The Bolivar Leghorn Farm
By Canadian PoultryFeatures 100th anniversary Technology Business/Policy
The Bolivar Leghorn farm, Cloverdale, is the largest trap-nesting establishment in the Dominion; its imposing array of practical yet artistically designed buildings are one of the sights of British Columbia – and its “vim and vigor” birds are known and appreciated everywhere. The big trap-nesting house accommodates 1,800 pullets, and is to be duplicated in the near future by another huge building 150 yards north from and parallel to the present one. Each with a feed house in the middle.
They will hatch 150,000 baby chicks at the Bolivar Leghorn Farm this season – are hatching them now, first hatch February 20 of 2,000.
Thereafter hatches will “come off” every four or five days till the astounding total of 150,000 is reached. The chicks go all over, as far east as Winnipeg, through the row’s Nest Pass county, and all parts of Alberta as well as B.C. They have pens in the contests at Agassiz, the Royal Standard, Santa Cruz and Puyallup. The Agassiz pen is well in the running, in the Royal Standard the Bolivar layers are doing extremely well; in short, for years, consistently, Bolivar leghorns have earned recognition in many contests. The latest addition to the many buildings on this outstanding poultry farm is nearing completion – a cookhouse to facilitate meals during the rush season. The farm enjoys a splendid water supply through its own system derived from Latimer Creek, 1-1/2 miles distant from the headquarters of the plant. The supply is unfailing and is being made available everywhere on the farm; the B. C. E. R. supplies “juice” for power, heat and light.
They are booked up already for early chicks, and pullets from ten weeks up ready to lay delivery were booked up when February came in. The demand for pullets is especially high and widespread. One man in Alberta wanted 2,000 Bolivar pullets and despite a desire to supply them, in this case particularly, as he was an old customer, the operators were doubtful when spoken to by the editor of the “Canadian Poultry World” as to whether that order, amongst many others, could possible be filled. For this season is a late hatching season; climatic conditions have been all against early hatches; many breeders have fallen of in egg supply from expectations, due to climatic conditions in themselves unusual at this season.
There were less than fifty cockerels left on the Bolivar farm the first week in February apart from those in use; fifty out of five hundred. They supply cockerels dubbed or undubbed – mostly dubbed, but with undubbed if desired. The buyers who specify undubbed are influenced by show ring considerations in most cases. Charles Good, superintendent poultryman of the farm, favors dubbing for commercial flocks. Good is a well-known judge and poultry authority; and Haddon Bolivar who manages the farm, is also known as a judge as well as highly reputed as a breeder. They believe that the poultry industry is destined to become the leading phase of agricultural production in British Columbia; have believed it for years, and have done much to make that belief a matter of actual realization. “When six hundred White Leghorn pullets of proved production strain afford in British Columbia a living for a man and his family, as is undoubted; when the climatic advantages are taken into account compared to the remainder of the Dominion and compared with many other parts outside the Dominion altogether; when the progress already made is remembered it is plain that the poultry industry is rapidly advancing to the position of premier agricultural industry.”
The Bolivar Leghorn farm is a landmark. “Just beyond the Bolivar farm, this side of the Bovilar farm” are common expressions of directions to the wayfarer. The farm is divided in two by the Latimer road and is three miles west of Langley Prairie. There are sixty-eight buildings on the farm and another nearing completion, and they furnish an impressive lesson of what can be done in face of what seemed insurmountable difficulties and obstacles. From five acres of unclear land to fifty acres occupied by tan up-to-the-minute poultry plant in thirteen years is an achievement well worth writing about. This what the Bolivars, father Dean and son Haddon, have accomplished in that time – or part of what they have accomplished. They say anyone can succeed in the poultry industry who is willing to work and stay with it.
One naturally imagines that considerable capital was an essential for the start – but that supposition was quickly dispelled by Haddon Bolivar, who directs every move made on this huge establishment. “Not only were we without capital when we started, but shortly after we had the five acres cleared we found ourselves in debt. At that time I wanted to go out and work, but father insisted that I should take over the deed to the five acres and stay on it, while he went out to find employment. I was able to raise $300 on a mortgage, and if I were a humorist I might say that was the moment the fun started. My ups and downs from that point forward would fill a book. My first venture in the chicken business, for instance, was to purchase fifty eight weeks’ old Barred Rock pullets – only to find later that they were all cockerels except two. You can imagine how much I knew about chickens. When I recall some of the things I did in the first year or two, I wonder how we survived, meaning myself and the few myself and the few chickens, I was able to mishandle at that time. I gained valuable experience, however, and found difficulties disappearing as that experience widened. We had to work so hard that we had no time to visit other poultrymen, who advice would have saved us endless anxiety; so hard have we worked, in fact, that the time has slipped away and it seems incredible to both father – who has been with me constantly with the exception of eighteen months near the beginning of our venture – and myself that, that it is thirteen years since we blew the first stump.”
White Leghorns and White Leghorns only is the breed kept. Eighteen hundred pullets are trapnested in a modern up-to-date shed which is divided into rooms twenty-four feet square, each room accommodating 150 birds. This shed is intersected by a two-storied feed house capable of storing three loads of feed. This house is to be duplicated, as intimated earlier.
