If you know the town or are from Ayer’s Cliff, chances are you’ve already heard the name of Angus MacKinnon before. He has been a Director at the Fair for over 30 years and has also served as President of the Ayer’s Cliff Fair of the 2000 and 2010 editions.
His knowledge of the Ayer’s Cliff Fair and agriculture makes him a valuable and important figure in the Ayer’s Cliff agricultural landscape. For him, it’s been a family affair for many generations: “My dad retired from the Fair in 1988 and I took over from him. When I was President in the year 2000, it was brought to my attention that 100 years before, my great-great-grandfather was President of the Ayer’s Cliff Fair.” As we can see, the MacKinnon family is a very important and involved family for the Ayer’s Cliff Fair and continues to be: “My daughters are also involved in the Fair. It’s a part of our tradition and our culture!”
MacKinnon is a 7th generation farmer and has been around farming and agriculture all his life. For him, it is important to share knowledge: “Dairy farming is a large part of the agricultural landscape, so it’s an important window we want to project to the public.” As people know, we want to raise healthy and strong animals, we can count on today’s genetics, but technology also helps breeders: “Because the industry has a large bank of genetic information and with the advent of genomic testing in dairy cattle, you can take a hair sample from a calf and you can predict how much milk that calf will produce as a cow and how she will perform as she matures.”
To crown the big winner, the Fair can count on invited judges for the cattle judging: “In the Diary section, we have a list of provincial judges we have access to. They have gone through judging school so they all have about the same criteria of what is a good cow and they’re neutral. They can come from Ontario, the United States or Quebec, we never know.” And what are those criteria? “You want a cow that has a well-attached udder, teat placement is important for milking purposes, standing on a good set of legs, not too straight and not too curved, and a big stomach barrel to be able to consume large quantities of forages. That’s in simple terms. In cows we look for longevity, so they have to have a good udder to hold all that milk and good feet and legs to ensure good mobility.”
Every year, several surrounding farms are present at the Fair and most of them have been coming for a few generations: “We usually have between 90 and 100 Holstein that would represent probably 12 to 16 different farms from the area.” And what does the big winner win? “We usually have a $1,000 sponsorship for the Grand Champion cow. It’s a big honour for farmers to be able to say they won a Grand Champion at the Fair!“
MacKinnon has won several awards during his long career. However, his favourite memory took place last edition and does not involve himself directly: “My daughter brought our cows and won the breeders banner. We were very excited about that! I’ve won that prize before, but it was great to see my daughter win it, I was very proud!”