Hamilton Farms - EST 1981
Although Hamilton Farms is a first generation farm, Rob and Gail’s roots run deep in purebred cattle ranching. Rob’s grandfather, Matthew Hamilton homesteaded in Innisfail Alberta in 1892 along with his brother Tom Hamilton. Together they raised purebred Shorthorns as well as Percheron horses and eventually that farm operation was taken over by Rob’s father Thomas Hamilton. He carried on raising purebred Shorthorns and then Black Angus for many years under the name Rannoch Farm. Rob’s grandfather on his mothers’ side of the family, David Bradshaw, who was also from Innisfail, started raising purebred Aberdeen Angus in the late 1920’s.
Gail grew up on a dairy farm in Grunthal, Manitoba. Her father and mother, Gus and Gabrielle DePape, raised Holstein cattle and Belgian and Arabian horses. Their family dairy farm was awarded for having the highest producing dairy herd in Manitoba in 1970.
Gail and Rob met at Olds College in Olds, Alberta where they graduated in 1978. Gail was enrolled in the Animal Health Technology program and Rob took the Ag Equipment program. Gail was honored with the role of valedictorian for the graduating class at Olds College in 1978. After graduating from Olds College, Gail was hired by Alberta Livestock Transplants, located west of Calgary. That company transformed into Alta Genetics Embryo Division, which was later sold to Gail and some of her co-workers, and that new company was called Alta Embryo Group. In 2006, after 28 years in the embryo transplant business, Gail sold her share in Alta Embryo Group and dedicated her time solely to Hamilton Farms.
Rob spent time after college working as a herdsman for some purebred operations, worked as a custom fitter showing cattle, and spent some time at the family farm in Innisfail. It was during his time back at the family farm in 1981 when Rob saw an opportunity to buy some Black Angus cows. A deal was struck with Gotthold Reich to purchase 28 cows, and those cows spent their first winter at the Hamilton home place…Rannoch Farm, in Innisfail. They were calved out there in the spring of 1982, and later that spring, with a shortage of pasture at home, Rob took on a position with Church Simmental Ranch, located west of Calgary, and took his cows with him, finding pasture to rent and an old homestead where the cows would call home for several years. Rob worked at Church Simmental Ranch from 1982 until the fall of 1987. In 1984, Rob and Gail were married and continued working full time while taking care of their cows before and after work and on weekends. In the fall of 1987, Rob switched jobs and went to Alta Genetics Embryo Division, and served as Farm Manager until 1994. During this time when Rob and Gail were working full-time jobs, the Angus herd was slowly expanding and developing…and, it is worth serious mention, that, ‘this cowherd survived with very little attention, as no one was around to baby them’. ‘We rarely saw our cows in the daylight during the winter months, as we would feed before going to our day jobs, and check on them at night when we got home’. Also during this time, Rob and Gail started raising a family and this sure added to their daily schedule.
In April of 1992, 100 years after Rob’s Grandfather homesteaded at Innisfail, Rob and Gail were able to put together enough savings to put a down payment on a bare piece of property, which was a little further northwest of Calgary. This became the home for Hamilton Farms, and a new house, barn, and the entire infrastructure were constructed on a very tight budget! Also during this time, Rob served on the Alberta Angus Association Board of Directors for two terms from 1994 to 2000. Rob quit working full-time at Alta Genetics in 1994 and plans were well underway to hold their 1st Annual Bull & Select Female Sale in December of 1995. Prior to 1995, Hamilton Farms show cased their top bulls at the Calgary Bull Sale, and the remaining bulls were sold by private treaty. Although this was a tremendous venue to sell bulls and establish a customer base, it wasn’t the answer in selling larger numbers of bulls. The dream of holding a private bull sale at the ranch, was dreamt about for many years, and it finally came together in December 1995. On December 16th, 1995, Hamilton Farms and Reich Angus Ranch held a Bull and Select Female Sale together at the new Hamilton Farms sale barn. This was the 1st Annual Sale and the two entities sold together for eight years until 2002. In 2003, Hamilton Farms continued on with the Annual Bull & Select Female Sale as the sole contributor hosting the event. 2018 marked the 23rd year for this sale and it has been a very successful event ever since 1995.
