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8 BC HOLSTEIN NEWS ❆ CHRISTMAS 2020
 Seeing BC’s Early Dairy Industry Through JM Steves and Sons
 A Time of Great Expansion
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Tars Cheema
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 1 - The first shipment of registered BC Holsteins headed to China – 1930.
2 - This December 22, 1930 picture features HL Steves on the left, aboard the Blue Funnel boat, ‘Tyndarius’ in Vancouver. Wallace Mufford of Milner accompanied the shipment to China. The cattle had individual padded stalls.
3 - Steves Farm PRIDE AMARILA was the first identified cow photo that 11-year old Harold Leslie took with his first camera in 1910. Many more cow photos would follow!
4 - NORA CANARY (daughter of Sir Canary) – won the BC Dairymen’s Association first prize trophy in 1916 for JM Steves and Sons.
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  When Manoah Steves became the first importer of registered/purebred Holsteins to BC in 1886, the future of the ‘Lulu’ herd would certainly have been expected to remain a leader in Holstein breed development. But challenging economic circumstances that significantly included the over-zealous land development plans of son Herbert forced the sale of land and cattle to cover debt in 1892 and 1894. The dispersal of the Steves’ purebreds among many other early ambitious breeders would perhaps accelerate the development of BC’s registered Holstein fraternity.
Seeds, Stallions and Moving Milk
The Steves were industrious ag entrepreneurs – beyond their dairy farm, they were well known for their successful Steves Seeds business, and other farm stock – notably Suffolk-Punch horses and poultry. In fact, the seed business helped finance much of Herbert’s land development, essentially creating Steveston. Later in the 1890’s, the Steves family became established as one of the earliest milk retailers in the Vancouver area. During these years, Lulu Island was isolated by the north and south arms of the Fraser River – until the first bridge was built in 1890 – the Sea Island Bridge. JM Steves took over responsibility for the retail milk business after Manoah died in 1897. Later, the farm would operate under JM Steves and Sons.
“The milk would have to be shipped on the morning run of a paddle wheeler from Victoria to Fort Langley. Before 1908 they sold cream in five-gallon cans and 100 lbs of butter a week primarily to the canneries and to New Westminster,” Harold explains from the archives he has uncovered. “Cream was also shipped to Vancouver by CPR train and later by BC Electric tram.” In 1908, Joseph built a dairy by the barn on Steveston Hwy (called No. 9 Rd back then) where the raw, chilled milk was bottled, producing more than 35 cases daily, which were shipped to J.M. Steves Dairy Co. in Vancouver for door to door delivery. When the delivery business was sold in 1914, the new owners were granted permission to use the Steves trademark, which then went to the Fraser Valley Milk Producers when they bought the company in 1917. JM joined the FVMPA in 1917 also.
“In 1921, JM Steves was shipping 100 gallons of milk daily to FVMPA, 25 cases of quarts and 10 cases of pints,” Harold shares from his findings in the trove of old farm records. The average price was $0.51/gal. resulting in milk income of $16,520.43 in 1920.
Records and news clippings document that showing dairy cattle was very much a prestigious undertaking. Major expositions were convened in Victoria and New Westminster and JM Steves and Sons were noteworthy competitors.
Establishing the BC Holstein Branch
Barb Souter captured some interesting early history in the 1983 BC Holstein Breeders Directory. The minutes of the first meeting of the Branch took place on October 1, 1908, ‘convened in the cattle sheds.’ Hubert Freeman
Page of Matsqui was put forth as chair of the meeting, accompanied by Thomas Laing, appointed as Secretary of the gathering. ‘After considerable discussion on the need
of a Branch organization, it was moved...’,
by J. M. Steves, seconded by J. Erskine. The motion was carried, and the BC Holstein Branch had its start. The charter members numbered 54. JM Steves nominated HF Page as President of the Branch, and J Blair nominated JM Steves as Vice President. The first meeting of their Executive Committee was held December 31, 1908 in Vancouver at the Richmond Dairy premises. ‘The question of advertising came up, and it was moved (JM Steves) ...that one dollar per member be levied to provide means of advertising’. And so began the annual dues of the BC Holstein Branch.
Harold Leslie Steves (Sr.)
- Highs and Lows
Born in 1899, Harold had little chance to avoid immersion in his family’s substantial and high-profile dairying business. But it also would appear that he had a well-suited aptitude and interest in pursuing the rapidly developing dairy industry. “My dad got his first camera at 11 years old, so we had lots of pictures from 1910 on,” Harold smiles.
With an obvious interest in genetic improvement of the rising-in-popularity registered Holstein population, he excelled in judging at UBC while doing his agriculture degree. “My father won judging competitions in 1922 and 1923, before graduating in 1924.” Harold Sr. became the Secretary of the BC Holstein Branch in 1926 and shortly after, he was hired as the first Western Canadian Fieldman for Holstein Canada. The news reports of his hiring in this prestigious role spoke of his skill in the show ring, evidenced by his previous responsibility for the BC exhibit at the Royal! “His job was to promote the breed and help Holstein breeders upgrade with high quality registered stock from other breeders. They even took BC Holsteins to the Royal Winter Fair and he was instrumental in arranging the first shipment to Japan, China (1930) and Australia,” Harold explains. These were exciting and highly active years for the Holstein breeders everywhere. HL was stationed in Alberta for most of a year, then in Regina for another year to service Saskatchewan and Manitoba herds. He left his Fieldman role in 1933, returning to the farm. HL was highly regarded and was called upon to judge dairy cattle shows locally and on the Prairies during and after his Fieldman years. When his father, Joseph Moore died in 1934, HL took over the farm business. The JM Steves herd was near 100 cows, making it one of the largest through the Depression, but these were brutally tough times and selling assets was an uncomfortably common survival strategy. Stay tuned for that chapter in Part 3 of the Steves Story, next issue.
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