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Albert Cormier’s eye for elite cattle influenced the Holstein breed around the world

Alice Guthrie for Progressive Dairy Published on 09 August 2019
Lylehaven Lila Z (Ex-94-22*)

Holstein Canada recently awarded a second Master Breeder shield to a man who has had a great impact on the industry in Canada and around the world. Albert Cormier grew up on a dairy farm in Prince Edward Island, where he developed a keen interest in breeding Holstein cattle.

Moving to Ontario as a young man, he began a career that has seen him gain prominence as a breeder, exporter, sales manager and A.I. owner.

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He maintained a herd of about 200 head under the prefix of Calbrett, with about 40 milking animals on a farm near Georgetown, Ontario, until 1999. This was a transition herd, with all animals having a price tag. He was instrumental in shipping animals abroad through the ’80s and ’90s, until this option closed following the diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Canada.

Cormier then turned his attention to the emerging fields of genomics and embryo transplants. He exhibited astute judgement in selecting cows from which to build his herd and develop superior cow families. He traveled throughout North America, looking for young cows with great potential, then developing them and making them available to other breeders.

While on a trip in 1993 to inspect bulls contracted previously, he purchased Skys-The-Limit Cindy-ET (VG-89-6*). She was a daughter of a cow whose sons had been contracted, and she herself did well both in the show ring (nominated both as All-Canadian and All-American in ’97) and the milking barn. She was sold three years later at the 1996 Cormdale 500 sale for $47,000.

Cormier then remembered seeing Cindy’s younger sister and purchased a half interest in Skys-the-Limit Claire ET (Ex-DOM-10*) in 1997, along with two ET pregnancies in recipient cows. Claire performed well in the show ring, going Intermediate Champion at the World Dairy Expo in the Gillette Visions ’97 sale to a syndicate of buyers, with Cormier remaining a partner. Claire was Reserve All-Canadian and Reserve All-American junior 3-year-old that year.

Lylehaven Lila Z (Ex-94-22*) was another cow developed by Cormier. She was purchased as a bred heifer together with David Eastman in the spring following her win at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair as a junior yearling. This cow was the total package – a top show cow, a high producer and an exceptionally good brood cow. Her show career was stellar; highlights include being twice named All-Canadian in her age group, Honourable Mention on other occasions and twice winning her class at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. She classified Excellent-94 at 7 years old. Her lifetime production was 75,385 milk, 3.9%, 2,950 fat, 3.4%, 2,586 protein (368-386-385) kilograms. Lila Z sold for $1.15 million as a package at the Triple Crown Spring Sale in 2005, the first cow in over 20 years to sell for more than a million dollars. Lila Z’s greatest contribution was as a brood cow, producing more than 50 daughters and with at least 11 sons in breeding units. Her offspring have excelled in production and type.

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Cormdale Genetics Inc., a company name which encompassed several livestock endeavours, began while at his farm near Georgetown, Ontario. Cormier had visited Europe and noted differences in the way bulls were evaluated and selected, with more emphasis on index and production. He envisioned a bull stud here that would work on that premise, being sure other dairy producers would also be looking for this alternative option and there would be a demand for bulls. “Modern Sires” was registered in 1982 but didn’t catch on until 1990 when Cormier made an alliance with OGER, an A.I. company from France, to prove young sires simultaneously in France and Canada.

In the early ’90s, he founded his A.I. company and was the first in North America to import genetics and semen from Europe. He also pioneered the export of embryos to Europe, particularly France, Germany and Holland. In 1993, Cormier hired Dave Eastman as a sales representative. Eastman later became a partner; together they founded GenerVations, a division of Cormdale Genetics. Eastman became sole owner of this company in 2004.

One of the ET calves from Claire was Calbrett-I H H Champion (Ex-Extra), who became one of the first bulls proved by the young sire-proving program at GenerVations Inc. Cormier recognized something special about Champion as a young calf and was not disappointed. This was an outstanding bull in every regard, debuting high on the Lifetime Profit Index (LPI) list. In 2002, he was the No. 1 LPI bull. This bull alone put Cormier’s A.I. unit into the limelight, appealing to both commercial producers and showmen.

The success of cows like Claire and Lila Z drew attention to Cormier’s breeding. Their high production drew attention from commercial dairy producers, while their performance in the show ring attracted those in search of excellent type. Descendants of both cows are now widespread around the world, with success in the show ring being matched with success in production. These cow families have produced high-quality, high-type stock for generation after generation, improving the breed in Canada and far beyond its borders. Bulls from this family are still in high demand.

Cormier has been recipient of several awards recognizing his involvement and success in the dairy industry. He received a Master Breeder Shield in 2002 and a second one in 2018, presented earlier this year at the 2019 National Convention in Prince Edward Island.

Holstein Canada’s website says, “The Master Breeder program is the most prolific accolade awarded by our association. Each year, since 1929, Holstein Canada has recognized breeders among our membership for their cumulative breeding efforts. This award is the pinnacle of success for any Holstein Canada 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.”

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At the 2017 Holstein Canada National Convention, Cormier was honoured for his accomplishments with a Certificate of Superior Accomplishment, which reads: “To Albert Cormier for his exceptional contribution in the marketing and promotion of the Holstein breed through leadership and mentorship as a visionary and respected ambassador of Canadian Holsteins and the Canadian dairy industry.”

This is a very prestigious award, which is only given out as deserving recipients are identified.

Eastman describes Cormier as “extremely enthusiastic and passionate, innovative and a visionary.” These are well-deserved words of praise for a leader in the industry.  end mark

Alice Guthrie is a freelance writer from Hagersville, Ontario.

PHOTO: Albert Cormier and David Eastman purchased Lylehaven Lila Z (Ex-94-22*) as a bred heifer. She classified Excellent-94 at 7 years old and produced more than 50 daughters and with at least 11 sons in breeding units. Photo provided by Dave Eastman.

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