The Flamans talk about their cows as if they’re family.
There’s Erin, Lila, Prestige, Mazing and Mary. And then there are the Donnas.
The Donnas are the pride and joy of this dairy farm. With ancestors dating back seven generations, the “D-line” of purebred Holsteins includes great milk producers like Dolly, Daffodil and Desire. The ancestry reaches back to the original Donna, who was born on the Flaman farm when Matthew Flaman was just a boy. Matthew is the current patriarch of this dairy family which includes Matthew’s wife Tricia and son Michael.
“I remember when Donna was born. We’ve always strived for those long large family lines,” said Matthew, adding that the formal name of the Flaman dairy is Chris-Adie Holsteins, named after his grandparents.
Matthew’s father Keith and Keith’s brother, Rick Flaman, were in charge of the Vibank, Saskatchewan dairy when the original Donna was born. The Flaman brothers had taken over from their parents Christian and Adeline Flaman.
Donna has not only been instrumental in maintaining good milk production throughout the Flaman herd, but she also played a role in bringing Matthew and his wife Tricia together.
Tricia grew up on a family dairy farm about 30 km from Matthew’s dairy. When the two were teenagers in 4-H together, Tricia was looking for an exceptional calf to take to a western dairy show. She found the calf she was looking for in Desire, a daughter of Donna. She borrowed Desire from Matthew and the rest is history.
“I wanted my boyfriend’s calf,” laughed Tricia who has now been married to Matthew for 18 years with two boys Jack, age 16, and Michael, age 19.
Matthew and Michael agree that a great day on this fifth-generation farm, founded 70 years ago by Matthew’s great-grandfather, Victor, is all about carrying on the genetic lines that have created top milk producers in the herd.
“We don’t get a big thrill from putting milkers on and off cows, but we really get excited when we’re able to carry on another generation in a good cow.”
The breeding program at Chris-Adie Holsteins has been a leader on the curve since Christian Flaman started artificially inseminating cows more than five decades ago. Matthew’s grandfather was an AI pioneer in Saskatchewan, belonging to one of the first AI organizations in the area.
From the Canadian Cattlemen website: Genomics 101
Matthew and Michael share their forefather’s passion for the breeding program at the dairy.
“The day that our vet says that our best cow is pregnant, we’re so excited. If we have a heifer out of that cow, that’s my reward for breeding Holsteins, that’s why I do it.”
In terms of operations, the Flamans choose to focus their energies on improving the genetics of the herd while taking care of the daily milking schedule. As for veterinary work, equipment maintenance and herd nutrition, the Flamans leave those jobs to the professionals.
All health questions are directed to their vet, who is on the farm at least two times per month. As for nutrition, Michael takes a great interest in it because he studied animal science in Vermilion, Alberta over the past year. However, he still leaves the monthly analysis of the herd’s nutritional needs up to an agricultural nutritionist. Matthew said it is more profitable to remain as managers than to get involved in areas where there are professionals to call upon.
“When Michael went away to school we said to him, ‘you have to come home smart enough to ask the right questions, not answer them.’”
The daily grind of milking a herd of 60 cows two times daily is not easy, agreed the Flamans. But they like the fact that they are a small family-owned dairy which is carrying on a five-generation tradition.
“I like milking my favourite cows and walking through the pen where my favourite heifers are,” said Michael.
Now that Michael is back home on the farm, his main intention is to keep the ‘D-line’ going, maybe for another seven generations if he’s lucky.