Going back a bit, the Hamilton Farms cowherd was established in 1981 when 28 purebred Black Angus cows were purchased from Greenvale Farms, Gotthold and Harold Reich, at Bashaw Alberta. These cows were initially registered under Rannoch Farm in 1981, but when Rob moved the cows to the Calgary area in 1982, a new name was established for the herd and Hamilton Farms was formed. From that core group of cows acquired, came some of the top cow families, which are still represented in the Hamilton Farms herd today. Cow families like the Rosebud’s, the Annie’s, and the Blackcap’s all originated from that first group of cows purchased from the Reich’s.
In 1986 , Rob and Gail were looking to add a new cow family to their herd, and being that they were pretty tied down with their full-time jobs, and their cows, they consulted a good friend for information on where to find a good cow. Dr. Roger Davis, a good friend, and partner in Davis Rairdan International, (DRI), was travelling all around Western Canada flushing cows and he was asked by Rob if he knew of any exciting prospects out there. Roger did know of a heifer that he thought was pretty exciting, and that heifer was MVF Tibbie 15T. Rob travelled to Agribition in the fall of 1986 to see Tibbie, and a deal was made to purchase a half interest in her from Mountain View Farms in Manitoba. That cow, MVF Tibbie 15T, would, over the years, become a household name for Angus breeders across Canada. Her progeny topped sales and won shows for many years, as she became one of the most famous cows in Aberdeen Angus history. Today over 80% of the Hamilton Farms herd goes back to Tibbie 15T!
In 1991 Hamilton Farms purchased a flush from the 1991 Agribition Grand Champion Female through the Masterpiece sale. That cow was Knights Blackbird 9Y which was owned by Doug Robertson of Coldstream Angus. Rob and Gail mated her to the 1991 Agribition Grand Champion Bull which they raised, MVHF Dreamwalker 29A, who was a grandson of Tibbie 15T. The resulting progeny from that flush were HF Walk-On 14C, and his two sisters HF Blackbird 26C and HF Blackbird 27C who became the foundation of the Blackbird cow families.
In 1993 Hamilton Farms leased a group of cows selected from Rob’s father’s Rannoch herd. From this group of cows came the Erica and Evening Tinge cow families, who also became very predominant in the Hamilton Farms herd.
Ten years after the purchase of Tibbie 15T, Gail purchased another female, which made a tremendous mark at Hamilton Farms. Her name was Duralta 14C Echo 32E and she is the foundation of all the Echo females at Hamilton Farms today. We purchased her from Duralta Farms through the Cross Canada Sale in 1996. Echo was sired by HF Walk-On 14C who also descended from the Tibbie cow family.
The next game changing moment for Hamilton Farms came in 2004. It was pretty well known that the Hamilton boys played hockey at a high level, and Wyatt, their oldest son, was drafted by the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. In late summer of 2004, Rob drove Wyatt out to Saskatoon to attend the Blades training camp. In between ice times for Wyatt, there was time to kill, so Rob would venture out in the country to tour some Angus herds. One of the stops made was to Wilbar Farms at Dundurn, Saskatchewan… just a short drive south of Saskatoon. Bryan Wilms was Rob’s tour guide that day and what a great tour that turned out to be. After the day was over, there was a cow family that stood out in Rob’s mind, and that was the Ruby family. Time passed, fall approached, and Wilbar Farms consigned a Ruby bred heifer to the Angus Pride Sale, held in December, in Saskatoon. In those years, Hamilton Farm’s bull sale was held in December as well, and these two sales were only two days apart. Rob flew to Saskatoon, a day or two after their bull sale, attended the Angus Pride sale, purchased Wilbar Ruby 955N, and hopped on a return flight right after and was home taking care of post bull sale business that night. That following spring, Wilbar Ruby 955N gave birth to HF Kodiak 5R, and this was the start of another cow family legacy at Hamilton Farms.
Rob and Gail started taking cattle on the show road in 1987 to promote their operation and continued showing for many years. The Hamilton boys, Wyatt, Wacey, and Joel, were actively involved in 4H and also showed in numerous Junior shows with their Angus cattle. Hamilton’s show schedule usually included the major fall shows in Alberta and Saskatchewan, plus the Calgary Stampede in July. ‘We were always so busy building our operation, raising kids, travelling to 4H and hockey, plus day to day work, so attending shows was always such a huge undertaking for us!’ Hamilton Farms was very successful in the show ring over the years…having won numerous championships and supreme competitions. Probably the most prestigious honor, through all the years of showing, was to win the Premier Breeder and Premier Exhibitor award at the World Angus Forum in 2009. That particular show was such a world-class event, which was attended by Angus breeders from around the world. Another proud moment for Hamilton Farms, was to show a Carload of 10 bulls at the National Western Stock Show in Denver 2017. Hamilton Farms bulls were very well received in Denver, having exhibited there from 2010 to the present, (2018). Hamilton Farms exhibited cattle on the ‘Hill’ for the first couple years and then exhibited in the pen show in the ‘Yards’ after that. In 2017 & 2018, Hamilton Farms exhibited a Carload of Bulls, plus a Pen of Bulls at the NWSS… ‘This was a huge undertaking for us and the acceptance we received there was phenomenal!’
