As a teenager, Thomas Judd would stay up late into the night studying the genetic lineage of the cows on his family’s dairy farm in Simcoe, trying to puzzle out which breeding pairs would produce the most milk or the best physical attributes.
Twenty years and countless predawn milkings later, the Judd family is celebrating after being named master breeders by Jersey Canada. Meadow Lynn Farms was the only dairy farm in the country to receive the national award this year.
“I strive to be very humble, but this is a very big moment,” a beaming Judd said inside the milking barn.
“It’s a lifetime award — a foundational acknowledgment that you know cows and you’ve done well with cows for a very long time.”
The master breeder award can only be won once in a generation, because it is based on two decades worth of data submitted by farmers to a national database. Judges award points for the cows’ condition and milk production, and Jersey Canada evaluators visit farms to make their own observations.
The roughly 800 cows who called Meadow Lynn home over the past 20 years were notable for their milk quality and volume, as well as their physical attributes.
In that time, the Judds raised 23 “star brood” cows — bovine matriarchs who have great milking careers and birth equally productive daughters. Most dairy farms might have one exemplary “cow family,” Judd said. To have bred five such families on a relatively small farm makes Meadow Lynn stand out.
“Almost 80 years of genetics have gotten us to this point,” he said.
There is no nomination process for the highly coveted award, and the announcement that Meadow Lynn had won for the first time in the farm’s long history came “out of the blue,” Judd said.
Judd shared the award with his wife, Sarah, who runs a vegetable box program on the farm, his father, Fred, who handles the field crops, and his mother, Sharon, who oversees the family’s pick-your-own strawberry patch.
Judd and his wife were also named National Jersey Young Achievers, an award for farmers under 40.
Meadow Lynn was founded in 1946 when Judd’s great-grandfather, Fred Sr., and his grandfather, Ron, started producing milk with a herd of fewer than 10 cows.
Fred and Sharon took over in the early 1980s and encouraged their son’s interest in cattle by having him help birth calves and teaching him bovine first aid.
“I had a very privileged start that way. Certainly very blessed,” said Judd, who started to manage the herd himself after graduating from university in 2010.
“You don’t need much in the morning when the calves are happy to see you. It’s wonderful, and it makes me smile every day.”
Judd insisted his parents join him and Sarah at the award ceremony in Levis, Que., to bask in the praise of their fellow Jersey farmers.
“Mom had some tears, and dad was humbled as well by the response that their peers had. That was a great moment for us,” Judd said, adding that the award “would have meant so much” to his late grandfather, who was himself an award-winning breeder.
Jersey Canada’s general manager, Jacob Lucs, congratulated the Judd family on winning the organization’s most prestigious award.
“Meadow Lynn stands as a great example to both new producers and long-standing family farms. They have consistently produced high-quality animals,” Lucs said in an email to The Spectator.
“Meadow Lynn also plays an important role as ambassadors — speaking directly to consumers through events and tours, and educating the public on where their food comes from and who the people are that produce it.”
Today the Meadow Lynn herd includes 55 milking cows, which spend most of their time out in the pasture. While a robotic milking system installed last summer has eased the demands on the family and its staff, Judd said raising cattle is still a hands-on job.
“It is a full-time daycare. They can get into trouble at any moment,” he said.
“They get out all the time. They run away from home. And the heartache. I’ve had multiple calves die in my arms. And people don’t see that. That’s not included when you buy a carton of milk.”
The master breeder award, Judd said, “distils all of that into one moment,” while confirming that Meadow Lynn is outstanding in its field.
“It is the highest stamp of quality,” Judd said.
By J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 03, 2023 at 09:26