Ottawa Valley Winter Update


Here in the Ottawa Valley we have been living an old fashion winter. Early January signaled a new calving season, also brought with it -30 temperatures. It was a challenge to keep water flowing and animals comfortable.

The club was well represented at the Royal, I would like to congratulate all the exhibitors for showcasing the Hereford breed. The quality of the animals continue to impress and this will make for a bright future as we move ahead for the Hereford breed.

The club finished up the year with our banquet. It was held at the Amberwood Golf Course, Stittsville, Ont. The night had great food, a lot of socializing and we even learned things. As part of the evening we had James Byrne a Beef cattle specialist from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs talk to us on changes to the animal health and welfare regulations and traceability. Dave Cavanaugh brought greetings from the Ontario board and updated us on the happenings of the board.

As the New Year starts we had some changes to our board, I would like to thank Jay Bradley for his years of service to the Ottawa Valley club and welcome Bill Sluiman to our board, and we look forward to working with Bill.

The club will be represented on the Ontario board, by Laura Naismith and Ivor Thurston. I thank them for making the commitment to sit on the board!

The clubs next event will be the Ottawa Valley Farm Show in March.  The Farm Show is a great place to promote the Hereford breed to farmers and non-agriculture people.

I hope everybody has a great calving season and I look forward to seeing you all out at Beef-a Rama and other Hereford events!

Don Hess

OVHC President

Ottawa Valley Hereford Club Picnic

Sunday, August 13 from 1 – 5pm

The Ottawa Valley Hereford Club is hosting their annual BBQ at the farm of Sarah Darraugh and Derrick Black’s. 5392 Highway 60, Douglas Ontario. Sarah and Derrick have planned a fun afternoon of looking at cattle and enjoying music performed by the Black family. Please come and enjoy the company of fellow cattleman. Please bring lawn chairs, salads and beverages.

Sounds like fun!

Hope to see you there.

Sheila James

Ontario’s Commercial Breeder of the Year

Stuart Lackey’s career in the cattle business started with a Hereford cow named “Gem” when he was 10 years old. She was his first 4-H calf and she left him nine heifer calves in a row. By the time the year letter “G” came around again he had another heifer calf named Gem and she looked exactly like the original.
These days, the Lackey cowherd numbers 130 and Stuart still has some descendants of the “Gem” cow line on his Almonte, Ontario farm – just 20 minutes from where he grew up on a purebred Hereford operation.

Stuart and his wife Cathy bought their home farm in 1986.
“My wife, who grew up on a dairy farm, always says I tricked her,” says Stuart, laughing. “She was never going to marry a farmer. I was a cabinet maker and suddenly we were farming.”
Cathy’s off-farm job as a registered nurse has played a huge role in the operation.
“Nothing we’ve done would have happened without her,” says Stuart. Cathy currently works in the Emergency department at the Ottawa Civic Hospital – a 40-minute commute from home.
The farm is along the Mississippi River, a tributary of the Ottawa River, in eastern Ontario and a much smaller river than its American cousin. Cows can graze part of the swampy land along the river, but in a dry year like 2016 has been in eastern Canada, calves have been going all the way down to the river and Stuart has had to put up extra electric fencing to keep them contained.
Since 1986, the couple has added to their land base, which now includes 1,200 acres of cash crop land on which they grow corn and soybeans. In addition to farming his own land, Stuart also does complete custom work on a further 400 acres as well as some custom spraying.

The demands of crop farming have meant that the cowherd had to be divided into two calving seasons – spring and fall – in order to spread out the workload. At one point, they were also calving another group in the winter but have since amalgamated the winter calving cows with the spring calving group. Right now, the split is about even, in terms of numbers. One advantage to this has been the need for fewer bulls.
“I can actually run a couple less bulls than some people because we can use the bulls twice a year.”
Stuart maintains part of his herd as a purebred Hereford operation and rents out a couple bulls to some people. His Dad started a business a long time ago of renting out bulls and at one point had 40 bulls rented out around the country.

