Pur­su­ing Per­fec­tion

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Hat­ley Town­ship

I vis­ited prob­a­bly the most pic­turesque farm that I’ve ever seen, last week, to learn about cat­tle judg­ing from a master, Hat­ley Town­ship’s Cal­lum McKin­ven. Look­out Hol­steins & Jer­seys, the farm that Mr. McKin­ven co-owns and runs with his wife, Kather­ine Beer­wort, and daugh­ters Tara, Brooke and

Alana, sits at the top of a high ridge in an area that bears some re­sem­blance to the rugged land of Scot­land, home of his an­ces­tors, and features Hat­ley, Lake Mas­saw­ippi and far be­yond.

How he came to buy this prop­erty, where the fam­ily raises over two hun­dred head of cat­tle for show­ing and mar­ket­ing pur­poses, and milks thirty, is an in­ter­est­ing ar­gu­ment for the con­cept of ‘fate’.

The “Look­out” got its name long be­fore the McKin­vens bought that prop­erty. The land was owned by a moon­light-

ing farmer who charged cars nights, to park on the high point of his land to en­joy the view. “I used to run over there the next morn­ing and col­lect the empty bot­tles that were worth one cent apiece,” ex­plained Cal­lum whose par­ents owned a farm down the road. “My fa­ther once asked me what I was go­ing to do with all the money from the bot­tles. I told him, one day, I’d buy the Look­out!”

Cal­lum was ready to buy his own farm, the Look­out wasn’t for sale so he opted for a prop­erty in Mel­bourne. Then, al­most ten years ago as he was driv­ing down Min­ton Road with his busi­ness part­ner, he saw the For Sale sign be­ing ham­mered into the ground. the pa­pers were signed.” He even re­ceived an in­ter­est­ing of­fer for the prop­erty the next day from the brother of a fa­mous, former politi­cian who lives in the area, an of­fer he quickly re­fused!

In less than a decade, the McKin­vens have trans­formed their ‘prop­erty with a view’ into a show­case farm that hosts vis­i­tors reg­u­larly from around the world, be they sta­gia­res who come to learn about cow ge­net­ics or heads of State, such as France’s former pres­i­dent, Jacques Chirac, who came to see the out­stand­ing view. The cow barn alone, with its im­mac­u­lately clean and brushed daily Hol­steins and Jer­seys, im­pres­sive in their bear­ing and stature to even the un­trained eye (me), is a real sight to see with its var­nished wood pan­eled walls and pol­ished win­dows. There wasn’t even a cow patty in sight! “We get a lot of vis­i­tors so we keep things pretty neat,” ad­mit­ted the cat­tle judge and show­man as we walked through the en­trance of the barn, walls cov­ered in awards, rib­bons, plaques and tro­phies, a tes­ta­ment to the fam­ily’s tal­ent for rais­ing and show­ing world-class cat­tle.

Cal­lum, who has judged cat­tle in 28 coun­tries and at the world’s most pres­ti­gious cat­tle shows, may have in­her­ited some of his judg­ing tal­ents: his fa­ther, Alex McKin­ven, judged Jer­seys all through Que­bec and On­tario. Even his fa­ther-in-law, John Beer­wort, who has judged at Toronto’s Royal Win­ter Fair, may have taught him a thing or two.

“I al­ways en­joyed judg­ing. I never liked pub­lic speak­ing but I’m okay with cows,” com­mented Cal­lum who be­gan judg­ing at County and State shows in his early twen­ties. By the time he was twenty-six, he was fly­ing around the world to pick out the ‘best of the best’. Twenty odd years later he has judged in the Por­tu­gal, Ja­pan, Eng­land, Ire­land, Scot­land, Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia and Brazil where he’s been back ten times, to name a hand­ful of the coun­tries he’s seen.

Re­gard­less of the coun­try, a cham­pion is a cham­pion and Mr. McKin­ven knows what he’s look­ing for when he en­ters the arena at a World Fair in his tuxedo. “I like a well-balanced an­i­mal: beau­ti­ful rib struc­ture, size and stature is less im­por­tant. A cow’s rep­u­ta­tion means noth­ing to me; my eyes are the boss. My Dad and my fa­ther-in-law al­ways told me to pick the best cow that day.”

The ex­pert con­tin­ued: “Per­fec­tion in con­fir­ma­tion goes with func­tional traits: good feet and legs at the right an­gle means the cow will last longer; a wind rump means eas­ier calv­ing; an­gu­lar­ity and an open rib struc­ture means more milk pro­duc­tion. Style, although it’s not func­tional, also car­ries a lit­tle weight.”

When it comes time to an­nounce the Supreme Cham­pion at a show like Toronto’s ‘Royal’, the crowd goes silent and you could hear a pin drop. When Mr. McKin­ven says the win­ner, the crowd roars.

Cham­pi­ons aren’t al­ways the re­sult of care­ful breed­ing; some­times they are found in the mid­dle of an old farmer’s field. “I’ve bought cows that I saw just driv­ing by. But now when the farm­ers see me coming, they put their price up!”

“I want to be con­sis­tent with my judg­ing. First im­pres­sions are really im­por­tant; I usu­ally see the win­ner as soon as she walks in.” Con­fi­dence in his choices is also cru­cial. “There’s a lot of money in­volved so the own­ers want a fair judge. Af­ter a show I’ll talk to the guys, ex­plain my de­ci­sion.”

Be­sides the judg­ing it­self, Mr. McKin­ven en­joys the trav­el­ing that comes with this “hobby” of his. “I’ve made friends all over the world.”

Although Cal­lum also shows his cat­tle at pres­ti­gious shows, he is “slowly sur­ren­der­ing” that as­pect of the busi­ness over to his daugh­ters. The fam­ily has also been sup­port­ing our lo­cal fair, in Ayer’s Cliff, show­ing at that ex­hi­bi­tion ev­ery sec­ond year, al­ter­nat­ing with the now de­funct Que­bec show. “We love the county shows. They’re im­por­tant and there’s good com­pe­ti­tion in this area. Some­times I help lo­cal farm­ers de­cide which cows to show.”

Ap­par­ently, the cows like the shows, too. “It’s amaz­ing how well the cows per­form when you take care of them. Some of the older cows, when they see that trailer back­ing up, get ex­cited and they want to go.”

“My wife and I en­joy be­ing in the barn a lot, work­ing with trainees from other coun­tries. We have one ar­riv­ing from Ja­pan in April, and later in the year one is coming from Den­mark,” ex­plained Mr. McKin­ven about the trainees who come to learn the art of breed­ing and rais­ing cham­pi­ons. Be­sides valu­able knowl­edge, they’ll also earn a valu­able em­bryo or two to bring back to their own fam­ily’s farm.

“What you see here is a dif­fer­ent side to farm­ing!”

Cat­tle breeder Cal­lum McKin­ven poses with “Lovable”, a mag­nif­i­cent Red & White Hol­stein who is fa­mous world-wide, in his im­mac­u­late barn in Hat­ley Town­ship.

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