Father and son John and Neil Zevenbergen and their wives, Jenny and Debby, were recently honored with a Master Breeder award for dairy farmers at a ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Zevenbergens farm in Owen Sound, Ontario, where they are members of First Christian Reformed Church.
The national award is given by the Holstein Association of Canada, which tracks animals registered as purebreds and gives each farmer an annual rating. Their standing is based on the animals’ productivity (yield, quality of milk) and conformation (appearance, health of the animal). Herds of similar sizes are compared to each other.
(L-R) John and Jenny Zevenbergen, Neil and Debby Zevenbergen
“There were three awards in our category [this year], and we were one of them,” said Neil Zevenbergen. “In what we do, in breeding cattle, this is . . . very prestigious. It’s recognition that you’re doing things right.”
Neil and Debby Zevenbergen have owned and operated Sunspark Farms since 2003, when they took over from John and Jenny Zevenbergen. The farmers’ work in breeding a quality herd of cows has been ongoing.
Neil Zevenbergen said, “You can find out every year where your standings are. About 10 years ago, we noticed we were getting close to the top 10. We kept moving up the ladder from there.”
They currently milk 62 cows in a tie-stall barn. The herd includes about 20 “excellent” cows and 40 “very good,” as rated according to Dairy Herd Improvement, the classification system used by the Holstein Association of Canada.