Overlooking the Hillsborough River just outside of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is the second oldest dairy farm on Island. Six generations deep on the property, the MacBeath family strives for top type and production.
After being told by Holstein fieldman Ernie Jarvis that Holsteins is where the action is at, Athol and Doris MacBeath traded in their registered beef shorthorn and potato farming operation in the 1960’s and began dairy farming with a 24 stall stanchion barn. As their sons, Gordon and Malcolm, joined the farm, barn and farm expansions followed. The original portion of the dairy barn was built in 1949, which was followed by major additions in 1966 and in 1978, followed by two more in the 1990’s. This brought the tie stall barn up to its current 100 cows. The first addition barn was later transitioned in to a calf barn. A new heifer facility was constructed in 2009. Gordon’s son, Chris, came home to the farm in 2004 and in 2013 Chris and his wife, Maureen, purchased Malcolm’s shares.
Today the farm is owned by Gordon and his wife Merle, and Chris and his wife, Maureen. Gordon is responsible for milking and looking after the accounting end of things as well. He is also the head mechanic who can fix almost anything. Chris does most of the feeding, looks after calf management and the breeding decisions. Malcolm and his wife, Valerie and kids Brodie (21) and Taylor (19) live on the edge of the farm. Malcolm continues to be an important part of the farm and is responsible for calf registration, milking and managing the feed inventory. Valerie helps out with meals during harvest and haying.
While Merle and Maureen both work off the farm, they both play an integral role in the farm’s activities. Maureen is a full-time school teacher with dairy roots developed at her parents’ Standean herd in Alberta. She fills in for milking, trains heifers for the show and more recently helps with night checks in the barn. Merle works as a pre-kindergarten teacher. She is a huge help with meals and is also an amazing grandmother to Chris and Maureen’s four very busy girls, Emily (7), Julia (5), Anna (3) and Sarah (1). Chris’ brother Colin, his wife Kate along their son Caleb live and work in Vancouver, providing a good reason for Gordon and Merle to slip away occasionally for visits.
The MacBeath’s grow all their own feed, except for the 100 tonnes of barley purchased annually. Even though the corn harvest is custom done, it still makes for a very busy harvest time. Added income comes from the harvest of 10,000 pumpkins sold each fall. Making their own TMR ration has become increasingly important as they strive to maximize herd production. “In the past we have always turned our cows out on pasture during the summer starting in June. This year the addition of some big fans in the barn allowed us to keep them in, which has increased our production 600 litres per day,” said Chris.
Gordon admits that his father, Athol, did a great job of providing them with a good base of deep bodied, open ribbed, big framed cows. Together, he and Chris have continued that trend while adding more type through focusing on good feet and legs, nice wide rumps and good udders. Using almost 100% Young sires, they focus on cow families, type and management traits when choosing bulls. In the last 5 years, production has also become a bigger focus for them. “We have been always recognized for high type, but we got tired of hearing that type cows don’t milk. We purposely set out to prove that one of the highest type herds in the province could also be one of the highest producing,” said Chris. As a result, Goldenflo was the highest 2X per day herd in PEI in 2016 with an average of 12,499 kilograms of milk, and a BCA of 280-310-276. The herd classification is 28 Excellent (EX), 83 Very Good (VG) and 21 Good Plus (GP).
The MacBeath’s use both DHI testing and regular classification rounds to continue herd improvement. “Both DHI and classification help us manage our herd. The herd reports and the ability to benchmark against the rest of the country is a really useful tool.” said Chris. Maureen says, “I think the monthly reports help us to be better overall managers, especially when it comes to milk production, feed and animal health.” For Chris classification and production records play a large role in their marketing program. “You don’t know how difficult it is to sell something until the records are not there. These tools help us to receive a premium for our stock. Classification and proof information also helps identify the families we should be working with,” said Chris.
These tools and solid breeding decisions resulted in a Master Breeder Shield for Goldenflo in 2005. Making the breeding decisions since 2004, Chris credits his dad and Malcolm for the Master Breeder Shield. Chris mentions, “I still remember Louis Patenaude congratulating me. I thanked him, but said it wasn’t my shield. What really sticks out in my mind was what Louis said next. ‘If you help at the farm, it’s your shield. Everyone plays a role, whether it’s breeding cows, milking, doing field work or even making meals or looking after children. All those things contribute to the success of being a Master Breeder.’”
Some of the main contributors to this shield on the cow side included Goldenflo Astre Jingle EX 4E 10*, Goldenflo Jed Nifty EX 11* and Goldenflo Inspire Eclipse VG-87 5*. Since then Eclipse’s granddaughter, Goldenflo Gibson Smarties EX-91 5E 8* and another family, Goldenflo Lee Angel EX-91 3E 14*, have also played a large role in the herd’s success.
Jingle, along with her six excellent daughters all scored multiple excellent, made a significant impact at Goldenflo. Goldenflo Jed Nifty EX 11* is from 3 generations VG or EX and has 7 EX and 7 VG daughters. Her most prominent daughter Goldenflo Rudolph Stylish EX-90 4E 11* also has 4 EX and 8 VG daughters that make her standout as a brood cow. Nifty’s granddaughter, Goldenflo Atwood Jam EX-93 2E, is one of the key family members today with a 6 year record 305 day projection 18,114M 662F 3.7% 514P 2.8%.
