In a news release, Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) Chairman Grant Roy and Holstein Canada President Paul MacLeod (pictured on the right) announced that following in-depth discussion and with the total support of their board members, their organizations will discontinue the current amalgamation plans.
Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee spoke with each of them to learn more about the situation and discover what the future holds for each organization.Why was the amalgamation originally proposed?
ROY: It started about three or four years ago when CDN, as a board, sat down and did some strategic planning.
One of the things we realized we needed to do in the industry was some streamlining and improvement of services.
One of the first things we did was get the breeds together to talk about possibly doing a joint registry service for all of the breeds.
Those discussions started and then Holstein’s CEO retired. Holstein thought it would be a good idea if they tried to get CDN’s general manager to serve jointly as their CEO and work on an amalgamation.
MACLEOD: Originally, it was about streamlining the businesses together. Plus, we hired a joint CEO to work between the two companies.
What did your organization hope to gain from it?
ROY: We’re all providing services to the same people and we were just hoping to be able to have dairy producers in Canada maintain the same level of service without an increase in the costs of that service.
We thought if we combined the service providers that are providing some of the same services, we wouldn’t have to increase fees all the time.
MACLEOD: We started off by gaining a joint CEO. By streamlining, we would be saving members money in the end.
Why was it important to seek member input?
ROY: Holstein Canada is a grass-roots organization. They really can’t do anything without the members’ support.
MACLEOD: At the annual meeting in Halifax there was a motion that we do that. It wasn’t that we weren’t going to, but because we’re a membership organization and because we were asked to do it, we felt it was important.
What did you learn from the membership?
ROY: We have a very diversified group of people across the country. Our industry’s changing, it has to – there are some that get it right away, and some are going to take a little longer to get used to the fact that things can’t stay the same. When you get the balance right, then it will go forward.
MACLEOD: The members are a passionate bunch and they care about their association. They’re not all ready to change.
We didn’t get any sense that they wanted to go backwards; they just weren’t ready to go forward at the pace that we had laid out for them.
It’s different across the country. Some parts of the country are ready to go forward at a quicker pace than other parts of the country, which is one of the great things about our country.
What did you learn in this process?
ROY: It’s one of those things where we learned a lot in the process about the members and how different they are across the country.
If an opportunity comes up again for something similar, I think within a few years, probably it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I think in the future we’ll be better prepared to go ahead with something like this.
MACLEOD: The next time – if there is a next time, and I fully believe there will be a next time – the process will be done in a different way.
The members will be up to speed more. Whenever I talked with a group, I said we were presenting a blueprint.
The blueprints change every time you come up with a better idea, so it’s not done. The blueprints are a living document, so the next time it will be better and more accepted. I wouldn’t anticipate any problems with it.
What is the next step for your organization?
ROY: The next steps for the two organizations are going back to our core businesses. We’ve spent the last 18 months working on this.
Between our two boards of directors and the general manager, we’ve put a lot of time and energy on it. I don’t think the services slipped to the members, but that energy we can now concentrate on other things. From the CDN standpoint, we want to work on proof stability.
MACLEOD: For us, we hit the pause button. We have to hire a CEO because, since we’re not amalgamating, Brian (Van Doormaal) will go back to CDN.
We’re starting on the process right away. We’ll also get back to some of our core businesses. It takes a lot of energy focusing on this amalgamation and we need to spend a little more energy on what we do.
We’ll have the World Holstein Conference here in Canada, so we want to spend some more time and get ready for that and do some more work with our provincial branches.
Traveling across the country, we learned that we need to have a little more contact with branches and members.
We started a couple years ago working on doing all breeds registration. We’re going to get back and work on that a little harder and get that done hopefully sooner than later.
How can each of you continue to benefit from the other’s services?
ROY: I think we found one of the things the joint CEO did was put in a joint management team for the two organizations.
How that continues will depend on when Holstein gets their new CEO, and how that new CEO and the general manager of CDN decide to go forward with the joint management team.
I think we found having the senior managers of the two organizations work together has been very beneficial, and I think they’ll probably continue to do that in some way.
There are some personnel that can cross over very easily because we’re basically supplying services to the exact same clientele. If we continue working through the database I think there’s always going to be areas where we can work together better.
MACLEOD: We’ve got to know each other so well it’s like we’ve been dating. We can do things so much easier together because now we know what everybody does.
One of the good things about it (the amalgamation process) is everyone got to know what CDN is. A lot of people took bull proofs and cow indexes for granted and didn’t actually know where they came from. The sharing of information that we’ve always been doing will be a lot easier now.
Do you see another amalgamation proposal in the future?
ROY: I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, but not in the immediate future. For Holstein, that won’t come up again in the next few years.
As for CDN, it’s possible something might come up. Or it might just be other organizations within the industry.
MACLEOD: I see something, without question. We’re not going to sit still. There’s no status quo. I don’t know where, but I do know these things will continue to happen.
Discussions will start to happen on a different level. I have no idea of a timeframe or anything like that. There is nothing on the table at this moment. PD