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Cynthia Crowley learns life lessons in dairy farming

Alice Guthrie for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 October 2016
Cynthia Crowley

She’s bright, cheerful, welcoming – and very passionate about life and her dairy business. Raised on a farm with a beef feedlot in the Cobourg, Ontario, area, along with a sister and two brothers, Cynthia Crowley wasn’t planning a career in the dairy business.

Following high school, she attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a major in commerce and a minor in English. She accepted a job in the finance department of Quaker Oats in Peterborough, Ontario.



Career plans changed with marriage to dairy farmer John Crowley in 1986. By 1993, she had left her off-farm employment to work full-time on the family farm and raise her four children, now all in their 20s.

Christina, the oldest, is a University of Guelph graduate and is now employed by Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal. Justin has a dairy degree from Guelph, Ryan has a business degree from Trent University, and Vanessa is now in her last year at the University of Guelph.

Cynthia says she feels “very fortunate all my kids are interested in agriculture.” They all enjoy helping to show the farm’s cattle, and both boys work with their parents on the farm.

Crovalley Holsteins, near Hastings, Ontario, is moderate in size, and the quality of cattle and management is high. The family works 1,200 acres, has 300 head of cattle, with 85 to 90 milking at any given time. All are registered Holsteins on test and type-classified.

The operation has been the recipient of two Master Breeder shields, in 2001 and 2015. “You have to breed good cattle … plus it’s your production … it’s a dedication thing,” Cynthia says. All of the family was involved in earning the awards.


The Crovalley cattle have won numerous prizes and awards, including All-Canadian and All-American awards for conformation as well as for production. The office area bears witness to their success with multiple banners, cow statues and photos of cows.

Cynthia explains that all of their calves are handled from birth and taught to lead at a young age. This helps to prepare those that will eventually go into show rings. She says it is essential to know each cow, that observation is a major assistant in recognizing problems before they are huge.

“Animals need personal contact … computers are great, but person-to-animal interaction is important,” Cynthia says. 

It is clear in watching her in the barn that the cows are comfortable with her presence.

Cynthia Crowley's awards

Cynthia does milking and is involved in breeding decisions for the herd. She loves working with the animals, developing a partnership with them for success. Her goal is to always keep getting better, in breeding and in feeding.


The Crowleys have shown and sold cattle nationally and internationally as well as exporting embryos. John is also an official Holstein Canada judge, which has given the Crowleys the opportunity to travel to other countries as Canadian ambassadors. He judges and they visit farms in these areas.

They have visited Portugal, South Korea, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico this way. Cynthia has enjoyed visiting farms in other countries, and finds herself admiring good ideas and wondering how they could improve on their own operation by incorporating some of them.

At this time, the cows are housed in a tiestall barn, but the family is in the process of building a new freestall barn with two robot milking units. With their kids coming on, Cynthia is supporting the need to make decisions and move forward with the times.

Her philosophy is: Parents need to move out of their comfort zone and embrace new technology. They hope to have the herd make a smooth transition to the new system. Show cows will have a special area in the new barn.

Cynthia has served on boards such as 4-H, CanWest DHI and trained through the Rural Ontario Institute young leaders program. She finds it interesting to learn how different organizations work within differing structures and has taken valuable lessons from these learning opportunities.

In her spare time, Cynthia enjoys reading – particularly books with an unexpected plot twist. 

In early October, Cynthia was part of a panel at the Advancing Women Conference in Toronto.

Her topic, the “It” Factor, addressed how a person can apply life lessons to find her own “it factor” through Cynthia’s experiences in working and learning from the dairy cow.

Her speech touched on these life lessons she has learned: Never say never … do things and be open to where life leads you. Be willing to learn. There are always new things to learn … if you’re open to them.

Tap into your power within when you have to make yourself step out of your comfort zone. Be resilient and persevere; sometimes things don’t go as planned, but it’s how you decide to move forward that is most important.

Attitude is everything; when you have the right attitude, you can try or seize any opportunity. Seeing things in perspective is always a good thing, and finally, don’t give up or stop trying.

Cynthia says she feels very fortunate to be in this industry and still feel “wowed.” It’s what makes life interesting; she does not want to stay static. “Life is interesting and fun!” she exclaims.  end mark

Alice Guthrie is a freelance Writer in Hagersville, Ontario. 

PHOTO 1:The Crowleys’ cattle have won numerous prizes and awards, including All-Canadian and All-American awards for conformation as well as for production.

PHOTO 2: Cynthia Crowley didn’t grow up in the dairy industry, but she has learned a lot about it since leaving her off-farm job to work with her husband.  Photos by Alice Guthrie. 

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