By Sheila Phibbs
The Haldimand Press
HAGERSVILLE—Beechwood Holsteins, the Hagersville dairy farm owned and operated by Murray and Janet Roulston, was recently honoured for what only a small number of farm families have achieved – 100 years of continuous membership in Holstein Canada.
Murray’s grandfather, James Watson “Watt” Roulston, founded Beechwood Holsteins in 1921 and registered the herd to become a member of the Holstein Association of Canada. The official date was February 16 as indicated on the original certificate of membership. Murray and Janet found the document by accident amongst a pile of old production records. Murray explains, “I found the papers on a shelf in the basement after doing a kitchen renovation.”
They were pleased to find the original membership certificate and were interested to see the production records of cows bred by Murray’s grandfather. A 1935 record shows that Beechwood Jenny Alcartra produced 14,223 pounds of milk that year as a three year old. Four years later, her production increased to 17,422 pounds.
Another notable cow was Beechwood Citation Carol, who was classified Excellent and had high milk production, setting a Canadian record for butterfat. When Murray’s father, Gordon, operated the farm, he was known for his management skills and knowledge of cattle feed. He maintained high levels of production and also enjoyed showing at various local shows.
The history of this century farm is not complete without the story of the farm being relocated due to World War II. In 1939, Watt Roulston was informed by the war department that the farm, which was on the 10th Concession of Walpole, had been expropriated to become a landing strip for the Royal Canadian Air Force for pilot training.
As the story goes, the Roulstons were given two weeks to move. While Murray cannot confirm the accuracy of that detail, he says, “They looked at farms toward Hamilton and the Oakville area but settled on the farm here. It was close to home.”
With the help of neighbours, the contents of the Roulston household and barn, including the cattle, feed, and equipment, was moved to the property on the 11th Concession where Gordon and his wife Stella would later raise their four children – Margaret, Murray, Bruce and Joanne. It is the place where Murray has carried on the Beechwood line.
The significance of receiving the Century Award is explained by Holstein Canada Vice-President Doug Peart of Hagersville. He says, “Only 34 farm families and two agriculture colleges across Canada have received this distinction. The Roulstons are the first farm family in Haldimand-Norfolk to receive this award.”
Peart has known all three generations of the Roulston dairy men throughout his life and recalls having help from Watt as he chose his first 4-H calf.
Murray Roulston is humble as he reflects on the years leading to this milestone. He says, “My grandfather did it (registered), so that’s what started it. If you were going to go anywhere with your cattle, you needed to be registered.”
Murray actually took out his own membership when he was 16, though he would eventually take over Beechwood from his father.
He adds, “Things sure have changed over the course of time. If my grandpa could see how things are done on most dairy farms, he’d be astounded.”
As the third generation at Beechwood Holsteins, Murray appreciates this Century Award achievement. He says, “One hundred years is a long time. Everything has to click. It’s like a relay; it started with my grandfather, then my father. I’m the one crossing the 100 year finish line.”