Goldenflo Gibson Smarties EX-91 5E 8* has 7 lactations and her last record at 305D 11,291M 466F 4.1% 360P 3.2%. Smarties has carried on the true breeding patterns with 5 EX and 7 VG daughters by Lheros, Damion, Lauthority, Allen and Seaver. Her most prominent daughter, Goldenflo Lheros Bubble Gum EX-96-3E 3*, one of Chris’ first matings, is one that helped put Goldenflo on the marketing map. Sold to Pierre Boulet as a 2 year old in 2006, Bubblegum was the Reserve All-Canadian and All-American 5 Year Old in 2009 and was nominated All-Canadian Mature Cow in 2011. Another daughter the MacBeaths are working with is Goldenflo Lauthority Koolaid EX-93. She has 2 Superior lactations and already has a VG-88 McCutchen daughter.
Goldenflo Lee Angel EX-91 3E 14* has an 8 year old record at 305D was 13,786 kg for milk 518 kg for fat at 3.8% and 422kg for protein at 3.1% with 5 EX and 14 VG daughters. Angel’s most well-known daughter was Goldenflo Allen Candle EX-93 6E is now owned by Dusty Hills Holsteins in Ontario. Candle was Goldenflo’s first All-Canadian nomination, being named Honorable Mention All-Canadian as a Senior Calf in 2006 and again as a Senior Yearling in 2007 under the Vanhaven, Quality and Lexis partnership. Four of Angel’s EX daughters by Lou, Damion, Atwood and Gold Chip are currently being worked with.
They admit it sometimes has been difficult to put a price on some of their better animals and let them go. “It is a tough decision to sell from the top end. We realize that if you sell all the good ones then you have nothing left to breed from yourself. Ultimately, when someone walks through the barn, they remember the top end and the bottom end, no one remembers the ones in the middle,” says Gordon. That said, Gordon and Chris realize that a good way for your herd to be recognized is through the sale of good animals and attending shows. The sale of Bubble Gum as well as Goldenflo Gibson Shania EX-92, Reserve All-American Winter Yearling 2003, Goldenflo Cousteau Roxette EX-94, nominated All-American 4 year old in 2004, and Goldenflo Lindy Nitrogen EX-94 3E, a show winner on both sides of the border, has given their herd added recognition. Maureen says, “I think presentation in the barn on a day to day basis is key. But getting your name out there, whether it is from cattle you sell, the shows you attend, or word of mouth, keeps people coming back to the barn.”
The sale of approximately 25-30 fresh cows per year, through Bruce Wood and Gilles Bernard, as well as embryos, provide them with added revenue. The breeding program is marketed to the world through the farm website and Facebook page. “Social media has certainly driven marketing to the era of instant gratification,” says Chris. Revenue from selling six to eight 4-H calves each year, some good heifers and a couple of good ones in consignment sales allows the MacBeaths to reinvest in some outside genetics.
“We feel it is important, that if we are going to invest in outside genetics, we need to invest in the best families,” says Gordon. Owned with Leighside Holsteins, Idee Goldwyn Lottery VG-87, a daughter of Idee Louise EX-94 from the Lydia family, has proven to be a great investment. Now in her second lactation, Lottery already produced over 150 embryos and has 3 VG daughters by Doorman and Aftershock.
Both Gordon and Chris admit they are lucky to live in an area that is so competitive and has such a wealth of knowledge to pull from when it comes to breeding cattle. “Bruce Wood, along with Bloyce and Guy Thompson are the ones that I give credit to for piquing my interest in type and show cattle as a kid,” said Chris. Gordon says, “I think the uniqueness of this area forces you to become a better farmer and breeder. Christopher is lucky to have such a great group of friends with the same interests that he can bounce ideas off. He also has access to a lot of peers with a lot of knowledge on the Island.”
Contributing to the dairy community has also been important to the MacBeaths. Gordon is the former Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board and the PEI Dairy Youth Trust. Chris is a former Holstein branch president and is the chairman for the 2019 National Holstein Convention.
Considering the numerous accomplishments, the family admits that being able to raise their kids and grandkids on the farm is one of the most rewarding aspects. “It is rewarding working with family. Also, seeing what you have achieved, whether it is with the cows or in the field it is very gratifying,” said Gordon. Merle says, “being across the yard and being able to see my grandchildren grow up here and working together with Christopher and Maureen couldn’t make me happier.” Maureen admits, “having the kids grow up on the farm and learn the value of hard work just like we both did, with the support of our family, is more then anyone could ask for.”
Looking towards the future of the farm and perhaps another generation in dairy farming, Chris says, “there is a big difference between happy and satisfied. It’s important to be happy with your successes, but to me being satisfied means you reached an end goal and there is nothing left to improve or accomplish. Being satisfied means that you aren’t moving ahead. We are extremely happy with our accomplishments, but we are far from satisfied.” These values along with this family’s determination and hard work will continue to provide a solid foundation for breeding top cows under the Goldenflo prefix.
- Milk 100 Holsteins
- Herd Classification: 28 EX, 83 VG & 21 GP
- Milk production average: 12,499 kgs of Milk, BCA 280-310-276
- 400 acres grass, 120 acres barley, 80 acres corn, 75 acres soybeans and 3 acres pumpkins
- Calves fed 8 litres whole milk (not waste milk) daily along with calf starter 22%, weaned at 8-10 weeks of age, hay at weaning
- move to heifer barn 20% calf starter, 35% protein supplement & dry silage
- 60 days preg receive pellet only and baylage
- Cows receive grass silage, corn silage, barley, roast soybeans, all mixed in house for TMR plus protein mineral supplement
- Bulls currently being used: Sidekick, Sandstorm, Kingpin and Victor with sexed semen from Chief and iMac