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Lavender Farms
   The Sweet Smell
Richard Bosma, [email protected]
On a long drive through the night from Ontario to Wisconsin in the fall of 1996, D.R. Vaandrager and his friend Mark Rueth struggled to stay awake as they travelled between cattle shows. As they talked, an idea began to awaken in D.R.’s mind, one that would have a lasting impact on the breeding program back home in Abbotsford. Recently, the Vaandrager family was pleased to learn that the outstanding achievements of their ‘Lavender’ herd had earned them a prestigious Master Breeder Award from Holstein Canada.
Back on that pivotal night, D.R. indicated that he was willing to take a chance on purchasingembryosfromayoungbreeding age daughter of STOOKEY ELM PARK BLACKROSE EX-96-3E-GMD-7*, the 1995 RWF Grand Champion owned by world-class cattle-fitter Mark Rueth and partners.
A resulting female was born in 1997 at Lavender Farms. Sired by Rudolph, NORTHROSE-I LAVENDER EX-5* became an exceptional brood cow leaving two EX and ten VG daughters. Fortunately, her dam, ROSEDALE LEA-ANN EX-93-2E-GMD sired by Kinglea Leader, would go on to become a great cow in her own right. D.R. reveals that this cow family contributed 40% of the points towards their Master Breeder Award.
The Vaandrager family roots in Abbotsford date back to Daniel Vaandrager who emigrated from the Netherlands in 1950 and purchased the present farm in 1958. Gerrit and Jan took over in 1969 and slowly converted the herd to registered Holsteins. D.R. and Angela were married in 1999, and along with their four children, Kyle, Cody, Janessa and Celina, represent the third and fourth generations on the farm.
At age 13, D.R. decided to join the local 4-H club and eventually earned a place on BC’s WCC team. Here he joined BC’s best dairy youth competing against other top young talent at the Western Canadian Classic in the 1980’s. D.R. notes that many of his connections from those days are now Master Breeders.
The WCC program provided great mentors and soon D.R. began to excel in cattle judging and fitting. Before long, he was asked to clip at shows and sales across North America. For ten years, D.R. managed the barn crew for the record-setting World Classic Sales at WDE in Madison, WI.
As some of the primary influences on his desire to acquire and breed great cattle, D.R. credits a few of the respected breeders that he worked for such as Paul Ekstein of Quality Holsteins, ON, Marvin Nunes of Ocean View Holsteins and Don Chalack of Wendon Holsteins. Meanwhile, D.R. participated in judging clinics, rising through the ranks to become an official Holstein judge.
Another important part of D.R.’s education took place at Dordt College in Iowa where he took a two-year Agriculture degree program. Here, D.R. appreciated the emphasis placed on stewardship within agriculture, “We need to try our best as we are only given a small window of influence before we must pass things on.”
In the years that followed, D.R. began showing Lavender animals at local shows.
Along with some banners, class winners, and various champions, a special memory remains of their first homebred Excellent cow - LAVENDER BLACK RANGER LEA EX - being named two-time Grand Champion at the Chilliwack Fair in 1996 and 1997.
After spending a major part of each year on the road fitting cattle across North America, D.R. finally joined his father and brother Calvin at home full-time in 1999. At that time, the small registered “Lidumi” herd was purchased from the Bandenieks family of Aldergrove. D.R. remembers “They were a nice group of cattle that did really well for us.”
By 2004, the Vaandrager family faced a crossroad as their limited land base seemed too restrictive for two young growing families. A plan was enacted which accommodated the desire of Calvin and his family to begin dairying on their own, now operating Craila Dairy in Langham, SK.
Redrose and Others
A huge highlight for the Vaandrager family was LAVENDER RUBY REDROSE EX-96- 4E being crowned Supreme Champion at the 2005 World Dairy Expo. This beautiful Rubens daughter of NORTH-I LAVENDER would become a two-time R&W Grand Champion at WDE. Redrose had been sent to Mark Rueth in Wisconsin as a young heifer, with D.R. wisely realizing that Mark had the expertisetoproperlydevelopthispromising individual to her full potential.
The success of Redrose, along with her pedigree and the global craze for red Holsteins, sent the popularity of her cow family soaring. Lavender Farms was able to capitalize on worldwide demand for embryos from this family for several years. D.R. discloses that this went a long way towards helping him buy out his brother and modernize his farm.
A full sister to Redrose, RUBY RED RASCAL VG-88-6* saw numerous embryos exported while leaving two EX and four VG daughters at home. However, the most influential sister to Redrose was SKYCHIEF ROSALIND VG-9*, dam of two EX and eight VG daughters. In turn, Rosalind’s most influential daughter, ROSE PETAL EX-90-2E-9* sired by Goldwyn, left four EX and five VG daughters.
Rose Petal’s best daughter, SHOTTLE ROSIE EX-91-4E-7* with 120,000 kg LT is the dam of three EX and two VG daughters, including third generation homebred EX OBSERVER ROSIE EX-90-3E with 5y 307-412-326 BCA (also a tenth generation VG/EX member of the Blackrose family).
Purchased as young cow in 2012, OCEAN VIEW BAXTER PATTY EX-3* proved to be another great transmitter. She is the dam of three EX daughters, including herd favourite eighth generation EX LAVENDER DOORMAN PRINCESS EX-93 with 3y 308-395-339 BCA.
The Farm
Today, Lavender Farms is milking 140 cows with three robots. D.R. describes how production increased while stress on udders was decreased. The Lely robots have been in operation for 13 years and the Vector automatic feeder for six years. These labour- saving systems have allowed D.R. and his much-appreciated employee of the past 14 years, Robert Waugh, to efficiently run much of the farm together.
Kyle, Janessa, D.R., Angela, Cody and Celina. While D.R. and Angela are thrilled with the Master Breeder award, the real prize is sharing the exciting farming journey with their children.
of Redrose
    LAVENDER SHOTTLE ROSEY EX-91 4E 7* has made 120,000kg Lifetime and will calve again as an 11 year old.
  The fondness for Reds continues. LAVENDER RAZZLE JORDY RED was All-Western in 2019 and scored VG 86 1yr, after being Grand Champion twice as Janessa’s 4-H calf.
As well, everyone in the family pitches in with chores and during busy times. Angela feeds calves every other weekend and spends a lot of time cleaning and organizing. Cody keeps the Vector ‘feed kitchen’ full, and the girls regularly feed calves and rake stalls. Kyle, currently studying at Dordt College with the hope of returning full-time to the farm someday, readily assists whenever he is home. D.R. says gratefully, “This teamwork has allowed me to have off-farm involvements.”
To accommodate the robots, the barns were retrofitted with an emphasis on cow comfort. A few years ago, the goal for the herd was 85 points average classification on the herd with 300 average BCA; both targets have now been slightly surpassed.
In addition, over 45 EX cows have been bred here as well as 17 cows over 100,000 kg.
Lavender Farms consists of 77 acres while 200 acres are rented annually. A few years ago, the purchase of a round baler resulted in better forages, adding another significant boost to production. Another payoff has been the installation of irrigation mainlines. Last year, supplemental alfalfa was not needed, assisting greatly in reducing feed costs.
Breeding Philosophy
When it comes to breeding decisions, D.R. is looking for balance. He is not interested in extreme type but wants cows that will work and last. His advice to younger breeders:

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