Oxford farmers win prestigious breeding award

Hank and Nancy-Lee Hazeleger are recent recipients of the Master Breeder Award.

The recognition is the most prolific accolade awarded by Holstein Canada. Each year since 1929 the organization has recognized breeders among its membership for their efforts. Holstein Canada said the award “is the pinnacle of success for any member. Since its inception, over 1,000 Master Breeder shields have been bestowed to Holstein Canada members. These "Master” breeders are recognized for having the best ratio for breeding cows that possess the complete package— high production and outstanding conformation, with high proficiency in reproduction, health, and longevity.”

The Echo was able to talk to Hank after receiving the honour and the Holstein trade is all he knows after taking over the farm just south of Embro from his father in 1981. Hazeleger said the business has seen tremendous improvements in his twenty-plus years. “Once you’re thrown into it you learn the business part of it, more so than when I was younger once I took it over. When you put it into the context of winning this award, learning about breeding is never-ending because genetics change all the time, the technology changes, the science changes, and the kind of cow you’re looking for changes over time too.”

He added the family was excited to receive the award and it provided a verification they have been doing the right things over the years. “We feel like we have done a pretty good job at breeding cattle and looking after them because it’s not just about the breeding, it’s about taking good care, feeding them right, and making them productive. It’s the ultimate award in the Holstein industry.”

Hazeleger said breeding cows has become an incredible science in so many ways over the years. “The DNA testing and sexing of semen has been a technology that has made a huge difference in the sector. There are a lot more Heffer calves and that’s why people have gone to breeding a lot of their cattle for beef now. They are crossing over their bottom-end cows with a beef bull to get more money for cross-bred bull calves.”

Hazeleger and his wife have just completed the succession process and their son, Marty, has taken over the reins at Hanalee Holsteins. “He has taken over the business side, but we are all involved and still working. It’s not like we’re ready to quite retire yet. Nancy and I are going to be 65 this year but still pretty active. We do chores morning and night, so it isn’t over yet.” Marty has been involved for the past 10 years and makes most of the breeding decisions. “I’m sure it's in good hands.”

Lee Griffi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wilmot-Tavistock Gazette