Hamilton Farms has enjoyed considerable success raising a few Elite herd bulls over the past number of years and there is a pretty unique story as to how names were acquired for some of those bulls. In 2005, Hamilton Farms raised a pretty significant bull that needed a special name. As everyone in the purebred cattle business knows, there is a lot of time and thought put into naming special calves. In this same year, the oldest son Wyatt, left home to go play junior hockey with the Camrose Kodiaks. Kodiak seemed like a catchy name for a bull and thus came the name, HF Kodiak 5R. Kodiak quickly became a rising star and was to be used heavily in the Hamilton Farms Herd. Kodiaks first calves were born in 2007 and there was a special Kodiak son, again, needing a special name. This same year, Wacey Hamilton left home to go play junior hockey for the Medicine Hat Tigers. It seemed to be a no-brainer, that Kodiak’s top son would be named Tiger! And another breed legend came along…HF Tiger 5T. There seemed to be some very special karma kicking around with this naming system, and Rob and Gail were anxious to keep it going! A few years later, another outstanding individual was born at Hamilton Farms, a bull calf sired by Tiger. This same year, the youngest son Joel, left home to go play junior hockey with the Red Deer Rebels, and again, that top bull calf became known as, HF Rebel 53Y! Many other significant bulls carried the name from the teams, which the Hamilton boys played for. Some more notables where…HF Thunderbird 146Y (Wyatt, UBC Thunderbirds) HF Binghamton 36Z (Wacey, Binghamton Senators), HF G-Man 29B (Joel, Vancouver Giants, also known as the G-Men).
Today, Hamilton Farms takes a lot of pride in seeing the strength of the HF cowherd and the accomplishments that they have achieved. ‘We value the production of elite cow families and put heavy emphasis on their genetics. We also feel that having our cowherd so closely knit, has helped us in maintaining consistency in our calf crop as we expand into new and different genetics’. Hamilton Farms have calved between 325 and 375 mother cows for the past 15 years and with land holdings close to 6000 acres, this operation has grown into one of the larger operations in Canada. ‘Today, the traits that we are striving for in our cowherd are the same as those we were striving for back in the mid 80’s. Simply put, we want cows with longevity, beautiful udders with plenty of milk, plus lots of volume and femininity’. ‘Our main focus is the production of bulls for our ever-demanding beef industry, which is driven by our outstanding Canadian commercial cattlemen, and women’.
THE FARM & CATTLE OPERATION
Hamilton Farms is located in the scenic foothills northwest of Calgary, Alberta. On normal years we put up enough feed to supply our 350-cow operation. We operate over 6000 acres of which 850 acres is in hay and approximately 1500 acres is in annual crops. The remaining 3650 acres is mostly native grazing land with some tame grass pastureland. Our cows run on pasture from approximately the first of June (being close to the mountains with cool nights makes for late growing seasons) through to the end of November or middle of December depending on the weather. We don’t generally bring our cows home to winter-feeding grounds until mid
Our cows are wintered on a TMR ration of cereal silage, chopped hay and chopped straw, plus all essential vitamins and minerals.
Our sale bulls are developed to their best potential by feeding a balanced TMR ration that is high in roughage (silage and chopped hay) along with a modest amount of added energy in the form of barley, and a mineral premix with all essential vitamins and minerals. The bulls are semen tested in March prior to our Annual Bull Sale, which is held on the last Wednesday of March.
Our replacement heifers are weaned usually around mid September, and are then run on pasture until around the first of December. From December to turnout, our heifers are fed a TMR consisting of chopped hay and silage with added mineral premix.
Our calves that don’t make the cut for breeding purposes enter our Hamilton Farms Beef program and are fed out at local feedlots, which focus on high quality handling and care of their animals. All Hamilton Farms beef is naturally raised, without the use of growth implants.