CAP-SANTÉ, QC– If you were looking for the ideal definition of successful new farmers, the search would likely end at the Holstein breeding operation – Ferme Jacobs Inc.
In fact, with three generations currently working at the Holstein farm, the business could also serve as a model for harmonious family farming.
The story began in 1951 when Leo Jacobs and his late wife Nellie immigrated to Canada from Holland. He started the business in 1965, after learning the trade and demonstrating his skills throughout the country.
In 1980 the couple formed a partnership with two of their sons Jean and Pierre. In 1984 and 1998 they earned Master Breeder shields. Jean is now the farm manager – with his wife Marian.
Their oldest son is Yan, 30, responsible for the herd and breeding program. His wife Véronic – an agriculturalist and teacher at Centre de Formation Agricole in St-Anselme, Quebec – helps with other duties like herd nutrition and milking. They have two children Elsie and Nellie.
Eldest daughter Ysabel 31 is in charge of calf raising, office management and promotion for the herd. Her husband Tyler works in several areas. They have a daughter Alyson. Ysabel’s younger sister Laurie 20 is another integral part of the operation.
Another son Kevin, 25, is also involved while long-time employee Alan Bouchard has been onboard for about a quarter of a century.
“We milk 145 cows, do a lot of work with embryos and take part in many shows around and outside of the country,” says Yan. “My dad manages everything on the field, works with the tractors and is just an incredible worker. My parents have done a great job in building up this business.
“When it comes to our shows, I think 2008 was probably our best year. We won 14 banners that year, including Premier Breeder at the Royal and the three major Quebec Holstein shows.”
The Jacobs’ winning ways were not just limited to this country. They also took their first full show string to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, where Valleyville Lheros Jenn won the senior 3-year-olds. They had three heifers finish in the top four.
For Yan, there was never a question about wanting to be a farmer.
“I finished school in 1999 at the age of 19 and started to manage a herd right after that,” he explains. “Our farm now has 500 Holstein head and 1,000 acres. I took another course after school, then worked for Bill Macintosh in Embro (Ontario) from January to March and came back that spring and summer to get more experience.
“I learned my English from working in Embro.”
Turning to the educational factor, he credits his father as being as his “best teacher” and someone who “showed me everything”. Yan calls him one of the best – maybe the best – cowman he has ever known.
“I remember when we first showed in the open classes at the Royal Winter in 1995,” he adds. “I was 14-years-old and we took three Heifers. The first one I showed for them was last in the intermediate calves. The next class my father gave him the halter again.
“This time I finished in first with Jacobs Starbuck Renne. That shows you just how important my father’s experience is to me and the rest of the family. In fact, one of the most important things for young farmers is strong family support and we certainly have that here.”
The Jacobs breed for the kind of cow they like to milk – which means cows with “high type”. Yan says people come to the farm to see good typed cows and that includes good udders, feet and legs, and stature – essentially a balanced cow.
As for offering advice to other beginning farmers, Yan is quite blunt in his appraisal of the profession.
“Sure, farming can still be a good profession for young people,” he says. But if you want to do this, for example working with herds like I do, then you have to like cattle. You have to like what you do. If not, then look for other work.
“But it is hard now without a farm and without the necessary money and quite honestly governments don’t help enough. They need to help young people a lot more than they do now. It can be great and very satisfying work and having the kind of family support we have, makes it all the more enjoyable.”
For more information on Ferme Jacobs Inc. log on to: http://www.fermejacobs.com/en/nouvelles.php.