April 6, 2016 · 0 Comments
Tim Sargeant, vice-president Jersey Canada, presented the Master Breeder award to Schomberg’s John, Helen, Sue and Larry Sheardown.
By Mark Pavilons
There’s a lot of star power at a Schomberg area farm. In fact, it’s home to some international celebrities.
Rexlea Jerseys, owned by John and Helen Sheardown and Larry and Sue Sheardown, have not only set records, but have one of the best herds in the country. They were recently honoured with their second Master Breeder designation from Jersey Canada. This prestigious honour is shared by only four other farms in Canada.
The title is based on production, lines and breeding ability. It’s a long-term designation and farms can only earn it every 18 years. For Rexlea, that means they’ve been masters for 36 years.
Larry said it was “overwhelming” to be recognized by his peers and colleagues. Only one designation is handed out annually, among the association’s 1,200 members.
The majority of Rexlea cows can trace their lineage back to 1912, to Larry’s great-grandfather. These strong bloodlines have led to 52 star brood cows and have been in the top 10 in terms of production, for the past 20 years. That alone is noteworthy.
Rexlea boasts some great animals, raising the bar in terms of production volumes. They average 9,000 litres/kilos, much higher than the average jersey and more than average holsteins. Their milk also contains 5% butter fat and 4% protein.
Leading the demand for dairy are products like cheese and yogurt.
Larry pointed out his farm produces enough milk to feed the entire village of Schomberg every day. They’ve tripled the production output in the last 40 years.
Larry attributes the family’s success to many things. They currently provide their cows with many creature comforts, including mattresses. There’s plenty of ventilation in the barn, housing the 50 head. They also receive plenty of water and a high-quality feed. All of this, combined with those strong genetic traits, produce results.
Larry noted they have sold cattle to other breeders and they’ve also sold genetic material. Rexlea Jerseys live on in animals across the globe, and the farm still attracts international visitors, who want a glimpse of these prized animals.
“It really has been a family partnership,” Larry stressed. “We’ve been at it a long time.”
Aside from the obvious, running a successful operation depends a lot on analyzing data and sharing information. There’s a tremendous amount of technical details in the operation, along with the physical labour. It really is a 24/7 labour of love.
“If you have to get up at 5 a.m. it’s better to milk a good one,” Larry said.
“There’s a lot more in the tank.”
With that focus, there’s no doubt the Rexlea lineage will continue long into the future.