UPDATE: Bryan and Doris are happy to report Cory Rae & Kim have taken over the Holstein operation! Bryan and Doris have moved nearby where their beef cattle reside.
Brian and Doris Aitken, Bridor Charolais, Mount Forest, Ontario, have worked hard to achieve success in all areas of their diversified operation.
Brian was raised in the Holstein business and took over his parents’ operation in 1976. At the time they were milking twenty cows and have expanded the operation to have thirty-three cows on line.
Their farm is actually situated closer to the town Holstein, which is home to numerous relatives with the Aitken name. Some of these are also Holstein breeders.
What heifers they don’t use for replacements are sold as open or bred seedstock. Bull calves are sold at one week of age for the veal market. As in most Holstein operations, all breeding is done by artificial insemination.
Corey Rae, their nephew has been working with them for thirteen years, he is now 29. Doris used to babysit him and it seems he was always around. He has shown their cattle and helped fit dairy cattle for the show ring for other breeders across Canada.
Their Holsteins have brought them show ring success. They have received All Ontario titles which is an accumulated point title. They have also received nominations for All Canadian Holstein. To receive this nomination, you must first do extremely well provincially. It is a combination of points and voting.
In 2004, Brian and Doris received the Holstein National Master Breeder Award. This achievement is based on classification of the cowherd and milking records. It is not an award to be taken lightly, as verified data is the determining factor. One-third of the Bridor cowherd is classified excellent. They were recently listed as the second highest classified herd in Ontario, based on the percentage of cows classified as excellent and very good.
Four of their excellent cows were featured on the cover of the Holstein Journal in August, 2008. They are all daughters of Bridor Mark Robyn by different sires, forming a strong cow family. The Holstein Journal is the Canadian Holstein industry’s voice.
With this calibre of genetics in their herd, it is no surprise that a semen company is waiting for a bull calf from a certain cow family. The semen will qualify for everywhere in the world except the EU, as the dairy business falls under the same exportation restrictions as the beef industry.
Brian’s dad also had a herd of twenty Shorthorn based, beef cows. He was using a Charolais bull and found it to be quite effective. He eventually had some purebred Charolais and this interested Brian and Doris.
In 1986 they started their Charolais herd with two purebreds from Norman Schnurr, of Fermosa, and four from Brian’s dad in 1989. This was to be the start of their semi-retirement plan. After having dairy cattle for an extended period of time, the purebred beef business is a much lighter workload. “Doc Hicks was and still is a big promoter of the breed and we bought a calf from him in 1992.” Brian says.
Over the years, Bridor has experienced a lot of success in the showring with their Charolais as well. It started in 1995 with the Reserve Bull Calf Champion and 1996 Junior Champion Female with Bridor Elenor at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Bridor Elenor continued her show career as Reserve Senior Female at the 2000 Royal.
Elenor’s progeny also brought them success. Her son, sired by Bridor Haldrey was Hicks Kasino, who became Grand Champion at the Royal in 2001 and BOSS Show Bull of the Year. He also showed at Canadian Western Agribition and at Louisville. He returned to the Royal in 2002 to be named Champion once again.
They used a Kasino son, Bridor Myron, within their herd for a couple of years and he was named Reserve Champion at the 2004 Royal.
KCM Rio Chico 427 became their herdsire in 2005 when they purchased this high selling bull calf at the Perrot-Martin Charolais Bull Sale.
They now have 45 Charolais females. They own 250 acres and rent another 150 acres. Their big, powerful set of cows is heavily influenced by RGP Eureka. Bridor 6K, a Eureka daughter was named a Gold Star Dam this year. Their knowledge of excellence in their Holstein herd has certainly been carried through in their Charolais herd.
Don Turnbull was one of Brian’s mentors. He tried to get them to join the Lake Erie group for a number of years, but Brian’s response was always that they were trying to build a herd and weren’t ready to sell. Don eventually talked them into it and they consigned their first females in 1999. They continued to contribute to this sale until it was discontinued. It was one of those events that just ran its coarse. Their close association with Don as a friend and mentor, made the honour of being named the first recipients of the Don Turnbull Award in 2007 extra special.
Brian and Doris have developed two herds with high standards and expect no less of themselves. Doris has been a director of the Ontario Charolais Association for ten years and was elected secretary in her first term, a position she still holds. Brian was the president of the county Holstein association in the 1980s. They are among the original consignors of the Uppin’ the Ante sale.
They go to everything and support all events. They promote Charolais and their herd by showing in three or four summer shows each year, plus the Toronto while there, Brian decided he wanted to take up team penning. He used to ride horses with his cousins and friends as a kid, but really took an interest in the sport. He was looking at a horse in the ranch horse sale at Agribition but didn’t buy. The logistics of getting he animal home were just too much of a deterent. He decided to search around home for a team penning horse, but in Brian’s dry sense of humour he explains, “I got tired of looking at burned out buggy horses, so I called Keith Young at Tyvan, Saskatchewan and made a deal on a different horse.”
Brian had a lot of fun competing and won a Team Penning buckle in 1997, in the Pro-Amateur division in Ontario. He doesn’t compete anymore and wants to get into community is a large part of their years and Doris has been a 4-H life. Brian was a 4-H leader for six using their calves, both Charolais ranch horse sale at Agribition but and Holstein, as 4-H projects over the years. Doris also did a lot of work on the CCYA Conference and Show the year it was held in Barrie. “Shannon Hicks got me involved,” Doris explains.
Together Brian and Doris have organized an Invitational 4-H Show in Mount Forest on Labour Day weekend. They have had up to 150 calves entered. Three counties use the show as a qualifier for the Hayes Junior Show in Toronto. This is their twelveth year of managing the event.
Who could believe that with all of this going on, Doris could hold a full-time job? Well she does. She is the Mount Forest Co-op Store Manager and has been employed there since 1986.
Many people diversify and attempt to keep many irons in thefire, but few achieve the level of excellence these two have managed. Brian still claims the Charolais are his semi-retirement project. “The Holsteins will be the first to go,” Brian says. From a Charolais point of view, I breath a sigh of relief; we need people like the Aitkens in the business for along time.