L-R: Dave Cavanagh, Stuart Lackey and Laura Naismith

L-R: Dave Cavanagh, Stuart Lackey and Laura Naismith

“I don’t have the time to do the purebred bit too much,” he said. The commercial herd includes Hereford, Charolais and Angus cows. But Stuart is a staunch supporter of the Hereford breed. He likes the colour (the darker red the better) and finds them nice and quiet to work with. “They are a very well-made animal and you can breed them either black or white – whatever you want – and the calves are in demand,” he points out.

He also finds that Herefords eat a little less that some of the other breeds do. Stuart has purchased many of his Hereford females from Polled Hereford operations in Saskatchewan.
His selection criteria always include EPDs.

“If the bull does not have good EPDs, I’m not buying him,” he says. But by the same token, Stuart believes that some people have gone overboard looking for calving ease.
“The biggest thing I look for is moderate calving ease and I really want to see the weaning weight and yearling weight,” he says. Weaning weight is particularly important to Stuart because he sells all his calves shortly after they are weaned.

Replacement heifers are sourced from his own calf crop so Stuart also likes to see good milk numbers.
“If you don’t have the milk factor you’re not going to have weaning weights,” he adds.
An ideal cow, for Stuart, would be dark red with some white on her neck and pigment around her eyes.
“I want a nice, medium-sized cow; definitely with a nice square udder and smaller teat size but not too small, because if they are 1 inch long, a calf can’t get on them either so they’re almost as bad as the ones that are 8 inches long.”

The right mature cow weight for their operation is between 1,500 and 1,600 pounds, though Stuart admits that they have some Herefords that weigh a couple hundred pounds more than that.
Temperament is important. Stuart likes to be able to walk in amongst his cows. Feeding his cows stale bread ensures they always come when called.
“No matter where they are, as long as you have a white pail or white bag – even if nothing is in it – if they hear you, they are coming,” he says. The stale bread comes from a local company. The Lackeys pick it up themselves and have to remove it from the plastic wrappers.

Calves are weaned and vaccinated with live vaccine before being shipped to auction.
“That really pays at the auction barn,” says Stuart. “It’s easily worth 10 cents a pound.” Calves have been shipped to the Ontario Stockyards, which used to be in downtown Toronto and is now located an hour or so north of the big city at Cookstown. A local cattle dealer arranges trucking and takes care of all the details surrounding the sales.
This year, Stuart is considering sending his steers to a feedlot that has just started up in his area just a half hour away.
The cowherd winters in the bush and will be bedded with straw that is run through a chopper.
“We bale quite a bit of soybean straw and run it through the bedding chopper,” explains Stuart. “Soybean straw is useless without a bedding chopper.” This year, the plan it to cut some corn after combining and try that for bedding as well.

Sourcing winter feed this year has been a challenge due to the hot, dry summer experienced in the Almonte area. They will be switching to a total mixed ration (TMR) for the cows this winter and have recently purchased a used TMR Mixer.

“We are switching, this year, to a TMR for the cows just because we don’t have the hay we would like to have,” he says. “We’ll feed more corn silage than normal and will end up buying distiller’s grain. The distiller’s grain will add extra protein to the mixed ration.” Stuart is also creep feeding his calves, for the first time ever, in response to the drought conditions.
The Lackeys currently employ two part-time farm workers and hope that one of them will be able to start full-time this fall. He also trades help and some equipment with a neighbor.
“You can’t replace good neighbors, no matter where you are,” he adds.

Stuart and Cathy have two children – Patricia and Steven. Patricia and her husband have a dairy farm at Alliston and have four children. It’s a five-hour drive to Alliston from the home farm or as Stuart points out, “maybe 4 ½ hours if Cathy is driving!” Their son Steven lives in a house on one of the farms they bought near Almonte. After helping out on the farm for a few years, he is back working full-time as a car mechanic.
On September 7th, 2016, the Ontario Hereford Association presented Stuart and Cathy Lackey with the Ron and Nadine Wells Commercial Breeder of the Year award.