We are saddened to share the passing of my dad, Ross Small, on Thursday, April 21st. Dad and my mom (Betty) founded Dora Lee in June of 1973, with the first Simmentals arriving in the spring of 1974. Mom and Dad had a mixed farm that consisted of purebred Duroc and Landrace hogs alongside the Simmentals, but it was the cattle that were truly Dad’s passion. With the purchase of ‘the farm next door’ in December 1992, the cow herd expanded, the pigs wound down, and Dad was able to focus on his goal of building his Fleckvieh herd.
Dad was always focused on the future, and would regularly ask the question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ He always believed that true cattle breeders focused on where they thought the breed needed to go, instead of chasing what happened to be popular at the present time. Genetic improvement is so slow in cattle, the five year window ensured that steps taken now would align with those longer term goals. Dad’s own focus for Dora Lee was on three things: He was dedicated to the idea of 100% Fleckvieh, and spent hours going back through pedigrees to ensure they all originated in Germany or Austria. He was confident that polled cattle were the future, and began incorporating the gene into his program shortly after the first polled Fleckvieh import bulls arrived in Canada in the late 1990’s. He was also a believer in ‘keeping on top of change’, and utilized DNA technology to measure for feed efficiency / RFI. He was convinced that this would be the next, long term evolution to the cattle industry, and as always wanted to be there when the time came to have already genetically selected for the future demands of the market. While the priority of Feed Efficiency may still be in the future, the sales results from this past spring would certainly suggest that his early ideas regarding polled was right on the money. Those five year plans may take more than five years, but they give focus and shape to the direction of an operation; allowing it to move forward.
Mom and Dad enjoyed the opportunity to travel for cattle, and meet new people along the way. For many years, Dad really enjoyed ‘Fleckvieh Week-end’ in Alberta – but it was always the Friday night social (prior to Fleckvieh Fest the next day) that was his favourite part of the week-end. The opportunity to visit, socialize and break bread with his fellow breeders was something not to be missed! He enjoyed his visits to the United States, Scotland, and the World Simmental Congresses in Germany, Australia and Calgary. As much as those trips revolved around cattle, it was always the people they met that made the lasting impressions. Dad enjoyed a good joke, but also really enjoyed getting to know people, especially those just starting out with Fleckvieh. Even as they stuck much closer to home over the past few years, he continued to study catalogs, making ‘his pick’ of every female sale, and always noticing when ‘Dora Lee’ would appear in a pedigree. He was quite tickled to see our high selling bull from this spring be a ‘Dora Lee’ grandson, and reminded me several times, (both before and after the sale) that it was also ‘his pick’. It only took a pedigree or a prefix to trigger a conversation on the people behind the cattle with whom he built lasting relationships.
One of the cool things about cattle is that the prefix’s of quality cattle stand the test of time. While we will miss my dad, a consistent reminder of his passion and legacy will live on in the name ‘Dora Lee’.