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A magical Christmas: Two baby calves and two proud owners

Amanda Poelman for Progressive Dairy Published on 27 November 2019
Ally and kate Coleman

Christmas is a magical time. From the twinkling lights, decorations and Christmas carols, to cups of hot chocolate and skating on a frozen pond, everyone has something they love about Christmas festivities.

And while many young people are making wish lists filled with the latest technology, clothes or a puppy, sisters Ally and Kate Coleman of Hampton, New Brunswick, topped their list with something that definitely wouldn’t fit under the tree: two Milking Shorthorn heifer calves.

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Ally, 17, and Kate, 16, have grown up on their family’s hobby farm in Hampton, 30 minutes east of Saint John, New Brunswick. The farm has a little of everything, including pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, five purebred Hereford beef cows and a draft horse. To say the girls have a passion for animals is an understatement, as both also work on dairy farms nearby in addition to their home chores.

kate's calf, Oceanbrae Irons Little Willow P.

They come by their farming blood honestly. Their dad, Luke, came from a smaller family farm that produced enough for themselves plus a little extra to sell on the side. Mom, Jill, came from a dairy and beef operation that was started by her grandfather in the 1940s and was later run by her dad until the 1980s when the herd was sold. Coincidentally, when the original herd was first started it was made up mainly of Milking Shorthorn cows.

Ally and Kate have been avidly involved in the 4-H program for several years as members of the Farm Fresh 4-H Club. They have completed projects in light horse, rabbit and Junior Leader, and they both volunteer through the 4-H program as much as possible. “We were both interested in doing a dairy project,” Ally says. “We became intrigued in the Milking Shorthorn breed through our 4-H leader Frances Freeze, who shared stories of their gentle dispositions and big personalities through her own experience.” Kate adds, “We really wanted to show something that wasn’t as common as a Holstein or a Jersey, so we knew the Shorthorns would be the perfect fit.”

Diligently putting away their earnings to buy their own calves, both Kate and Ally joked to their parents on numerous occasions that it would be awesome to get heifer calves for Christmas. Little did they know their parents were already in contact with the Barrett family of Oceanbrae Farms in Belmont, Prince Edward Island about purchasing two calves. “We took pictures of the heifers we had available,” Ryan Barrett says, “and from the group of December calves, picked two we thought would make the best 4-H projects for the girls.”

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On Christmas morning, Luke and Jill presented Ally and Kate with Christmas cards that held pictures of their new calves and said, “We hope you have a Moo-ey good Christmas!” The girls were completely surprised and over the moon! Two days later, the family headed to Oceanbrae to see the calves for the first time in person and bring them home.

Kate’s calf, Oceanbrae Irons Little Willow-P, was born Dec. 3 and is from the famous “Lass” cow family at Oceanbrae, a family that has exceled in both type and production since the 1990s. Ally’s calf, Oceanbrae Twisted Eleanor Rose, was born Dec. 13 and is from the “Pepper” family, one of the strongest and most consistent families in the Barrett’s Master Breeder herd. Both calves are sired by Oceanbrae Ironman-P who has been in the top five for Lifetime Profit Index at Semex.

Ally exhibiting Oceanbrae Twisted Eleanor Rose at the New Brunswick Provincial Show.

“We enjoyed every minute of our first year with 4-H dairy projects,” Ally says. Kate agrees, “We knew it would be a big learning curve for us and be filled with ups and downs, but we had a great time.” The girls spent eight months training their calves and readying themselves for the New Brunswick Provincial Show, which added a colour breeds class to accommodate the Milking Shorthorn calves. Little Willow stood first in the intermediate calf class for colour breeds, while Eleanor Rose came in second. Then Willow went on to place in the top six of the all-breeds class.

“Showmanship was a little rocky for us our first couple times out,” Kate says, “but we really learned a lot! We owe all of our success to Frances, our 4-H leader, who let us come to her farm early before meetings so we could get some extra practice in with our calves and really showed us the ropes.”

A little Christmas magic that resulted in two Milking Shorthorn calves, put smiles on the faces of two proud owners all year. But more than that, it helped to further ignite the passion both Ally and Kate have for the dairy business. What’s on their wish list for this year? “We both asked for clippers, a blow dryer and sprays for the next show season,” says Ally, who adds that both girls plan to show their heifers again next year.  end mark

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PHOTO 1: Ally and Kate Coleman of Hampton, New Brunswick, each received a Milking Shorthorn calf as a Christmas gift from their parents. 

PHOTO 2: Kate’s calf, Oceanbrae Irons Little Willow-P, placed in the top 6 of the all-breeds class at the New Brunswick Provincial Show.

PHOTO 3: Ally exhibiting Oceanbrae Twisted Eleanor Rose at the New Brunswick Provincial Show. Photos provided by the Coleman family.

Amanda Poelman is a freelance writer from Cobble Hill, British Columbia.

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