Family owned and operated Walker Dairy Sales has won numerous awards World Wide for their sales and export business. Starting dairy sales over 45 years ago, the last Friday of every month has been held for monthly sales at Walkers Sales facility to serve their customers through both successful and challenging times. No matter what John Sr., Jon and John Jr are always at the sale barn on sale day. “I think in my whole life I have only ever missed one sale and that was for another sale,” said Jon. Running approximately 100 head through the sale barn each month both Jon and John auctioneer with the help of Jon’s nephew Jimmy Doan.
Also during this period the Walkers made a name for themselves exporting top Canadian cattle to countries such as México, Iran, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Cuba, The Netherlands, England, Germany, Venezuela, Morroco, China and the United States. While exports have decreased from 10,000 head a year (pre-BSE) to around 2000 head per year John Sr continues to be active with the help of Brent Howe who is on the road filling orders and selling cattle primarily for the United States and Mexico. An excellent collaborator John has worked together with other exporters on many contracts, especially large orders of several thousand head. He is also one of the founding members of the Canadian Livestock Export Association, and continues in a leading role in its successor, the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association.
As noted in his Agriculture Hall of Fame induction in 2008,” In support of his export sales, and consistent with his helpful attitude to his family and friends, Walker went out of his way to ensure that small farmers who bought from him knew how to profit from their investment. For over 20 years he, and his Mexican associate Rodolfo Martinez, taught basic management and dairying skills through the Fundación Mexicana Para el Desarrollo Rural, a volunteer organization supporting poor farmers in that country.
Still a key part of the export business Rudolfo looks after Mexico exports and sales paperwork while John’s daughter Shelley Doan remains active in exporting cattle with some recent exports to Russia.
Expanding the sales business even further in 2009, John Jr., Jimmy Doan and Mike Vannord turned the barns across the road from the main farm into the Aylmer Stock Yards. This weekly auction mart runs through around 200 head of sheep, chickens, goats, cull cows and veal calves. An equal partnership Jimmy and John both auctioneer Mike takes on the role of organizing the stock.
It is evident hard work and determination continue the success of Walker Farms. The Walkers passion for cows and their future in dairy farming and the sales and export businesses will continue with solids management, good employees and strong customer relationships.