Eventually the pullets giving the best yearly record are added to the breeding pens. During the last few seasons no female has been used as a stock bird, which has not a trapnest record. Valuable hens are kept as long as four years, and in a few cases five-year-olds can be found on the farm.
Haddon would give little information as to the feeding methods or line breeding operations carried out on the plant. “Not that there is anything secretive about it,” he explained, “but feeding and line breeding can, in my opinion, never be carried out successfully by rule of thumb. One must always be guided by results. I will say this, however, in our line breeding I depend on the female side entirely.” He enlarged to this extent; “No matter how huge a record a pullet may make in her pullet year, if, as a stock bird, her daughters do not come up to a certain standard, her sons are discarded. The mother is then mated a different way or also discarded. This system ensures the use of progeny-tested male birds only in the breeding pens. It is true the system means an immerse amount of detail and clerical work, but we have found it so sound in practice that we have every faith in it.”
“As to feeding it is my candid belief that if the breeding is in the birds there is no difficulty in feeding the eggs out of them. Given comfortable quarters and sensible rations such as are advised by government experts, any person of average intelligence can get high egg production, provided that he or she is constantly vigilant for the comfort of the birds. Not only must the floors be kept clean and dry and the perches free from vermin, but every factor prejudicial to heavy egg production must be guarded against.”
“ Beyond the laying period comes the breeding stage, and here it is that so many seem to fall down. This is my earnest advice to beginners – do not start breeding until you are sure not only of your stock but of yourself – and do not start poultry farming at all if you do not love poultry.”
An unusual feature of the farm is that all the breeding houses, as well as the colony brooder houses, are movable. The breeding houses are arranged in a long row and in such a way that the runs are changed each year and the houses moved to a new location in the third season. One can imagine the amount of work entailed here when, on measuring them, it was found that there are ten houses each twenty feet square built on six by six runners with reinforced floors to prevent the buildings “racking” on their removal to fresh ground. This system means that the runs get at least a three years’ rest from poultry habitation. The ground over which the breeders were running is ploughed down and sown to several forms of green food for winter use in the laying sheds. When this land is again used for poultry it will be virtually fresh land. Approximately from three-quarters of an acre to an acre is allowed as range to one breeding pen of 150 birds, which are allowed complete freedom and are never confined to sheds after their pullet year. This system of rotation is of first–class importance where breeders are concerned – of more vital importance even than in the case of the same method with your stock. “If the breeding on a farm is right an treated right, everything is right. No stock on the farm is so important as they are, and nothing so conducive to healthy stock as to have the breeding stock on good, fresh , healthy range.”
There is a point regarding cockerels, which is of special interest; they believe in dubbing cockerels in the fall. It has been proved that dubbing reduces losses in the cockerel pens, which were previously a matter of grave concern. Bolivar cockerels are famed for “vim and vigor” and they certainly were scrappers. Before the era of dubbed cockerels birds got wattles and combs torn and lost so much blood that they were rendered useless as stock birds. That meant carrying a fairly large reserve of cockerels for replacements. They had five hundred cockerels on this farm this season so the importance of this phase will be realized. From a breeder’s standpoint this is an important phase of the poultry business. Rarely is a replacement necessary in the breeding pens where dubbed cockerels are used. Another advantage is that during the long winter months there is no danger of the birds’ heads freezing; and at feeding time in the breeding pens, having no wattles to bother them, they can eat as quickly as the hens.
The incubator building is just about as good as can be imagined, splendidly equipped and very large as befits such a plant but roomy and so designed and constructed as to ensure what is as near perfection in incubator house ventilations as The Canadian Poultry World ever had the extreme pleasure of inspecting. One incubator is a Newtown Giant with a capacity of 16,400 eggs; there is a 12,500 Buckeye, a 2,000 Buckeye and a Jubilees with a capacity of 4,500. Consider these figures and what they mean.
Last season some 115,000 chicks were hatched and sold, in addition to around 10,000 for the farm. Besides Dean, and Haddon Bolivar there are five poultry men on the staff, with Charley Good as superintendent.
Haddon Bolivar’s closing words to the writer are significant and typical. Asked for his view on poultry matters general, he said: “I don’t think that I would care to be quoted as an authority; after all I am only a youngster in the poultry business. One must never become over-confident, but remain constantly vigilant. If one intends to enter the ranks of breeders he must depend on the trap nest and cull from results only, and from no other method. This is the only definite system on culling that can be depended upon.” In 1922-23 Bolivar birds won the twelfth laying contest at Victoria, international, and took eighth place at Agassiz – the first year of entries. In 1924 the Bolivar pen at Ottawa finished sixth; the following year the Bolivar pen was again sixth at Ottawa and third for net revenue. That same year, 1925, the Bolivar pen finished second at Agassiz with an average of 258 eggs per bird and were first for net revenue. In last year’s contest at Agassiz the Bolivar pen was one of the only three pens which had all ten birds’ registered.
A great number of famous lines have their origin in an individual, either male or female. In the case of a female – one having the combination of extraordinary activity of the ovary, vigor and the vim or constitution to lay large numbers of eggs without impairing her vitality, and one have prepotency in the transmission of her desirable features – a line may be started. The bolivar stain of Single-Combed White Leghorns was started in this way, i.e., from a single pen, No 579.
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