Who’s Who – Manitoba – Don Gaultier
By Melanie EppFeatures Producers
Don Gaultier owns and operates D&S Gaultier in Notre Dame de Lourdes, Man., with his wife Shannon. The award-winning egg producer takes great pride in his operation.
When Don Gaultier’s name was drawn under Manitoba Egg Farmers (MEF)’s New Entrant Program, he knew very little about raising layers. He was, however, practically a household name in the poultry community at large.
Gaultier would be the first to admit that much of his success hinges on the relationships he’s forged within the poultry sector, but the last to acknowledge just how much he’s contributed to it himself. His impact on Manitoba’s egg sector has not gone unnoticed, though.
Gaultier is a fourth-generation farmer from Notre Dame de Lourdes, Man., and the first in his family to raise layers under Canada’s quota system. He and his wife Shannon have been producing eggs ever since they were awarded 6,000 quota units through Manitoba Egg Farmer’s New Entrant Program in February 2013.
The producer may not have grown up in poultry, but agriculture has always been a part of his life. When he was very young, his father grew grain and kept a small herd of beef cattle and hogs. When Gaultier was just a boy, his father rented out their land, and left agriculture to open a septic tank business. Growing up, Gaultier was still very much interested in working in the industry, though, so he pursued a diploma in agriculture from the University of Manitoba.
Passion for poultry
Following graduation, he took a position as a junior salesman at Feed-Rite. At first, his job was confined to the sales counter, but later he was asked to go out on the road and sell feed to egg and poultry producers, a sector with which he had no experience. It was here that he fell in love with the world of egg farming.
After a couple of years with Feed-Rite, Gaultier took a job with a credit union, where he worked as a commercial and agricultural lender.
“The whole time I was in lending, I had really fallen in love with the poultry industry – but mostly with layers,” he says. “I love the industry, how organized it is, and dreamt of one day being able to work in it.”
Gaultier remained at the credit union for some 10 years. Each year, though, he applied for the new entry program in the hopes that he would someday be able to transition into egg production.
In 2012, just days before the deadline, Shannon called him at work to remind him that they still needed to get their application in order. Gaultier says he didn’t have time to pull the application together but suggested that Shannon do it if she could.
“I don’t want to say I was done trying, but you know, it had kind of come to that point,” he says.
In February 2013, Gaultier and Shannon learned that their names had been drawn. He remembers it as an exciting time. The next 11 months were a whirlwind of farm visits and information gathering. He had a lot to learn.
In January 2014, less than one year later, D&S Gaultier placed its first flock and the couple began their journey as Manitoba egg farmers. Gaultier couldn’t be happier that he and his wife were given the chance to become egg farmers.
He’d come to love the sector back when he was working as a junior salesman at Feed-Rite. Gaultier says he was particularly attracted to the organization and stability of the industry. He also liked that it was easy to set and meet production targets by following a clear set of feed and water guidelines.
“There are so many benchmarks set out,” he says. “It’s very easy to gauge if you’re doing good or bad. It is very organized and very detailed.
“I really like the people in the industry,” he adds. “I know that probably sounds corny, but the customers that I was dealing with were all great.”
Getting off the ground
It was the wider community that really helped the farmers get their start. Being able to tour local farms helped them make decisions around the type of housing they wanted and the type of management system that would best meet their needs.
Gaultier opted for an alternative housing system, basing his operation on many of the European standards. He chose enriched front-nest cages designed and manufactured by Hellmann Poultry Equipment. By the time the new housing code came into force, Gaultier’s operation was almost completely compliant.
He is grateful to the egg farmers in his community who helped him get his operation off the ground, which is why he extends the same courtesy to new entrants who are unfamiliar with enriched systems.
“I like to think that I’ve kind of returned the favour to the industry,” he says.
But Gaultier has given back so much more than that. He attends producer meetings and has become an ambassador for the industry by participating in events, including Brandon Fair and Ag in the City, that help educate the public about egg production in Manitoba.
“Don has been a wonderful advocate for the regulated industry in Manitoba,” says Cory Rybuck, general manager of MEF. “Not only is he very personable, but he’s very engaged with what’s happening in the industry and very proud of what he and his family do on their farm.”
Currently, Gaultier is participating in the director-in-development program through Manitoba Egg Farmers, a six-month role that allows him to passively test drive a position on the board. It has helped him to better understand public policy and the greater issues facing the industry.
The hope is that he’ll stand for election once the voluntary position comes to an end. Rybuck says Gaultier brings a unique perspective to the board, especially given his experience in feed and commercial lending.
“Hopefully, down the line, Don will join us as a director,” Rybuck says.
In 2017, the Gaultiers were selected as MEF’s Farmer of the Year. The award honours exemplary egg production practices including on-farm food safety, production management, animal care initiatives, and community service.
While the award honours farmers who stand out in terms of food safety, animal care and production management, Gaultier’s dedication to the egg-farming community at large is what made him an attractive candidate.
“I guess it goes back to how much I really love this industry,” he says. “And sometimes that’s just not enough, so you have to give back.”
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